Byline: Marilyn DeMartini

PALM BEACH — Whether for work or play, visitors to Palm Beach can expect to be enchanted.
Starting at The Breakers, the historic beachfront resort, the elegant Addison Mizner architecture will draw you back in time, while modern facilities speak to the present. Golf, biking, tennis and spa services are some of the activities offered.
A next stop could be Worth Avenue, an international shopping mecca. But on the way, winding along South County Road, there is a host of noteworthy restaurants to choose from. Amici and Galaxy Grill feature Maurizio Cimenella’s and Glen Manfra’s classic Italian and Continental cuisines, while Chuck & Harold’s, a popular upbeat restaurant, is also a good cocktail spot.
Passing the Memorial Fountain landmark, round the corner to Worth Avenue to see recognized names like Chanel, Emanuel Ungaro, Escada, Gucci, Hermes, St. John and Cartier. Though the designers are world renowned, the atmosphere is most definitively Palm Beach. There are buildings of pastel stucco and barrel tile. And tucked away are patios that feel Mediterranean, with blooming and bright bougainvillea.
Worth Avenue is a melange of luxury and a world of contrasts, as traditional Letitia Lundee Antique Porcelain and Ceramics is juxtaposed with Walker Lansing’s Asian-fusion decor concept, combining tribal, modern and vintage themes. And bright prints of Lilly Pulitzer and Steven Stolman reside alongside fashion-forward MIF (Made in France) and Touche, or Far Eastern silks from Kapsiki.
Small independent boutiques adjoin The Esplanade, a shopping center with Spanish tile and fountains. It is the home of a renovated and expanded Saks Fifth Avenue and stores such as Charles Jourdan, Kieselstein-Cord and Sonia Rykiel. A Mediterranean-style Neiman Marcus is under construction for a November opening.
Galleries like Wally Findlay proudly display works of traditional and contemporary American and European artists, while the Ambassador shows more whimsical sculpture. And Gallery 5 mounts a show of rising artists and glass sculpture that beckon one to explore new artistic territories.
In Palm Beach, fashion and jewelry call from every direction, including stalwarts like Maus & Hoffman and Tiffany & Co. Additional retailers include Van Cleef & Arpels, Maison Maurice and East Coast Estate Jewelry. There is also customized jewelry by Creations of Mariano from Buenos Aires and Tracy Dara Kamenstein’s handmade creations, inspired by Italian sculpture. Her most recent collections include platinum motorcycle-like chains and a colorful palette of rare, exotic stones such as brilliant hauynite, paraiba and rose-cut diamonds, all encrusted in 22-karat gold, resembling tiny stained-glass windows. For clothing, Laura Ashley and Brooks Bros. windows stand by the more unusual and European-influenced Holland & Holland country clothiers of London, Bottega Veneta and A. Di Mille Italian Menswear. Even more unusual specialties are in shops off the main street that lead to charming courtyards or “vias.”
Along Via De Mario, the Otten Von Emmerich shop displays antique Luis Vuitton, in a cruise and sailing-themed travel gallery. Leather trunks dating back to 1854 double as furniture and mix with modern sailing sculpture, original paintings on authentic sailing charts and miscellaneous boating memorabilia.
Stroll Via Mizner to visit Spring Flowers children’s store, Zara’s antiques and Renato’s, a picturesque Italian restaurant that features romantic piano music to entertain indoor and patio diners. Along the Gucci Courtyard, Grande Armee Military Antiques peers between the arches. The shop caters to history buffs fascinated with rare helmets, armor, uniforms and miniature toy soldiers — memorabilia that tells stories of past battles and wars. Along the way, Prince Monyo’s playful bronze sculptures of frolicking children decorate the courtyard of Gallery Via Veneto.
But whether you crave cashmere from Trillon or hot-to-trot Parisian fashions from Franceska, no trip to Worth Avenue is complete without a visit to the new Giorgio’s Couture. The new salon is set in the heart of the avenue, with a neutral awning and exterior that belie the richness within. The windows showcase women’s alligator sandals, ballet slippers and bags, as well as classic men’s alligator loafers, briefcases and blazers. Step through the door and the interior literally shines with at least a dozen Swarovski crystal chandeliers — some recessed in hand-painted domes, strategically creating display areas for clothing, bags, shoes and the newest passion, alligator-inlaid furniture.
To say that owner, designer and creative master George Sharoubim is attentive to detail is a total understatement. Every piece of hardware on every bag is like a piece of gold, hand-tooled to perfectly complement a woman’s hand or shoulder. Travel bags may feature a hidden jewelry compartment, portable makeup vanity or umbrella pocket, and are all fully lined to preserve the integrity of the bag.
“I worry about practicality, safety and timelessness,” says Sharoubim, who guarantees his bags. “My leather goods are investments — a woman can be proud to show this bag.” He recognizes that his $39 million inventory is “about luxury, not need.” Some of the lowest-priced items are a $1,000 handmade belt and a $2,000 wallet. He routinely sells out of many of the 30 colors of bags, which sell for more than $14,500 each.
While he does not brandish the names of the rich and famous who frequent his store, Sharoubim did note that he just shipped a $145,000 alligator-and-burl-wood handcrafted travel desk to the King of Malaysia. The versatile piece of furniture converts into a travel trunk. It is complete with a seat that opens into a leather-lined storage cabinet with gold fixtures and sliding doors and compartments.
Continuing the tour of Palm Beach, you may find yourself at a new area restaurant operated by The Breakers. Echo, for “resounding Asian cuisine,” fills a void in this resort town.
“Palm Beach has not had an Asian restaurant, and residents and visitors have been thrilled with what we created,” said Echo manager Heidi Pfeiffer. The feng shui-influenced decor plays brushed stainless menu covers, glass holders and chopsticks against deep-stained wood and upholstered banquets. Modern artwork, creative halogen lighting and a winding cocktail and sushi bar provide an appealing atmosphere and break the restaurant into sections for intimate dinners.
The menu — an array of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, influenced by the elements of fire, earth and water — is artfully prepared and presented by sushi chef Ha Khong and restaurant chef Dieu Ho. Pastry chef Lisa Damiano garnishes souffles with edible flowers, spices and spoonfuls of rich heavy cream.
If a cultural experience suits your mood, the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum provides insights into the turn-of-the-century barons and opulence that shaped South Florida’s history. The Norton Museum of Art, across the bridge in nearby West Palm Beach, currently features the modern exhibit “Shimmering Madness,” by Sandy Skoglund, and “Shooting Legends,” a photo exhibit by Philippe Halsman and George Hurrell. Docent-lead tours take place at 12:30 and 2 p.m. daily.
And while in West Palm Beach, a stroll down hip and trendy Clematis Street reveals a spectrum of galleries, shops, restaurants and bars. On Thursday evening, “Clematis by Night” is a social scene, as the street becomes a pedestrian walkway with live music staged in the city plaza.
If you want to venture a little farther out, a short jaunt north on I-95 leads to the Gardens of the Palm Beaches, an upscale tropical mall with Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and an assortment of boutiques.