June 18, 2007

A Ritzy Weekend

We were puttin' on airs this weekend. Alex's firm held its Spring Retreat at the Ritz Carlton in Naples. I learned why "the Ritz" is an adjective, as well as a noun. It was beautiful, even by ritzy hotel standards. We had a view of the beach and grounds that got your attention. (And so did almost every other room in the hotel.)

I was also incredibly impressed by how they designed the grounds. Rather than putting in a bunch of plants that happened to be flowering, without regard to how they'd survive the weather, and then pulling them out in a few weeks to be replaced with something else, they'd planted drought-resistant, sun loving plants that could live there for years. And some of them clearly had. (You don't get Plumeria this big overnight!)

However, what really set it apart was the service. Every single staff person I interacted with was unfailingly friendly. Not just courteous or helpful, though they were that too, but friendly. They made small talk, met your eyes, talked and acted like they had absolutely nothing else to do but visit with you. They asked about our last name, and then told us who the Bulgarians were that worked there and how we could find them. They carried our bags and introduced us to the next person who would help us, but then paused a second to say a genuine goodbye and make sure we had what we needed. And they weren't looking for a tip - the firm took care of that in advance, and the bell boy assured Alex "oh no, we're taken care of" when he reached for his wallet. The rooms and grounds were gorgeous, and we definitely felt the luxury. But, the hotel wouldn't have been so clearly set apart without the service... Not that they could command the prices they charge without the luxury, too. (I am really glad we didn't have to pay for this trip, despite being assured that the firm got a "great deal.")

Of course, being who we are, we didn't aspire to any great pretensions. We are who we are. And that means taking on the beer run for all the guys (and many of the girls) hanging out in the ocean. Yep - he walked from the hospitality suite, through two floors of the Ritz Carlton, past the pools, down the boardwalk and across the beach with his shirt full of beer without any self-consciousness at all. That's my boy.

And that's how we spent our weekend, toes in the sand and in the water. Plenty of time to enjoy nature.

And an early morning walk on the beach just to see what I could see.

It was lovely. Our first real beach excursion of the year and more than a bit of pampering. And that being said, it was awfully nice to come home.

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