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January 31, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                          DELRAY BEACH, FL

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Greetings from Delray Beach! Last week we left off just after touching down at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (hereís the link to the archives). This week we travel 30 minutes north to check out one of South Floridaís up-and-coming hot destinations. If you live in the U.S. and are not into long flights, or havenít gotten around to getting a passport, this might be the place for your next vacation. Of course, you have to be into beautiful beaches, tasty food and fun in the sun. If you are, then dive in -- weíre in Delray Beach, Florida! Donít worry if youíre in a hurry or have ADD; thereís a 2-minute Johnny Jet video at the end of this weekís story.

Delray Beach is located about halfway between Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The closest airport, West Palm Beach (PBI), is 19 miles away, while Fort Lauderdale (FLL) is 32 miles, and Miami International (MIA) 54 miles. I almost always fly into FLL, because they usually have the lowest prices and Ė more importantly -- the closest nonstop flights from California. Once you land at FLL, itís a $60 taxi ride to Delray Beach. (From PBI the cost is $35; from MIA, $150). Most visitors rent a car (click on I sometimes take the Tri-Rail, a free shuttle from the airports that costs only $5. The problem is that it does not run frequently (more on Tri-Rail below). On this trip I drove the 35 minutes to Delray.

I started coming to Delray Beach on a regular basis in 2004, when my sister moved here with her family. In just three years Iíve seen Delray grow from a sleepy quiet beach village to a happening town. The main street -- Atlantic Avenue -- has more than 100 boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants. The place is beginning to turn into a mini-South Beach, without the sex appeal, crazy night life and celebrity mob scene. But it has equally good food, fun (not out-of-control) nightlife, and basically the same shoreline (the only difference is women canít go topless here). And all this at a fraction of Miami Beach prices.

The Delray Beach Marriott is without a doubt the best hotel in Delray. Location, location, location: Itís right on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and A1A, with the beach a quick 50-yard walk away. Thatís the same distance to the closest of Delrayís many delicious restaurants. But as with most chain hotels, itís not about the building but the destination. The Delray Beach Marriott is very nice. Itís rated 4 stars, and with its tile roof and marble floors has a Mediterranean feel. It is probably the nicest Marriott I have ever been in in the U.S. This hotel is designed for both business and leisure travelers. The former will love it for the conference space, free internet and lobby computer whose sole purpose is for airline check-in and printing boarding cards Ė gotta love that! Leisure travelers will adore the facilities, two pools (one is adults only), and of course the location. The food at the hotel is good Ė and the Asian Steak Salad out by the pool for lunch is unreal. The full American breakfast buffet in the Sea Crest Restaurant is a reasonable $13.

All Marriotts now have "Revive" beds that compete with the Westinís "Heavenly Bed." The Revives have 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, white downy duvets and seven feathery pillows, all of which definitely make guests want to sleep in. My room looked over the Atlantic Ocean, and had both a desk to work on and a clean bathroom. My biggest complaint is that the balconyís sliding doors are very heavy. They have to be (to meet hurricane-proof standards), but itís annoying to hear your neighbors open and shut theirs. Room rates range from $99 in the off season (summer) to $350 in season. Delray Beach Marriott, 10 North Ocean Boulevard, Delray Beach, FL; tel.: 561-274-3200; toll-free: 877-389-0169.

I happened to be in town when the hotel was celebrating the opening of its new N. Reagan Spa. Itís named after Nancy Reagan -- the owner, not the former first lady (though she is a distant relative). This Nancy has done an incredible job designing the two-level spa. Itís elegant, with sophisticated modern English interiors. Downstairs is a state-of-the-art gym, open 24 hours and free for all guests. Upstairs is where the magic takes place, beginning with an army of staff members, all of them very friendly. As soon as I reached the top of the stairs I was shown to the menís locker room. Then it was off to the bright, cheerful, fresh flower-filled coed lounge. Here customers are offered fresh fruit, tea, water, and best of all a shot of thick warm chocolate that tastes like pudding. Oooh, is it good! As I sat there admiring the womenís robes, I couldnít help but think that the menís were cut a tad too short. My little guy downstairs was yelling for me to cover up Ė he was hanging out!

I had a Wassage ($125 for 60 minutes). Itís called that because the massage table is on a heated waterbed. This new concept combines the benefits of hydrotherapy with traditional massage. It was very nice, but a little awkward getting on and off. I almost bit it both times. The masseuse uses individually packaged massage lotion for each massage; when itís over, you get the leftovers. After my massage I had a "body scrub of the future." Maybe women like this treatment of four different applications, which feels like lotion is being applied to your body. Then a steaming hot tent is put over you, and you roast for 10 minutes. My skin did feel smoother, but Iím a man. I prefer to be rubbed and scrubbed down with something gritty, so I can feel it. This wimpy stuff isnít for me. N. Reagan Spa; tel.: 866-278-8111.

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Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Collage Of Trip


Atlantic Ave


It's A Quiet Town


Marriott Hotel


My Room


View From Room


Main pool


Lunch By Pool


N. Reagan Spa


Nancy Reagan


I'm Roasting


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