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Hollywood Beach Florida for the Careful Traveler

Several years ago, I had to stop working due to a stress-related muscle disease. I didn't miss my job. What I did miss was traveling.

Conferences in San Francisco, contracts in the Northern Mariana Islands, seminars in Bogota' - all of these seemed part of the past. After two years of staying at home, an unexpected opportunity came up to teach a course in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I jumped on it.

I was desperate to go somewhere, anywhere.When I agreed to go, I wasn't sure I could do it. I knew I would have to plan carefully if my body was going to hold up. I sat down and made a list of the things I needed to remain well and active. The trip was much more successful than I expected.

In later talking about the experience, I learned something I should have already known, that there were a lot of people who could travel only if they planned very carefully taking their physical limitations into consideration. People with disabilities had to put their bodies and their stress levels first.That's when I started writing about travel.

I wrote for people who didn't have the kind of stamina that most travel packages required. Careful travelers, I called us, had to think about things other people took for granted like the shock absorbers on a tour bus. An hour in a shoddy bus could send the careful traveler to bed for days. The careful traveler had to try to protect themselves from incidents like this, and think about what they would do if they did land in bed.Like all Careful Travelers, my first concern in going to Ft. Lauderdale was the hotel.

I knew I had to find a place that was comfortable, a place where there was exercise equipment so I could keep my muscles loose. I had to find a place where there was decent, healthy food in case I was too tired or sick to go outside the hotel. In addition, I needed a place where I would feel happy and content even if I did wind up in bed.I found the perfect hotel, not in Ft.

Lauderdale, but in Hollywood Beach a town between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Hollywood has the turquoise water and sugar white sand beaches of south Florida without the massive high-rise development characterizing the other two cities.The Hollywood Beach Marriott couldn't be any closer to the beach, and my room looked exactly like the room in the inviting photograph on their website.

Marriott has only recently taken over this hotel and some of the reviews on the internet were written before Marriott owned it. I emailed the manager, Fernando Harb, just to make sure. He assured me the hotel was in fine shape and even offered me a long-term stay rate that was a third off the regular price.When I got to the hotel, I found that Marriott had lovingly refurbished this small hotel in a warm, lush style complete with dark mahogany wood everywhere. In fact, the hotel has the comfortable feeling of a fine home.

Almost all of the rooms have a view of the ocean and all have small balconies. The furnishings are made of the same dark mahogany wood that's in the lobby and have the look of fine antiques in an historic home. The enormous king-sized bed was made up with luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets, fluffy duvets and oversized pillows.

Just getting in the bed every night made me feel pampered and content.I could even see the beach from my bed. On days when I didn't feel well, I would open the balcony door, prop myself up in bed amidst the pillows, read and look at the waves and the birds. Other times, I would watch the 75-channel cable TV that even included CSPAN.Unlike most hotels, Marriott has one button you push on the phone to get whatever service you want. There is no fumbling around trying to find out what number to call for room service or wake up calls.

One button connects you with a very nice person who already knows your name before you tell them arranges anything you want without transferring you around the hotel.I used room service a lot. The food was exquisite. I loved the key lime pie and the seafood pasta with lobster and scallops. The servers were immaculate and seemed to genuinely like their jobs. The presentation of the food was elegant.

One of the things I learned on this trip was that for people with prescription drugs, a room safe is a must. Losing prescription medication, even a few pills, would be worse than losing money. It made me feel that much less stressed to know that the prescription medication was safely locked in my room rather than rattling around in my handbag. The safe was easy to set and unobtrusive, hidden inside a credenza with the mini-bar.

I can't say enough about the staff of the Hollywood Beach Marriott. They were uniformly helpful, efficient and friendly. I leave quite a mess when I get dressed in the morning, but my room was always immaculate when I returned to it. The maid, Charlene, was friendly and interesting. She and I talked about the political situation in Haiti on numerous occasions.

The staff makes it a point to cater to your needs. I went to Key Largo to swim with dolphins one weekend and then returned to Hollywood. On the way, I phoned to let the hotel know I was coming.

They not only had my room ready, they had put my little refrigerator back in the room and plugged it in so it was already cool. They also remembered that I needed an extension cord so I could plug up my laptop computer.The hotel not only has the beach, great rooms and good service to offer.

It has a pool, a fitness room, a hot tub, and a spa where you can get an emergency massage or an emergency facial. The hotel restaurant is right beside the pool. There is a section inside and another section outside next to the beach.The Hollywood Beach Hotel is a delightful little gem nestled beside the beach away from the monstrous high-rise hotels of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.

I would highly recommend it to anybody. There are lots of things to do in and around Hollywood. Both Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are short drives and Hollywood is restoring its city center.

You can do as much or as little as you want, as much or as little as you can. If you are a Careful Traveler, you will feel as if you had a fine vacation even if you never leave the hotel.A short drive from Hollywood is Dolphins Plus where you can swim with dolphins.

The hearty can drive there and back in a day, but you would probably like to stay the night. Try the Kona Kai Hotel for the cozy, at home feel. Turn off the main road into beautifully landscaped grounds.

It's like entering a little cocoon. They even have their own art gallery.Swim with Dolphins in Key Largo http://www.dolphinsplus.com/.Hollywood Beach Marriott http://marriott.

com/property/propertypage/FLLOF.Sara's Restaurant, Hollywood http://www.southflorida.com/dining/17777,0,5844547.



Johns is a criminologist, writer, travel planner, and freelance journalist. She has a Ph.D.

in Criminology from the Faculty of Law of the University of Edinburgh and has written and published three books.You can read some of her stories at http://www.cjjohns.com and email her at cjjohns@charter.net.

By: Christina Johns

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