Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One Ocean Resort & Spa - A Simple Travelers Review

The Sounds Of The Beach Are The Perfect Elixir For The Post Winter Blues

A few days ago, I posted Random Vagabond Alert No. 8 about a planned trip to One Ocean Resort in Atlantic Beach, Florida. In that post, I talked about The Nomad Architect Florida Boutique   Hotel Theory that states - while there are great small boutique    hotels in the tourist infested Sunshine State, you have to diligently search and seek out those places. I mentioned the Lotus Inn & Suites in Ormond Beach which proves my theory without argument. It took some research and serendipity to find it and, once I found it, it lived up to all the criteria that would warrant a spot on The Nomad Architect Places To Sleep Before You Die List:
  • It must be small - No large hotel    can possess the qualities that make a place special.
  • It must have a strong sense of design - Design changes everything in my book.
  • It must pay attention to detail - Mies said it - "God is in the details". 
  • It must have great staff -  Without friendly & competent staff, a hotel is just a fancy Motel 6.
  • It must take advantage of its locale - A great hotel enhances the environmental experience.
  • It must have great food - Either on site or nearby, Nomads have to eat well.
  • It must be clean and orderly - This one goes without saying, but, we all have our stories.
  • It must have a killer shower and/or tub - Nomads need to wash off the day's dirt in style.
  • It must have a bed to die for - Without a great place to lay your head, a hotel just isn't worthy.
  • It must be reasonably priced - The holy grail is the great hotel on the cheap.
Now how, you may ask, does one come up with such a precise set of criteria to judge a hotel's standing on The List? To paraphrase the great Ed McMahon of The Tonight Show - The   answer to that question "has been kept in a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall's Porch since noon today".
Having stated the criteria, it is time to objectively rate the One Ocean Resort & Spa of Atlantic Beach, Florida. Each "Must" gets 0 to 10 points.
  • Size8 Points - At 193 rooms, One Ocean is not tiny but small enough to make the cut.
  • Design - 8 Points - Good design, but a little over done with the trendy colors and sea shell wall sculptures. The motif is more corporate resort than cutting edge. In addition, because the hotel is in a renovated building, it suffers from some challenges that were difficult to overcome because of the original building. Access to the rooms is rather tedious, having to go down long public corridors and taking two elevators to get to your room. And the interior designer LOVES curtains! The room, however was very elegant, with very clean detailing and what appeared to be venetian plaster behind the bed.
  • Detail - 8 Points - Pretty good. Why do architects obsess over this? Sorry. I would have replaced all of the old door hinges - but that's just me. And room doors need better closers and silencers, which would make the door close quietly. Picky, picky picky!
  • Staff - 10 + Points - When you check in, apparently a "docent" is assigned to your room. And it is not just a word to One Ocean. When you need something, all you have to do is make a one button call to the front desk and - viola! I have never ordered coffee and tea at 7 AM and had it delivered to my room in less than four minutes. And it was great and hot. The best service I have ever had at a full service hotel.
  • Locale - 10 Points - It's the beach. The balcony was large enough for two and allowed perfect views of the sunrise and ocean. If you go, make sure you get a corner room for the best view. And a higher floor would have been better. But third floor was fine.
  • Food - 10 Points - We didn't eat at the hotel restaurant, but had two great meals at the North Beach Fish Camp Restaurant only a few steps away. Excellent seafood and a pretty mean shrimp and grits.
  • Clean & Orderly - 8 Points - Room clean. Some of the public space  surfaces need some spiffing up. But, overall - very good.
  • Shower - 9 Points - Shower was a bit small, more than likely due to the existing space, but, with two adjustable shower heads, this critical component was, if not a killer, a great place to get clean. The bath products were excellent as well.
  • Bed - 10++ Points - They spared no expense on the bed. And the pillows, the comforter and the linens would have made any Sheik of Arabi feel right at home.
  • Price - 7 Points - Here is where it gets a little tricky. I have noticed hotel costs rising substantially within the past year. More proof that our dollar is suffering due to the US Printing Press. One Ocean is not cheap. The room rate was a bit high, but, acceptable. Even the resort fee was tolerable, since it included the docent services, all the in room munchies, bottled water and goodies you could consume and all the coffee and tea you could drink. What was not tolerable was the mandatory valet parking fee. The idea of requiring someone to pay for parking valet services in a 193 room hotel with the parking lot literally a few steps away is absurd. And to rub salt in the wound, that fee doesn't show up until the final bill.
So - does the One Ocean prove the Florida Boutique Hotel Theory? I would answer with a qualified yes. I must admit, this Nomad and Nomadess are just not that into the whole resort thing. All that pampering and to do is just a bit much. For my money, The Lotus Inn in Ormond Beach beats One Ocean for half the price. So, next time you need some relief from the day to day or need a little beach time, One Ocean works, but I would drive a little further south to The Lotus.
From Our Little Underground Loft in The Hinterland

Travel Quote of The Week -The three gret elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach - Henry Beston.

Video Artist of The Week - Maceo Parker brings blues, funk, Hammond B3 and big band sounds together for some serious music to wake you up. Hallelujah I Love Her So is worth a listen

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Spring Is Only Four Days Away - So What Are Winter Weary Nomads To Do?

Check out an award winning boutique resort and spa on old Jax Beach I found on line about a year ago, that's what. The room is booked, the docent has been advised of our needs - that's right a docent - and the weather has been confirmed. So to the beach we are going for our first 2013 Official US of A  Nomad Architect Road Trip to cure those  Man This Weather Sucks - I Just Wanna Go Somewhere - If I Don't Get Out of This Town I'm Gonna Scream - End of Winter Blues.
Generally, I am not too keen on resorts and spas, but my research tells me the One Ocean Resort in Atlantic Beach, Florida is worth a look. My last memory of Jax Beach was an insane New Year's Eve Party at the Holiday Inn On The Beach when I was in college. Probably not a good benchmark for travel advice. Due to a variety of commitments, we have been unable to travel of late and the wanderlust spirit has suffered  as a result. So, when we started talking about a quick getaway, I pulled up the web site for One Ocean  and - viola! 
This little trip is going to test my theory about Florida boutique hotels. Though few and far between, they are out there if you look. This past fall, we tested the theory with a visit to The Lotus Inn and Suites in Ormond Beach and - In a word - Brilliant! So, as we head out for our little getaway from the day to day, in addition to enjoying all that One Ocean has to offer, I will be taking copious notes to ensure that Aesthetic Vagabonds everywhere can be in the know on this Forbes Four Star boutique on old Jax Beach.
Stay Tuned - From The Underground Loft In God's Country Part B,
d.l. stafford

Monday, March 11, 2013


A Little Bit of Italy Comes To Folks In The Hinterland
We are currently living in the small, small, small town of Madison, Florida. It is the place where I met my one and only in 1969. We have stayed together all these years and I still get nervous when she walks in the room. I am in daily wonderment at how the Good Lord placed her in my line of site on that fateful spring day in '69. And this year will be forty years, two kids, very few fights and more good times that any human being should be allowed to have. As the Lyle Lovett song "Give Back My Heart" says - She cooks the supper and I try payin' the rent. OK, so now you are beginning to think- shutup already!!
The reason why the little personal history is important is today's Alert. Here in Madison - a town that has actually lost population since its heyday when I was a student and enjoyed a life changing summer romance with the best looking woman I ever saw, a town that has a restaurant that sells food by the pound and a town where taking the garbage to the county dump is a social event (the Waste Management guy is always friendly) - we have a serious, no holds barred, so good it will make you tear up pizza restaurant. Yes, Cuccinella's Brick Oven Pizzeria has arrived in the hinterland. The ultimate family operated small business, this little place serves the best pizza I have had this side of Florence - and always with a smile. Simple in concept and preparation, Cucinella's Pizzeria serves up excellent, hand made pizza with your favorite toppings - all fresh. And no pizza Nazis here, like the overcrowded and overrated Antico's in Atlanta, that will flog you if you have the audacity to ask for any combination of toppings not specifically listed on the menu. You know - things like pepperoni and sausage. And they seem to like to burn their concoctions and expect you to like it! Tedious indeed.
So once a week or so we call up one of the family at the local pizzeria and order our pizza, always extra crispy. It is one of those guilty pleasures that makes life better. If Bloomberg were mayor of Madison, I am sure this incredible, edible Italian delicacy would  already have been outlawed. I usually have mine with a coke (very weird), another Bloomberg no no. And, if I am feeling particularly cosmopolitan, nothing enhances a fresh piece of Italy like a nice pinot or shiraz. In any case, this pizza goes well with whatever your beverage of choice might be.
So, next time you are heading to points east or west on I-10, check out Cucinella's. Take exit 251, turn onto FL-14E, stay on Fl-14E which turns into South Range, once you are in town. It's on the corner of South Range and Rutledge (201 SW Rutledge Street), next to the laundromat, the same place I used to do my laundry in college. And you thought modern life was destroying the important things in our culture. Of course, if you take US 90 (Base Street) right through the middle of town, hang a right onto South Range and go two blocks. It's on the left. Just call ahead and order when you get on the exit ramp and it will be ready when you get there. They are open  11-2 & 5-9 Monday through Friday and 4-9 Saturdays. Ah! the joys of small town life.
La Dolche Vita from God's Country - Parte B
d.l. stafford