Departments — 03 May 2019
What ruined it for me: eight over-the-top luxury experiences

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

Before we start, please take a moment to complete this fill-in-the-blank question:

“I was fine with _____ until _____ ruined it for me.”

There’s no right or wrong answer here. Your response will surely vary from mine.

I was fine with driving a Prius, for example, until driving a Lamborghini ruined it for me. I was fine with a $5 glass of house wine until a $500 glass of Château Pétrus. I was even fine with going home until a $38 million penthouse ruined that for me, too.

Such ordinary experiences turning extraordinary may sound tempting, but they also come with a warning: An object of desire may appear close enough to touch – but if you do, can you ever go back?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. Your response will surely vary from mine.

But I was fine with sleep until these dreams ruined it for me.

* * *


By seaplane from Staniel Air, 2201 NW 55th Ct. Hangar 11, Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE),; service to Bungalows Key Largo, 99010 Overseas Highway, Key Largo,

Here’s what you think looking down from a seaplane over the sparkling waters of the Florida Keys: If I wanted to, I could just splash down there! Or there! Or there! It’s not that simple, I learned from Staniel Air, which flies seaplane adventures to the Keys and elsewhere from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. “Seaplanes are regulated by normal aviation restrictions,” they said. “They can’t touch down anywhere they want on the water but have more freedom than a normal plane.” OK, so maybe I’m not as free as I thought in a seaplane – but I am free of the drive. Because here’s what else you think as you ease down to the Keys by seaplane: Thank goodness I’m not driving down there. I’ve only been in the air for 30 minutes – soaring over morning gridlock in Miami, putting a seaplane-shaped shadow on Biscayne Bay, watching the sun reflect up from the mangrove mash near Ocean Reef – and I’m already circling down off Key Largo, down until the bay water gently catches and quenches our speed. And here’s what you think as the boat from the Bungalows resort takes you ashore: You can never go to the Keys any other way again.


At iPic Delray Beach, 25 SE Fourth Ave., Delray Beach,

Nothing personal but I don’t go to movies for your story. Or to hear your cell phone. Or your soda straw slurp. Or your Facebook posts flashing the darkness, or your power tools, or leaf blowers or whatever else you’re operating behind, in front or on either side of my seat. No, I go to movies for the movies. Their sounds. Their flashing. Their power tools, leaf blowers and machinery operating for purposes of their story on the screen. For years – since 1967, actually, when my grandmother took me to see Dr. Doolittle and a kid behind would not stop kicking my seat – I’ve put up with audience hullabaloo because I love the stories up on the screen. And I was pretty much resigned to that – until I sat in a POD seat at iPic Delray Beach. Not only does this fortress of movie-going solitude insulate me from the sound, glow and leaf-blowing of my neighbors, the leather seat reclines, it has a soft pillow, blanket and a button I can push for “chef-inspired cuisine and innovative cocktails.” I can’t imagine seeing a movie any other way now. I’m even hoping they’ll bring back Dr. Doolittle so I can finish it now. I’m ready for you this time, kicking kid!


At Maison F.P. Journe at the EPIC Hotel in Miami, 270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Suite 101, Miami,

I was not born to shop. No, I was born to hunt, gather and get out of shopping. I have other things to do – like take seaplanes to the Keys or check what’s showing at iPic or procrastinate about things I should be doing because I am not shopping. Anyway, I don’t like shopping unless you give me a good reason to shop – and the new Maison F.P. Journe in Miami does. It is, first of all, a beautiful display of the Swiss timepieces, created by the exacting Francois-Paul Journe, retailing from $11,000 to about $936,000. They are beautiful bijoux to behold, but – and here’s the part that ruins my resistance – they also come with a boîte-caliber bar, patio terrace on the Miami River and kick-back comfortable lounge. The house champagne is Jeeper, the caviar is Petrossian, the cigars are La Flor Dominicana and, if you look high behind the bar, you’ll find a bottle of The Balvenie – the caramelly scotch I last sipped in the Highlands. (The story goes the barkeep here turned down a chance to carry $300-a-glass Louis XIII cognac because, “It’s too common.”) It’s an uncommonly good place to spend time, shopping for timepieces.


At The Club presented by DEX Imaging at Marlins Park, Pricing is “dynamic,’’ depending on the game

I grew up watching baseball through chain-link backstops at Little League parks. Sitting on hard benches, sipping water from an ice chest, eating nothing but infield dust till the coach took us out for pizza after the game. (If we won). This is the way I grew up watching baseball. This is the way it was done. Until I watched baseball from a luxury box at Marlins Park. I can sit in a soft seat here at The Club. Sip something sparkling from an ice bucket. Eat nothing but Jackman Ranch Florida wagyu hot dogs, or Carolina barbecue wings or lobster Mornay over blue-corn tortillas or whatever else Michael Finizia, the Marlins’ resident chef, may come up with to tempt us. (“We’re trying to bring a luxury feel to the environment,” he says). I wondered, though, if I was violating some tenet of Baseball, watching a game in such luxury, so I asked Baseball Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, CEO of the Marlins, himself. “Yeah, you know,” he said, “it all depends on what you like.” I think back to the way I grew up watching baseball, and know I would’ve liked this.


After a facial at The Spa at Auberge Beach, 2200 N. Ocean Blvd., Fort Lauderdale,

Let me explain: Getting a facial was not my idea. No, no, no. It was my wife’s. I’d given her a certificate for a spa after our first son was born. “You’re sweet!’’ she said. So sweet, I was going to give her another after the birth of our second son – until I noticed she hadn’t used the first. “I didn’t want to tell you,’’ she said. “But I don’t really like spas.” But we shouldn’t waste it, I said. “You should use it!” she said, sweetly. So, because I am frugal – not because it was my idea – I got a facial. And, OK, I loved it. So, only because I was doing research for this issue, I scheduled The Sea Creation facial at The Spa at Auberge. And I loved it, too – 80 minutes of aromatic steam, seven creamy layers (possibly eight, it’s hard to do math during a facial) and prosecco on ice. “How often should I get one of these?’’ I asked Diana, the esthetician. “Every six weeks,’’ she said. That seemed like a lot, I thought, as I walked to the lockers. “Hey, you look … different,’’ Constantin, the locker attendant, said at the door. “Younger.’’ I scheduled another facial in six weeks. It was my idea.


After Château Pétrus from the Coravin Wine System at Diplomat Prime at the Diplomat Beach Resort, 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood,

I’m looking at the most expensive wine I’ve ever had in my glass. Just looking because I’m not ready to drink it. At $500, the glass of Château Pétrus 1997 costs more than my monthly rent when I first moved to South Florida. I can already smell the red-fruit genie that’s been straining to get out of this bottle since the Clinton Administration. I’m guessing they can smell it at the next table, across the dining room – even back in the kitchen, where Executive Chef Rashaad Abdool is standing over sweet corn bisque, butter poached lobster and steaks au poivre, béarnaise and bordelaise. “Better step it up,’’ I imagine he’s saying. “The Pétrus is on the loose.’’ I’m about to taste the most expensive wine I’ve ever had only because Diplomat Prime has a Coravin wine-by-the-glass program, which allows you to order a glass of 21 extraordinary vintages without having to purchase the entire bottle (for Pétrus, that would be $2,000). Over a plate of the chef’s perfect bone-in filet, I try to keep track of all the flavors in the most expensive wine I’ve ever had in my glass. Licorice. Leather. And life.


After driving a Lamborghini Aventador S Coupe,

You may pass me now in my Prius. Ride my bumper before leaving me in the dust of your Corvette or S-Class or, heck, in my Prius, maybe your mule. But know this, fellow drivers: My other car is a Lamborghini. True, my Balloon White 7-speed, 6.5-liter Aventador S Coupe is not in my garage. But I can’t get that velociraptor of a super car I drove at Palm Beach International Raceway last year out of my head. Those gull-wing doors. That red switch you flick before starting. The 2.9 seconds it takes to get from sitting to 60, followed by a rush up to 155 mph – a personal best! – seconds later. I remember all of that effortless speed, power and control of the road. It just ruined me – and it would have ruined my bank account if I’d had anything near the 518,255 disposable dollars required to buy it. (Quick check: Lamborghino). So you may pass me now in my Prius, but know that when you do I’m thinking about how I could leave you and your Corvette or S-Class or mule in the dust of my other car. The one so far ahead of you now, in my head.


After seeing “Palazzo del Cielo,’’ the $38 million penthouse on the 47th floor of The Mansions at Acqualina, 17749 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles Beach, 305-933-6666,

My ears popped in the elevator up to Palazzo del Cielo in Sunny Isles Beach. My eyes popped when I opened the door. All you see in the marbled living spaces of Palazzo del Cielo – which means Palace of Heaven – is heaven, if furnished by Fendi Casa. If you care ever seeing Earth again, just walk out on the balconies and look down – acrophobics advised to wait in the kitchen – to the landscaped gardens, swimming pools and beachfront below, the Five-Star Acqualina Resort & Spa next door or the Miami skyline on the far horizon. “People who buy a $38 million penthouse want to walk in the door and not have to do anything but enjoy it,” says Michael Goldstein, president of sales for Acqualina Realty. Yes – and that’s what ruined going home for me after seeing the 9,000-square-foot house in the sky. Not just the views or the furnishings or the glass-bottom pool, “providing a birds-eye view of the Earth,” 600 feet below. All of that plus it comes with a Rolls-Royce Cullinan and the aforementioned Lamborghini Aventador, which I figure would provide just enough trunk space to move all of my stuff in from Earth.




OK, enough about me – here’s your chance to answer the question we posed at the beginning:

“I was fine with _________ until __________ ruined it for me.”

We may take your answer and turn it into a story in an upcoming issue of the magazine, too. Just let me know c/o, or write to me c/o 333 SW 12th Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442. Please remember to include a way for me to reach you, either by email or address. Assuming, of course, you were fine with your old address until living in Bali ruined it for you. In which case, the postage is on me.

  • Mark Gauert


PHOTO: “Palazzo del Cielo,’’ the $38 million penthouse designed by STA Architectural Group with Fendi Casa furniture on the 47th floor of The Mansions at Acqualina in Sunny Isles Beach. Courtesy of The Mansions at Acqualina.


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