Travel Thursday: Brightline, Downton Abbey and High Tea
You’ve seen the brightly colored trains zipping by, headed North to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, but have you considered taking a day out of Miami that requires no car and no traffic? Go Brightline is the answer and today’s Travel Thursday/Travel Bites.
It was a “Girls Day” that we planned that included Select Service on Brightline from Miami to West Palm Beach, a visit to the Downton Abbey Exhibition at CityPlace and a formal High Tea service at Serenity Garden Tea House. Brightline, which just passed it’s one-year anniversary is the luxury rail service that runs express to Fort Lauderdale and then to West Palm Beach with plans to continue on to Orlando. Recently partnering with Sir Richard Branson, the line will be rebranded Virgin Trains USA later this year. Parking for Brightline is easy as a block away from the sparkling new Brightline station in downtown Miami, where escalators whisk you up to the waiting room and Select Service Lounge.
Upgrading to Select means reserved leather seats, café tables, charging stations for phones and computers, elevated food and beverage options, special Select Lounge waiting rooms and plenty of smiling staff members. It feels more like First Class on an airline than on a train.
As we settled into our seats, we were offered refreshing cold towels followed by a rolling cart of breakfast goodies including pastries, fresh fruit salad, and a yogurt parfait and orange juice and coffee and tea. Another staff member came by with a snack basket of chips, candies and power bars.
The ride was so smooth we were surprised when after 35 minutes the first stop in Fort Lauderdale was announced.
Miami to West Palm Beach takes a little over 1 hour and the station itself is well located to downtown shopping and dining including CityPlace, which features National brand retailers and restaurants. And the traveling Downton Abbey: The Exhibition , which is in residence until end April 2019, and only a 5-minute walk from the Brightline station.
For fans of the beloved television show, the exhibit will not disappoint as it transports you to post-Edwardian England, where the characters and the iconic house come to life. You’ll be immersed in the fascinating social history, culture, scandal, of both the Crawleys and their servants and re live some of the most memorable moments from the show’s six-season run.
Among the highlights are the fabulous period costumes, jewels and hats worn by the stars of the show including Lady Mary, Lady Edith and Lady Rose, and the iconic Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith. The exhibition also offers a refresher course for the upcoming Downton Abbey movie due out in the Fall.
After the exhibit and feeling very royal indeed, we headed just a couple miles away to Serenity Garden Tea House, a charming 1920’s converted farm house with antiques, shabby chic furniture, kitschy décor, miss-matched china and entire wall of teas and teapots in tea cozies. A rack of hats is tempting and the Irish owner, Audrey, encourages all guests to don hats and enjoy the tea experience.
We had pre-ordered the High Tea, but a full lunch menu with quiche, salads and sandwiches is also available. Royal High Tea, which includes a glass of bubbly, is also available as is wine and other beverages. At a leisurely pace we sipped our teas, as the first course of a warm potato, cauliflower and fennel soup was served in a bone china tea cup.
Topped with croutons it was creamy and very good. Next, a tiered tray of goodies was presented to us. The freshly made cranberry scones were still warm from the oven and served with the traditional strawberry jam, clotted cream and lemon curd. They were delicious. The next tier featured an assortment of delicate tea sandwiches of tuna salad, egg salad, turkey, tomato and cucumber. We nibbled on each one and they were gone within minutes. The top tier offered many colorful dessert options, including a chocolate brownie, macaron, lemon bar and frosted petit fours.
Enjoying the ambiance was easy, as, Audrey regaled us with stories about the tea house and its variety of visitors, from bridal and baby showers, book clubs, to organized bus tours.
As our day ended , we headed back to the Brightline station and boarded our train. On the return trip, we were again greeted with smiles, cool towels, and wine. The snack cart returned this time with late afternoon snacks like packaged cheese and meat platters and hummus and pita.
Before we knew it, we slowed as we returned to the Miami Brightline station, just as the sun was setting over the skyline.
A fun and easy day and if you choose to do exactly the same trip, your Brightline ticket gives you $5 off Downton Abbey: The Exhibition and the Downton Abbey ticket gives you a 10% discount off your High Tea reservation. Make your reservations on links below: