An Expensive Vacation From Hell

Alessandra Stanley's piece on the vacation she took with her daughter is getting battered in the Times comments, but I loved it. I thought the writing was beautiful, and the voice pitch perfect:


On our third day of so-so meals, erratic service and no Jacuzzi or bike repair, I went to a manager and complained, telling him that we felt as if we were at a dress rehearsal for someone else's vacation. 

He was very polite and apologetic, but there was a look in his eye that spooked me -- like that of a hostage who opens the door and pretends everything is O.K. though there is a gun prodding his back. He thanked me for my comments, and though there was no discernible improvement in service, we did later get a thank-you note from the general manager with a tray of chocolate-dipped strawberries. 

So we decided to head over to Miami, restoring our pride and palates over Cuban sandwiches and croquetas at the Versailles restaurant in Little Havana. But all it took was a few minutes in South Beach -- and a peek inside Dash, the Kardashian boutique, where sunburned tourists took pictures of one another -- to make us realize that we didn't have it quite so bad on Fisher Island. 

At least there we weren't surrounded by drunken, half-naked college students racing Segways along Ocean Drive. "I know I sound like I'm 90," Emma whispered, "but I just want them to put some clothes on and go to vocational school." 

 We took the ferry back to the island and felt a surge of affection for its verdant, antiseptic beauty. 

That didn't last. I walked over to the mansion at sunset, pleased to see a line of golf carts parked in front and the sound of laughter and clinking stemware -- le tout Fisher Island had poured out in full resort finery -- for what turned out to be a $125-a-head four-course meal prepared by Daniel Boulud.

That sounded fun and almost like a bargain compared with his New York restaurants, so I raced to the front desk to ask if there was room for two more -- and why had we not been informed about the dinner ahead of time. The woman at the desk looked embarrassed, telling me that it had been mentioned on a flyer given to guests on arrival (I never got one) but that anyway it had sold out long ago.

I think part of the problem is its clear that much of the audience for the piece (it was in the Travel section) weren't looking for literature, but something more practical. A lot of people were upset by the over-entitled and privileged tone, which makes sense if you are looking for "news you can use." But as something more literary, I thought it worked marvelously. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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