Monday, December 29, 2008

Chatting Up Spring Break On Sanibel Island




It must have been the special on NBC TV featuring Sanibel Island. I was in a Starbucks, far away from Florida the other day, and three female Latte drinkers were gathered together talking about where they were going to go on Spring Break with their husbands and kids. Sanibel Island was the center of discussion.

So, of course, being a vacation rental owner, I was all ears.

What I had heard as I sipped my Frappucino was not surprising.

The economy had kept them from making plans.

Now their kids are insisting that they should not pay the price for an economic down turn not of their making.

Luckily, said one particularly cheerful mom, her kids were young enough not to be looking for an action destination, but old enough to want to go some place warm. That lets me off the hook to take them to Atlantis, she went on to say, because they don't need all that activity just yet.

Another mom, not quite so cheerful, added that the household finances would simply not allow them to take any Caribbean vacation where they would be paying for 5 expensive round trip tickets. We need, she said adamantly, to go somewhere we can drive.

And the third mom responded that it was not her kids who needed to be busy all the time but her husband. He, she said, wanted to do something different every day, golf, boat, bike, shop. The beach alone would never be enough for him.

It was all I could do not to interrupt their conversation and suggest that Sanibel Island would be the perfect place for all 3 of their families, when the subject came up on its own. Fortunately, for my sense of decorum, the three women discussed the advantages of Spring Break on Sanibel and concurred it would fit all their needs ideally.

So they left with intentions to scour the Internet for condominium rentals for their respective breaks in March and April and I returned to my Frappucino, content with their decision and my resolve to mind my own business.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Avoid the Heart Break Of Missing Sanibel: Plan Your Spring Vacation Now




Don't ask me why it is that spring vacation planning is often left to the last moment. Every family knows that there will be a spring break at their local school and that many of them will want to be away, preferably away some place warm.

Several weeks in March through April are spring break sessions in schools around the country.

These weeks are undoubtedly the busiest weeks on Sanibel Island and other resorts in the sun.

Every one knows this.

Yet, each year with the arrival of February, I and other vacation property owners begin receiving inquiries for a place to stay during the week of their spring break.

Some times I have an availability, most times I don't. Infrequently I can refer some one to another vacation rental, most times that is not possible.

One week last March was completely sold out on the Island. There was not a room, condo, house or Inn to be found with a vacancy.

I know it was very frustrating for all those moms and dads who had visions of golden beaches, palm trees swaying in the breeze and sun shining over an emerald green gulf. It was equally frustrating for me to have to keep responding in the negative about availability, not just for my own properties but in general.

So now that we are on the cusp of 2009, I am telling people in as many ways as possible that the time has come to plan your break. Despite the slacking economy, my bet is that a good portion of those families who like to be in the tropics for spring vacation are not going to forgo the experience this year. They may choose a
less expensive lodging or plan on eating more meals in or even opt to drive rather than fly to Sanibel, but my bet is that they will come, when all is said and done.

So don't disappoint your family, start your search now. You may not get a bargain on your condo pricing, but you will at least have a place to go when your holiday arrives. Avoid the
heartbreak of a missed vacation.

There are many sites on the internet where you can research condos for rent and see lots of photos to give you a good idea of what is available. There are the large vacation rental listing sites such as PPBO.com, VRBO.com and Homeaway.com. There are also smaller sites like staynplay.net and islandratings.com. Googling vacation rentals sanibel will turn up lots and lots of results, and you can narrow your search even further by Googling
sanibel spring condo and other similar terms. Craigslist.org also will have dozens of postings you can consider under the category vacation rentals Fort Myers, Florida.

If you prefer a more personal touch and actually want to speak directly to a person, there are vacation rental agencies on Sanibel where you can call and get a booking representative on the phone. One of the best of these is Sanibel Holiday.

Alternatively, most of the vacation rental condominiums on the Island have rental offices. If you know a complex where you would like to stay, you can call a toll free number and explore options over the phone.

Should you have a week in mind where you are finding very little availability, the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce often keeps a running list of vacancies on the Island.

Missing a vacation may not be a world class catastrophe, but it sure does help pick up the spirits to plan for one and get a respite from your normal routine. Routine on a vacation is not considered boring: it is more often regarded as bliss. Don't miss your bliss!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pet Friendly Sanibel May Really "Go to the Dogs" in March






In an earlier blog post I noted that Sanibel Island, Florida is one of the easiest vacation destinations to travel to with your pet. Accommodations are often pet friendly and beaches throughout the Island invite dogs on leashes to enjoy themselves. In addition, many residents on the Island have pets and while walking their dogs will most likely engage you in conversation (if you are amenable to same) about yours.

So there is no need to ever leave Fido or Tabby behind. You just need to assure that the property you are renting does allow pets and that you dialogue with the owner or manager about your pet and inquire as to the standard pet fee for that property. Pet fees are usually non refundable and are used to help the owner do a thorough or deep clean on your departure.

With all the amenities offered to your pooch on the Island, there is one more "goodie" that well may become a likelihood in March 2009. There will be two referenda up for vote by the Sanibel City Council in March. One will establish a dog park on the Island and the second will remove some land owned by the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) from the “Sanibel Environmentally Sensitive Land” area. The land belonging to SCCF is needed to make the dog park large enough to serve its purpose....allowing dogs to run free within the park, no leash needed.

Should the referenda pass, and many on and off the Island are hoping for this result, both renters and Island residents will have a great alternative to walking their leashed dogs on Sanibel pathways or island beaches and it reduces the possibility of owners feeling like they have to let their dogs off the leash on the beach. Here in the park, dogs will be free to run and meet other dogs. Social interaction between owners can also take place in a friendly manner. This is especially nice for older residents on the island. The only requirement in using the park is that the park pooches must be vaccinated for rabies.... and owners will be asked for proof of vaccination. Island residents, as well as visitors, who come to the park will also need to have proof of a valid license for their dog.

The Sanibel Dog Club, essentially the organization most concerned that the referenda pass, has pointed out that the re-dedicated parcel of property will be more attractive than in its current state as the dog park will have as its model human parks where landscaping is instrumental in making the area appealing. The Dog Club will be taking full responsibility for the upkeep of the park. There will be no cost to tax payers nor any fees to park users to pay to enter.


And for spring rentals on Sanibel, the dog park will be welcomed by those visitors who will have yet another chance to give their prized pooch the best of everything a vacation can offer. Even though the park will not be completed in March, the opportunities for further pampering may well be a reality after the March vote. As a vacation rental owner of two properties, one of which is pet friendly, I know the dog park will be considered an added value by those searching for a holiday destination where they can comfortably vacation with their treasured 4 legged companion. I am hopeful that the measures will be voted in and would wager a guess this will be a win-win-win for the town, its residents, its visitors and its vacation rental property owners. Oh, and let's not forget the pooches. They're gonna love it!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sanibel Hits Home Run in April for Baseball Fans




In an earlier post I mentioned the value of Sanibel in Spring time.

For die-hard sporting fans, there is another incentive to come to Sanibel in April. The season for baseball spectators begins in April, starting with the Boston Red Fox Spring Training.

The Southwest Florida area is home for spring training for Major League Baseball teams.

You can also see the the Fort Myers Miracle Baseball team. Here's a list of Spring training sites and phone contacts:


Boston Red Sox Spring Training
City of Palms Park
2201 Edison Ave
Ft. Myers, FL 33901

Tickets: (239) 334-4700
Administration: (239) 334-4799



Minnesota Twins Spring Training
Lee County Sports Complex
14100 Six Mile Cypress Pkwy
Ft. Myers, FL 33912

Tickets: (800) 338-9467
Administration: (239) 768-4225

Miracle Professional Baseball
Lee County Sports Complex
14100 Six Mile Cypress Pkwy
Ft. Myers, FL 33912
(239) 768-4225

The Miracle team is a member of the Florida State League.

Games are held April through August, but for your comfort and those of the players, you might well want to consider the near perfect climes in April and May. Weather on Sanibel in April is almost always sunny with temperatures ranging from a low of 62 to a high of 84. There's little rain, generally not much more than an inch. May is slightly warmer and slightly wetter, but still most pleasant.

And Sanibel, just a quick trip over the cause way to Fort Myers, is ideal for bicycling at that time of year.

So if you are a baseball fan, love the tropics, have a yen for a sunny day at the beach or on your bike exploring, think Spring on Sanibel!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spring Into Sanibel




Thinking back on my travels, I have fond memories of spring like temperatures as winter in Rio de Janeiro transitioned into spring. I was living in this hub of samba and soccer and though the seasonal changes were nothing like we know them in the northeast USA, the transition of seasons in Brazil was subtle yet noticeable.

The Cariocans (Rio natives) would begin to shed their jackets and go sleeveless in the streets.

And life on the beach began anew.

One sure fire sign of spring in Brazil were the acrobatic feats observed on the shores in Rio as well as small coastal towns all over the country. The agility of the participants was awesome.

Though I have never observed the rites of spring in quite the same way on the Island of Sanibel, I have watched the dolphins perform similar acrobatics as the Gulf waters warmed under a stronger sun.

Observance of the passage of time in the tropics is a studied art. No winter snow storms or abundant flowering trees divide the winter and spring.

But the watchful eye will see more subtle changes.

The wind warms, the day lengthens, the shadows diminish.

And, of course, crowds disperse, restaurants become less populated and accommodations become less expensive.

The months of April and May are among the nicest to visit Sanibel, as we have seen year after year!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

On the Road for Christmas: A Magical Holiday on Sanibel


The first Christmas I ever spent away from home was on a trip through South America. It was my first Christmas on the road, but not my last.


That first Christmas eve on the road occurred while I was staying with friends of friends in Miraflores, an upscale suburb of Lima, Peru. It was a delightful place to catch my breath on a rather off, off road adventure where basic comfort was often a luxury. But there in Miraflores, the home was commodious and elegant. Beds were large with good mattresses and meals were convened with the ringing of a little silver bell which beckoned the staff from the kitchen.


It was warm that first Christmas on the road, as seasons are reversed with the USA, and everyone in Miraflores was outside celebrating on Christmas eve. I remember that at midnight fireworks went off as far as the eye could see and the tropical landscape was illuminated in bright spurts of various colors. I was in a foreign country but it did not feel strange. My hosts, however, sensing that I might be homesick gave me a Christmas present I will always remember, allowing me to call my family to say happy holidays.


My second Christmas away from home was in Merida, Mexico. A little older, I was with a romantic interest traveling through Mexico. On Christmas eve I was treated to a horse and buggy ride to see this tropical center of the State of Yucatan. The colonial and historic aspects of Merida made for a most pleasant and interesting ride through the charming, lamp-lit cobblestone streets which were lined with palm trees.


Both of those Christmas holidays were wonderful, and ones I won't forget.


But equally memorable and wonderful was the Christmas I spent on Sanibel Island, Florida.


The Christmas lights, the decorations on every building and seemingly on every palm tree, the good cheer of all the people visiting, the great purchases possible both pre and post the holiday and the ability to walk and bike and develop a tan when everyone back home was digging out their cars from under a major snow fall has kept that vacation fresh in my mind after all these years. It was magic in the making, and remains so in the memory of it.


And, when contrasted, the Sanibel Christmas was truly a familiar Christmas given the relative ease of vacationing in America---- where neither language nor monetary denominations needed translation.


Have your own Christmas on the road this year on the Island of Sanibel. Rates are down making it more affordable than ever, bargains in buying are everywhere, and the holiday lights are bright against the star-filled tropical sky.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sanibel Seashells: The Recipe for a Gorgeous Christmas Tree









If you like unusual and artsy stuff, you can really have a field day with Sanibel seashells.

Seashells are so beautiful in and of themselves, and their lovely configurations are ideal for creating unique
Christmas tree ornaments.

According to one seashell crafts person, Patricia from Massachusetts, the ease of creating seashell X-Mas tree decorations makes for a great project for the whole family.

First, the recipe, what you need to get started.



Ingredients Needed:


Sea shells
Gold Gilt or silver and gold paint
Tiny rosebuds (silk or real)
Pearls
Glue gun
Clear nail polish
Gold or silver very thin ribbon or cord

Next, the process, what you need to do to "cook" your trinket:

1. Gilt or paint your shells and let dry. (you can also leave the shells plain and cover with clear nail polish if you prefer).

2. Glue a rosebud or pearl in the well of the shell or decorate it how you want.

3. Glue a loop of the thin ribbon or cord on the top to hang it with . Cover base of ribbon hang with with rosebud , pearl , or a bow.

A simple recipe, an easy meal!

All it takes is to get yourself down to Sanibel, and this Christmas it also should be easier than ever.

Lovely condos are available that normally are booked at this time of year. Airlines are offering good deals, car rentals are below normal in rates. And seashells? Well the shells are already there waiting for you and free for the taking!

Monday, November 24, 2008

X-Mas Holiday on Sanibel is a GREAT Buy







OK, let's assume that you don't find the Luminaria sufficient reason to go to Sanibel Island for Christmas.

That the sunshine and palm trees alone don't entice you.

That long walks in balmy weather to help you digest your Christmas dinner won't motivate you.

Or even that Sanibel beats staying home in the cold and snow. Or dealing with your in-laws who are wonderful and well meaning, BUT....

Then consider this.

Sanibel is a wonderful place to shop year round, and by Christmas you may have some bargains to be found. So you don't have to do any shopping home out in the cold and snow and can take some great treasures back with you for friends and family.

Just off Sanibel you will find a wonderland to entertain and delight. From December 12 to 31, you can celebrate the holidays at the Edison Ford Winter Estates with the Holiday Nights 2008. For the past 33 years, the historic buildings and gardens have been decorated with lights and traditional decorations. With a different theme every year, 2008 will celebrate "antique toys of the Edison era". The homes and porches will be adorned with dollhouses, trucks, and antique toys as well as seasonal decorations that fill 20 acres of gardens, and the recently restored Edison buildings. There will be new exhibits and displays, as well as traditional favorites and nightly musical performances, shopping and the Children's Tree Trail.

And consider that due to the poor economy, you will more than likely find outstanding accommodations on discount.

Airfares are also most reasonable with United touting incredibly low one way fares and other airlines advertising fares from many US cities beginning at $250 round trip.

So, what's stopping you now?

Begin making your holiday to remember with Christmas on Sanibel!




Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas on Sanibel





Despite the allure of the legendary White Christmas, Sanibel offers a wonderfully green and peaceful "fifth season" for those who choose to spend their holiday on the island.

We call it the fifth season as it is like no other. The month of December is full of gifts and surprises from those living and working on Sanibel Island. Kicked off with a Luminaria Festival in early December where beautiful luminaria line Periwinkle and the surrounding streets, the Festival bills itself as a gift to the community.

During the Festival, residents and visitors are able to travel through more than three miles of lighted luminaries to visit stores, shops and restaurants all beautifully decorated in their best holiday finery. The "attendees" of the Festival are also able to enjoy refreshments and live music. The festivities start at dusk and end approximately 9:30pm.

Stay tuned to this blog for more information on the fifth and best season on Sanibel.

If you have not yet planned for your Christmas week on Sanibel Island, you will find several convincing reasons for doing so posted here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Best "Value" on Sanibel is Knowing Eric


We know quite a few people on Sanibel now.

And to a person, they are kind, interesting and helpful.

We also know a number of people with whom we do business on the island.

And to a person, they are honest, hardworking, and creative.

So we feel particularly fortunate in knowing Eric Pfeifer as he---remarkably--- has all of these traits!

Eric is the broker in his own Real Estate firm on Sanibel, Pfeifer Realty Group, and has many years of experience behind him having been an agent for other Real Estate agencies on the Island.

We have known Eric to be a good realtor, a good guy and a good neighbor.

He has helped friends with his unique industriousness and sense of integrity when they were looking for properties to buy, or when they were looking to sell properties.

He has helped us, gaining early access onto Sanibel after Hurricane Charlie and inspecting our properties for damage. He did this without our even asking him to do so.

And he has helped various organizations on Sanibel by donating to his own or his clients' favorite Sanibel causes each time he does a closing on a property he's sold. Most recently, he contributed $2000 from a closing to the Sanibel Sea School, an organization whose mission statement and purpose he feels strongly about.

If the word value can be used in describing a relationship, it certainly applies to Eric. We respect and value Eric and admire his sense of generosity. We trust him.

So on our last trip to the Island, we were relieved to talk with him and hear his take on the Island's Real Estate market. Eric is always bullish on Sanibel. Having been educated as an engineer, he changed professions in order to live on Sanibel. He finds great value in island life and is able to carry his enthusiasm for the Island into his profession as a realtor.

What makes the island so special is the key, as Eric sees it, to the real estate market on Sanibel recovering sooner and better than anywhere else in Florida. Sanibel's land development code protects it from ever getting overdeveloped to the degree of other locales. Hence, the syndrome of too many new housing starts or condo constuction can't happen on the island as it does throughout the state, depreciating already existing properties.

While real estate on the Island is not as depressed as in other Florida towns, the time may be soon approaching, according to Eric, when the prices begin rising, particularly for private homes.

This may well be the most opportune time to visit the Island and take a look around. There is no doubt there are deals to be made and great values to be found.

And there is no doubt in our minds that if one is serious about exploring the value of investing in Sanibel Island, that Eric is the man to deal with.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

With Stores Closing Across the Country, Could Sanibel's Chicos Be Next?




A baby boomer (barely) with an eclectic eye on design, I was a prime marketing target for Chico's. When I experienced my first Chico's on Sanibel Island, however, I thought it was an island shop, and not a national chain.

Since then, I have shopped in Chico's around the country, but nothing approached the fun of that first Sanibel Chico's excursion, nor did the merchandise appeal as much.

So I can't say that I love Chico's as strongly as I can say I love the Chico's on Sanibel.

And I guess I am not alone as the tiny island has been able to support not just one but two shops, though I must confess to only shopping in the original Chico's on Palm Ridge. There, the store manager entices me with tales of the founding of Chico's and resolved my confusion with the name.

Since chico in Spanish means boy, I was initially surprised that the store is solely women's apparel. But the manager showed me who the real Chico was, and that not only dismissed my confusion but added to the charm of shopping in the original store.

In the current economy, despite the great merchandising of Chico's, I am concerned that an island the size of Sanibel could continue to sustain two shops with the same name and both selling only women's clothing.

It certainly has been national news that other enterprises from Starbucks to CompUSA have closed some of their stores. And there have been hints such as those posted on Floridatrend.com that Chico's net profits have been falling.

Which leaves me feeling bad that an annual tradition I began with the first shopping spree was abandoned on this recent stay on Sanibel. Though each visit to the Island has til now been combined with a visit to the store, our own personal financial concerns deterred me from going shopping in the usual manner.

I hope to make up for this lapse on our next vacation. And, if you want to discover who the real Chico is, I encourage you to go to the store and ask to see Chico's picture.

Oh, and while you're there, pick up an item or two so that we can assure that Sanibel's Chico's does not join the growing roster of store closings!

How To Eat Cheaply on Sanibel: A Twilight Special


In an earlier blog post, I mentioned Jerry's supermarket as one of several nice places to go for breakfast on the island. And it is.

But on our vacation on Sanibel this month, we discovered that there is more to Jerry's than a tasty omelet.

One day we went for lunch and were delighted with our choices as well as the fact that we could now take our lunch outside. There are several tables with umbrellas in the little courtyard surrounded by some beautiful caged tropical birds.

Although I would prefer to see the birds free and in their native environment, I must admit to being enchanted with their company.

Also enchanting, and something not too common on this delightful Caribbean like Island is the fact that one can eat dinner at Jerry's for a most reasonable price. There is a twilight special with a variety of tasty offerings priced for the most frugal among us.

For us, our meals at our vacation rental home always hit the mark.

But when we do venture out for dinner, our favorites such as the Mad Hatter and the Thistle Lodge, are as pricey as any restaurant we frequent in New York City. So our dinners there are reserved for special occasions.

But at Jerry's, eating by twilight can be as frequent as you wish. And you will neither go hungry nor broke!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Where's Mine?" Should Echo Hope on Sanibel for an Even Better Refuge




The Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is one of over 500 United States Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S Department of Interior refuges managed within the country.

Regular wildlife surveys are conducted to monitor populations of migratory birds and their production, and to establish trends for a number of species, primarily birds. The refuge monitors colonial nesting and roosting bird numbers, shorebird populations, mottled duck, pelican and osprey production, and alligator and red-shouldered hawk abundance. A weekly Wildlife Drive survey is conducted on Fridays to monitor the abundance and diversity of bird populations using refuge wetlands. Water levels are monitored continuously.

The preservation of Ding Darling and its fauna and flora are hopefully going to be part of the national agenda on the environment in President Elect Obama's administration. And there is also a hope that the new administration can develop an environmental platform that helps to create preservation and conservation of lands and wild life outside the refuge habitat.

President Elect Obama built his campaign on hope, and many people, including myself, were certainly buoyed by this "audacious" concept.

Hope for a more united, more communicative, and more equitable America were among the ideals stated or implied.

But drilling down to finer points and the eternal question of "where's mine" --always asked of a new administration-- has particular power when it comes to the environment.

Most, if not all, of the environmental organizations across America supported the Obama campaign even though Obama's record was sketchy with his frequent absences on votes pertaining to critical environmental issues.

But because the Republican party had been so tarnished by the Bush administration's poor record on the environment,there was one remarkably strong need stated during the presidential campaign. It was that Obama should be sensitive to and responsive to the need for strong, protective environmental laws.

Our most important environmental safeguards like the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act have been underfunded and undermined for quite some time. These and other key environmental pieces of legislation are in the forefront of the "where's mine" question. The question is asked on behalf of the nation's creatures and their habitat, including those on Sanibel.

The Defenders of Wildlife organization have circulated a 7 point plan asking that their members sign it and send it on to the President Elect. The plan hinges on getting our new President to commit to these fundamental environmental issues:

1. Promise to end the political manipulation of science
2. Promise to responsibly manage America's federal lands
3. Promise to safeguard America's rarest plants and wildlife
4. Promise to make America a leader in addressing global warming and its impacts
5. Promise to restore America's role as a global leader in wildlife conservation
6. Promise to restore our connection to nature through education and proper stewardship of our shared federal lands
7. Promise to encourage private landowners, states and tribes to conserve wildlife and habitat

It's my most fervent wish that the environment, along with the humane treatment of animals, become the best and brightest bragging points for this new President.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

American Beauty on Sanibel and Captiva




Arriving home, I am thankful for the beauty of where we live year round and even more appreciative of our Sanibel retreat.

Although I have traveled to many continents and found beauty on them all, Sanibel and Captiva are iconic of America in their particular brand of beauty. The preservation of these islands despite the over-development of most of Florida and much of the USA is something worth evaluating as well as appreciating.

Among barrier islands, Sanibel and Captiva are unique. Their natural features, together with a climate that is subtropical in summer and temperate in winter, create unparalleled habitat for a diversity of birds, reptiles, mammals and aquatic life.

Sanibel is Southwest Florida’s only barrier island with a significant southern exposure. It formed from a lobe extending from Captiva. Along its south-facing shores, the currents of the Gulf of Mexico deposit countless shells with every tide. Sanibel is also Southwest Florida’s only remaining double-barrier island, in which two major sets of ridges catch rains to produce an extensive system of interior freshwater. Just beneath the surface, a rain-fed freshwater lens protects the interior wetlands from saltwater intrusion.

Vegetation is luxuriant. On the ridges, cabbage palm, strangler fig, gumbo limbo, wax myrtle, wild coffee and a host of indigenous shrubs and trees flourish. In the lower swales, sawgrass, spartina grass, leather ferns, sedges and purslanes dominate.

Captiva, with a high backbone of a ridge and rich with tropical growth, is the older of the two islands. Much of Sanibel was farmed in the 1880’s with crops of peppers, tomatoes, citrus, squash and melons. Forty families had settled the islands by 1890. Salty soil, as a result of storm overwashes, caused a shift to more saline-tolerant citrus by the 1920’s.

But the natural beauty of Sanibel and Captiva could have easily been lost or severely compromised were it not for a vision and commitment on the part of those entrusted with their care.

After months of public meetings in 1995 and 1996, the citizens of Sanibel reaffirmed their commitment to preservation of natural resources by adopting a vision statement that, in part, follows:

Sanibel is and shall remain a barrier island sanctuary, one in which a diverse population lives in harmony with the island’s wildlife and natural habitats. The Sanibel community must be vigilant in the protection and enhancement of its sanctuary characteristics.

The City of Sanibel will resist pressures to accommodate increased development and redevelopment that are inconsistent with the Sanibel Plan, including the vision statement. The City will guard against and, where advisable, oppose human activities in other jurisdictions that might harm the island’s sensitive habitats, including the island’s surrounding aquatic ecosystems.

Sanibel is and shall remain a small town community whose members choose to live in harmony with one another and with nature, creating a human settlement distinguished by its diversity, beauty, uniqueness, character and stewardship. The Sanibel community recognizes that its attractiveness to visitors is due to the islands quality as sanctuary and as community. The City of Sanibel will welcome visitors who are drawn by, and respectful of, these qualities; it will resist pressures to accommodate visitor attractions and activities that compromise these qualities.

Where I live is quite lovely. Where I play is even lovlier. The difference is in the intent as well as content. And both, in different ways, reflect ideals in American beauty. The former has created an emphasis on the manmade and the second has as its purpose conserving what God has created. I feel very fortunate to call both environments "home".

Friday, November 14, 2008

Last Night of Moonlight on Sweet, Safe Sanibel


Yesterday was our last full day on the Island.

It may have been our best day of the trip.

We woke up with the sun in our eyes and I ran off to do my laps at the Blind Pass Pool. Afterwards, we sat under the ceiling fan on the lanai and talked over breakfast about how nice the time had been. Though we did not do much that we had not done many times before, we find a real safety net in visiting the Island. We count on the consistency of the weather being lovely, the people we know being warm and inviting and the explorations we do being fun and relaxing. Sanibel is a "safe" destination for us as we are never disappointed.

After breakfast we made our rounds picking up some things we needed for the drive back home. A quick but always pleasant stop to speak with our rental manager of Toucan House was next. And then a bite of lunch at The Green Flash on Captiva, always appetizing. Our intention was to eat outside but the wind was so strong we stayed in, still enjoying the great view of the water and boats. A long walk topped off the day, satisfying as always.

But it was the night that made our last day so special.

After dinner on the lanai, we retreated to the upstairs porch. We had dessert up there by candlelight, and enjoyed the silence of that high perch. It was especially lovely with the full moon shining down on us, just slightly illuminating the tree tops that surrounded the porch. It's difficult to believe, but every time we come to the island, we experience a full moon!

But it was a bitter sweet moment as the eventuality of departing was heavy on our hearts.

So we consoled ourselves with planning our next trip to the Island and though it may be a bit foolish to be so certain, we know it will be perfect as it has always been. We don't take it for granted, but we do depend on it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sanibel's Hidden Treasure

Things look different from a bicycle.

It's been a couple of decades- at least- since we were on bikes. But as the old saying goes, biking is one of those "skills" that you never forget.

So we cleaned up our two mountain bikes (quite unnecessary on flat-as-a-pancake Sanibel) stored under Toucan House, and found our balance immediately.

Forgoing the bike paths which are not heavily used but still too routine, we headed out to The Sanctuary where we often do our daily walk. We thought our 7 mile walks would give us the ability to bike with no level of discomfort. But walking and biking are two different things and we quickly found ourselves aching in places we don't pay that much attention to in normal circumstances.

But an ache here or there did not deter from the enjoyment of the ride.

Turning off onto Wilfert Road, we were once again awed at the man made beauty of this exclusive and lush community. Situated on a peninsula at the northern tip of Sanibel, The Sanctuary offers the only private golf club on the Island. Residents of The Sanctuary enjoy the luxury of island living adjacent to a world-class championship golf course.

But more than that, it is impressive that the community was developed in such a way that even the huge homes do not obscure the natural beauty of the area. The homes in this community are surrounded by the serenity and exotic wildlife of the Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve, ensuring the community stays true to its name.

But our daydreams do not reside in The Sanctuary. As gorgeous as the homes are, it is difficult to imagine living in one of them.

More to our liking is the next turn of the bike wheel onto Dinkins Lake Road and then onto Henderson with a turn on Starling Way. This enclave of mostly small homes is "olde Sanibel". Though newer, larger homes have been built, the neighborhood is probably much like it was 50 years ago.

The larger lots seem particularly expansive as the land to house ratio is so much greater than in the much more upscale Sanctuary. The lagoons, lakes and creeks criss crossing this area add to its charm and the feel of secluded country life.

This area of Sanibel is not large and its relative small size and very tucked away location make it a real find. One we, ourselves, only discovered this past May purely by accident. But we are sure to return when we come back to the Island as its a wonderful way to step back into the past, on a bike or by foot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another Nice Day Trip from Sanibel


In an earlier blog post, I wrote about day trips from Sanibel. These jaunts are most appealing to people who come for multiple weeks or months on Island who need to change their scenery.

To add another destination---- and one that surprised us yesterday on our day trip there---- is the town of Venice.

It's been nearly a dozen years since we visited the town and though it had a nice infrastructure 12 years ago, it was a little too provincial to be a draw for a renter or owner on the island paradise of Sanibel.

In this intervening decade plus two, the wide palm tree lined main boulevard, Venice Avenue, has become quite sophisticated. The appealing town grid is now further enhanced by lovely shops, nice restaurants and several ice cream parlors. It's a delightful place to stroll and new benches dot the downtown area, surrounded by flowers, invite the ice cream strollers to sit and relax.

Further investigating, this evolution was no accident. The 1920s town plan was created by John Nolen, one of the nation’s first urban planners. Nolen, an urban planner before there was such a specialty, learned from his association with Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park, about features that make cities “livable.”

A central park along Venice Avenue is the site of concerts, arts and craft shows, and various special events. Throughout the city are neighborhood green spaces and parks, many design features of which inspired architects and city planners working on what is called the "New Villages” concept of city planning.

In addition to the enchanting down town area, there is a really wonderful natural beach just a few minutes drive from the town center. Caspersen Beach Park is located just south of downtown Venice, at the southern end of Harbor Drive. There is no fee to enter or to park your car. The southern end of Harbor Drive is quite scenic. The dunes block the view of the Gulf in most places, but are quite pretty in and of themselves.

Caspersen Beach is a good place to look for the much desired sharks teeth that Venice is known for.

Venice has been listed in many publications as being the "Shark's Tooth Capital of The World". It hosts an annual festival, the Shark's Tooth Festival, every year to celebrate the abundance of fossilized shark's teeth that can be found on its shores.

In addition to finding shark's teeth on beach shores, many large sized teeth can be found freediving off of the coast or by excavating in the many shell deposits that are left over from the dredging of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Beach renourishment efforts also brought new sand from a few thousand yards off the coast, yielding new, but fewer, fossilized shark's teeth. The teeth in the area can vary in size from an eighth of an inch to 3 inches and, on occasion, even bigger.

So, if you are feeling "island fever" after a couple of months on Sanibel, take the 1.5 hour drive north and visit Venice for the day. It will be a satisfying and different experience~!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Moon, The Stars and the Sanibel Lighthouse


After a leisurely breakfast and long walk through the Sanctuary, we decided to just hang out at Toucan House before we went over to friends Lynne and George's home for dinner.


I took a book to the second floor loft bedroom porch and enjoyed the view of near by tree tops and distant roof tops, feeling luxuriously free and easy as the breezes blew through the palms.


But it gets dark early on the Island these days and dusk started settling in at 5, leaving me in complete darkness by 6. Even before I had time to put my book down and get ready to leave for dinner, the moon was out above the palms with hundreds of stars to keep her company.


And I marveled at how incredible those sea journeys years ago must have been with the moon and the stars guiding the way across the beautiful but often dangerous seas.


No doubt the sight of lights and land must have been a welcome vision for the sailors who took those risks.


I can imagine the sea navigators who arrived at Sanibel joyfully sighting the Island lighthouse and their relief to be near land.


Though there is discussion currently on-going as to how the lighthouse should be maintained, I am hopeful that this guiding light will stay bright and continue to be an important element in the history of the Island.


Built to withstand the strongest of hurricanes, this navigational lighthouse has stood on the island for well over a century.


The story of how there came to be a lighthouse on Sanibel Island begins, as is often the case, with a shipwreck. In this case the very ship carrying the raw iron to build the lighthouse sank a few miles offshore after becoming grounded on a shallow-water sandbar.


Vessels from Key West steamed up the coast and were able to salvage some of the cargo. The lighthouse was completed during the summer of 1884.

The tower is unusual in construction. It rests, windmill fashion, within an interlocking iron framework that, in turn, is attached to concrete supports seated deep in the ground. A winding staircase leads over 120 steps to the lantern house, where a modern flashing light alerts passing ships.


Seen from a distance across the lush Sanibel landscape, it appears out of place. Its rigid structure seemingly at odds with the softness of the land on which it sits.


But for those sailors seeking a port in a storm, no doubt the enchanting blinking of the lighthouse eye was as welcomed and welcoming as any fair lady who may have been waiting at the port.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's Beachy-Keen on Sanibel!







Another glorious day on this island. Sunshine, clear blue skies, refreshing breezes, music in the air, unsung yet heard. "Oooh, la, la on the isle of Sanibel" as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sing it.


After a dip in our condo pool, a nice perq with owning both the house and condo near each other, I headed over to the Blind Pass Beach.

As is often the case, the Gulf was an infinite view of blue-green calm waters. Barely a ripple to be seen.

Birds, as is also often the case, greatly outnumbered the humans on the beach.


So I walked the distance from Blind Pass to the Bowman's Beach public access with my feet at the water's edge and numerous plovers, terns, Ibis and even a heron keeping me company from a short distance.

Exiting at Bowman's Beach, I found a large crowd of bicyclists having a barbeque at two or three tables under the trees. Whatever they were eating smelled delicious.


The path from the Bowman's Beach public access to Toucan House is lightly traveled. I have never encountered another beach goer on the path, though it is a nice one and used as a recreation park.


There are places to stop in the Recreation Park where one can do pull ups, sit ups and vaults, if one were inclined. But after 25 laps at the pool, I did not feel inclined.


I arrived back at Toucan House feeling like this was one of the nicest beach days on Sanibel and that I was really lucky to have had the time to enjoy it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Regret for an Egret Not Living on Sanibel


We did a 7 mile walk through Ding Darling this morning, and it was the best walk we have done on this vacation so far.


There are not a great number of people on the Island this week, and Ding Darling's darlings are visible in significant numbers.


On this sunny, breezy morning, we saw a small alligator of no more than 8 feet sunning, and just a few steps beyond, a grandfather gator probably measuring 15 feet in length.


There were several Anhingas on one branch drying out their large wings and in one clump of mangroves a cluster of 7 Roseate Spoonbills groomed themselves and each other looking like fluffs of cotton candy from an amusement park.


Further into the reserve we spotted an otter running into the water. The otter must have been approaching 4 feet in length and possibly over 75 pounds.


For a brief moment, and an unusual day time sight, a bobcat wandered out from a wooded swamp and and then retreated.


But one of the most amazing and amusing sights was a reddish egret cavorting on the water. Yes, on the water. The egret appeared to be on the surface, quite amazing and also amusing with his unkempt looking crown of feathers.


The reddish egret is not a frequently sighted bird in North America. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, there are only 1,500 to 2,000 nesting pairs of reddish egrets in the United States. That is not a big number, and my bet is that a good number of the pairs that do exist live in Ding Darling, safe haven that it is.


Which brought my thoughts to the other 6 species of egrets, all but one living in Florida and well represented in Ding Darling.


But the sixth of the egret species, the Chinese Egret, a beautiful, white and elegant bird, is declining rapidly in population. The prior hunting for its feathers, diminishing habitat and insensitivity of humans in encroaching on their colonies to photograph them have left the world with less then 3500 Chinese Egrets. They live primarily in Russia, North Korea, South Korea and mainland China. It is also a non-breeding visitor to Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Peninsular and eastern Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei. The Chinese Egret has only been seen in North America in the western Aleutian Islands.


It's too bad the Chinese Egret has not migrated to Sanibel Island. It would be most welcome here, as are all feathered friends, and would find a life free of molestation.






Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Sounds of Sanibel





So much of the enjoyment of a stay on Sanibel is in the little things.

And much of it is not in what we see but what we hear.

The cicada singing, the chewk, chew, chew of the osprey overhead, the gentle sloosh of the Gulf ebbing and flowing all add, almost imperceptibly, to the Sanibel experience.

One more noticeable addition and one we have come to appreciate immensely during our stays on the Island is the sound of WAVV, 101.1 FM radio.

It's an easy listening station. We had one like it in WPAT radio in New Jersey. But the station changed its musical format at least a decade ago reflecting the changing demographics of the area. And literally, overnight as is usually the case with a format change, the easy listening sounds were transitioned to latino.
We love latino music and do still listen to WPAT in our musical mix, but we miss the old WPAT as well.


So we were delighted to find WAVV here on the Island and with a great reception as the station is right across the causeway in Fort Myers. We tune into it in the car as soon as we arrive in the area and keep every stereo/radio/ computer in
Toucan House tuned to the station as well.

The gentle sounds go so well with the tempo of the Island.

It also goes well with Margaritas, Pina Coladas and fresh fish from the Gulf.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Quality of Light on Sanibel Island





We have been at our vacation rental home, Toucan House, for the past several days.

To say it has been sublime would be a gross understatement.

The weather could not be better. Sunny, hot, with a touch of a breeze during the day. The sky is blue, the clouds are puffy and white.

And the quality of the light? Well, there is no describing it.

Much has been written about the quality of light in Provence and other locations around the world.

But I have yet to find a locale with the green, brilliant, clarity of a Sanibel landscape on days like this.

I have been following the light around Toucan House.

It comes in our eyes in our bright orange bedroom, though I have the blinds closed. It is persistent and sneaks into the cracks letting us know the day is beginning and it will be our loss if we do not get up and seize it.

By the time we sit down to breakfast on the lanai, the sun has swept around and though diffused by the palms, it sits on the breeze and comes with gentle certainty.

All day long, I feel the warmth of the light and at times smell the perfume of the light.

As it disappears with dusk, I watch it descend from the small porch off our loft. It colors the sky with its good night good bye.

I am sorry to see it go, but I know it will return in the morning and if, we are really lucky, it will keep us company all day. On our walks, at the beach, as we sit and read. There is no light like the light on Sanibel.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Taking Fun to the Heights: Parasailing on Sanibel Island



Now, let me start off by saying to all who know me as acrophobic, that the whole concept of being up in the air with no real anchor to the ground does not--- on the face of it---- appeal to me.

But friends of ours, Steve and Leslie, who have also rented from us, stayed on Sanibel Island with their two sons, Willy and Chris. They did go parasailing on one fine day and were able to describe the adventure in such a way, that, at the very least, I would consider it.

First, I had to be educated between the difference in parasailing and paragliding, never having done either. But as the paraglide "launch" must be from the top of a mountain or hill, I don't think any such feat could be accomplished on Sanibel.

Sanibel Island has a lot of lovely things, but there is not a hill or mountain to be found. There is not even a chance of jumping from a building on Sanibel as the building code does not allow structures any higher than the Island's palm trees.

So, as it was told, parasailing is that thing people do sitting in a seat attached to a boat. The air current as the boat speeds off lifts the seated thrill seekers into the air, up, up, up into the air.

According to my friends who had parasailed in Cancun, Mexico the Sanibel experience was less intimidating as the parasail seat sits on a platform and the launch and landing are done on the platform. In Cancun, they were launched and landed in the water, not always smoothly, according to Steve who says he nearly drowned being dragged through the water in an attempt to launch.

While Steve abstained from the parasail experience on Sanibel and took pictures from the boat instead, Leslie, Willy and Chris were given the choice of doing their "sails" individually or together. Like the loving family they are, they opted to go together, and only had raves for the experience.

So, thanks to Leslie and the boys, I have a newfound interest in the parasail experience though my fear is not totally dissipated.

And, no, it's not fear of the heights, it's the cost that makes me tremble.

In this economy, I would have to think twice if I would spend the $125 or more to take a gander at Sanibel from the air!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Scoop on Sanibel Shelling




Bringing home a little bit of Sanibel with you will provide memories to last a life time!

My hesitation to concentrate on the shelling in writing about Sanibel is that everyone knows that fact. Sanibel is considered one of the three best places in the entire world to go shelling. Although it is in third place, the first two, the Pacific Islands and Africa are a little remote for the majority of visitors who come to Sanibel. So Sanibel attracts shell collectors from all over the country and as well as outside of the country.

While there are many, many things that distinguish Sanibel Island as a
resort vacation destination, it is undeniable that the quality of shelling sets it apart.

It is also worth mentioning that many of Sanibel's shells are simply
works of art.

A fruitful day on the beach is not just entertaining, it is a treasure hunt that can result in a wonderful find.

But first the treasure hunter needs to be prepared to make the most of the shelling experience and protect the shells found and gathered.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that live shells are not allowed in your shell collection. Because seashells are important to the islands' chain of life, and because Sanibel and Captiva are refuge islands where all life is considered precious, the State of Florida has outlawed the collecting of live shells on the island. "Live shell" is defined as any specimen containing an inhabitant, whether or not the mollusk seems alive. The law also protects sand dollars, starfish and sea urchins. All shelling is prohibited in J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Aside from avoiding collecting live shells, it is best for the Island ecology not to try to remove buckets of shells from the beaches. It is also best for you. Not only are the shells an example of your cup runneth over when you arrive home with lots of shells and no where to keep them, shell collections are best viewed as "less is more". In the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of famed aviator, Charles Lindbergh, the shells of Sanibel and Captiva should be viewed as individual pieces: "One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few."

There are few places in the world where you can bring home such beauty from a vacation, and all for free!

So with a cautionary and conservation philosophy in mind, here are the essentials of shell collecting:

Be Prepared. Bring a bucket, a net bag and a scoop, and plenty of sun lotion as well as a hat if it is a hot, sunny day (as most days are on Sanibel!).

Shell at low tide preferably and after a storm to find the maximum number of shells and maximum variety.

Soak shells in a 50/50 solution of water and bleach, few hours or overnight. If any barnacles or other matter is left remove with a pick or toothbrush. To make shells shine wipe with mineral oil or baby oil.

You may collect sand dollars but first check to make sure that the sand dollar is not alive - turn it over - there are little centipede feet up and down the backside - gently touch them with your finger to see if they move and its alive. If alive gently place back into the water and if they do not move, then you have just found one of the islands treasures!

To bleach a sand dollar white it is important to soak in fresh water first. Water will be a brownish color, change water frequently until fairly clear or just continually flush with water until water stays fairly clear. Soak in a 50/50 solution of bleach and water for 5-10 minutes. Do not soak too long in bleach solution as sand dollar may crumble. Rinse throughly, let dry preferably in sun to bleach further. To harden sand dollar for crafts or display: Mix equal portions of white glue and water. With paint brush cover sand dollar with mixture. Let dry.

As mentioned in a much earlier blog post, Sanibel Island is renowned for its great shelling. The phrase "Sanibel Stoop" refers to the many people you will see all year long bent over collecting shells from the beach.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sanibel Is the Perfect Place to Home School





The statistics on home schooling are pretty amazing.

The state of Florida alone had over 56,000 learning at home in 2007, up from 10,039 in the 1991-92 school year.

There are controversial aspects to home schooling. Many towns and cities in Florida and across the country complain about the loss of per pupil funding. Educators point to the "brain drain" with some of the most affluent and articulate parents no longer involved in public education. Others challenge whether parents as a whole have the skills to teach. And social scientists question whether the home school environment sufficiently prepares children for the diversity of democratic living or adequately socializes them for main stream USA.


But according to a study done at the University of Florida for the home schooled child there is much to gain. The study found home schoolers were generally more patient and less competitive. They tended to introduce themselves to one another more; they didn't fight as much. And the home schoolers were much more prone to exchange addresses and phone numbers.

For now, home schooling is still growing, and it's no longer confined to a fringe that may never have believed in the idea of public education. People from all political and social strata are discovering the benefits of home schooling.


Of course, home schooling is not for every family. The necessity of at least one parent being home for the concept to work would eliminate the opportunity for many moms and dads who work out of the home. And no doubt there are an enormous amount of resources required for home schooling to function well.


But the benefits are numerous, including the opportunity for the family not to be tied to summer months or winter holidays to vacation. And off season vacations are generally less expensive, so there is cost savings as well as flexibility built into the holiday,


We have had several home school families stay at our vacation rental house and vacation rental condo on Sanibel for anywhere from a week to several months. Those who stayed for extended periods were able to do so as the parents worked from home. But both groups wrote back to say how wonderful the experience was. In a few instances the experience was so good that the families decided to make Sanibel their home, and bought their own properties.


Sanibel is a small community and for the home schooling family, it is easy to meet other home schoolers who can become part of a play group or study group.


In addition, there are many organizations on the Island that have classes, projects and courses that are available all year round during the week as well as week-ends. The learning that takes place in these venues become a study unit of great interest to both the student and parent.


And, of course, for home schoolers or any one visiting the island, the environment provides for spontaneous and natural learning. Children and adults exploring Sanibel are guaranteed to find a wealth of discovery on a daily basis.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Feeding the Hungry on Sanibel Island




Sanibel Island is a lovely place to visit or live, and the chances are pretty good that the only empty mouths to feed are these darling Anhinga chicks photographed by Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez.

But the economic comfort of the Island does not preclude its involvement in helping those who certainly need a meal of more substantial dimensions than what the mommy Anhinga is feeding her beautiful babies.

Which brings us to the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

When the food bank made a run last winter to Sanibel it wasn't to gather seashells.

Instead, it picked up 324 more pounds of food for the Food Bank, thanks to the Sanibel-Captiva Vacation Rental Managers Association. That makes nearly 6,700 pounds of food donated since the program’s inception two years ago.

That’s when VIP Vacation Rentals began collecting non-perishable food left by guests. When Keith McMenamy of VIP and Randy Bacik, President of Royal Shell Vacations, formed the association, now with nine rental companies as members, they knew they could really expand food donations.

Guests’ check-in packet describes the program and how to drop off non-perishable goods at the end of their stay. Bailey’s General Store provides reinforced paper bags with handles at no cost.

Each vacation rental manager brings the donated food to a central location, and from there it’s off to the Food Bank warehouse for sorting and distribution.

The guests can feel a sense of contribution in giving excess food purchased during their stay to those who need it most.

But the giving does not end there on Sanibel, where volunteers who live on and off the island give substantially to various organizations.

For example, in addition to supporting C.R.O.W. (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel) with donations of their photography over the last several years, Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez have lent a hand in other ways. Fortune's flooring company graciously provided and supervised the flooring materials and installation for the construction of C.R.O.W.’s new Wildlife Education Center and Hospital in Sanibel.

C.R.O.W.’s on-going dedication and efforts to rehabilitate injured, orphaned or displaced animals go hand in hand with Sanibel’s high level of environmental awareness and community pride.

There will be future blog posts on volunteers and volunteerism on Sanibel Island and how vacationers--- as well as residents--- can support the good work of Sanibel non profit organizations.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sanibel Sings the Jimmy Buffet Song Book







Before my husband and I went to Sardinia, Italy on a home exchange, I read several books about the Island. One of those was DH Lawrence's non fictional account of he and his wife Frieda's nine day exploration of Sardinia.

Though often critical of what he found, Lawrence made the people and environment interesting enough that even his rudest comments only enticed me more to experience the place for myself.

When we finally did arrive on Sardinia, though our trip did not duplicate the Lawrence's precisely, I did recall descriptions from The Sea and Sardinia each place we arrived.

Similarly, when travelling around
Sanibel and the area, I think of Jimmy Buffet constantly. The only connection between Jimmy Buffet and the Sanibel area that I found documented was his time on Cabbage Key where he supposedly wrote Cheeseburger in Paradise.

But despite the lack of documentation, there are so many
spots on Sanibel and nearby where I can clearly envision the great songwriter strumming his guitar and composing.

Like, at dusk on Santiva watching the sun set and creating the Lyrics for "Margaritaville".

I can literally see the young Buffet at the helm of his ship sailing over San Carlos Bay and singing "Son of a Son of Sailor".

And a slightly more mature Jimmy, along with some friends, exploring the mangroves of Pine Island harmonizing to "A Pirate Looks at Forty".

There are no end of JB images an aging Parrothead can see on Sanibel for this prolific song writer. With
72 albums and hundreds of songs behind him, the great Buffet has created an incredible song book. And there is no better place to hear the songs than on Sweet Sanibel.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

November Activities on Sanibel





Sanibel is the place to relax and de-stress. Forget the floundering economy and come see why Sanibel Island has become a world class vacation destination!



November is another great month on Sanibel. Lovely weather with the ability to be outdoors all day and night make the 11th month a perfect time to >visit the island. And there are some fun things to do as well.


The following activities are suggested on the BestofSanibelCaptiva.com


November 115th Annual Esperanza Woodring Castnet Rodeo. A family event where children and adults throw castnets at moving and stationary targets. Prizes are given to all children entrants. The first place winner in the adult category will receive a $500 prize. Refreshments will be available. Free Lessons & Demonstrations: 8:00am to 9:00am. Children's Competition Begins: 9:30am. Adult Competition Begins: 1:00pm. The fun takes place at The Bait Box, 1041 Periwinkle Way. Call 239.472.1618 or go to www.thebaitbox.com/ for more information and a registration form


November 1 - 2 Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival. A fall festival designed for canoe and kayak enthusiasts as well as eco-tourists, the festival that celebrates Southwest Florida's 100 mile marked paddling trail, the Great Calusa Blueway. This year's Festival will comprise a countywide series of events and activities across the trail, including: kayak fishing tournaments, several canoe/kayak races, paddling demonstrations, live music and festival events, guided tours, children's activities and archaeological and enviromental events. Head to http://www.calusabluewaypaddlingfestival.com/ for more information.


November 1 - 8 We Love A Piano. Join the gang at the Schoolhouse Theater as they kick off the ' 08 - ' 09 season with an Irving Berlin musical revue! Visit http://www.theschoolhousetheater.com/ for ticket information.


November 5 - November 921st Annual American Sandsculpting Championship Festival, Ft. Myers Beach. Well worth the drive, this competition attracts premier sandsculptors from across the country. You won't believe what they can create!! Located on Estero Island's south end, with well-marked parking and a free shuttle. Fantastic for all ages - don't forget your camera! Go to http://www.sandfestival.com/ or call 866.916.SAND for more info.


November 13 - 30 Play OnWritten by Rick Abbot and presented by The Schoolhouse Theater, this hilarious story of a community theater group trying desperately to put on a play in spite of maddening interference from a haughty author who keeps revising the script up to the day of the performance. Act I is a rehearsal of the dreadful show. Act II is the near disastrous dress rehearsal and the actual performance in which anything that can go wrong does. Visit http://www.theschoolhousetheater.com/ for ticket information


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Where to go off Island: A Sanibel Day Trip Guide




There are dozens of side trips that can be made from Sanibel, if, indeed, you are willing to leave Paradise.


For most travellers who come to Sanibel Island for a week or two, a trip off island is of no interest. As mentioned in an earlier blog post there are many things to do on island and many boating excursions to other islands right from Sanibel. Why leave Sanibel at all, and especially by automobile?

But for renters who spend a month or more on island, there may come a time when they just have to explore.

And there are several nice destinations that one can drive to in relatively short time that really offer something different.

Very near and off island on stunning McGregor Boulevard, an avenue of Royal Palms, are the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. These are not lavish homes, but the homes and the grounds are beautifully maintained and give the visitor a good sense of the area in the times when Thomas Edison and Henry Ford frequented. Most definitely deserving of the 30 minute or less drive from Sanibel.

Heading south, it is worth a drive into Naples to visit the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Although it is unlikely you will see any animals or birds you can not see on Sanibel, the environment at Corkscrew Swamp is very unique. The perfect eco balance of the swamp keeps it mosquito free....or at least seemingly so. It's a nice micro environment of the whole of Florida , only 1.5 hours, from Sanibel, and one which the visitor can experience in a comfortable and quick trip.

And, if you really want a special treat, drive north up to Sarasota to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. This truly is worth the 2 hour drive, though you may want to consider staying overnight near by to better see all the exhibits. The Ringling's home on beautiful Sarasota Bay, Ca d'Zan Mansion, is a lavish estate filled with art and decorative pieces purchased by the Ringlings. In addition to the art and decorative pieces in Ca d'Zan, there is a separate museum of fine art on the grounds which features some splendid work by Titian, Veronese, Rubens, Hals, and Velazquez. But perhaps the most charming aspect of the Ringling Museum is the miniature circus on the gounds.

The Howard Brothers Circus model is a replica of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 – 1938. Complete with eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more than 800 animals and a 59-car train, the model is built in ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica and occupies 3,800 square feet. The “world’s largest miniature circus” was created over a period of more than 50-years by master model builder and philanthropist Howard Tibbals. It is absolutely amazing and if you really wanted to pay attention to all the details, it could absorb hours of your time.

Of course, you can always forgo any trip off island and plant yourself into the sand on Bowman's Beach. And who would blame you?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sanibel Spells Discovery For Children of All Ages


I just finished reading one of the best books I have ever read. Lent to me casually by a friend who just handed it over and said "I think you will like this book", I was engrossed, engaged, enchanted, entertained and enlightened with every word.

Entitled My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, the book is a true story of an English family who leave the cold and damp of England for the sunny climes of Greece.

The person telling the story is Durrell himself, now an adult looking back, but at the time of the story telling he was an eight year old in the late 1930's. Durrell who grew into adulthood to become a noted zoologist and entomologist certainly got a big boost in his studies on Corfu.

Amazingly, his interest in and enthusiasm for the animals, birds and, especially, insects and amphibians, on the Island are so simply and delightfully told that the reader is just caught up with one "adventure" after another, never feeling the slightest bit of boredom with the non-human world. And, when humans do enter the picture, Durrell's mother and brothers and sister or the locals of Corfu, they bring such a wacky charm with them that you welcome and not reject their presence.

So what has this all got to do with taking a vacation on Sanibel Island?

The answer is all in the word discovery.

Little Gerry may not be typical of every child every where, but certainly a little bit of Gerry does exist in every child every where.

Gerry had no need or opportunity for soccer, little league baseball, meet ups at the mall or computer games. His whole world, and it is a magical and amazing world, is in the birds, the bees, the frogs and sea birds he encounters and claims as his own. And because he is on his own so much of the time, he actually enjoys the times he is
with the grown-ups as he feels he has something of value to talk to them about.

Sanibel Island, too, offers
a world of discovery. How many places are left where an 8 year old can do some roaming on their own? How many places are left where there are discoveries to be made at every turn?

Recognizing that it is not the 1930's, that parenting has changed enormously, that Sanibel is a much more popular and touristed island in the year 2008 than Corfu was in 1933, some things do not change.

The quintessential Sanibel is still a natural universe, one that can fully cater to your child's (and your!) sense of awe. It just takes the time and planning to get there to allow the natural curiosity of a child to emerge.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sanibel History: What's in a Name?




In an earlier blog, I wrote about the genesis of Sanibel Island and the efforts of the Calusa Indians to create a sustaining life on this lovely little island. That's not to say the Calusa were living in total peace. The Calusa Indians were originally called the "Calos" which means "Fierce People", and that name and historical references certainly indicate that not all was harmonious in the days of the Calusa.

But, at least they did exist without external intervention. Well, as it goes in the world, the comfortable society that the Calusa's created for themselves was disassembled with the battles with other tribes as well as the arrival of foreign conquerors. In addition, diseases such as smallpox and measles were brought into the area from the Spanish and French explorers and these diseases wiped out entire villages.

The Spanish, in particular, left their mark as is evidenced through out the state of Florida.

The link between Spanish settlement in the USA and the state of Florida's nomenclature for towns throughout is quite clear. We know the punta's and boca's of Florida originated with the Spanish words for point and mouth. There are numerous examples of the Spanish presence in every part of Florida, but perhaps no more intriguing than the names Sanibel and Captiva.

Famous explorer Juan Ponce de Leon is believed to have discovered Sanibel Island – which he named “Santa Isybella” after Queen Isabella -- in 1513 while searching for his “Fountain of Youth.” He and his Spanish seamen battled the hostile Calusas for years, and Ponce de Leon eventually suffered a fatal arrow attack at their hands in 1523, at which time he retreated to Cuba and died.

According to legend, Sanibel and Captiva Island soon became a haven for infamous pirates. “The Buccaneer Coast” attracted the notorious Jose Gaspar to the region in the early 1800s, where it was rumored that he buried his stolen treasure on Sanibel, and then built a prison on “Isle de los Captivas,” or Captiva Island, where he kept his female prisoners “captive” for ransom. Gaspar himself was captured in 1821 by the U.S. Navy, but wrapped himself in chains and jumped overboard off his ship, rather then face imprisonment.

Interesting origins for these calm and beckoning barrier Islands!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Walks on Sanibel




If you are going to walk around Sanibel at night, maybe it's best you carry a flashlight. We learned this lesson the hard way.

When we first bought our vacation rental condo on Sanibel Island, we would arrive late in the day very stiff and sore from travel to the Island.

Before unpacking, eating, or anything else, we would venture forth on the beach path and go for a long walk to work out the kinks.

We are accustomed to long walks, taking 5 to 6 mile jaunts almost every day at our home in New Jersey.

And walking on Sanibel is certainly less arduous given how flat the terrain is.

But walking in the pitch black is a different story altogether.

On one particular day of arrival, we began our walk on the beach at dusk, always a beautiful time and experience with the brilliance of the orange sky and setting sun. The breeze off the Gulf was perfect, reviving our spirits and reminding us again how fortunate we were to have found the island, and the perfect place to purchase a vacation home.

But after a mile or two on the sandy surface, we decided to head inland and that was the flaw in our strategy, having no idea where we were.

Because the Island does not allow street lights due to not wanting to confuse turtle hatchlings with diversionary light sources (hey guys, the sea is here not there!), the velvet blackness of the island at night is only interrupeted by the moon and the stars. None quite bright enough to be a guiding light.

So we walked and we walked, often in circles, past bayous and bays and with me holding my breath the whole way, convinced that we would encounter a sleeping alligator who would no doubt see me as a very convenient midnight snack.

Of course, there were no alligators around, probably all sound asleep dreaming of fresh fish for breakfast.

But the walk lasted 8 long miles and my fear of an alligator encounter was so severe that we arrived back at Blind Pass Condominiums with my body as rigid as it was at the start.



A hot bath and hot cup of tea and I was cured, but I did learn my lesson.