Monday, November 30, 2009

Five Good Reasons to Spend Christmas on Sanibel

Why would anyone want to spend Christmas on a tiny barrier island in the tropics?

For many, the answer lies in the question.

But for those who might be seeking a few more details, here they are:

1. Let's start with the obvious, the weather. The mornings in late December may begin briskly with temperatures in the mid 50's, but by noon they are approaching 70, generally accompanied by sunshine and dry air.

2. Although you will miss the Luminary Festival which happens on December 4, you will still be on time to enjoy the colorful and entertaining decorations. The lights adorning the palm trees and along walk ways just make the Island even prettier and more romantic.

3. The School House theater will be putting on a cute and comedic play entitled Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) to add to the holiday spirit during the time of your stay!

4. You have a great excuse to do absolutely nothing. Don't want to shop, visit Aunt Tillie, be stuck in traffic, eat just for the sake of eating? Don't worry: you can avoid all that on the Island if you choose. And you can cover your tracks so no one will find you.

5. You have a great excuse not to have to get dressed up for anyone, buy a present for anyone, have an obligation to anyone. Just put on clean shorts and a fresh shirt and you can pretty much go anywhere. Feel like a scrooge? It's ok. Keep your money in your wallet. No one is going to be looking for presents from you on the Island.

Stay up all night if you please. Get up at dusk if you want. Set your clock to Island time. Set your mind to Island "tude". This will be the best getaway you ever had!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Unanticipated and Unexpected on Unpredictable Sanibel Island

Though the word unpredictable sometimes has a negative connotation, it is only used positively here in the context of this post.

For me, from the very first visit, Sanibel Island has not been predictable. Though a nature island, it has every amenity one could ask for. Though a popular, world class vacation destination, seclusion, privacy and tranquility are easily found. Though an American enclave, it's obviously a comfortable place for people from around the world.

So the word unpredictable simply means it is and always has been full of surprises.

On our last visit, quite recently, I made good on my intention to visit the "home" of Tim, my window washer. My husband and I stopped by one day to pay a visit as well as pay for Tim's last efforts on our vacation rentals.

The first surprise was Tim's charming domain. Tim lives in a trailer in Periwinkle Park. But those who may have an established image of trailers and trailer parks need to delete that image from their memory bank. This trailer park is quite lovely and Tim's own digs are delightful. Though small, his trailer is impeccable and the best use of space I have ever seen. Entering it, one feels as though they are coming into a tent, not a hard structured space. The decor is a mix of Tim's own art, pieces he has purchased and a decor influenced by his travels and life in such places as the Sudan and Morocco. He has done much of the work in and around his trailer on his own, and has created a unique retreat for himself. The location of his trailer is arguably the most private in the park and he has built comfortable decking to enjoy the solitude and views afforded from the property he sits on.

But the location offered an additional surprise apart from Tim's place.

Here, tucked away in the island's only trailer park, is a fabulous mini zoo. Besides the pictured Cockatoo, there are swans and parrots as well as lemurs and other mammals. Apparently the owner of the park has been collecting birds for many years.

Each morning a very well informed and helpful zoo "keeper" provides daily show for visitors. Every day at 10 a.m. the zoo’s care taker talks about the birds what they like and dislike, and usually lets the kids pet the birds.

Given that Sanibel has so much wildlife, it was not at all anticipated that there would be an attraction of this nature on the island.

Even a simple day of paying bills on Sanibel ends up being something to write home about!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Holy Smoke! Sanibel's Little Neighbor Gets Things Smoking!

Captiva is a smaller island than Sanibel by far, but certainly not without its charms.

No, it does not have Ding Darling nor the miles of biking/walking trails, but its cutesy/artsy presence is greatly enjoyed.

We are aways game to go to Captiva though even that short distance from Sanibel needs a reason. And we do go over to McCarthy's Marina to catch the boats to other Islands as well as to have a bite of lunch at the outdoor cafe at the Green Flash.

Now we have one more reason to drive the 2 miles from our vacation rentals to the smaller of these two barrier Islands.

One thing we are a bit challenged by on Sanibel and Captiva is to find inexpensive (as in cheap!) places to eat where there is some atmosphere. There are the usual pizza parlors and a couple of sports bar pubs where one can eat inexpensively, but they really don't feel/look any different than anything you might find in New Jersey (or Michigan or anywhere!)

So we were delighted to find Holy Smoke, a BBQ "experience" located in South Seas Plantation. The small but sparkling clean restaurant might not attract us were it not for the spacious outdoor deck. There, with palm trees waving in the breeze, you can eat chicken wings, pulled pork and several styles of ribs.

The night we ate there we had a triple delight. We really enjoyed chatting with the chef and his assistant, both very welcoming and friendly. We also enjoyed meeting a young German couple--- with the most adorable baby---- who were the only other diners there and, at our invitation, came and sat next to us. And, though it initially alarmed us, we were amused when some neighborhood raccoons, the cutest bandits you could imagine, came around literally standing on two legs and "begging" for a hand out.

So we had nice company, two legged and four legged, good service, an "island" atmosphere and very reasonably priced food.

The food was not the best bbq we have ever eaten. Nor was it the worst. So we are hopeful it will improve. But even if it doesn't, we will be back. Finding tasty food with an outdoor environment, helpful, friendly service and good prices is incentive enough to return.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Eagle on the Beach at Sanibel

We've been on Sanibel Island for the past week.

I'm always a little perplexed at how November is such a light month for visitors to the Island as it is invariably a beautiful month with perfect temperature. This month is no different. It's been hot, sunny and breezy every day with enough cooling down at sunset to allow for the ac to be shut off and windows thrown open.

There are even fewer visitors here this November than others when we have visited. The down turn in the economy has left many vacation rentals empty and most restaurants begging for customers.

But we have enjoyed every moment here on this tropical paradise and have had a few nice surprises with meeting some lovely new people and discovering a few new places to eat.

The nicest surprise came today when I wandered to the beach by myself and sat looking at the incredible number of pelicans and shore birds gathered there. There obviously must have been a huge school of fish close in to land as the pelicans and smaller birds were diving into the gulf repeatedly coming up with tasty morsels. Also close in were several dolphin jumping for joy it seemed at the bounty of food just below the water's surface.

The most amazing sight, however, and one I had never witnessed on Sanibel, was the eagle who was walking along the beach. He appeared to have no fear whatsoever of the few beach goers and was walking up to them within arms reach.

The beach goers were racing back to their condos and houses to grab their cameras, and the eagle seemed to be waiting for their return.

When the cameras arrived, the eagle just posed and walked about close to the wannabe nature photographers.

I thought perhaps he was injured and was a bit alarmed, but after posing for a dozen portraits, he fluffed his wings and flew away, amazingly graceful in his departure.

Perhaps his friendliness is due to the fact that he has been able to garner not only admiration but some handouts from beach goers, and that would make sense.

Or, perhaps, like most "wild" creatures on Sanibel, he knows that all creatures great and small are welcome on this little island, protected and treasured.

Either way, his presence was awe inspiring.