Day Trip To Naples

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Naples, Florida sits 45 miles south of Fort Myers and is about an hour drive from Sanibel, so it seemed like an ideal day trip destination. However, we would’ve driven twice as far just to see the Naples Botanical Garden.

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Located a few miles southeast of downtown Naples, it’s as lovely as botanical gardens in Maine and my hometown (and, at this time of year, far warmer and more lush than either).

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I posted this photo on my Facebook page with the simple but apt caption, “Paradise”.

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Don’t harass or disturb the alligators; we didn’t see any, so perhaps they were napping.

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One of seven sections of the Naples gardens, the Kapnick Caribbean Gardens did, in fact, remind me somewhat of terrain in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The blue-and-silver shack on the right is Chattel House.

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A close-up of Chattel House’s exterior and interior.

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Also part of the Caribbean Garden: the Coral Stone Pergola.

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In addition to flora and fauna, the gardens have a few giant, colorful mosaics on display.

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The mosaics above and below can be found in the Asian Garden.

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Also at the Asian Garden: the Candi Suka Ruin. My, don’t those faces look inviting…

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One of the garden’s more peaceful, isolated vistas.

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After the gardens, we checked out downtown Naples, which has two major business districts. First up: 5th Avenue South.

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Block after block of vivid, sunny Spanish architecture–like an upscale, more refined (and more spacious) version of Key West’s Duval Street.

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We didn’t dine at the HobNob, though I hope to eat at some restaurant with that name (there’s gotta be more than one, right?) one day.

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This coffeehouse/diner looks like a place to which one of the Golden Girls would take a casual date.

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A half-mile away from 5th Avenue South, 3rd Street South is Naple’s other business district and possibly even more upscale…

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…though still laid back (it is Southwestern Florida, after all) and home to the original Tommy Bahama’s.

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Across the street is their sister store, Relax. From a purely aesthetic point of view, I prefer it.

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Above and below: my best close-up pix of flowers all week were of these right outside Relax.

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A pair of matching-like-bookends stone labradors.

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I always park my midlife-crisis-mobile with the top down whenever I’m in Naples.

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One last row of towering palms (now with Christmas tree lights!) before leaving Florida.

Fort Myers

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Like many other similarly sized U.S. cities, Fort Myers (population: 62,298) is mostly unremarkable, full of suburban sprawl, endlessly dotted by shopping plazas. However, the closer you are to the coast (in this case, the Caloosahatchee River, which eventually empties out into the Gulf of Mexico), the more distinct the city is. Above, taken just before sunset is the Caloosahatchee Bridge, which connects Fort Myers to North Fort Myers and Cape Coral.

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Downtown Fort Myers has its share of art deco splendor, at times resembling a much smaller, more restrained Miami Beach.

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The historic Dean Building, home to a restaurant that references Henry Ford (more on him later).

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Sadly, despite the restored exterior, the Edison Theatre hasn’t shown movies in decades, the interior having been converted to office space back in the ’80s.

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A closer look at the Edison’s exterior. Although downtown Fort Myers is far from a ghost town, I can only imagine how much more enticing a destination it would be if the Edison was still a cinema.

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A little post-art deco meets mid-century modern around the corner from the Edison.

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I can’t say I’ve seen another facade quite like this in recent years.

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Unfortunately, we were two weeks too early to see the “Mutt Strutt”.

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I would’ve loved to have seen what was on the inside of this curious storefront (though I’m guessing it would not have lived up to my expectations).

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Beyond downtown, my favorite part of Fort Myers was McGregor Blvd., a charming road lined with tall palms leading into the city.

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McGregor Blvd.’s most popular attractions are the Edison (as in Thomas) and Ford (as in Henry) Winter Estates.

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The Main House of the Edison Estate.

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A nice touch of red amidst all the green.

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The front of the Ford Estate.

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The Ford Estate’s southern side. Love that big stone fireplace.

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A botanical garden surrounds the Estates.

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Apparently, falling figs are a thing to watch out for here.

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I didn’t see any figs, but I did find this split coconut.

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The grounds feature this arbor and pier on the Caloosahatchee River.

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A parting shot of high-rise condos near downtown Fort Myers as sunset nears.

Next week: my Florida photos conclude with a day-trip to Naples.

Sanibel

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Connected by a causeway (pictured above), Sanibel Island sits next to Fort Myers. Until vacationing there last week, I hadn’t spent any time on Florida’s gulf coast (unless you count the Keys).

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About 33 square miles total, Sanibel contains retirees, restaurants, wildlife reserves and many beaches. This one is on the island’s eastern edge and is home to the Sanibel Lighthouse–much more skeletal and less stony than ones you’d find in New England.

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We stayed in an old school (but well-kept) cottage with a porch to lounge on under the palms and at night, endlessly starry skies.

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Across from our cottage, a heated pool. My husband likened the courtyard/pool setup to the one in Melrose Place.

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The best part about staying there? It was about one hundred steps to the beach.

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A closer look at the umbrellas and lounge chairs laid out for us and other guests.

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Sanibel’s beaches have plenty of white sands and an excess of sea shells (and also the very occasional stingray).

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The beach on a pitch-perfect day.

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Away from the beaches, much of Sanibel is nondescript (like the rest of Florida, but with less chains and more tasteful shopping plazas). This residential canal caught my eye for being like nothing we have back home.

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These pink flowers are all over the island.

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Down the road from our cottage, another, decidedly larger resort was also home to a small botanical garden–this, in my opinion, was its star attraction.

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I would not be surprised if there were at least twice as many seabirds on the island as people who pass through it over a year.

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An elegant, dramatic egret.

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I didn’t get as many interesting pix at “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge as I would’ve liked, but I never tired of seeing all the seabirds.

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We found some of the cutest little birds at the beach near our front door.

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Sadly, I did not see any of these crossing the road (nor did I know that a Gopher Tortoise was a specific kind of tortoise).

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I did spot this neat little bird at the Bailey Tract.

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The 100-acre Bailey Tract was my favorite place on the island. Separate from the rest of “Ding” Darling, it’s calm and quiet, a meditative space to seek minuscule lizards, waterfowl and alligators (we didn’t see any of the latter, and I was both disappointed and kinda relieved).

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Squint and this almost looks like Maine, but with less pine trees.

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The beach an hour or so before dusk. I’ll post more pix from Fort Myers and Naples later this month.