Tag Archives: Florida

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My mom joined me for the first two weeks or so of my extended vacation to Naples, Florida. One of the many outings we enjoyed together was a three-hour tour (just like Gilligan’s Island!) by boat through the Ten Thousand Islands of the Everglades mangrove forests to a remote island where we could go shelling for a while before returning.

Before I tell you more about our day, I’m going to share with you a review someone left online of this very same tour they’d taken just a day or so earlier:

Nothing special

Probably the most disappointing [cruise we’ve taken]. We spent most of the time traveling to the remote island that really was no different than the beach at our condo. When we arrived at the island, we were on our own to explore, so if there was anything special there, we missed it.

We saw a few dolphins and some shore birds. That’s it. This cruise was a bust. I would not recommend this tour.

Now, let me share with you my own review:

Perfect Morning with Mom

The staff and crew were energetic and personable. We had good personal conversations with several, and they love what they are doing, which makes a difference. Our captain (Dave) and mate (Jack) were terrific.

We saw lots of wildlife, and Captain Dave stopped often for us to get great views, photos and videos. On our tour, we saw burrowing owls, snowy egrets, herons, cormorants, pipers, skimmers, limpkins, pelicans, osprey and pink spoonbills; three manatees; skates; and a huge pod of dolphins that were not shy, many of which swam and jumped in our wake or beside us for a while. We had enough time on the island to collect a good assortment of “keeper” shells, one of which I’d never found before.

Even without the wildlife and shell haul, the boat ride itself was fun, relaxing and surrounded by beautiful views.

I went with my mom, and we both had an excellent time.

How is it that such a dismal review and a raving review could both have been written about the same tour?

Before I answer that, so that you don’t think I was just being overly kind in my review, allow me to share some pictures with you of what my mom and I experienced…

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The Best Advice So Far - happy sad

I’m writing mid-flight, on my way back from the longest vacation of my life — five weeks in Southwest Florida. After so long away, it feels more like a move than merely returning from someplace I’d been visiting.

Late last night, I drove to the beach for one last walk.

The main street downtown was still aglow, lit up like Christmas. I’d strolled the strip often during my stay, this year and during the five years of previous visits.

I’d eaten at that Persian restaurant on the right.

I’d sat awhile on a bench in that tiny garden park on the left.

I’d played gin rummy and sipped iced chai and written blog posts in that little coffee shop.

People sat at outdoor tables, talking and laughing. Music greeted me from the open doors of a warmly lit restaurant.

Just a few days ago, it had all felt very much like my street — like a place and people who knew me well. Last night as I drove, however, it felt … different. A bit foreign. Like I was a ghost passing among the living, George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life.

A few zigs and zags and I’d arrived at my destination. I kicked my sandals off into the car. I’d walk the shore barefoot, as ever. The colorful ceramic turtle mosaics set into the cement pavilion that opened onto the pier seemed somehow to be swimming … away.

Caribbean music pulsed from the close side of the pier, a group of young Haitian boys having an impromptu dance party. They parted as I approached, smiling and turning toward me with hands overhead and hips swaying, a wordless invitation to join them if I liked. I returned the smile and dance-stepped my way over to the stairway that let down onto the beach, the small crowd closing in my wake.

Above, in the sky, silent lightning played its own complex rhythms, reflecting off the waves beneath. The water was warmer than ever, tumbling over and around my feet, then pulling the sand out from under them in retreat.

A perfect night.

I walked with the knowledge that, whether I stayed ten minutes or two hours, there would come the time when …


back to reality

back to reality — plane departing against golden sunset - The Best Advice So Far

On Wednesday, August 31, at 7:20AM, a car turned the corner onto Bent Grass Drive and pulled into number 6793.  My luggage was already in the driveway. I locked the door for the last time then clicked the button to close the garage. As the driver loaded my things into the trunk and back seat, I stood for one last lingering moment, saying a silent goodbye and thank you.

When I heard the trunk and door slam shut, I took a deep breath, willed the sting of tears from my eyes, and reluctantly turned my back on the place that had been my home for the last full month there in Naples, Florida. Even as the car drove slowly away, I couldn’t seem to pull my eyes from the side-view mirror until the house and yard were out of sight.

I had truly been intentional, each and every day of my stay, to appreciate moments — the sights, sounds and experiences around me. Most often, I’d even voiced those thoughts aloud (whether anyone was there to hear them or not).

What an incredible sunset.

Just listen to those cicadas.

Isn’t that great egret majestic.

Yet as we made our way between the palm trees that lined Crowned Eagle Lane and then turned left onto Wildflower Way, I found myself breathing differently …

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