Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Our Seaside Escape

Normally, my vacation entries require multiple posts in order to cover all of the events of our journey. This little excursion warrants only one, but not due to lack of quality. What we did can pretty much be summed up in one brief sentence: comb the beach, lounge on the beach, read, lounge on the beach, eat, lounge on the beach, sleep..... repeat.

OK, so that might be exaggerating just a tad. Well, not really.

We arrived in Sanibel on Saturday after an incredibly easy journey. The only not-easy part was getting up at 3:45 am to catch our 7 am flight, but that isn't really so hard when you're headed somewhere wonderful. Our non-stop flight arrived in Ft. Myers 30 minutes early. We picked up our rental car and drove out to the islands, which only took a matter of about 45 minutes. By 11 am, we pulled up to the Sanibel Inn, the little seaside place where we had chosen to stay. Our room overlooked the gulf and had a tiny screened lanai on which to lounge. Each night, we left the sliding door open and let the surf lull us to sleep.

The weather on our first day was warmer than Indiana, but the cloudy skies in the afternoon and the crisp ocean breeze made beach-going a chilly endeavor (the high only reached 68 degrees that day, but would be almost 80 every other one). We ate at a few local restaurants to pass the time: the Lazy Flamingo near our hotel for lunch, and the Mucky Duck on Captiva Island for dinner where we sat huddled by a kerosene torchiere on the beachside veranda while waiting for our table. The island is peppered with local eateries and small independent inns and high-rise condos and hotels are not allowed, so the landscape was very quaint and full of old-Florida charm. The only chains that we saw were a few 7/11s and one Dairy Queen, but even those blended right in. For two people that love eating out at new places it was culinary heaven, especially since local seafood was the standard fare. Not an Applebee's or Chili's in sight!

I awoke on Sunday with the rising of the sun, which glared pleasantly directly into our room. On the beach below were dozens of people combing the tide pools and low tide lines for treasures of the sea, striking the local pose called the "sanibel stoop". I had to get down there with them and join in the hunt. Who would have thought that I would want to get up at 6:30 am on vacation? Even in Florida, daylight is a premium in winter and I hated to think of wasting even one minute of sunshine. Cory graciously obliged me as we braved the chilly morning air and did some beachcombing of our own. We saw a little bit of everything: seashells galore, jellyfish, skate egg cases, sea cucumbers, crabs, corals, algae, and my personal favorite: starfish. Local laws prohibit the collecting of live shells, so we carefully inspected our finds for signs of life, returning those still among the living to the safety of the surf. I'll admit, it was tempting. I so wanted a starfish for my collection, but settled for a picture instead.

We spent the day lounging and reading in the sun on the beach chairs that the hotel provided. It took a few hours for the worries and cares of everyday life to melt away, but somehow they did. The only thing we had to do was decide where to eat dinner. No rest for the wicked.

Dinner on Sunday night was one of the highlights of our trip. We selected the Mad Hatter, a tiny restaurant on the beach on Captiva. Run by a husband-and-wife pair (chef and front-of-the-house manager, respectively), this quaint little place had all of twelve tables. We had one of our own, and enjoyed gourmet fare that was artistically presented. My favorite was the Strawberry Blue salad, a medley of bleu cheese, fresh greens, herbs, and sliced strawberries with a truffle vinagrette. Cory ordered the chef's special, a bouillabaise with fresh catch spiced up with saffron and a side of spicy horseradish sauce. He was blown away. He wouldn't touch anything like this when I first met him. Just goes to show that trying new things is the key to good living. The Mad Hatter was the best restaurant at which we have ever had the pleasure of dining.

Monday was much the same, arising early to search for shells, then lounging by the sea for hours and hours. Desperate to cling to the feelings of relaxation and peace that Sanibel Island had helped us to achieve, we even toyed with the idea or extending our stay for another day. We came pretty close, but I'm glad we didn't. The secret to enjoying travel is to always leave wanting a little more.

I probably have a longer list of things we didn't do on this trip than things we did do. We didn't visit the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, or bike on the islands many trails. We never took a boat ride or cruise to Cayo Costa or Cabbage Key, where we could've had a "cheeseburger in paradise". We didn't set foot in the Bailey-Matthews Shell museum or see the Sanibel Marina, or parasail, or canoe in Tarpon Bay.

But we did rise with the sun, look for shells, learn about beach treasures, eat a hot, filling breakfast each day, and enjoy each other's company immensely. I have no regrets about the things we didn't do, because what we did was make some priceless memories and find a retreat that I'm sure we will return to for many years to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The shell photo is spectacular!! Makes my heart happy that you two share so many special times together. I love you both! Mom Patt

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