Paradise Found

our love affair with Naples began with a holiday.......

 August/September 1999


Our flight on Saturday (28 August) was from Manchester to Orlando where we picked up a hire car and went in search of our first Motel (The Goldenlink) which we’d booked on the net before we left.  Some problems finding it in Kissimee but finally arrived OK.


We spent the whole of the next day in Epcot having first stopped to buy me my first pair of shorts since I was 17 (and thin).  I decided I simply couldn’t stand the prospect of walking around in a skirt or trousers in this heat.  Thank God for Florida there are huge people here – I look almost sylph-like.  We did it all!  Spaceship Earth, Pavillions of the World etc.  We stayed for the fireworks at 9.30 which were astonishing and went back to the motel in Kissimee to collapse absolutely shattered.


Monday (30th) we drove over to Cape Canaveral for another day’s hiking.  I think this was more interesting for K than for me; although it does give you a sense of true size and complexity of these ‘machines’.  It was another scorching day and again exhausting as we covered a lot of mileage around the site.  This was followed by driving many miles down the East (Atlantic) coast taking in some pretty spectacular scenery.  We stopped at Sebastian, North of Miami in the Penfold Motor Lodge.  I confess to this being a movie-type motel, which managed to produce a minor power out just as we let ourselves in the room – talk about flashes of Psycho here!


Tuesday we continued down the coast stopping at a wonderful beach – almost empty – near Palm Springs called Ocean Ridge.  We only spent about half an hour there as it was hot enough to fry you.  The lifeguard called K in from swimming – much to my relief.  We drove on to North Miami with a glimpse of the Breakers Hotel.  We drove to the door but I was to ‘humble’ to venture inside (a note here three years later – that would no longer be true!)   We ended up in Hollywood at a huge Pink Hotel.  It had valet parking, which was great, as it was bucketing with rain.  We chose it from our book as it had seven restaurants, stores and a movie theatre.  It would have, had it not been closing down and not just for the season.  Trust us.


Wednesday (1st Sept) Breakfast in the hotel and on down to the Keys – a very long days drive.  We stayed at the hugely expensive but truly wonderful Galleon.  K had stayed there in 88 with S, P and S W.  $100 per night and that was half price as we were out of season.  Huge, nicely furnished, dishwasher, washers, wet bar the works.  Did our washing so we’re all ready to start out clean again.  We did an hour and a half conch train (pron. Conk) tour of Key West.  Excellent fully narrated by G.H. the guide/driver.  Key West’s name came from the Spanish for little bumps or corns on the toes and west from the Spanish for white bones – because when they discovered the islands they appeared at first to be little bumps on the sea and when they landed they found the bones of native Americans from a huge battle.  Key West is interesting and certainly different to anywhere else I’ve been.  Our guide covered a lot of history, architecture and botany in his tour.  I suspect Key West will soon be very tacky – it’s already totally touristy and I didn’t find it particularly charming; though enough remains (now) to see what it must have been like for Hemingway et al.  We had a great lunch including the famous key lime pie and set off for our longest drive yet to Naples.  US41 goes right across the Everglades ‘Beware, Panther, Bobcat and Beaver’ signs!  We booked into the Best Western.


Friday (3rd) finds us in Naples at the Best Western suites and apartments.  We have a King-size bed which has to be seen to be believed 2 TVs a sitting room – the lot.  To top it all we are literally next to a small almost private pool.  After negotiating our usual discount we got this for $50 a night – it can sleep four – what a bargain.  We decided to extend our stay here to Wednesday.  We took a tour of Naples on the trolley bus. Saw some fabulous houses, Tin City, the pier, palm cottage, philharmonic centre etc etc.  We went to Fifth Ave where some shops had some racks set out on the street for Labor Day weekend.  I bought a lovely silk dress for half price in one of their very posh shops. (very King Street Manchester).  Went back to Best Western where we watched a (free) video (Jerry McGuire).


Saturday (4th) got up early and went to Everglades City via Marco Island.  Did a swift tour of Marco Island to get the flavour of it and on to Captain Doug’s for a trip in an airboat.  We decided on a small one so we could go further into the mangrove swamps.  Brilliant trip – saw two ospreys, a turkey buzzard and an alligator to name but a few.  Capt. Don – the skipper – threw us about a bit for fun.  Ho! Ho! What a wag.


Before the boat ride we went to a mock-up of an Indian chickee (welcome house) hut where we saw two alligators, a python, some wonderful lizards and birds.


Came back to outlet stores we’d passed on our way in.  A great Liz Claiborne.  Bought a number of things including four pairs of shorts and a skirt.  Had a sandwich in the café and started our drive ‘home’.  We stooped to look at a fantastic statue of a group of five horses – life-size bronzes.  They front a stunning collection of ‘real estate’.  We had a bit of a mooch round.  Home to dinner, video and a wasp sting.  I actually had to show the wasp corpse to Reception to check that it was a wasp as it certainly didn't resemble anything European.  I was told - 'it wasn't a problem'.  Not for them it wasn't.


Sunday – there was a market set up on 5th for labor day weekend – went shop browsing – wonderful 5th avenue shops.  Monday (Labor Day) we spent it around various beaches and looking at houses.  What a wonderful place to live.


Tuesday is our last day in Naples.  We spent it around the local shops including a wonderful bookshop – Books a Million.  K dropped me off at the pool and he went for a second look at the homes at Lely resort.


Wednesday 8th – we both parted very reluctantly with the Best Western and Naples and made our way north to North Reddington and the Sails apartments.  This was a day’s driving again.  We crossed the spectacular Sunshine Skyway bridge at St Petersburg and drove on to Dunedin – then came back down to North Reddington Beach.  Found a great Motel literally on the beach.  Ordered Pizza had a night swim in a very dramatic thunder storm, showers, TV and bed.


Thursday 9th – took a boat trip out into Clearwater Bay to see the dolphins and we did!  They were riding the wake of a smaller boat.


Friday 10th we spent our last day driving back to Naples – we realised we’d left our dirty washing there when we came to pack.  Great shame as it took the day to drive there and back but it’s still be a great holiday and we got to see Naples again.  Naples has (most definitely) been my favourite place.


Sat 11th.  Drove across land to Orlando for our flight home.  We stopped at the Seminole Reservation for the Casino.  A pretty sleazy British Bingo Hall type place – certainly lacked the glamour of a true casino, but interesting nevertheless to watch the incredible amount of money people were just mindlessly feeding into machines. How can ‘ordinary’ wage earners afford this?  Dropped off our car and onto our check-in.  We got a free upgrade, which was great – especially for an overnighter.