Even with all the curtains closed, I still woke up at 7:30. So much for long sleep, but it did help.
The room bill was slipped under the door, so I could leave the key in the room and not have to go to the front desk to formally check out. Which was just like the hotel in Clewiston. Maybe it’s a new trend. If so, I’m liking it.
The Weather Channel had said the weather would be nice, and gazing out the hotel window, it looked that way. Once I started loading up the car, I discovered it was cool and breezy like the day before. Even knowing it wouldn’t last until noon, it’s always nice to start a day of travel like that.
It was rather strange to be jaunting about on a Monday. Haven’t done that since the two week hurricane evasion trip with Mom back in late 2004, when I was still working for WebMD. I will have to recount that trip here at a later date. Down side is, that one was pre-digital camera, so the pictures aren’t as good. But Street View will help, and I can find other photos to supplement the postings.
While flipping around on the radio, I stumbled across the Bob and Sheri Show. I forgot about them completely. I used to love listening to them. They don’t play on any stations in Ocala. Might have to see about podcasts and such.
Almost within walking distance of the hotel was the first thing on my Naples list, the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Depot. I think it’s a museum now. It wasn’t open, which was nice in a way, since it meant the parking lot was empty and I could get shots unobstructed by cars.
I got to the historic district (street view) shortly after. I parked in the shopping part, coincidentally in front of one of the buildings specifically listed in A Guide to Florida’s Historic Architecture, the Naples Mercantile Building (now a restaurant). The area is very upscale and schmantzy. There was at least one sign with a map indicating where all the businesses were. It made the place feel like an outdoor mall. Got an espresso at Bad Ass Coffee, and that jolted me into further wakefulness.
Back in the car and drove over to the Palm Cottage (not be confused with the one in Miami), finding a spot pretty close to it. I saw a tour group ride by on Segways, how modern. The Cottage is run by the Naples Historical Society. It wasn’t open, but even with all the trees around it, I was able to get decent enough shots.
Then I strolled over to the Naples Pier (photos). Now that is a landmark. The thing’s 700 feet long! And there were tons of people there. Why weren’t they all at work on a Monday? I strolled all the way to the end of the pier and back. It mayn’t have been high on my priority list, but it was one of the more fun things I got to see. Then I walked around the residential section of the district. Nice houses, but not gaudy or grandiose. Maybe ‘cause they’re so close to the beach.
Got all I needed in about an hour and was on my way. All in all, I rather like Naples. There’s a few spots I didn’t get nearby, so I look forward to returning.
Let me mention a great trio of books about out of the way Florida. They’re the Best Backroads of Florida series by Douglas Waitley. Wherever I go in the state, I usually have the one covering the area I’m visiting. In this case, it was Volume 2 (Coasts, Glades, and Groves). He recommends avoiding US 41 for a while, and continuing up Gulf Shore Boulevard. Doug’s rarely steered me wrong, so I tried it. The upscaliness increased. All too soon it gave way to high-rises. Reminded me too much of how overdeveloped Miami Beach got. And that was over twenty years ago; to think of what it must be like now. Anyway, the roads got twisty and I wasn’t sure where I was going at this point. But I figured as long as I was heading generally north and east, I’d find Tamiami Trail.
And so I did. Fortunately, only a bit south of my next stop, the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida (above), which wasn’t open because it’s closed on Mondays. You know, I’ve never seen a museum in an office plaza, but that’s where this was. A cute 2-story one. Better than no space at all. It was still breezy, maybe more so than earlier. Not complaining at all; made it much more comfortable.
Now the next stop floored me, even though I was warned. It was the Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. I’d read it was popular, but crikeys! There was a line of cars before I even got to the entrance. I didn’t check my watch as to my exact arrival time, but I know it took me at least a half-hour to get in. On a Monday, around noon! I wondered previously at all the folks at the Naples Pier. Well, that was deserted compared to this. It seemed like everyone in the area had decided to take Monday off. At first I couldn’t figure why the cars moved so slowly. As I got closer, I realized they were only letting a car in when another one left the park. Once I was in and to the ranger station, I commented how they must support the whole state park system almost singlehandedly. They said they were one of the top 10. I think they’re five of them all by themselves.
Was it worth it? Yes and no. Got the stamp for the park in my state park passport. The main attraction was the beach. The sand was brilliant white, and the waters were the turquoise I saw at the panhandle beaches, which surprised me. But I’m not a beachy guy, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as others might. I also spent less time in the park than waiting to get in. Another thing that bugged me was that, with all the waiting, there were at least half-a-dozen empty parking spots. They could have let a few more cars in. Maybe they don’t want to fill it to capacity in case people have to get out fast?
As I was leaving, I swear I saw a lovebug. In the beginning of April? I wondered how bad they’d be come the end of May. It looks as though I worried needlessly, as I’ve seen hardly any since. Usually Memorial Day weekend is swarming season, but I haven’t seen a sign of the cursed things, thank goodness.
I was completely out of Naples not long after leaving, and with only a smidge of dificulty found Bonita Springs School (photos). And don’t think this was the last one; far from it. It was 12:30 and closed, so spring break must’ve been this week. After getting pictures, I called my cousin Lynn for my mid-morning check-in. By the time we were done, it was 1 o’clock and time for lunch.
On the way to the school I’d noticed a building that looked like an old-style ice-cream place, but remember seeing a sign indicating it was a restaurant. I thought I’d try it, and it was a food highlight of the trip. The name of the place was Taqueria San Julian (street view). Not a big place, but nice enough. They had a menu written on the wall, and one of the first things I noticed on it was tripe. I’m not a big tripe fan. I made pepper pot soup (a Pennsylvania Dutch sort of menudo) years ago and it was OK, yet I wouldn’t go out of the way to get it. The thing is, them having tripe on the menu (and tongue!) indicated to me that it wasn’t your typical fast-food generic Mexican restaurant.
I will say the one atypical thing was the service was slow, which I’ve not had happen in a Mexican restaurant. It might have been my invisibity curse acting up, or just my day to get slow service. I obtained a regular type menu, and saw they had four locations, one of them back in LaBelle. After eating at this one, I’ll remember to look for the others if I’m in the area.
What’d I get? A pork taco, which was like a mini-burrito. And speaking of burritos, I got a shrimp burrito, which I’ve never had. I’ve also never had it cut in half, which made it even easier to eat. Neither was huge, but then the prices were very inexpensive. Altogether it was around 7 bucks, which is insane for food that good.
Oh, and did I forget to mention the hot sauces? Three of them, served in a metal container like you’d find in a fancy restaurant. Here’s a more extensive description, with pictures of the salsa purveyor and some of the food. It’s about the one in Fort Myers, but equally applies to the one in Bonita Springs. I left before 2 PM, which wasn’t too horrid, time-wise.