After a wonderful wedding weekend we packed up and said our Sarasota goodbyes. Our boys headed back to NYC, Gail and Phyllis settled in for a visit with Mark and Jean, and, after lunch on Siesta Key with my brother, Marty, and his wife, Barb, the CE and I set off for our first road trip stop: Naples, FL.
What are your thoughts on Florida? Say the word, and some people think oranges, some conjure images of alligators. Me? I’m pretty sure Florida is the Spanish word for HUMIDITY (although Google tells me that Ponce de Leon christened it as “flowery land”.)
As we planned our trip to the Sunshine State for Laura’s wedding, the CE suggested a side trip. And I said “Great idea! How about Turks and Caicos?” And he said, “I was thinking more along the lines of Lake Okeechobee.”
Ha ha. Remember how I’ve said that the CE can make me laugh? But this time he wasn’t kidding. After decades of singing the praises of California over Florida, my dear (and possibly deluded) husband has of late been listing the advantages of the Gulf State, notably the fact that it has no state income tax. Even its sales tax, at 6%, is an improvement over the 8.25% we pay in California. According to David Kline of the California Taxpayers Association, “if you moved from California to Florida, and you are in a high-income bracket, you are automatically giving yourself a 13.3 percent raise.” Uh-oh. So maybe the CE isn’t so deluded after all?
So we compromised. No Lake Okeechobee, but we’ve been sampling the Florida coasts, starting with Naples. Floridians are never shy about self-promotion, and 19th century boosters of this coastal community just over 100 miles south of Sarasota crowed that it “surpassed the bay in Naples, Italy”.
I can’t vouch for Naples’ superiority over its Italian namesake, but its beaches are lovely and the CE and I had a great time there. We stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, which is almost nine miles from Naples proper, but a worthy destination in its own right. We especially enjoyed the beachside “Gumbo Limbo” cafe where they make a mean mai tai served in a tree-house setting.
We were somewhat less impressed with the hotel’s flagship restaurant, The Grill. I received not only an email, but also a phone call from them to confirm our reservation and provide a litany of caveats in regard to their dress code. Maybe they’ve heard about the CE’s fashion proclivities? I felt like I should be taking notes: “no shorts or flip flops for men but sandals are permitted for women.” Check. Jackets preferred for gentlemen. Check, but good luck with that one if you’re married to my husband. Once we were ushered to our table I took a look around and – okay, maybe I’d had one too many mai tais at Gumbo Limbo – but it seemed like a glorified Capital Grille to me. With extremely glorified prices. Wouldn’t go back.
We had better luck at dinner the next night, when we drove into town and dined at Campiello. Naples has not one, but two retail centers, 5th Avenue South and 3rd Street South. Campiello is on the latter and, to me, lovelier of the two areas. We sat on the outdoor terrace and had a great meal.
The feel in Naples was lazy and relaxed, because we were there off-season. But we were told that any time between Thanksgiving and Mothers Day, the community of 20,000 balloons to nearly 400,000 pasty white snow birds. Naples and the Gulf Coast in general are said to draw largely from the Midwestern United States, whereas the East coast of Florida is known as a playground for New Yorkers and Bostonians.
Would I take the 13.3% raise and live there? Hmmm. Interesting question. I don’t think I would like the population explosion during “the season” and I know I wouldn’t like the humidity explosion of August and September, when locals freely admit Florida is “unlivable”.
But we took a lovely walk to the Naples pier after dinner and I have to admit I was somewhat smitten. If I could have one of those lovely homes on Gulf Shore Boulevard, I’d consider it. But all the 13.3% raises in the world aren’t going to put enough money in our pocket to afford one of those. Guess we’ll stay in SoCal…for now.