DAY 3 – FRI 9th NOV

wake and look at the clock. 2:48AM. Doh!
Now let’s see, the day before yesterday I woke at 5:00AM, went to work all day, then travelled to Gatwick. Yesterday I had only a few hours sleep at the Travel Inn, travelled to Orlando, had a 21-hour day and now I am awake at 2:48AM! Sleep deprivation! I thought this was supposed to be a holiday not a torture session.
I can feel the waves of sympathy floating across cyberspace at this very second. What’s that? Stop whinging and get on with it you spineless wimp? OK, sorry.

Anyway, Tam is awake soon after so we creep out of the room at 4:45AM planning to use the hot tub. Unfortunately it doesn’t open until 7:00AM. Never mind. We have a stroll and take a few pictures.

Back in the room we all shower and prepare to leave for Sanibel. My big decision of the day. Cerruti 1881 or Georgio Armani aftershave? I toy with the idea of putting one on each side but conclude that the women of America are not ready for such a sensual experience yet. I settle on the Armani. Hey, I’ll be fighting off the chicks today! Unfortunately I don’t mean women but baby hens. Still, it’s nice that SOMETHING finds me attractive.

Leaving the Hilton behind we head for International Drive for an all you can eat breakfast at the Ponderosa. $3.99 for a huge pig out is a bargain. As we eat, 2 coaches pull in 100 members of a youth choir pile in to eat. My pulling power fails miserably at the first hurdle, as I cannot elicit even a passing glance from a single one of the 50+ women present!

Into the van at 8:15AM and we go west young man, along the I4 to Tampa then across the loooong bridge to Indian Rocks Beach. We stop to paddle and the beach is wonderful with soft, white, powdery sand.

Back in the car we head for St.Petersburg where we stop for another look around. This beach is even nicer and you can look up and down the coast in either direction for miles.

On the road again and the effects of the huge breakfast are beginning to wear off. We also need a few groceries, so we stop in a Publix just outside Port Charlotte. A couple of 12 packs of beer, a 1 litre bottle of wine and some other unimportant items later, we are back on the road. Oh yes, we also picked up some subs for lunch and so pull off the main road and park up to eat them.

I must admit to being rather remiss in that I haven’t told you about the weather yet. It’s wonderful. 80 degrees and mostly sunny.

Back to the endless journey and the last leg. We reach the causeway and as we cross into Sanibel one thing becomes immediately apparent. We have driven over 100 miles of Florida coastline and it is mostly very similar. Some parts are more affluent than others (for example, St.Petersburg is much prettier than Indian Rocks) but there are many 6 or 7 floor hotels and condos interspersed with restaurants that make one sprawling town merge into the next.

The causeway seems to provide a natural break from all this and Sanibel is mainly populated by low-level hotels, condos and private housing, much of which is very beautiful.

We pull into Sanibel Arms West some 7 hours after leaving Orlando. This has little to do with the distance involved and more to do with our desire to see as much of Florida as we can.
Our unit is I7 and overlooks the pool. The lounge area is very pretty and tastefully decorated. Some of the other fixtures and fittings leave a little to be desired as they are obviously getting somewhat long in the tooth, but overall we are happy.

We spend a short while unpacking (and having a beer) before setting out to explore. A walk through the complex of about 50 yards and we are on the beach.
I wouldn’t say that it is as immediately pretty as St Pete’s but it does have the added attraction of shells. Millions of them. There also seems to be plenty of wildlife with flocks of small birds swooping in over the sea, foraging for whatever unsuspecting sea creature it is they eat.
Granny(J) is stripped off and into the sea in no time and the girls and Tammy soon follow. Grandma(D) is off up the beach following the birds (strange woman) while I take photos and chicken out of swimming. Well, it’s 5:30PM and turning cooler!

Georgia is really enjoying the sea, until her first mouthful of salt water dampens her enthusiasm. India has ventured in as far as her ankles but refuses to go any further as she has read about sting rays and sharks and thinks they may come to pull her into the briny depths at any moment.
After the swim we stroll along the beach shell hunting and enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. As we walk back towards Sanibel Arms West the sun is setting and the entire horizon has a pink glow. Very pretty.

The girls decide they want a dip in the pool, so Granny(J) stays with them while the rest of us jump in the van to have a look around to find somewhere to eat this evening.

It is at this point that things start to go a little astray.

As we travel along East Gulf Drive there are nothing but condos and houses. We expect this as most of the restaurants and shops are up on Periwinkle Way.
We turn inland onto Periwinkle and are surprised to find very few restaurants and they are well spread out.
Although this is good in some ways as it is very pretty and quiet, we had been expecting some sort of centre to Sanibel ‘old town’.
We eventually find a restaurant called the Lazy Flamingo and decide to try this tonight. I clock the distance as we drive back to our condo and it is roughly 1 miles.

After showering we are all set to start the trek to the Lazy Flamingo.

Oh yes, one thing that I have forgotten to mention is the rather annoying droning noise that can be heard throughout the condo. It sounds a bit like an aircraft passing overhead, but it is constant.

The walk to the restaurant is lovely. There are some absolutely fantastic houses; many of them look like mini southern mansions. I’ll have two please.
There is no street lighting, you can only see the path via the external lights of the houses and by the occasional passing car. This makes the whole place seem even quieter, but it is very atmospheric, almost romantic.

The Lazy Flamingo has a 30-minute wait (they don’t accept reservations) and Georgia is getting very tired. This place is a no frills restaurant, almost a bar type environment. It is very noisy and you practically have to shout to communicate, but I quite like it. Another distinct advantage is the draft beer at $1.25 a time. Woohoo!

It is mostly seafood, so I opt for the grouper platter, which is 5 very large pieces of grouper on a bed of fries. Excellent fish and very good value at $10. Others have mussels, conch fritters and Chicken Caesar Salad. All are enjoyed and the total bill for the 6 of us is just $70 including tip. Very good value.
Georgia fell asleep immediately we were seated, so a doggy bag is required for her.

The walk back just after 9:00PM is pleasant as it is a lovely balmy evening with the temperature around 70.

Back at the condo there is a last beer before bed and I write up my trip report. I must admit to slight depression. We were hoping that there would be a few bars and restaurants within walking distance, but this is now looking unlikely. We will investigate further tomorrow.

The prospect of me having to refrain from drinking in order to drive in the evenings is looming large.
I’m not sure I can take this! (sob!) The pain. The pain.