Jennifer and Lizzie
One thing that we quickly realized about Naples (sorry for any Naples natives here) is that they are not very friendly towards younger "touristy" families with cute kids. It's mostly wealthy older retired people who (apparently) don't want to be bothered with kids. We still had a great time and kept our smiles and friendly ways about us, but nobody was noticing. Regardless, Naples was beautiful and I could see why so many people come here for their retirement.
Waiting on our taxi after swimming in the ocean!
The room that we stayed in was pretty cool. We were on the second floor and the room had 2 bedrooms, 2 bath, full eat-in kitchen, and a living room with a fold out bed. The pool was about 100 yards away down a hallway and through a door. We spent many hours in the pool for sure. There was one little girl that liked the pool as much as us; her name was Olivia and she knew all of the Hardbarger girls by name by the time we left. :)
Thursday morning, we rented a minivan and drove up to Sanibel Island to do some shelling. Jennifer had heard that this was a prime spot to find some shells, and she loves finding shells anytime we go to a beach. The drive up to Sanibel was really cool. On our way up, we stopped at Fort Myers Beach and did some shopping. Another bonus for this drive was that our minivan had XM Radio and they had a radio station totally dedicated to Pearl Jam! Yeah, we listened to that station the whole way up and back. Nice! Once we got on Sanibel Island, we decided to drive all the way out to Captiva (very tip of island). On this drive, we passed a lot of beach front properties, and I must say that the houses along this drive were pretty spectacular.
Family Picture @ Fort Myers Beach
When we got to the tip of Sanibel Island, we all got out to see the beach. Unfortunately, the water was pretty cold and the waves were surprisingly huge from all of the storms out in the gulf. The girls didn't get to go swimming due to the waves and the icy cold breeze. Jazzy and Daizi played in the sand for a while. Lizzie and I threw the football, and Jennifer and Morgan did some shelling. From there we went to a really cool Mexican Restaurant and ordered some delicious food. The bill was pretty steep, but the food was very good!
On Friday morning, we packed up and headed across the Everglades for some swampy goodness. We made a few stops along the way and experienced some of the sites and attractions. Our first stop was a nature preserve with a long boardwalk that went about a mile into some deep swampy terrain. The girls loved it and so did Jennifer and I. We saw a few Aligators (big ones) that were very much "wild" and not confined by any means. We saw some cool birds, a goofy squirrel that charged us, then leaped onto a tree then just let us watch him. :) We didn't get to see any turtles or big spiders like I wanted to, but I'm sure they were in there.
From the nature preserve we drove further down the road to a nice restaurant where we ordered some yummy food. The girls got to eat some gator meat and authentic froglegs. :) We had to tell Daizi that she was eating "chicky nuggets" and she scarfed them down. After the plate was clean, we told her she ate aligator meat. She paused for a few seconds and then looked at Lizzie and said "That allidator was dood, Sissy!" :) (Daizi says her "g" like a "d"). We all lost it. After dinner, I ate some yummy Florida Key Lime Pie. Yum!!
After we filled up on "allidator meat" and dessert, we all went on an air boat ride through the everglades. It was awesome! We saw two alligators and got to skim over tall swamp grass "just like in the movies". :P The tour guide turned off the boat a few times and actually told us a little bit about the wild life and habitat in the area. I learned that the inside of a cat-tail is actually mother nature's gauze? If you shave off the outside of a cat tail, and then scrape out the milky inside of it with the edge of your pocket knive, it looks and acts just like gauze pads that you would see in an ordinary medical kit. The natives use it to this day.
After the boat ride, we got to visit their little local wildlife attraction. They had many animals in captivity from the Everglades. We saw lots of tortoises, lizards, iguanas, birds, allidators, trocodiles, snakes, stunks, a florida panther, wolves, wild boars, and more... We hung around for quite a while and just enjoyed the day together. It was hot and the sun was shining bright. One of the panthers was in heat, so we got to hear it roar over and over which was rather eerie. It sounded like a territorial bobcat about to pounce (a high pitch "wrowl"). :) Not a sound that I would ever want to hear out on the trail.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
We finally checked into our hotel in Fort Lauderdale and... WOW!! I'm going to save that post for tomorrow or Monday. Let's just say that our room is about as good as it could get!!