Just got back from my first trip to Florida, USA, staying in the city of Naples in Collier County. I chose this location because of the proximity to the Everglades, which was my reason for visiting Florida in the first place. I have to say it is a unique place, with many different faces.
We stayed at the Inn on Fifth, on Fifth Avenue South, supposedly one of the best hotels in the city. And Fifth Avenue is obviously one of the swankiest places in the entire country. You literally can not see the Ferraris because there are too many Bentleys in the way! It’s nothing to sit in a restaurant and hear the banter about the latest screenplay someone is reviewing, and how Leo is interested, or how someone is flying to Colorado tomorrow, but will be in New Hampshire the next weekend.
Fifth Avenue is an unreal construct, beautiful to look at, but a fantasy world populated by people living the fantasy. With homes in this area ranging anywhere from $2,000,000 to $29, 000, 000 it’s easy to see why you can walk into a store and drop $350 on a bathroom waste basket without blinking an eye.
Of course, in August, considered “off-season”, most of these homes sit empty because it is just too hot and humid; the owners are off enjoying their summer homes in the less oppressive north.
But this was not the face of Florida I came to see.
Take a step off the beaten track and it’s a different world, a more real world.
Just a few blocks from the excess you arrive at Naples Beach. Heading south along the shore there are usually many people, especially as you get closer to the fishing pier. But a couple of minutes north you can find tranquility like this.
But personally, I found the best part of Florida when we headed out to Everglade City, gateway to Everglades National Park.
Here we boarded an airboat for a trip through the mangrove swamps, a unique experience unlike any boat trip I have taken before.
Our guide took us through the twisting tunnels of the mangrove swamps, sometimes at speeds that seemed reckless, but at which he obviously felt comfortable travelling.
And within minutes of entering the mysterious jungle we met the first of the denizens I had come to see.
While most of the gators stayed semi-hidden, there were a couple of curious fellows, like this one that wanted to see what was on our airboat.
We also took a trip to Big Cyprus, which is home to more wildlife, like the Roseate Spoonbill, once endangered, but now, like the American Alligator, a recovery success story.
And just to illustrate how successfully the once-endangered alligators have recovered over the last few decades…
This was the Florida I had come to see!