Sanibel Island is a very pleasant sandbar just off the coast of Fort Myers. Far as I was able to tell, its economy is mainly driven by the tourists. It can get away with this because it is actually worth visiting.
We started the morning with a long walk up Sanibel Beach. The beach itself is quite nice, with soft sand studded by a totally impossible number of shells. (At times, we found ourselves having to resort back to our sandals, because we were really walking on shells, not on sand.) msmemory took a variety of specimens that fit in her pocket, and remarked that any one of them would be considered to be the find of the trip if she was wandering around Nantucket.
We wandered a ways up the island, I'd guess a mile or so along, until we found a grove of palm trees along the shore with flocks of pelicans nesting in them. Having never seen more than one or two pelicans at a time before, I was taken aback by the sheer scale of these huge birds in the trees. We were also impressed by their ability to quietly glide along the surface of the water, simply hang-gliding six inches up looking for fish.
On our way back, we saw a small pod of dolphins just off the shore, happily playing around. On the less-sightly side, we saw a number of spiny red sea urchins stuck on the beach, and scads of half-dead jellyfish. I don't think I'd ever seen a real jellyfish before, and was a little disconcerted at just how alien they look.
After a lunch at the snack-shack in the hotel, we decided to go bicycling. The hotel (and indeed, a number of other places on the island) does quite a good business renting battered old one-speeds for getting around. The speed limits are slow and the roads often crowded; the island is flat as a pancake; and it's only ten miles or so long. So biking is simply the sensible way around, and the island has the best network of bike paths I've ever encountered to support that. Far as we could tell, most people get around via bike.
The ride was very pleasant, and we were taken aback to realize that we've never actually gone bicycling together before. (The cost of living on top of a moderately high hill.) I was a bit snide about the one-speeds, I'm afraid (I haven't used foot braking since middle school), but it was nonetheless a delight. We rode about halfway up the island on the residential (well, mostly hotels) back roads, then came back along the commercial district. Watching the endless and slow traffic jam of tourists crawl off the island at 4pm, we felt much better both about deciding to stay on the island and deciding to get around via bike.
After the bike ride, we went down to the hotel pool, warmed to bathwater temperature. Nothing remarkable about it, but getting to lounge in a warm pool was a virtue all by itself.
Dinner was at Portofino's, an upscale Italian restaurant at the hotel. In general, everything was fine but unremarkable. Afterwards, we walked back down to the beach for stargazing. While there was a bit of light pollution from Fort Myers and Naples, it was still far better than we can get at home. It's a rare treat to see things like the sword hanging from Orion's belt, which are mostly obscured by the bright city lights of Boston.
We finished off the evening by finally going to see Chicago (which ladysprite had been telling us in no uncertain terms we were required to go to). The two-screen island theater is best described as "cute": the screen we saw it on was only a little bigger than the commuter jet we took to Newark, with 14 rows of 6 seats each. The movie was, of course, wonderful, with fine dancing and catchy music, always the best way to end a good day.
I'll lump Thursday in with Wednesday, since the second verse was much the same as the first. We again walked along the beach, this time down towards the lighthouse at the tip of the island. (Stopping only when we got within shouting distance of the throng of tourists at the public beach.)
Afterwards, we rented bikes again. We rode down to the lighthouse itself, said, "Gee, it's a lighthouse", and left. (The lighthouse itself is a highly overbuilt metal tube constructed in the last century, wrapped in a complex web of supports. Nothing short of the island sinking into the ocean is going to make that thing fall down. But pretty it ain't.) Then we biked around the island for the rest of the afternoon, hitting a bunch of the shops, including a fine wander through "She Sells Sea Shells", which has an astonishing array of really cool shells for surprisingly low prices.
Dinner this time was at Dolce Vita. The menu was quite extensive, although a tad expensive, and everything was generally well-prepared. I had escargots again (hey, I don't get many snails at home), with a main course of jerk chicken and lemon/basil fettucine. All generally quite good, although the place was a little disconcertingly familiar -- it was clearly modeled on typical New York restaurants and was in all ways a lot less casual than I'd come to associate with Florida. It even had a piano and lounge singer for most of the time we were there, trying desperately to entertain people who (in our case, at least) were actually more interested in trying to converse. Oh, well -- it was a pleasant enough meal, if not precisely what I'd had in mind.
Next: The Final Leg