Delray Beach – Florida Road Trip Part III

Ponce de Léon

Photo from Rick Kilby’s blog

When the Spanish explorer Ponce de Léon landed in Florida in 1513, he named it La Florida (“Flowery Land”). Of course, it was Spring when he arrived, so plants were in full bloom. As G and I made our way across Alligator Alley and up the east coast in the middle of July, we were both surprised by the lush, tropical landscape. Mind you, it rained almost every day. I thought of California and ruminated on how tragic it was that the West Coast didn’t get some of the rainfall that was so abundant in Florida. How random life – and weather – can be.

We stopped at The Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale to visit the Apple store (G was having phone trouble). As we stood at the entrance and debated whether or not it was worth it to hang around for 45 minutes waiting for his appointment, one of the salesmen overheard us and suggested we go have a drink at the Blue Martini on the other side of the mall.  Since G really depends on his phone for so many things, we decided to do it. We had a fabulous martini, while surreptitiously watching a woman at the bar flirting with a man young enough to be her son. And then we noticed that the bar was full of women “of a certain age” and very few men of any age. Laughing, we finished our drinks and went to get a new phone before continuing on.

Florida Palms

As we drove through the string of towns north of Fort Lauderdale, we began to take more interest in our surroundings. With the Atlantic to our right and the intracoastal waterway to our left, the scenery was often breathtaking. I made notes of particularly beautiful places, so we could look them up later. We stopped in Delray Beach, because I had read somewhere that it was one of the best places to live along the east coast of Florida. Impressed with the throngs of people walking around and the interesting-looking shops and restaurants, we decided to stay there for the night. We searched for a hotel and ended up back down the beach a little ways, at a newly remodeled Holiday Inn. It had the air of a boutique hotel and since it was right on the beach, we checked in. We freshened up before heading back to Atlantic Avenue for dinner.

We walked around as we tried to decide where to eat – there were so many great choices! It just happened to be G’s birthday, and we were still hankering for oysters, so we settled on a table outside at City Oyster & Sushi Bar. It has a menu that features a fantastic selection of fresh oysters from both the east and west coasts.

oysters!

Oh baby, they were dee-lish-us! So good, in fact, that I can’t remember what we ate afterwards, although i know that was delicious, too. We filled our bellies, and on the way back to the car we stopped outside a bar called Johnnie Brown’s to listen to a Rod Stewart impersonator. He was really good and had the crowd all worked up.

Before leaving the hotel in the morning, we took a walk down the beach and went for a swim. We practically had the ocean all to ourselves. It was  fabulous. Hence, we decided to add Delray Beach (and pretty much all of Palm Beach county) to the “list.”

Highland Beach

Highland Beach

Highland Beach

 

 

 

 

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Florida Road Trip Part II – Wait, am I in Italy?

We left Apalachicola and headed East on Highway 98. Desolate roadHoping to find a quaint place for breakfast, the minutes – and then the hours – ticked by, with no sign of a restaurant anywhere. If you want to fall off the radar and live somewhere d-e-s-o-l-a-t-e, head to that section of Florida. I can’t tell you how happy I was when we finally made it to US 19, because I knew there would soon be signs of life. If you are planning a road trip in Florida, take my advice and avoid the whole section between Apalachicola and Crystal River. (But don’t miss the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs in Crystal River … it’s a kitchy, old-fashioned attraction that’s been there for decades.)

Naples-Florida-Travel-Poster On our way to Naples, we took a few detours:  Siesta Key (nice beach),  St. Armand’s Circle (great shopping), and Venice Beach (yummy sushi place downtown). All nice places to visit, but I couldn’t imagine living there. I started to wonder why so many places in Florida were named after cities in Italy.  Late in the afternoon, we arrived at the Inn on Fifth, a beautiful boutique hotel right in downtown Naples. After checking in, we took a walk down to the beach.

Naples, FL pier NaplesPier

Naples is beautiful, and one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S. Supposedly, it got its name because the mild climate and abundant wildlife likened it to the sunny peninsula in Italy. It is renowned for its culture, world-class shopping and fine dining. But off season, it is a ghost town. Other than a few foreign tourists on the narrow beach, there was hardly anyone around. We tried not to stare at a South American family lolling right at the water’s edge, fully clothed yet running in and out of the water anyway. Grown-ups, not kids.

We strolled back to 5th Avenue and looked for someplace interesting to have a drink, and ended up at L’Angolo 5th Ave. For some reason, no matter where we go, we always seem to end up in an Italian restaurant!

L'Angolo's on Fifth

 

We chatted with the owner as he poured our wine. We asked how he liked Naples, and he told us it had been very good to him. He said he wouldn’t have had the same opportunity to succeed back in his home town, Rome. His mother ran the kitchen, and he called her out to say hello. She didn’t speak a word of English, so she just smiled and nodded at us. We smiled and nodded back. We decided to stay for dinner and asked for the house specialty, and were presented with a beautiful insalata di rucola (arugula salad with shaved parmesan and tomatoes),  followed by tagliolini al nero di seppia (black squid ink pasta tossed with shrimp, calamari, tomatoes and parmesan. It was delicious!

L'Angolo 5th Ave

A waitress at L’Angolo 5th Ave…love the shirt: “Simply my mom in the kitchen”

We left Naples thinking that maybe we should come back again for a second visit, during the season. Thanks to L’Angolo, it managed to make “the list.” :-)

Naples, Florida

 

Did you miss Part I? No worries…. here it is!

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