February 13th, 2017
Yesterday we went to visit another island, Boca Grande. There were some similarities and some differences, as anticipated. First, it's history is quite different. Back in the 1880's or so it was strictly fishermen, their fmailies of course and a lighthouse and lighthouse keeper. Until the phosphate was discovered and then there was mining. A lot of mining! Due to the need for transporation a port was built and a rail line built and that happened around 1905. Realizing the potential in the little island with soft white sandy beaches and great fishing, the town of Boca Grande was built and people began to arrive. Wealthy people. And they built their winter homes here. People with names like Dupont.
It is still a unique place where Audrey Hepburn once had a seasonal home but also still the home to fishermen who live year 'round. Although there are a few big roads that run the length of the island, most of the streets are short and dead end at the water. As in the photo above. And because there are no gas stations, it seems that most residents get around via golf cart. They even have a parallel road which runs alongside the automobile friendly long roads specifically for the carts. Tim learned that anyone can rent one of the carts to get around for an hour, a day, a week or whatever is needed.
The "downtown" area is not very big but is very big on charm. Delightful touches of a time long ago when it was all about the little details, a time of both form and function. Why just have a means of opening a door when you can have an ornate doorknob. A ordinary door or an elaborate, wooden screen door? A street or a crushed shell natural canopy covered road? There were little things like this everywhere we looked.
The home styles ran the gamut from the traditional "Key West Style" to "Old Spanish" and everything in between though even the more modern homes still had a few old world touches that softened the harsh lines. As we walked around town we glanced at the windows of a realty office and noted the price tags on a few of the homes for sale and we laughed and laughed as we continued our way down the street. None of the stores or restaurants looked fancyschmancy, I will give them that. But then, they don't have to. The vibe is intentionally casual. This is, afterall, for most people, a place to unwind, relax, step back from their high pressure, elaborate, upscale lives.
We actually walked into The Gasparilla Inn. It's like stepping back in time. Charm upon delight upon tradition. The Gasparilla Inn has been firmly in place for more than 100 years. They have this Hotel thing down cold. They may have written the book. It reminded me a little of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado. There was also a tinge of the Castine Inn in old Castine Maine. Old School and Uptown both. Of course you pay for the privilege of staying there but it's worth every penny. In the interpretation of the Gasparilla Inn, it is an honour to welcome their guests and they mean that.
There is golf and fishing, beaches and boating, tennis and adorable little shops, a lighthouse and museum and even a state park. So with golf carts galore and dripping with charm, if you can afford the price of admission, Gasparilla Island's town of Boca Grande is certainly worth a visit. We paid our six bucks to drive over the bridge and spent a few hours wandering around and enjoyed it. Maybe some day we will go back and spend a little more time and a lot more money.
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Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.