Naples 2016

So, I went to Naples!

No, not Naples, Italy – Naples, Florida.

That doesn’t seem as fun, right? But it actually was!

I guess I’ll start on the very first day we arrived: October 9th, 2016.

Our flight was at 7:00 in the morning, but we had to get to the airport early simply because our driver had a policy to get there around four a.m. – which I didn’t mind because whenever I go on vacation, I always like getting there early so I have a chance to breathe.

Believe it or not, traveling is kind of stressful.

Every time I go on vacation I made it a thing to get McDonalds breakfast (which now goes against my clean eating, but hey, moderation is key) so I ended up getting a breakfast sandwich and just chilled out with my family for the hours to come, always anxious about getting on a plane.

Though the weather in Chicago was (surprisingly) nice in the fall, there’s just a different vibe when arriving to a place with gorgeous sunshine and palm trees with people you love. It almost feels like a giant weight has been lifted off your shoulders when the plane finally lands and you look out the window, staring at nothing but a gorgeous atmosphere.

Now, I was very used to going to Florida in August where the heat is blazing and the humidity is insane (but I love the heat, so, it really didn’t matter), so stepping off the plane was different this time. You can actually feel the difference in the air and I thought that maybe it was because a huge hurricane had swept through just before getting there, but I was told from Floridian’s that October isn’t as humid and it was actually very comfortable.

Hot but comfortable.

Once we got our rental car we drove from Ft. Myers to Naples, which is a bit of a drive but not that bad.

The house we arrived to was absolutely beautiful and the neighborhood was amazing. People usually think that because it’s Naples, Florida that you’ll be surrounded by older people, but honestly, it was a good mix of ages all around.

In the community the house was in, I saw young couples, young families, people my age, and everyone is so friendly. Now, I’m sure you’ll find someone that can be rude, but for the most part, people were very nice down there. When you go for walks they actually wave at you and smile – I’m not used to that where I live!

Anyway, we went to Panera for lunch, simply because it was easy and close and we had to unpack. We enjoyed the pool and stayed in the house for the day, soaking up the sun and relaxing.

However, the next day is when the adventure began and really didn’t stop until October  20th.

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We went to Naples zoo and not only did my nephew have a blast, but all of us did. Naples zoo is an absolutely beautiful and clean zoo and when you walk around its almost as if you’re walking around a jungle. The atmosphere is amazing and the animals have a lot of room to move around and they are so active.

They have trained alligators where they show you how they behave, they had a monkey safari where you go on a boat and go around a big pond and they show you all the different monkeys, who were all jumping around and climbing. They were so cute! My favorite though… was the tiger!

This tiger was super active and you were able to get pretty close to it because there is very little space between you and the fence (it is still very safe, no worries there) and that tiger did not like my dad. It was almost as if it felt intimidated by him and would growl and show his fangs at him, almost saying that he was the alpha male. The power that came out of that tiger when it barely (and i mean barely) roared was mind-blowing.

Another animal that was a lot of fun (and a lot less terrifying) was the giraffe. For $5.00 you can buy lettuce and feed a giraffe and they take photos of you, you’re allowed to take your own photos as well, and my nephew absolutely loved it and when we left the giraffe, he kept pointing, wanting to go back – so naturally, we bought him a little stuffed animal of it.

After burning all of our energy by walking around the zoo, we went to eat and decided on Old Downtown Naples, where theres cute little shops and awesome restaurants. We went to an Italian restaurant called Bellini Bar on 5th ave and the staff were so nice and the food was phenomenal – I would definitely recommend going there, and I would go there again.

After eating, we walked down to the beach, which isn’t too far from Old Naples, and watched the sun set. The houses around the beach were gorgeous and the sunset was even more beautiful. There’s literally nothing more relaxing than sitting on the beach, in my opinion, but perhaps its because of my zodiac sign that I think that way.

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The next day, the adventure didn’t stop (told you)!

We woke up pretty early and my brother, my sister-in-law, and I went to the everglades to Captain Jack’s air boat tours, and oh my gosh, it was terrifyingly cool.

We bought the package where we went through the mangroves, grasslands, and then visited an animal sanctuary and honestly, it was a pretty good price for doing all three of those things.

It was kind of a scary experience because you’re on these boats, so close to ‘monsters‘ beneath you but you are safe, even if the captain’s try to scare you a little – but believe me, it’s fun and you wouldn’t want to miss out on this amazing experience.

Only annoying bit was it started raining and when you’re going at such a fast speed the rain actually hurts – but it’s Florida, so it only rained for about ten minutes.

The animal sanctuary was kind of cool, but sad at the same time, due to the fact that you know that they are trying to rehabilitate these animals, they were trying to keep them safe because they were hurt.

We ended up seeing a lion and lioness, but they just kind of laid around (not surprising at all), there were otters, cougars (which they call the Florida Panther), alligators, crocodiles, and tigers. Two giant tigers and I was fascinated with them simply because they were even bigger than the one at the zoo and when they look right in your eyes it was so intimidating.

Also, can I just say? I’m actually very surprised on how big the Florida Panthers are! It’s kind of scary knowing that they’re walking around, and you even see signs around roads saying “Panthers Crossing”, but I have never seen any in the wild, only in the sanctuary.

Still, you never really hear about attacks, so maybe they just don’t bother people? I’m not so sure about that – definitely don’t want to go and find out either.

Warning for the Everglades tour? Bring bug spray!

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After getting back to the house from the Everglades, we all showered and the whole family went to a place in Marco Island called CJ’s on the Bay and it was basically in this complex that had shops and other places to eat all around but it was by far one of my favorite areas. If you aren’t fond of sea food, my suggestion is to get it while in Florida because they know how to make it and it’s soooo fresh and tastes very good – I’m not a big fan of sea food, personally I’d prefer chicken over sea food but while in Florida I don’t mind eating it that much!

I think that I had I got fish and chips and if you are 21 and over the drinks are sooooo delicious. I got some sort of frozen peach drink – not entirely sure what it was – but it was literally the perfect drink when sitting outside on a hot day.

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On October 12th we had a pool day, which was relaxing due to all the running around. It’s funny how when on vacation, you think it’s supposed to be relaxing, but you’re running around trying to fit everything into your schedule – however, I did not complain, I had a blast, but having a pool day was very nice.

Later that night, my brother, sister-in-law and nephew went to a Cuban restaurant and they said the food was super good! I never had Cuban food before but I did end up tasting what they brought back to the house and it was delicious. They even said that the place they went to was so clean and very hospitable.

My mom, dad and I went our own way and went for dinner at Bonefish Grill, where I got steak and I looove steak. Naples Bay Resort was where Bonefish was, and we ended up walking around that little area and it was almost as if (now correct me if I’m wrong, since I’ve never been there) you were walking around in Italy.

In this same place (Naples Bay Resort) there was actually a little coffee shop with a super cute outdoor patio, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to go – it was closed early and that’s the thing about Florida, everything closes kind of early, except if it’s downtown or a bar, but I wasn’t that disappointed.

Between all the running around and the heat, I was exhausted and went to bed pretty early that night, because the next day we were going for a bike ride and I was nervous to say the least, it’s been YEARS since I rode a bike!

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Of course I was excited about riding a bike again but theres always that voice in the back of your mind like WHAT IF YOU FORGOT!? Which is actually very silly, when thinking about it now.

Also, come to think of it, my parents haven’t ridden a bike for much longer than me, so I couldn’t have been that bad, right?

I would say that if you are vacationing in Naples that Marco Island is the best place for biking. Naples is far too busy but Marco has the perfect kind of area to do it, the only thing is, you do have to go up many bridges and IT IS A WORKOUT!!!

But if you’re like me and enjoy a physical challenge, you’ll love it.

Unfortunately though, I didn’t slow down when turning a corner and brushed through a bush, but it was super unfortunate for my mom because she actually crashed into it.

I also remember that when we were going up another bridge, I stopped right before going up it and, oh my gosh, it was so hard to get started. If you think it hard going up a steeper incline – do not stop before going up it (perhaps that is common sense, but I was not even thinking). Just go straight in because it’s so hard to get started and push yourself up… kind of like… get a running start, if that makes sense?

We rode our bikes to Tigertail beach and I’ll be honest with you – Tigertail is not my favorite. It wasn’t even a beach, it was like… a bay? I don’t really know, but I was not fond of it at all. When you walk on the sand, its super mushy, almost like walking in wet cement, and theres no view – nothing. I was not amused.

After that bike ride I wanted to sit on a beach and dive into the ocean but that didn’t really happen. At least the bike ride was fun! I would do that again in a heartbeat. Don’t know if my mom would, though, seeing she fell on the way back after turning a sharp corner.

My poor mom, she’s such a trooper.

For Meg’s (my sister-in-law’s) birthday we had dinner on the beach. Lucky girl got to spend her birthday in Florida with the most gorgeous view, not to mention!

Now, I can’t remember the name of this restaurant (nice going Paige) but it was next to the Sunset Bar and the food was phenomenal but kind of pricey. You’re paying for the view  and when you’re eating dinner on the beach while the sun’s setting, I don’t know if life could get any better in that moment.

There’s just something about the beach that makes me reflect and gives me positive vibes.

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The rest of the vacation was a lot slower paced after this. During the rest of the time, we played golf, went to the beach, stayed in the pool, or went shopping at the outlet mall, where, if you are from a cold state, you need to go to that outlet mall. No one ever buys the winter jackets and vests or boots there, so the selection is wonderful, along with the price. I got a Banana Republic winter vest (that was originally 85) for 40 bucks. It was great.

Marco Island private beach is a must see!

We went there for sunset and it was almost like standing in a painting, it was the perfect amount of light and dark, the never ending horizon made me stand there in awe. Nature is beautiful, but it can also be a scary thing.

 

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I honestly think this is what heaven looks like.

 – Paige

 

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