Friday, March 27, 2015

A Word to the Wise: Winters North Drive Vacationers into Sanibel's Embrace

There is no question when the winters get tough,  both the tough and tender think of Florida, especially Sanibel Island.

This has been the case for many a decade.

But the last couple of winter seasons in most of the country have made vacationers and snow birders alike much more attuned to the differences in geographical areas.

These last two winters have been busier than ever with more vacationers on our Island .

We were so in demand this month on Sanibel that we "sold out" for much of March and into April.

The enchantment was enhanced because it was particularly forbidding north and particularly inviting south.  It was warm and sunny almost every day for January, February and March.

As of this writing, we are getting our first rain in weeks, badly needed and a nice complement to sunshine, blue skies and puffy white clouds every day.  Add into the formula an average winter temp of 75 degrees, no humidity and light breezes, and you have found perfection.

Many of our condos and almost all of our houses are already booked for the first three month of 2016. 

Weather has been the predominant factor in this Island love affair, but other special  factors have come into play as well.

A better economy, word of mouth that you can't go wrong on Sanibel, more young families home schooling allowing greater flexibility have added to the causes for southward mobility. 

But clearly there are distinct advantages to being in warmer weather.

Getting up and getting out with little preparation is one of them.  No digging out the car, starting it up and letting the engine warm, pulling on layer after layer of clothes, only to have to remove them layer after layer once you get to your destination.  No ice and snow to slide on, no parking spaces obscured by banks of snow.

All we have to offer are palm trees and birds and a  Gulf of Mexico sparkling in the Sanibel sunshine. 

So think about it and don't wait too long.  There will be another winter coming on, and we have the perfect antidote right here on our 12 mile long barrier island!

Friday, March 20, 2015

News, views and reviews of Sanibel Island

Some times our rental guests ask us what is new on Sanibel, frequently with a kind smile on their faces.  We know what they are implying.  Our tiny serene island can, indeed, give the impression that time stands still. 

Sure, winter traffic build up is a bit of a nuisance, but the clatter of construction, the multiple interruption of sirens blaring and other intrusions into a peaceful life are missing on Sanibel.

There are no highways, no traffic lights, no high rise buildings, no horns beeping, dogs barking or even children screaming.

It is easy to think that nothing is happening,  save the Gulf Coast flowing to the beach or bird wings flapping around the island.

But there really is a lot going on behind the scenes and around the Island.  Here are a few examples:

Transportation has improved for visitors coming by plane. The $103-million overpass into Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) is  officially open, providing direct access to the airport from the Alico Road and Daniels Parkway exits of I-75. The project, which took about two-and-a-half years to complete,  alleviates traffic into the airport, saves drivers time, and encourages businesses to ship and expand in the area.

Events are ongoing, particularly busy in the high season.  For example,  The Sanibel Sea School will be holding its most important fundraiser with its annual “Octifest on the Beach” event Saturday, March 28, on the Sanibel Causeway island, beginning at 6:30 p.m.   

Updating and renovating are also taking place unobtrusively. It's getting a little easier for families with younger children. The Children's Education Center of the Islands has added a new class for kids as young as 18 months at the island's oldest preschool. The school is also refacing its playground and the classrooms, replacing plastic with wood and fiber equipment, dumping bright walls for more muted colors, all to create a more natural setting, the school's director Cindy DeCosta said. "Sanibel is surrounded by wildlife and nature," she said. "They should only expect the same at their school."

Though not bricks and mortar, another on-going evolution is taking place in our beautiful shops.  Popular Sanibel blogger Pam Rambo had a debut of  her "Shellography Photography" at the Congress Jewelers on March 16.. Rambo's work complements the store's Sealife by Congress line of jewelry. Restive to share a passion for shelling and travel, Rambo started her in 2009. The blog shares travel, shelling and photo details. It also attracts thousands of shelling enthusiasts, many posting shelling selfies and beach tips. The blog earned Rambo a profile in the New York Times.

And creativity continues.  Small in geography and population, Sanibel Island packs a powerful punch in modern literature. From heavyweights like Randy Wayne White to first-time novelists, a remarkable number of fictional books are based in or involve situations surrounding Sanibel, including Mr. White's first novel, "Sanibel Flats." He will release his newest novel, "Cuba Straits," in late March. Randy White, who lives in Sanibel, is regularly on best-seller lists.

So though you may not see them, and though we do not always brag about them, special changes are taking place daily on Sanibel!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Wowing Company on Sanibel from the Very Start

Many people rent a condo, house or cottage on Sanibel with more room than they may need so that they can invite family and friends to visit.  This is especially true of our vacation rental guests for stay for a month or more.

And while we love to read and hear about everyone having a special time together, we can also see between the lines.

The truth is, entertaining can be exhausting, even in the nicest of places and with the very best in amenities.  The daily necessities of shopping and preparing meals, not even to mention the clean ups, consume lots of vacation time.

And , while Sanibel restaurants run the gamut from super casual to  casual chic , the truth is that eating out for every dinner soon wears down the vacation budget.

But, you want to be a good host and hostess, and clearly want to  avoid just bringing in fast food, so what do you do to keep it simple and yet give your company a feeling of being special?

Well, one way may be to start the day with something inventive.  A picnic on the beach need not be at dusk, and could be a channel for  something really different for breakfast as well as a nice substitute for a complicated or expensive dinner that day.  You can make your own eggs McMuffin, or you can head to any of the wonderful Sanibel breakfast eateries and dine there (a lot less costly than dinners out) or get some nibbles to go. Over Easy, Bennett's Fresh Roast and The Lighthouse Cafe have great breakfasts that your guests will remember.   Both large grocery stores , Jerry's and Bailey's, have lots of choices for a picnic breakfast as well, and Jerry's does have sit down meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Eggs , muffins, fruit and coffee never taste quite so good as when you feel the salty water spray in the air as you eat!

Would you rather be on the water than watching it?  Well you can start the day out with a cruise with Tarpon Bay Explorers.  Experts agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So why not join Tarpon Bay Explorers for a Breakfast Cruise?  They have  taken their Nature and Sea Life cruise and added complimentary coffee, orange juice, and fresh gourmet pastries. It’s the perfect way to beat the crowds and experience one of the most beautiful settings on Sanibel.

Of course you do not have to limit your cruising to the morning, and a cruise at any time of the day is a way to show off Sanibel and your hosting abilities.   The boat trips to any of the smaller islands is always fun, and a sure way to see dolphins dancing in the water.  And then there are evening cruises almost guaranteed to give you the best sunset views you will have ever experienced!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sweet Melissa's & Sweet Sanibel: Perfect together

There are several good restaurants on our beautiful little Island, and we have no problem suggesting places to dine.

Some are very casual. Some are a little dressy.  Some have unique food. Some have traditional servings.  

But what we love about Sweet Melissa's is that it can fit into all these categories, with a few more added.

Sweet Melissa's Cafe exudes warmth, compliments of its sedate atmosphere with wonderful Tuscan like colors, plenty of space around the tables  and impeccable service. Indoors, the open floor plan allows a peek into the exhibition kitchen as the chefs create their magic and are directed to fulfill Chef Melissa's visions. Fine linens and a cozy bar add to the experience, while soothing live acoustic jazz sets the mood on select evenings. Guests who prefer to dine al fresco will find the screened-in patio a delightful option.  In or out, the atmosphere is casual chic and very inviting.
Executive Chef Melissa Talmage challenges your taste buds to explore a creative menu with a wide array of different tastes, textures and eclectic ingredients. Named "Best Dining in Lee County" by Gulf Shore Life, the dinner menu offers entrees in full portions or "small plates" giving diners the ability to enjoy multiple dishes in one visit. This special approach to portion size alone sets off Sweet Melissa's from most of its competition.  And there is clearly ample competition on Sanibel with dozens of choices.
Sweet Melissa's menu consists of trend-setting fare including fettuccine and clams with fennel and Pernod (pear'-no, a flavorful liqueur similar to ouzo), crispy soft-shelled crab, bourbon-glazed pork belly and pan-seared duck breast. Don't miss the Fish Stew! Described as "exploding with goodness" by one reviewer, the dish features mahi-mahi or redfish combined with scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels, chorizo and fennel, accented with a lemony saffron cream. This former specialty dish is now a regular item on the menu, in response to diner demand.
But don't take our word for it.
Look up the reviews of Sweet Melissa's on all the popular review websites and you will see for yourself the level of satisfaction diners who try this increasingly popular Sanibel restaurant are with their meals, the service and the atmosphere.