Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't know what to order on Sanibel? Some tips for you!

There are some things on Sanibel that come naturally.

We all know where the best shelling on the Island can be found.

And we know there is probably no place better than Ding Darling for observing nature.

We know that going out at dusk without some form of mosquito repellent is risky.

And leaving the Island on a Saturday morning between 10 and noon or arriving that day between 1 and 4 will probably entail traffic.

But the really big decisions remain a challenge.

Where to eat is difficult enough a question, but what to eat is even more problematical.

Well, we can not claim to know everything, but we do think that ordering the signature dish at our great restaurants is a good way to start the process of choice.

And here is a sampling of the best signature dishes at some of the most popular Island restaurants.  (Please keep in mind these are not necessarily our favorite places to eat: but they are considered among the best by other Sanibel travelers as well as travel writers)

The Mad Hatter, according to Frommer's is "One of Sanibel's best choices for a romantic dinner, this New American Gulf-front restaurant... has a view that's perfect at sunset. The ever-
changing menu features flavors from around the world".  Actually located on Captiva, the Mad Hatter
features Bouillabaisse, Black Grouper, Rack of Lamb and Day Boat Scallops as signature dishes.

Sweet Melissa's on Sanibel continues to be very popular among diners and writers. The Fish Stew there is 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.

George and Wendy's Sanibel Seafood Grille is about as colorful a place as you will find on any Island, complete with an art gallery to entertain the eye as the food delights the palette.  Casual dining by nature, George and Wendy's has now added an outdoor option to their venues and gluten free selections to their venue.  One of their best is the Sweet Bourbon Marinated Salmon, marinated in bourbon and pineapple juice, then grilled and topped with sweet soy. Served with coconut jasmine rice and Asian stir fried vegetables.

OK, now we are going to admit to a bias here.  Cip's is a fairly new restaurant on Sanibel and has quickly climbed the charts in the way of popularity. We are among its supporters.  We love the options in outdoor dining and the selections this warm-hearted eatery offers at very competitive prices. Among the dining delights is the  Beef Tenderloin Au Poivre,  8 oz. beef tenderloin topped with a brandy peppercorn sauce. Served with asparagus wrap and scalloped potatoes.

We would love to know of your personal favorites on Island.  And we will be back another day with more of ours!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What We Learn from Dolphins on Sanibel

There are few things on Sanibel that stop people in their tracks as well as the sighting of a dolphin.

We can be swimming in the water, walking the beach or boating the Gulf, and one dolphin leaping for joy, let alone a pod swimming together, makes us freeze in our motion and gawk as if a movie star of epic proportions has just entered our view.

But aside from the visual feast they present, dolphins can teach us so very much about how to live, and, how to love.

Dolphins are well known for their agility and playful behavior, making them a favorite of wildlife watchers. Many species will leap out of the water, spy-hop (rise vertically out of the water to view their surroundings) and follow ships, often synchronizing their movements with one another. Scientists believe that dolphins conserve energy by swimming alongside ships, a practice known as bow-riding.

Their ability to have fun is certainly inspiring.

But their inspiration goes far beyond the recreational.

Dolphins live in social groups of five to several hundred. They use echolocation to find prey and often hunt together by surrounding a school of fish, trapping them and taking turns swimming through the school and catching fish. Dolphins will also follow seabirds, other whales and fishing boats to feed opportunistically on the fish they scare up or discard.

The tales of dolphin saving people from sharks or "allowing" humans to save themselves from nets when they have been entangled, are sea lore tales not to be matched.  Dolphins are highly intelligent marine mammals.

They are part of the family of toothed whales that includes orcas and pilot whales. They are found worldwide, mostly in shallow seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating fish and squid. Dolphin coloration varies, but they are generally gray in color with darker backs than the rest of their bodies.  To prevent drowning while sleeping only half of the dolphin’s brain goes to sleep while the other half remains awake so they can continue to breathe!

Dolphins mate throughout the year, though in some areas there is a peak in spring and fall.
The gestation period is 9-17 months depending on the species. When it is time to give birth, the female will distance herself from the pod, often going near the surface of the water. While she is giving birth, one other dolphin, male or female, will stand by as nurse to assure that no other creature attacks the birthing mother while in so vulnerable a state.   Usually one calf; twins are rare. As soon as the calf is born, the mother must quickly take it to the surface so it can take its first breath. The calf will nurse from 11 months to 2 years, and after it is done nursing it will still stay with its mother until it is between 3 and 8 years old. 

Of all our creatures on Sanibel, we find our dolphins the most interesting, awe-inspiring and lovable!

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Rose by any other Name? On Sanibel Island Names are Distinctive!

Like many residential areas throughout the country, Sanibel Island boasts some very unique names for its streets and lanes.

Some mark the names of Sanibel families, some recognize the developers who built homes in the area and many are a tribute to the Island itself.

Take for example Umbrella Pool Road on the furthest west end of the Island.  Located within the quiet and lush community of the Sanibel Bayous, the name nicely reflects the shape of this winding road.    As it meanders through this small community, it is clear that the design was deliberate, creating a nice undulating feel to the area. In the same general vicinity, there is a road called Lady Finger Lake, and yes, its shape is definitely a delicate lady's finger.

Of course other names are more apparent. West Gulf Drive is exactly what it states.  The furthest drive along the Gulf on Sanibel is West Gulf Drive.  West Gulf Drive provides a lovely ride, the only drive along the Gulf where, in between the condo complexes and royal palm trees, you can get a glimpse of the beautiful sparkling Gulf.  A parallel road, futher inland, is Middle Gulf drive which transverses the middle of the island.  And, Sanibel Captiva Road which dove tails into Captiva Drive is the only way to get from Sanibel to Captiva by car, so it is aptly named.  Regarding Par View, well, you know right off the bat that that one is going to offer some golf views.

Our flora is extensively honored through out the island with names such as Periwinkle Way, Buttonwood Lane, Seagrape Lane, Wax Myrtle Way, Tamarind Road, Palm Ridge Road, Gulf Pines Drive. Well, you get the gist of it.

But some of the names we like best are those special roads that pay homage to our fine feathered friends.  With a nod to our most resplendent winged resident, there is (Roseate) Spoonbill Court, My Tern Court, Osprey Lane, Anhinga Lane, Starling Way, Pelican Road and Bunting Road among dozens of roads, courts and ways named for our local birds.  But perhaps the name we find most charming is Birdsong, and certainly birdsong can be heard every where on island. 

There are many aspects to the Island that create a distinctive vacation, but certainly the naming of our streets is one of them.  Where else but Sanibel Island can you have a junction of Rabbit Road and Bunny Lane?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Kind of Oscars We Would Like to Give on Sanibel

Ok, so the Academy Awards are over.

Some people are happy with the choices, and some are not.

Our only bone of contention with the presentations is that they fell short of recognizing our amazing cast of characters who inhabit our tropical paradise and all those whose work contributes to the wonderful show that is played out every day of the year.

Were we to hand out Oscars, these are the categories we would like to create and the candidates for each category:

For best visual effects, we would have a tough time choosing just what aspect of the Island would win.  The contenders are clearly the Gulf of Mexico for clarity and transparency, the sunsets for awesome color, the star filled nights that could bring tears to a lover's eyes,  and the summer storms that bring not only rain, but some pretty amazing light shows.

For best sound effects, we would take the sound of those summer storms, the loud booms that rock the palm trees, and contrast them with the barely perceptible chirps of the crickets after dark.  We would also nominate the ever present and high pitched whistle of our ospreys and those owls whose hoots in the dark bring magic to the Island. 

For best costume design, well, there is no question that our Roseate Spoonbills would have to be nominated for their pink plumes, that the Painted Bunting, much more difficult to spot but yet resplendent in a variety of hues,  would certainly be in the running, and we might have to give a nod to our local armadillos.  Though no competition in color with the Rosies and Buntings, is there a more original and eye catching costume on the Island? We think not.

For best supporting actor, there is the alligator in Ding Darling who can often be seen in the water, an Anhinga or Cormorant perched on his back.  And there are the towering palms that support bird life and nesting pairs all year round.  Perhaps more subtle, but definitely worthy of consideration are the gentle waters of the Gulf where hundreds of Pelicans float in confidence knowing that another meal is just a few inches under them.

For best actor/actress, we have to find nominees on both land and in the sea whose performances stand out, even in a field of spectacular entertainment.  Leading the list would be our dolphins, whose playful antics in the sea delight visitors throughout the Island.  The largest contender by far are our gentle manatees who do not leap, but swim softly through our waters, raising their big heads to peer around them and creating an unforgettable sight to behold.  But size is not everything, and some of our birds who preen and pace, like those herons and egrets who walk along the edge of the beach or raise their wings to see prey in shallow bayou waters rank right up there with their engaging performances.

As for best picture, we'll let you come up with those special nominations.  Is it the lighthouse on the east end?  Sail boats in the sunset?  The new, improved and stunning causeway to the Island?  There are many more "sights" we know you can come up with, and we hope you will.