Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nature sightings on Sanibel

As is generally the case, our wild life sightings increase in winter.

That is particularly true for our special avian friends.

Like our two legged visitors, our feathered visitors want to escape the cold and frigid conditions in most of the country and find refuge in our tropical island and climate.

They, too, can be called "snow birds".

And the last few weeks have offered a delight to the eye that has exceeded many previous years.

This past month, the American White Pelican has come to roost in Ding Darling in tremendous numbers.  They can be seen in more than one location, preening their feathers and huddling together.  The large orange beaks stand out amongst the dazzling white of their fluffy bodies.

And often they are accompanied on the Preserve sand spits by other birds, many of which look positively diminutive compared to the Pelicans.

The Willets and Sea Gulls who accompany the large white birds can barely be seen.

But the more sizeable and prominent pink Roseate Spoonbills are a stunning contrast to the sparkling white of the Pelicans.  Indeed, the two species look like they have coordinated their outfits to look their best.  The Rosies almost perfectly match the pinkish colored mandibles of the orange bills of the Pelicans.  Seeing either of these species alone is a lovely treat, seeing them together is an unforgettable double delight.

And while our beautiful brown Pelicans are the more loyal of the two, they have fierce competition in the beauty contest with both White Pelicans and Rosies sharing their space.

Luckily, human visitors to the Island do not have to choose, they can see both.

And , if they get exceptionally fortunate, they may even catch sight of the flamboyantly attired flamingo who has been spotted and photographed on Bunche beach, shared by Sanibel and Fort Meyers. 

Perhaps the Flamingo is a visitor from the Everglades where a group of these long legged beauties have returned.

But we can only guess that if it decides to stay on Sanibel for the winter, it will not want to go anywhere else.

Who would?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Best Bike Rides on Sanibel Island

Considered an exceptional biking destination, Sanibel attracts bicyclists of all ages.

And certainly one can travel from furthest east to furthest west points on the Island by bike.

Bike trails , safe and lightly used, traverse the entire island creating a 25 mile path.

If you can’t bring your own bike to Sanibel, our main drag, Periwinkle Way, has several businesses that rent bikes, including tandems, four-wheel buggy types and trailer-style carriers to pull the kids. (Also, many vacation rentals have bicycles for guest use.)

You’ll see lots of people of all ages and types on bikes on Sanibel. The trails are separated from the roadways, making them safe for families with children.

Sanibel’s bike trails are wide, smooth and well-marked. There are several water fountains along the trails and there are bike racks everywhere.

You do see performance bikers here too. Those interested in speed and distance seem to rise early and use the roads rather than the special bike trails for early-morning workouts.

Here are a few suggestions on where to go by bike on Sanibel:

The eastern (lighthouse) end of the island is fun to explore on bike because it’s shady and you don’t have to worry about parking in what can be a congested area. Lock your bike and visit the picturesque lighthouse (120 years old; not open for tours) and fishing pier.
In this old part of town, several roads remain unpaved. These hard-packed sand lanes end in lovely waterfront sites where cars can’t park.

The Middle Gulf Cemetery bike trail. East of Casa Ybel Road, the Middle Gulf Drive bike path leaves the roadside. This route goes to Sanibel’s pioneer cemetery, over the river and to the beach at Gulfside Park.
Wildlife Drive through J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful way to see birds and alligators. It’s a four-mile loop within the refuge that ends three miles from where you started. The drive, formerly gravel, has been paved for good bicycling. Cyclists pay $1 per person.

The longest stretch of bicycle trail is on the western end of the island, Sanibel-Captive Road. You pass Ding Darling refuge and can continue almost to Blind Pass (the division between Sanibel and Captiva.) Along the way, you can stop at the Shell Museum or Bowman’s Beach. Bowman’s Beach, one of Sanibel’s more remote beaches, is known for great shelling. From the parking lot, you walk a quarter mile and cross a wooden bridge over a freshwater lagoon. It’s a fabulous walk west along an unspoiled beach filled with wading birds and shells. You can walk all the way to Blind Pass.

The Sanibel Causeway is open — and free — to bikes. The causeway is three bridges connected by manmade islands that are developed as popular parks. One of the thrills of a Sanibel getaway is traveling over Pine Island Sound with gorgeous views of water and islands. Let us warn you, though: It looks like a mighty high bridge to pedal.



Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Real Review: Bleu- Rendezvous, A Sanibel Stand-Out

We often rely on reviews of vacation rentals, hoping that what is written comes close to reality.

And , while that happens some times, it does not happen as much as we would like.

The same holds true for evaluations of restaurants.

Truth be told, there is no accounting for taste.
So we preface this blog post with these statements of disclosure.

We have experienced this fabulous restaurant personally.

We are fairly sophisticated diners, and have enjoyed the opportunity of eating in some wonderful restaurants around the world.

We have no business or other relationship with Bleu-Rendezvous.

And we do love this place....for the food, for the service, for the comfort , for the convenience.

A recent dinner with 2 couples had all four of us exceptionally pleased with our orders.  The meals were beautifully presented, fresh and pleasing.  Two of us had the trout, which was simply remarkable for flavor.  One had the coq au vin and another the beef bourguignon.  Both utterly delicious.    The escargots as appetizers  were fresh and hot and garlicky.   The crème brulee for dessert was the sweet and final touch. 

The wine on the menu is also very diversified and special pairings were made.

Service was attentive without being intrusive, and though the restaurant is intimate in scope, in no way is it claustrophobic.  We were at enough distance from other tables to have a lively conversation with no fear of interfering with other diners, and had no discomfort emanating from other conversations.

So we welcome Bleu Rendez-vous into the Sanibel family of great places to eat.  From our one experience thus far, we would certainly put this lovely eatery into the top tier of restaurants on Sanibel and Captiva.  Try it. We are betting you will love it!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Great New Year's Resolutions for Sanibel Island Visitors

Hard to believe 2016 is here already.

Last year went so fast.

But then again, when life is good, it does pass quickly.

It is chilly on Sanibel at the moment, but typically this will not last.  For that expediency, we are very grateful, as are our guests.

We have also been talking to visitors about holiday resolutions, many of which are much like those of previous years: eat less, spend quality time with friends and family, exercise more.

We are not certain if a stay on Sanibel will help with those resolutions, though there are certainly not many vacation destinations so geared to family fun or offering as many exercise options.

But we would like to offer some suggestions of our own to those currently on Island or planning  their trip now.

High season is always busy, and has only gotten busier in the last year.  To fully maximize your enjoyment of Island living, you may want to consider living like an Islander.  In high season, many of us travel at odd hours, avoiding peak traffic.  Coming onto the Island at 8 a.m. or leaving at 4 p.m. may mean more cars and vans to contend with.    You are probably better off  coming at 9 and leaving at 5.  An hour can make a big difference.

Same for dining hours.  Late lunches and early dinners may help in the comfort of your restaurant.   Space on Sanibel is highly valued, and the majority of our restaurants are small .  They can also be charming if you eat at the less popular times.

While most visitors know that collecting live shells is a no-no, not everyone is aware of certain forms of etiquette that allow for the greatest Island experience.  Drive slowly, speak softly, explore carefully.  All roads are posted well , indicating allowed driving speeds.  Taking the Island at a snails'  pace will make life nicer for everyone, as will conversations in subdued tones.   And your own safety does rest on common sense.  Avoid walking close to edges of ponds and lagoons.

And remember, you do not have to see everything and do everything in on one special vacation.

Sanibel Island has been here a long time, has only gotten better for the tourist and resident alike and will be here for a long time to come.  Savor your time and save some of those must do's for a return trip!