Travel Florida: Food, Fun, and Friends

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Beautiful home near Pineland Marina

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Hideaway Grill and Sushi Bar

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Sunset on Windy Night from Bokeelia Pier

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Sunset on Cloudy Night from Bokeelia Pier

It’s been a week or so since my last installment of “Travel Florida.” I think that’s been because we’ve just been living the life here on this island in the sun. We’ve also been exhausted from moving our belongings into  the little place where we are living until we buy a permanent place! I guess I’ve also been resting up! I feel better now!

It’s Easter Sunday today. Something springs to mind. I’ve been amazed at how at home I feel here. I don’t consider myself a religious person. A spiritual person, yes. I thought of this quote, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” from Matthew. That’s how I feel about the people I’ve met from Pine Island. I’ve met a lot of people and I’ve felt very welcomed.

We’ve had such fun here! Moving even a portion of your household is very hard work, but it’s been just as much fun as work. We’ve taken days off to explore some of the different places on Pine Island. We’ve done some house hunting. In our case, that may be condo hunting as I’m not anxious to take on a house again. We have explored the natural environment as well as the man-made environment. We’ve eaten in some day; eaten out other days. The food available here never ceases to amaze me.

Let me give you some examples. First, food. We’ve eaten brunch several times at A Perfect Cup in Matlacha, one of the five communities on/near Pine Island. Matlacha is actually the neighboring island. I’ve taken some time out to go to A Perfect Cup in the mornings and do some writing. That would not be possible at the height of the tourist season as it would be Standing Room Only (if that). We have also gone to A Perfect Cup for brunch and they simply must have the best omelets in the world.

As far as dinner is concerned, there are so many good places to eat, I couldn’t pick one if I tried, so I won’t. I’ll just tell you where I’ve been. This past week, we opted for sushi and went to Ms. Kay’s sushi place on the road to Bokeelia, Hideaway Grill and Sushi Bar. We’ve also eaten dinner at our old stand-by place, Woody’s, in St. James City, where I always have conch fritters and a great salad. Having conch reminds me of Key West. Woody’s conch is just as good.

Next, fun. Everything is fun! House hunting is great fun. We’re drawn toward Bokeelia as a community because we do want a condo and there are a lot of nice condos there. We are still trying to get our bearings so we’re only looking from the outside right now. There is never a lot of property for sale on Pine Island. People don’t seem to leave! We will take our time and hope the right thing pops up at the right time.

I’m enjoying running around taking pictures. I love to photograph the wildlife. The exotic vegetation….well….exotic to me. The ocean and the sunrises and sunsets. One thing we find to be great fun is going to the Bokeelia Fishing Pier at sunset and joining others there to watch the sun go down. There is nothing like a sunset from that pier. In fact, there is nothing like that pier. We’ve met fine people who we hope will become great friends.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Travel Florida! Watch this space.

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An Egret at the edge of the lake at our house

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Travel Florida: The Goats of Ft. Myers and more


Yes, goats. Real, live goats. I’m not using the word goats to mean anything else. The goats are those you see in the pictures above. Let me tell you the story.

We were eating lunch at a restaurant on a main street in Ft. Myers, FL. As we left the restaurant, I looked up and realized that across six lanes of traffic, there was a large field. A pasture-like area that looked like a farm. A farm? On a main street in a big Florida city? Sure enough, I was right. I walked to the curb and it was a farm with some sort of animals grazing in the pasture. You can see from the picture above that the animal was goats. An entire herd of them! The story doesn’t end here.

We drove across the road and pulled in a small parking area by the pasture’s fence. I got out of the car and the whole herd came running toward me. Many stuck their heads through the fence. They looked well-cared for. I looked around. There was a small barn that said “Pitts Farm Market” on it. There was no vegetable or fruit stand around. Everything appeared closed, except there was this pasture full of goats! 

When I got back to my house, I looked up Pitts Farm Market online. It seems it did once exist but has long since been closed. The mystery is, “Who owns the goats?” 

Who takes care of the goats? Why are they still in a pasture in the middle of Ft. Myers, Florida? On land that has to be incredibly valuable. Don’t ask me. I just live here. 

Travel Florida: An Interesting Bird Experience

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See that bird? That bird demonstrated to me tonight what a vastly different environment I’m living in. That bird is a Night Heron. I could not supply you with my own picture because when I saw him, it was dark and he was almost on top of me. It was not the optimal environment in which to take his photograph! So, Wikipedia is providing his picture. I hope to get one of my own.

Night herons are not the Great Blue Herons you’ve heard of. Oh no. They are birds that like to ambush us unsuspecting people. Specifically, unsuspecting people who have been fishing. Let me tell you what happened.

I visited the pier at Bokeelia tonight, another community on Pine Island. A beautiful place and I will post pictures. We met some people, and we were all hanging out on the pier after sunset talking, laughing, and some were fishing. I was close to one of the fishermen. He would pull in a fish and place it on the pier. At that point, I didn’t know anything about these birds they call night herons.

My companion said Continue reading

Travel Florida: A Perfect Cup in Matlacha

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Would you like to have the best cup of coffee, along with the best omelet, you’ve ever tasted? Then come to Matlacha, Florida.

Pine Island is not the only beautiful barrier island off the Creative Coast of Ft. Myers and Cape Coral, Florida. Between Pine Island and the mainland are two other barrier islands. The smallest is Matlacha. It is quite the undiscovered jewel! Everything is on the water. In this case, Matlacha Bay. It is considered part of Pine Island, but it really isn’t. It is its own little jewel in the sun.

In Matlacha is a tiny restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch called A Perfect Cup. You never know who you might see in A Perfect Cup – everyone from your neighbor to one of the celebrities who live in the area. It’s a busy place because of its awesome coffee (and tea), its great breakfasts, and its good food for both breakfast and lunch. Today, I took my laptop and went to A Perfect Cup in the morning and did some writing. Not only is it The Perfect Cup, it is the perfect place for such activities.

Yesterday, I was out doing a bunch of stuff and did not have time to eat a proper lunch. I stopped by A Perfect Cup and they fixed a Chicken Salad Sandwich for me – to go. It was wonderful! No fast food for me when in Florida! It’s also the perfect place to go and write for awhile. A writer’s haven! A Perfect Cup is the Perfect Place. If you’d like to read more about it, take a look at its TripAdvisor site.

Travel Florida: The Gopher Tortoise and 360 of its Dependents

On my first trip to the post office when I arrived in St. James City, Florida, there was an interesting sign as I drove into the parking lot. You can see it in the picture above. A sign warning of a Gopher Tortoise Crossing. Since I’m from Kentucky, I had never heard of a Gopher Tortoise. Silly me. It seems this little reptile is quite important in our ecosystem and it is endangered. The driveway into the post office is, indeed, a spot where they cross.

Most Gopher Tortoises live along the Florida Gulf Coast. They aren’t large, only about a foot in length and 10 pounds or so. They live 60 years if they don’t get run over on the highway or eaten by your pet dog. They don’t live in water as most tortoises do. Instead, they dig deep burrows in sandy soil, sometimes as long as 40 feet, in which they live and lay their eggs. They also host up to 360 other species of animals that otherwise would not have shelter. As with every species, they all have a purpose. 

Gopher tortoises mate between April and June and are out and about more during that time. If you see something that looks like a turtle on the highway, please dodge it. They are an important part of our environment. 

#SoCS – 04/01/27


An island in the sun. Where people are peaceful yet proactive. Where you can live a simpler life without any pretense. Maybe it has something to do with the Calusa Indians, a tribe long extinct, that were on this island long before anyone else. Their shell mounds are still here and are protected. Perhaps they left their magic here after they were wiped out by the French and Spanish.

People from all over the U.S. and all over the world live on this island in the sun. They come here to vacation and never leave. They leave and come back again and again. Perhaps, like me, they come here, catch the magic, and are determined to come back and live here. I’ve met many people who do exactly what I’ve done. Relocate here at least for part of the year.

People are different when they are on this island. The highest corporate executive becomes one of the crowd having a beer and a burger at Woody’s Bar and Grill in St. James City. He/she drops all the corporate pretense and becomes a person again. Politics does not galvanize us on the island. Indeed, that subject is not even thought of. People come here to escape such pressures and problems of the mainland. It’s like a spell has been cast upon us.

Back on the mainland, we think we require lots of “stuff” to live. Cars, homes, furniture, clothes. On the island, we live in the most modest small homes. Homes we would never live in if we were in our communities. No one cares about cars unless it is to pull a boat. Furniture? Ha! Clothes? Shorts, t-shirts, sandals. That’s all anyone wears on my island in the sun. No one judges.

You come across the most wonderful things on this island. Bob, the wood stork, who stalks us in my community, wanting food. The gopher tortoises who are mating at this time of year. There is now a Florida panther on the island. There are more endangered species than I can count. The little post office established in 1902. All the vegetable and fruit stands. I will write about all of this in my blog.

The most wonderful thing about my island in the sun is the feeling I get when I cross the bridge. Peace. A sense of wonder. A feeling much like we had as children. A desire to explore. Most days, I think I never want to cross the bridge to the mainland ever  again. I want my friends and family to visit. I want them to feel the magic.

Travel Florida: I Was Only Going to the Post Office

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Copyright Rosemary Carlson 2017

And not the Post Office above! The Post Office you’re looking at in the picture is the original post office on Pine Island, built in 1902. I didn’t mean to visit it today, although I meant to visit it eventually. I just meant to go to the new Post Office, near St. James City on Pine Island, to mail something and pick up mail. I asked the postal service worker if the post office was open on Saturday. He said no and proudly explained to me that only one post office on the island is open on Saturday and that is the original Pine Island Post Office in Pineland, another community on the island. He instructed (instructed?) me to run on down to Pineland, another small Pine Island Community, and take a look since he knew I was new to the island. How could I refuse?

Off I went to Pineland, just about a ten mile drive. I turned off the main Pine Island road and found myself with palm tree farms on one side of the road and a mango plantation on the other side of the road, both crops grown on Pine Island and with stories of their own. After driving about three miles and fearing I was lost, I rounded a curve and literally had to screech to a halt. There, in front of me, practically in the middle of the road was the building you see above.

So I went inside. This little building could tell a lot of stories. It is only there because in the late 1800s there was a freeze that took out most of the orange groves in northern Florida. Many grove owners moved south and bought land to establish new groves. A grove owner, Minta Moore, came to Pine Island in 1902 when only about three dozen people lived here. That family bought acreage for orange groves and established the first Pine Island post office in a community they established and called Pineland. The original lockboxes are still in that little building and they are combination boxes.

The postal service worker is new. She, like me, came to Pine Island on vacation. She’s from Delaware. She loved it so much that she applied for a job at two of the Pine Island post offices. The little old post office at Pineland hired her. She was thrilled to move here. She, like me, has no family in the area. No friends in the area. Like me, she felt the magic of Pine Island. So do many people here.

We like to keep it a secret so I’m only telling you.

Travel Florida: Weather and Hello, Mr. President

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Yea, I know. What in the world does my trip to my home in Florida and the Florida weather, in March, have to do with President Donald Trump? Having a home in Florida makes Donald Trump and his budget, recently sent to Congress, even more personal to me than it already was.

So when I got here, I was greeted with a chorus of, “Have you heard about the weather?” Well, no. I guess I hadn’t been paying attention. Seems there was something called a subtropical low sitting off the coast of South Carolina that could give us some trouble on my island in the sun. A little bit of a storm if it came our way. I’m, frankly, still not clear if it is coming our way or not, but the weather in Ft. Myers has been awfully hot and the Gulf is awfully warm. My answer was that tropical storms/hurricanes don’t happen in March, do they? The answer is, “Not usually.”

This wouldn’t be a tropical storm, but a subtropical storm, something I’m not very well versed in as a newcomer to this Land of the Tropics, but it would involve rain, wind, and even a storm surge. The words “storm surge” are not something a person living near the coast ever wants to hear.

This all makes me furious with our President. Being a finance person at heart (well, with part of my heart), I have studied every line of Trump’s budget. As you probably know, he wants to slash the budgets of many federal agencies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is one of them. The agency that studies and predicts hurricanes and other tropical weather systems among many other things.

He wants to DO WHAT??? Cut its budget? You have got to be kidding me. Those were some phrases I uttered, among others, when I realized how personally this particular budgetary line item affected me all of a sudden. We simply can’t let him do that……that was my first thought. My second thought was not fit for human consumption.

NOAA’s budget hasn’t been cut yet and, hopefully, those of us on the coast will be warned in the usual manner if and when it is necessary. But, what if Congress passes Trump’s “heavy on defense spending” budget with its cuts to these vital federal agencies including, but not limited to, NOAA? What, someone tell me, is there going to be left to defend?

Certainly a rhetorical question.

Travel Florida: The Trip to my Margaretaville


It is a trip that should take three days when you are dragging a UHaul and have a cat and dog with you. For the latter reason, it took us a little over two days. We didn’t want to stress the cat and dog. It turns out that it didn’t – stress the cat and dog, that is. It did stress us. Almost 1200 miles under those conditions is daunting. When you have a portion of your worldly goods with you and the welfare of two little creatures on your mind, it’s more daunting. When you spend the trip wondering if you’re doing the right thing, it’s stress on top of stress. Such were the conditions under which I traveled from Kentucky to South Florida to move into my new little home, to live there part time. I arrived earlier this afternoon. Tonight, I’m still so ramped up that, as usual, I can’t sleep.

On the plus side, the farther we drove down the Florida peninsula, the happier I got. I love South Florida. The more tropical it looks, the better I like it. This from a girl with a Swedish background. It got hotter and hotter until, by the time we reached St. James City, Florida, our destination, it was truly hot. Around 89 degrees today with humidity to match, though not as humid as at the height of summer here. I call this place Margaretaville. Let me explain.

I stopped at a convenience store on the road leading to the bridge that goes off to my island and, before I left the store, I was giggling out loud at the cast of characters in the store. An older, very jolly guy, in an orange tank top and white short shorts, strumming Beach Boy songs on his guitar….inside the store. No, not Jimmy Buffet, but close. The girl behind the counter recognized me from my last visit only a month and a half ago. She asked me what I was doing back and when I told her we’d bought a place there, she came out from behind the counter hugged me and told me how much fun we’d have. She was decades my junior. A large sign was posted over the counter saying, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!” Believe me, I was more than ready for five o’clock and everything that went with it! Everyone in the store was talking about the manatees and their babies hanging out at the docks and how many nesting pairs of bald eagles had been spotted this season. The latest gossip was that Justin Timberlake, and stretch limo, had been spotted at the local Winn-Dixie. 

Each of you who knows me personally and well, already knows what a kick I got out of all this! 

On we went the few remaining miles to our little place in the sun. No critters were lodged inside to be chased out! But since the sellers had left, it had been locked up and the inside was hotter than the gates of hell. The A/C is still roaring full steam ahead. You see, when you leave your place in far South Florida in the summer and you are as close to the coast as I am, you normally don’t leave on the power. Why? If a hurricane comes your way and you get wind damage, you don’t want your place to burn down as well, so everyone cuts off the electricity when they leave. Who am I to question the wisdom of that?

As the neighbors spotted the UHaul, some of them started appearing in the yard. Some with a bottle of wine. Others with a mixed drink to stick into our hands. Some with the latest news. So many people on this island are from somewhere else and everyone gets along famously. Gives me renewed faith in the human race. 

As we went to work on the beginning phases of unloading our stuff from the UHaul, I found myself smiling. I love this place! I’m so glad to be back! Stay tuned for the Adventures in Margaretaville…..uh…….Pine Island yet to come!

Travel Florida: A Second Home


Tomorrow is the day. If you had told me a year ago that I would have a second home in Florida, in a spot in Florida that I love, I would have told you that you had lost your mind. Now I do have a little second home in that special spot in Florida and plan to spend six months a year there and six months a year at my home in Kentucky. Wow. I never thought I’d say that. It could be that, some day, I will live on my island in the sun full-time. That is down the road a bit.

I leave tomorrow for the long journey to Ft. Myers, Florida and it will be long since we are taking a UHaul with us. It has been quite a few weeks around the homeplace in Kentucky. Sorting and packing. Thinking. Wondering. Talking to friends near and far. This having two homes thing is no easy task. Two of everything? Not quite!

Our home in Florida is tiny. I’m not interested in having a large home there. I don’t want “stuff.” I’m over “stuff.” I’ve become a minimalist. So we are taking personal stuff, household stuff, my writing stuff, and that’s about it. Oh yes, the dog and cat, of course. I don’t want to dust. I only want to cook small, healthy meals. Then I want to walk out the door and go to the beach. Or walk my dog. Or ride my bike. Or go to Matlacha, the coolest little town on the planet and an artist’s colony at that. The home of the famous Bert’s Bar and Grill, written up in Southern Living as the place to get the best grouper sandwich in the world and they knew what they were talking about. I wonder if that old, respected Southern publication knew that the front room of Bert’s Bar is filled with pool tables and bikers? That makes me smile every time I walk in!

So tomorrow we head toward my island in the sun and start the moving in process. Having lived in Kentucky all my life, living on the Gulf Coast of Florida is going to be a really new experience. This isn’t just the Gulf coast. It’s an island off the Gulf Coast and about 3/4 way down the peninsula. It’s tropical. Below the frost line. It has alligators! And hurricanes! Believe me, that isn’t all. It also has the most beautiful, big birds you’ve ever seen. Dolphins to swim with. Plants I’ve never seen before. The wetlands. Incredibly nice people from all over the world. The best part? I feel free there and I’ve always wanted to feel free.

I’ve traveled a lot in my life. Florida wasn’t my favorite place,, but I’d only been to the most commercialized parts of Florida. Finding this island was like finding a jewel in a box of rocks. It’s a little bit of Old Florida and not much of Old Florida remains. The only other places I’ve ever had any interest in living were overseas. Portugal, which I love. Ecuador. Maybe Panama. My island in the sun is the best.

Another thing that is close by is this small airport with one flight a day to Lexington, KY. Better yet, a cheap flight. When I want or need to, I can fly back to Kentucky to see my family and friends. But, for the time being, I’ll still be in Kentucky six months a year – in the summer.

I’ll be writing about my experiences right here on this blog so check back. I’d love to do this with all of you!