Monday, July 30, 2012

Visiting Naples, Florida

My family and I are big fans of Florida (with the sun, sand, and beaches, who wouldn't be?) and have visited there many times. Recently, we were able to go to Naples, Florida and stay at a friend of the family's place who so generously let us invade for a week! This vacation was more of a laid-back, relax in the sun kind of a trip (one of my favorites), so we didn't really have set plans. Sometimes, those are the best! 

The forecast for the week was looking good, partly cloudy and in the upper 70's. We went in May, so the weather wasn't too humid at this time. We spent our first day unpacking and laying by the pool, listening to some music and enjoying drinks. The pool area had been recently renovated and included a swim up bar, jacuzzi waterfall, and a beautiful grill and bar area. Being from the Midwest, we were not used to this type of luxury, so we took full advantage of it! My dad took the role as bartender and made some awesome drinks while us girls enjoyed some pool floats. This day was also my Graduation day from college (which I didn't mind missing), so we took a moment to do a mock "ceremony" complete with my latest read Mockingjay as my diploma. We ended the day a little earlier than usual, exhausted from getting sun all day (not a problem I mind having). We ended up ordering Chinese food for dinner from a place not far (Jasmine's, if you must know) which had AMAZING general tso's chicken. I'm not kidding, it was the best I've ever had. I could probably eat that stuff every day of my life. Anywho, after dinner we chatted a bit about what we'd like to do during the week and went to bed.

Soaking up the sun!

The next day turned out to be more cloudy than expected, so we went to the Naples Zoo. Original ticket prices were $19.95 per person, but you could purchase online for a discount of $16.95, which we ended up doing. We got there pretty early so it wasn't very crowded (yay), and we began the day with a show in their Open Air Theater, featuring a baby sloth, an owl, and some more fun creatures. 

What's sweeter than a baby sloth holding a teddy?
We also got a chance to see a live feeding of alligators which was so awesome; those guys were huge!! And to my amazement they responded when called by name! After that, I really wanted to check out the Primate Expedition Cruise which for me was the highlight of the zoo trip. We got on a boat and our guide took us on a 15 minute cruise past some different islands all filled with various primates. They were all pretty active during our cruise time and it was so fun to see their natural behavior. 

Primate Expedition Cruise

After a few hours of being there and seeing a LOT of animals, we decided to head to Joe's Crab Shack for dinner. I'd never been before, so I was curious to check it out. I actually got it confused with Dick's Last Resort for some odd reason and was prepared to be insulted by our waiter, but it never came (obviously). We enjoyed each other's company, the food, and the great view from the deck. 

View of Naples Bay
We then went to downtown Naples to do a bit of shopping. It was fun to check out the cute local stores, and we happened upon one of my favorites, Pucci and Catana. Pucci and Catana is a luxury pet boutique, and I just so happen to have a puppy of my own I love to spoil. We stopped inside and had a lot of fun looking at all the cute accessories and we even got to talk to the owner for a bit. I signed up for their email list and awhile later found out about a photo contest they put on in search of a new face for their website. I entered my dog's photo and he ended up making the top 10 with this picture (yes I'm a proud mama):

My Benny Boy

We ended the night at McCabe's Irish Pub and Grill for a drink and enjoyed people-watching amid the twinkling lights that were set up around the street. We were amused by a street-dancing extraordinaire, earbuds in and loving life, truly dancing like no one was watching (though we all were). One of the things I enjoy most is being outside on a beautiful summer night with good food, drinks, and company, and this was one of those nights. 

The next day we enjoyed another day at the pool, and then went downtown to Roy's for happy hour (called Aloha hour). The special was $5 specialty cocktails and a variety of their appetizers. The girls got a Hawaiian Martini (pineapple, vodka, coconut rum, YUM) and we all shared Beef Sliders with sweet potato fries; double yum. We chatted with our waiter for awhile and enjoyed the scenery outside of the Naples Bay. 

Outside of Roy's-Downtown Naples

We then finished the dining experience at Naples Boathouse, which was truly waterfront dining. The decor was just right and they had not only amazing seafood but steak as well. Being so close to the water, we were able to see boaters going every which way, and some wildlife too. It was a great experience! 

After that, we decided to check out some local real estate (aka being somewhat creepy and driving around posh neighborhoods). I'm so glad we did though, because we saw some humongous monsters of houses. I did notice that a good 50% were on the market, and I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to own one of those things, and how much the mortgage alone would be. Daydreaming aside, the sun was about to set and I remembered that we were told to get to the Naples Pier for some great pictures. We rushed over and made it just in time before the sun went down (literally with less than a minute left). 

Sunset at Naples Pier

Our vacation eventually came to an end, and I can't wait to visit Naples again. There is a lot there that we didn't get to see, and next time I hope to see as much as I can, after getting my dose of pool-time in, of course!

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