We left the Keys with regret. We knew we were starting our journey home. The good news: we had almost a week to get back to Orlando
The highlight of our trip homeward was looking forward to some time in Bonita Springs. We have family and friends there, so it was a treat.
After a quick overnight in our old standby, the Hampton Inn in Fort Lauderdale, we stopped off at the GIGANTIC Sawgrass Mall and Outlet Centre (I had a retail heart attack...it was too many stores). Then it was a quick shot across Alligator Alley to get to the Gulf of Mexico side of the state.
Our great family friends, the Smiths, offered to host a dinner with everyone we knew in Bonita Springs. I was excited to see them! I grew up across the street from the Smiths in Burlington and was best friends with their kids (the only thing that would have made the visit better? Seeing Greg and Hil too!). It was such a wonderful treat to hang out with them. And...we got to hang out with them IN THEIR BEAUTIFUL house. Loved it. Straight up love. Not only was it gorgeous, I can't stop thinking about Aunt Erica's drop everything room. She has a room where she can leave things she brings in from the car but doesn't have a place for quite yet. My new mental dream home has a room just like this. In fact, instead of fantasizing about a library or indoor pool in my dream house, I dream of a room just like that one.
The pool felt like it was in the middle of the living room. It was divine.
It was pretty alright.
But the best part was seeing the hosts, Uncle Pat and Aunt Erica. And also getting a chance to catch up with my Aunt Karen and Carl, and Joan and George. It is always fun to see people you know well in a different context. It was a perfect evening.
Joan and George were kind enough to invite us to spend the night at their place (no small gesture when you are a family of five!). George thrilled the kids with pictures from a trip to Africa and we had a nice chat before heading to bed.
The next morning, we met up at my Aunt Karen's, where my parents and brother stayed, and headed to Sanibel Island. It is reknowned as one of the best islands for shell hunting. I wanted to check it out.
It was a very natural, untouched place. Probably because of the big, toll causeway bridge to get there. We didn't realize then, but the hundreds of dead fish we spotted (and the thousands of horrified "Ewwwww!"s we heard from the kids...and Eric) were caused by a big wave of Red Tide that had just hit the area.
Luckily, the beach was huge and the dead fish were spread out. It wasn't that bad.
Right over Lukey's right shoulder, you might be able to spot my mother huddled down in sheer panic. She is deathly afraid of birds. As you can see, there are a few birds around.
She is getting ready to bolt in this next picture.
And in this one, she's abandoning my children to the bird attack. This picture does not adequately convey the haste she used in her departure. It appears leisurely. It was not.
A bit of driftwood/sea garbage baseball.
My brother contemplating the horizon.
This was a bad game of chicken my father, brother and husband devised for me. There were some big rogue waves in the incoming tide. They bet me I'd get wet where I was sitting. I said I wouldn't.
After a couple of minutes of me staying dry, they got impatient to see me soaked and miserable. So they dug a channel so the waves could access me more easily. Wasn't that nice of them? The three of them stood a few feet behind me and watched each wave come in, cheering it on
Once they finally saw me get wet, they were satisfied and we could leave.
Last night in the hotel in Orlando before the long trip home. We were sad, sad, sad to leave.
Hopefully we'll be back?