48 Hours in Boca Grande
Tucked away on a small island in Southwest Florida, where palm trees, bicycles and golf carts are aplenty, darling Boca Grande appears to my foreign eyes like a blissful retreat into paradise. All things considered, I've journeyed here from cold and rainy Philadelphia, where sunshine is a resource that only ever comes in short supply.
The crowd that flocks to these parts, when the season is in full swing, is familiar. They've discovered this treasured little island many years ago, and it's their best kept secret. They're the seasonal residents, the 'sun chasers' as I fondly like to call them, who have property on the island, and put it to good use when the weather here is at its absolute best, from fall through late spring. As for the rest of the friendly, familiar faces, they vacation at the historic 103-year-old Gasparilla Inn & Club, which captivates with its old world charm and a caliber of hospitality I have rarely experienced, though I have lived a very well-traveled life.
The 103-year-old Gasparilla Inn & Club
Stay on the island a while, and come to discover that The Inn's presence is much like the sun, a magnetizing force around which all else orbits. The Inn is the beating heart of this vibrant little island, creating a sense of community that is truly felt. Every space in the more-than-a-century-old Inn brings to mind 'Old Florida' or at least everything I envision it to have been; where grandeur mixes with tradition, and etiquette is very much so still alive and well. As Vanity Fair magazine so eloquently described:
"... For your impending winter holiday, might we suggest repairing to one of America's most historic grand hotels -- the former playgrounds of Windsors, Astors, and Rockefellers, oh my?"
I was immediately charmed by the vibrantly colored furniture and vignettes that so cheerfully fill each room. The leafy palm wallpaper in the main corridor gives way to florals in soft pastels, with pink sofa's, tropical wall art and sea shell ornaments, so thoughtfully arranged. Artfully designed to capture all there is to love about Florida life, I find I could spend hours in this light and airy space in perfect contentment.
A favorite space in The Gasparilla Inn & Club
Serenaded by floral wall paper, flamingo wall art and sea shell ornaments.
Note to self: Bring some of this neon back to Philly...
Everything on the island is within walking distance from The Inn, unless of course your preference is for a bicycle - those darling ones with a basket to carry your beach bag - or a golf cart. My morning ritual, even after just two days, involved a leisurely stroll over to the delightful and delicious Inn Bakery Café. Just two blocks from The Inn, this charming café serves up a sweet assortment of pastries and other baked goods, and can whip up one mean cappuccino (so very necessary, despite the heat). If you're ever in town, their famed glazed donuts have made a name for themselves. Perfect as a little post-lunch pick-me-up... unless you're the 'cake for breakfast' type - then go for it. For a more savory alternative, the quiche (my favorite!) is offered up as a small atomic pie, hot and completely satisfying.
The Beach Club is the best place to spend a leisurely afternoon. From sea to shifting skies, the smell of fresh sea salt and the cool sea breeze, this space carries with it a sense of peace and tranquility that washes away the stressors and responsibilities that come with city dwelling. This body (yes, mine) hasn't seen sun, much less a bathing suit, in months! Compared to the glowing, sun-kissed complexions of my neighbors, I'd sooner belong in a Twilight sequel with my remarkable translucence.
I spent the afternoon under the shade of a neon yellow striped umbrella, beholding the most magnificent and humbling of views and feeling nostalgic for Greece. These past few summer's, I've missed the heat, the salt, the sand, the escape to our beach house up north, located in a small beach town just outside Thessaloniki. I guess life really does get in the way sometimes, though I won't let it pass me by.
Views at the The Beach Club
Stop. Breathe. Relax. Repeat.
Sunset at The Beach Club
I am no golfer. Not even close. Not even a little bit. And yet when it comes to The Gasparilla Inn & Club's magnificent greens, peppered with shady palms and overlooking scenic Charlotte Harbor, I've entertained the thought. The Golf Shop's extensive selection of ladies golf wear, in vibrant colors and chic, sporty cuts, made the sport that much more appealing. Dressing the part, after all, is half the fun. No?
Exploring the course by golf cart was pure delight, as were the temps. Warmth, sunshine and the occasional cool breeze that tickles the skin - that's winter for you in darling Boca Grande.
The island within an island golf course overlooking Charlotte Harbor.
The championship course is peppered with shady palms.
Can days like this get any more perfect?
It's decided. I'm trading in my car for a Golf Cart. #BocaLife
Sunset on the Course