Florida Without a Map

I have always loved maps; geography was one of my favorite subjects as a little girl growing up in Madrid. Perhaps I already knew that I would travel often and far. On maps one can mark the places visited or the ones planning to go. But I was in Florida without a map for an entire week. I looked for one in museums, real estate agencies, hotels, and gas stations to no avail. At the airport the information lady asked very surprised, “Don’t you have a phone?” “Never mind,” I thought. I wanted the paper kind to fold and unfold at my leisure. Someone suggested I go to triple AAA, where they would have one, but I needed to plan a trip and they would have my itinerary in 24 hours. “No, thanks.” I just wanted to know where I was right there and then. When I saw a Barnes & Noble at Coconut Point, one of the biggest malls in the state, I thought I was saved, but again, no. They only had atlases of the United States. How could I put that in my purse?

What did we do before using our GPS to go around the block? I remember printing Map Quest; those were the days! Then we knew where we were, even if we didn’t know how to get there. The solution was to take good notes and describe everything I saw during my trip.

Fort Meyers is best known for its tall palm trees and the majestic Caloosahatchee River. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford had their winter estates next to each other on its bank, surrounded by exotic trees like the banyan or walking tree. The landscape with its rich flora and fauna is truly beautiful even if we didn’t see a single alligator in the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. There were many unanswered questions in this trip – besides the lack of maps—how come, for example that they were so many Chevrolets in Fort Meyers? Somehow it felt like I was inside a Hitchcock film, with lots of birds and extras wearing old-fashioned summer clothes in the middle of April, or were they the so-called sunbirds?

I stayed at a friend’s house near the River District. One of those homes in Spanish Revival Style. Never mind the architectural misnomer, it’s a beautiful property with a large, shady yard, a salt water pool, a tennis court, a pavilion and a smaller pool where the white ibis stop to drink. To follow up with the cinematic theme, it so happened that the house was staged for sale. Now that’s a job I would like to have, decorating each room in a different theme with knick-knacks galore: pink flamingoes, light-house lamps, shells and every aquatic theme available with matching linens and coordinated throw pillows. Henry, who is a minimalist, was going crazy with this décor, while I kept rearranging things in case a serious buyer would stop by.

A short sight-seeing trip to Naples turned out to be Fort Myers on steroids. More beautiful homes gorgeously landscaped, boutiques galore, dermatology centers, jewelry stores, spas, and luxury cars instead of Chevrolets: Teslas, Bentleys, Alfa Romeos, anything convertible. Not to think that Naples, Florida, is just for show, we saw a worthwhile photography exhibit at the Naples Art Institute, “The Power of Photography. Iconic Images from the Collection of Peter Fetterman.” Credit is due here to Fort Meyers for its rich theater scene; in only a week we saw two great plays: the musical Godspell at the Players Circle Theater and the timely Oleanna by David Mamet at the Florida Repertory Theatre.

My joking around took a serious detour when we visited Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Although the effects of hurricane Ian on September 2022 were also felt in Fort Meyers, nothing prepared me for what we saw in Sanibel Island. Miles and miles of destruction; the tallest palms down on top of piles of debris. Houses after houses boarded up, ghost houses like movie sets. Business closed everywhere left behind without a sign of life. We stopped at a souvenir shop and the owner showed me an album of photographs of his place after the hurricane. “Every little thing here is brand new,” he said. Somehow, Captiva Island was spared the worst and people in the trendy shops and beach seemed to be living their favorite slogan: YOLO – You Only Live Once.


8 Responses to Florida Without a Map

  1. conchaalborg says:

    Bravo! What a wonderful trip.
    Mary Tracy

    Thanks, Mary. We must get together at the Jersey Shore! Concha

  2. conchaalborg says:

    In the Welcome to Florida rest stop at the top of 95 there were the kind of old fashion maps you desired. The kind that if you didn’t know how to fold them back to their original form, you were stuck. Best part is they were free.
    Next trip try the east coast along the Palm Beach area. Lots on good stuff.
    Thanks for the tip, Herman. We flew in, thus didn’t see any rest stops! Concha

  3. conchaalborg says:

    What a delightful trip! Concha, I, too insist on paper maps – losing GPS at night in unfamiliar territory, as well as in broad daylight, does happen. My go-to places for street maps are tourist offices, book stores, and large variety stores. –Susan

    Thanks, Susan. I hear that there are maps at the rest stops, but we flew in and there were none in the airport.
    Do you have any trips planned?
    Abrazos, Concha

  4. conchaalborg says:

    Well said, Concha! I agree. Thank you!
    Thank you, Lynn!

  5. conchaalborg says:

    Me encanta. Me trae tus recuerdos. La he leído en inglés y luego en español. Me divierte como lo hace en un pis pas.
    No sabía lo de YOLO, pero es curioso que se puede interpretar de muchas formas. Para hacer el bien o para ser egoísta e ir solo a lo de una.
    Tu, mientras tanto, viajas.
    Un abrazo muy grande, Inés

    Tienes mucha razón, Inés. Captiva tiene un aspecto muy elitista, tan diferente a Sanibel que fue la que se llevó el mayor golpe.
    Voy a ver si puedo hacer lo de la traducción al español. Me gustaría verlo.
    Besos, Concha

  6. conchaalborg says:

    I remember being intoxicated by the magic names of California cities.
    You are right, and the names of the streets! Lots of misspelled Spanish…
    XO, Concha

  7. conchaalborg says:

    Concha, I love reading paper maps too. Even if I’m not going anywhere!
    Fondly, Elayne
    Thanks, Elayne. Where is your place in Florida?

  8. conchaalborg says:

    As a fellow map lover, this blog really resonated with me! Happy I finally found this in my over-filled In Box!
    Hugs, Randi

    Thanks, Randi.
    XO, Concha