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Front entrance to the Gasparilla Inn located in Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, Florida. All photos by Paul Goldfinger © 2014

Front entrance to the Gasparilla Inn located in Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, Florida. All photos by Paul Goldfinger © 2014.   Click all photos to get bigger views.

side view.

Side view.  Condé Nast rated the Gasparilla Inn among the top resorts in Florida. The Boca Grande beach is number two of Travel and Leisure’s “best little beach towns in America.”

By Paul Goldfinger, travel editor @Blogfinger.  Re-posted from 2014.

If you were a big shot one hundred years ago, like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison or Harvey Firestone, you would have wanted a high-tone place off Florida’s Gulf Coast, where you could rendezvous in the winter with like-minded society people from the northeast who enjoyed the finer things in life.

After all, the weather here in the winter is unsurpassed. Perhaps you enjoyed golf or going deep sea fishing with your friends, but at the end of the day, you would prefer  4 star cuisine and only the best accommodations for friends and family.

Gasparilla Island seemed like the perfect place to establish a first class  hotel where the rich could mix pleasure, privacy  and business.  1,000 years ago the first visitors to the region were the Calusa Indians—fishermen who built mysterious sea shell mounds.  In the 18th century, a Spanish pirate named Jose Gaspar plundered the waters near here. The fishing around this barrier island is remarkable, and going after the mighty tarpon is among the best sport fishing experiences in the world.

We took a ride north from Fort Myers to spend the day on the island.   There is only one way in  and one way out.   The hotel was built in 1913 and is picture perfect, with the ambience of Old Florida and with a style of understated luxury.  It is on the U.S .Register of Historic Places.

People tool around in golf carts, and the town of Boca Grande, where it is located, is classy but very low key.  We had lunch al fresco in town at the Loose Caboose where they serve excellent grouper sandwiches and homemade ice cream which was a favorite of Katherine Hepburn—she even wrote about it.

Eileen (l) and Hope hanging out at the Loose Caboose. Pink is an important color there---says Lilly Pulitzer. ©

Eileen (l) and Hope hanging out at the Loose Caboose. Pink is an important color there—said Lilly Pulitzer. ©

Downtown Boca Grande. While their parents ordered lunch at the Loose Caboose, these sisters strolled across the street to learn beading. ©

Downtown Boca Grande. While their parents ordered lunch at the Loose Caboose, these sisters strolled across the street to learn beading. ©

The décor at the Inn is done in bright colors with all sorts of nautical themes around.  Pinterest.com mentions “the pinks, greens, chintz, wicker, rattan and sea shells.”  The golf course is surrounded by water, and a guest calls it “golf heaven.”  The beach club is one block away.

People here are dressed in a certain fine casual style:   Docksiders (no socks), flowery and colorful casual dresses/skirts (on the women), and khaki Bermuda shorts for the men held up with belts that have fish and lobsters on them.  You don’t see too many women in pants or short shorts or gaudy jewelry, or big hair, and not a chance of cleavage. The men like golf shirts or bright colored short sleeve polos.

The downtown is small, consisting of a few streets with restaurants and gift shops.  There is a popular store called an “outfitter” which provides fishing gear and clothing that breathes and has an spf rating .    I actually saw two guys walk in and one said to the other, “Let’s buy some really expensive gear and go fishing.”

George H.W. Bush and his family come to the Gasparilla Inn  for Christmas and New Year’s. The former president is known to be an avid golfer who goes out even in cold wet weather.  I asked a young waiter at the Inn if the locals call the shrubs “George bushes.”  He smiled but he was not enthused.

Eileen and her sister Hope were reluctant to walk into the front door. So I thought positive and entered.  They cautiously followed. Inside we walked around, and no one challenged our credentials.  The staff and guests were relaxed and easy- going. I took photos, but no one objected.     I usually don’t like  fancy places, but the Gasparilla Inn seemed just perfect to add to my bucket list.  I think I’ll start one now.

Here’s a photo tour of the Gasparilla Inn:

Living room. ©

Living room. ©

Dining room. All light fixtures burn candles . ©

Dining room. All light fixtures burn candles . ©

Serving tea. The staff is immaculate in dress, friendliness and manners. ©

Serving tea. The staff is immaculate in dress and manners. ©

The bar. ©

The bar. ©

Pampered dogs get chauffeured around in a golf cart. ©

Pampered dogs get chauffeured around in a golf cart. © And there is a fine and spacious dog park.

BING CROSBY  (“Puttin’ on the Ritz” was written in 1929 by Irving Berlin.)

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Downtown Fort Myers. Basketball team on the town. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Downtown Fort Myers. Basketball team on the town. Paul Goldfinger photo ©  January, 2015.   Click image to enlarge.

SEAN HAYES  from the Broadway musical Promises, Promises

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Our Lady of Mercy Mission. Boca Grande, Gasparilla Island, Fla. 2013. Paul Goldfinger photo. Copyright.

Our Lady of Mercy Mission. Boca Grande, Gasparilla Island, Fla. Paul Goldfinger photo. © Click image for full view.  Reposted on Blogfinger.net from February, 2013,

Katherine Hepburn liked to rent a beach house on this island. Maybe she sat on the porch fretting about Bogie and Bacall.

Ave Maria (after J.S. Bach) incredible–with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir:

 

 

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Fort Myers, Florida. January 18, 2015. By Paul Goldfinger ©

“Look Ma…no locks.”   Fort Myers, Florida. January 18, 2015. By Paul Goldfinger © Blogfinger.net.

KERMIT RUFFINS:

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Fort Myers, Florida. By Paul Goldfinger. ©

Fort Myers, Florida. 2013.  By Paul Goldfinger. ©

From the off-Broadway show (1966) Dames at Sea:  “It’s Raining in my Heart.”  (live performance);  Last posted in 2015.

“Where’s my umbrella and where’s my guy?

” 
I need that fella to keep me dry

” 
It won’t help if the sunshine should start

“Cause it’s raining in my heart”

215px-DamesatSea

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Five wood storks in the wild. Ft. Myers, Fla. Paul Goldfinger photo. Click left

Five wood storks in the wild   (our backyard). Ft. Myers, Fla. Paul Goldfinger photo. Click left to see Big Bird.

Hello, I must be going. Click left

Hello, I must be going. Click left

By Eileen and Paul Goldfinger, editors @Blogfinger   (original post Jan 2014)

Wood storks are on the endangered list. They are tropical and semitropical birds, but they can be found in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  These birds are huge, being about 3-4 feet tall, with a wing span of 5-6 feet.  They have pink feet, black heads,  long curved black bills and black under their white wings.

They like to feed in open wetlands and  wade in shallow water to find fish, frogs and bugs. They like swamps, marshes and mangroves for that, but they breed and nest where there are tall trees, preferably cypress forests where there can be 25 nests in one tree. They are very sensitive to fluctuating water levels which occur wherever there is more development.  They are known to fly long distances, up to 80 miles,  to find sufficient fish for their babies which get large very quickly. The female usually lays  3-5 eggs.

The largest nesting area in the world is near us in the Corkscrew Sanctuary  in Naples.  We  visited there yesterday (see photos below,)  but weren’t allowed near the nesting areas.  Nevertheless, the National Audubon Society maintains a beautiful refuge there where a variety of wild life can be seen, including still-frozen tourists from -30 degree Minnesota as well as those from New Jersey who are seeking good bagels. We saw baby alligators and a variety of birds. The gators were about 2 feet long–two lying on a log perfectly still.

We found  8 wood storks, see above,  in our backyard a few days ago. They are in the wild and they like to hang out with a group of egrets. It looked like a Rotary meeting. Two of the storks did a brief mating dance.  I was able to approach them, but when I got too close, they just walked slowly away in the other direction as if to say “Buzz off, pal!” 

Corkscrew Sanctuary in Naples, Fla. Egret hunts for prey. Jan. 2014. Paul Goldfinger photos ©

Corkscrew Sanctuary in Naples, Fla. Egret hunts for prey. Jan. 2014. Paul Goldfinger photos ©  Left click for all theses photos.

Corkscrew Sanctuary wetlands with cypress trees. Paul Goldfinger photo © 2014.

Corkscrew Sanctuary wetlands with cypress trees. Paul Goldfinger photo © 2014.

Baby alligator. Click left for bigger view. Corkscrew refuge. 2014 ©

Baby alligator. Click left for bigger view. Corkscrew refuge. 2014 ©

 

 

JULIE ANDREWS   “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins.

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Barbara Mann

Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall  on the campus of Florida SouthWestern College in Fort Myers, Florida.  January, 2017.  Photograph by Paul Goldfinger, Blogfinger.net ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net.

We went to the Barbara Mann to see the Book of Mormon.  It had received many accolades, but we didn’t care for it very much.  The subject matter was often pretty gross and unpleasant, plus it was anti-religious, especially towards the Mormons;  as well as condescending and/or obnoxious  towards a variety of groups including blacks, gays and women.  

However,  the musical song and dance  numbers were often wonderful, such as “Hello” which opened the show  (see below).

images

The show is about the pairs of young men who are sent on two year religious missions all over the world to try to gain converts to the Mormon Church. In the opening number, a group of missionaries dressed in their usual black pants, white shirts and ties, with name tags, perform this lively number called “Hello.”  The song is about how they go from door to door, ringing doorbells,  with their sacred texts of the Latter Day Saint movement. 

 They try to interest people in their religion with the ultimate goal of baptizing them. This show is set in a primitive village in Uganda, so the young Elders have their work cut out for them.

The Barbara Mann Theater has a high, grand entrance-way illuminated by the lights shown in the photograph above.  The packed house seemed to love the show and gave it a standing ovation with whistles and cheers, although some folks around us left at intermission.

ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST OF BOOK OF MORMON  with the opening number “Hello!”

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Fort Myers, Florida. 2014. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

Fort Myers, Florida. 2014. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©   Click photo

THE CHIFFONS:

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Roseate Spoonbills at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida c 2012. By Eileen Goldfinger ©

Roseate Spoonbills. Morning at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Southwest Florida c. 2012. By Eileen Goldfinger ©

EDVARD GRIEG.   Peer Gynt “Morning.”  By the Royal Tuscany Orchestra.

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Naples Botanical Gardens. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

Naples Botanical Garden. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

 

TERRY BLAINE and THE MARK SHANE QUINTET (Live in concert)

“The Louisiana Fairytale”

terryblaine2

 

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