enjoy the sand and surf in Naples, Fla.
Fla. — This is where the golden parachute lands. And the
private jets. And the snowbirds.
breezy 85 degrees in early December, this elegant
southwest Florida gulf coast city draped along 16 miles of
sugar-sand beaches is relatively empty at the moment.
Nobody is sitting outside at the caviar lounge on 5th
Avenue South. A beach umbrella has elbow room. You can
even find a parking place for your Porsche.
that is about to change, of course.
a darling of winter, is ready for its annual close-up.
after New Year’s Day, Collier County’s population
jumps by about a third, with thousands of snowbirds
flocking to Naples and nearby Marco Island.
new here? The Detroit Symphony will perform at Naples
Philharmonic Center for the Arts on March 4. The Naples
Zoo got honey badgers and may get an anteater. The
botanical garden is getting new orchids. Residents still
complain about too many private jets flying over the
beaches. And an algae in the gulf, the red tide, has been
lurking again offshore.
than that, well, Naples is pretty much cushy money,
shopping, going out to eat and golf.
other words, it’s absolutely nothing like real life.
an average January temperature of 76, warmer than Miami,
Naples reliably has some of the best wintering weather in
town also has a refreshing European feel. Walk along the
street and you can hear French, proper British English and
this year made the list of Forbes Magazine’s "top
25 places to retire rich," which noted that 42
percent of its residents are age 65 and up.
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are no exact numbers of how many snowbirds come to Naples.
However, Midwestern tourists dominate the west side of the
state, and it sometimes seems like everyone is from the
always running into Michigan people in Naples, and I love
it," says former Detroit resident John Findlater, who
moved here permanently two years ago. He recently was
asked by a clerk at the Publix supermarket if he was from
Michigan — Findlater’s politeness gave him away.
all its popularity, Naples is somewhat of an insiders’
town. Yes, you can shop on the main avenues. But beyond
that, a lot of restaurants, shops and beach access points
are fairly hidden.
know you can reach a stretch of beach called North Gulf
Shore by taking back streets, but it’s unlikely a day
visitor would find it. Locals know about the romantic
patio at Alexander’s, but the restaurant is hidden in
what looks like a strip mall and doesn’t advertise. Many
of the region’s touted 90-plus golf courses are private.
Even the hotels are low-key. Beyond a basic series of
Hampton Inn-type spots on U.S.-41, the big hotels are the
Waldorf Astoria and the Ritz Carlton, both tucked away far
off the main drag.
Naples’ downtown attraction Tin City is a bit hidden. It
is a warren of shops and restaurants in what used to be
the fish-processing shacks at the harbor. Once you find
it, it is nice. The other day I sat there at an outdoor
restaurant eating sweet local pompano fish for lunch. Just
then, a private jet flew low overhead in a blue sky. A
tour boat glided past in the sapphire water. Pelicans
preened on dock pilings fluffing their glossy feathers in
the 84-degree sunshine.
a rough life, but somebody’s got to live it.
IT IN NAPLES
Avenue South: The main shopping street. Designer olive
oil, antique jewelry, artwork, bronzes and patent-leather
coats for little dogs. Dine on everything from caviar to
cappuccino to calamari. ((