I prefer to be surprised when I travel, and so rarely consult guidebooks. It seems to me that following other people’s opinions about where to stay, what to see and where to eat takes all the fun out of travel. I prefer some measure of serendipity: Wandering around, getting lost and being surprised.
Well, the first surprise is how close Sanibel Island is to the Continental United States, linked only by a causeway and bridge totalling some five kilometres. The first hint of the laid back lifestyle awaiting us on Sanibel was the unofficial-looking uniforms of the customs inspectors who greeted us at the bridge. Even when I offered our passports, the officer demurred with a friendly, “No thanks, sir.” I have heard of this. In some countries, a great deal of discretion is allowed to even minor officials. After long service at potential “trouble spots,” they develop an eye for the honest face and benign intentions. After only a moment’s confusion, a modest six-dollar (U.S.) fee gave us immediate entry, and we were soon aboard Sanibel.
I will report back in greater detail later, with pictures. But based on our first impressions, I highly recommend Sanibel Island as a vacation spot. Local merchants accept U.S. dollars and just about everyone you meet speaks nearly flawless, unaccented English.
I asked one young fellow, who was serving us our first Island dinner, how to say “grouper sandwich” in the local patois. He took a long time to respond, eventually asking if I’d like another Sam Adams. They are a shy people.
When I do eventually “crack” the local lingo, and gain their trust, I have much to ask about this unassuming island paradise. No doubt, things were not as idyllic as they now seem. The story of Sanibel’s independence from its colonial masters, for example: Many of these troubled island nations experienced a wrenching period of transition as they struggled to diversify their economies and redefine themselves in the modern world.
More to come…