This past weekend, Alan and I decided to make a whirlwind trip to Naples, Florida, to visit some Knoxville friends who have taken up residence there. Just wanted to put up this quick post to let everyone know how Wanda McMahan, Bobby Denton, Sam Browder and Jane Miller are getting along. And to recommend some fun places to eat and visit if you, too, should head to Naples anytime soon. Their “season” pretty much ends at Easter when all the snowbirds head back North. An ideal time to visit would be in late April and early May when the crowds have thinned but it’s not yet too hot.
So, here goes.Wanda picked us up at 1 p.m. on Friday at the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers and we headed immediately to Mira Mare, one of our favorite Naples eateries.
Then Bobby went home and we headed to Wanda’s cute condo at The Strand golf development and took a nap. We have learned that when visiting Naples, you should sleep whenever you get a chance. That’s because there is so much to do and so many folks to see, that you can easily wear yourself out if you don’t take a break in the afternoon. Hey, it’s tropical. Everyone needs a siesta.
We did, however, wake up in time for dinner! Not going to miss that. This time, Wanda, Alan and I headed for Bay House. This was our allotted night to catch up on things. Wanda keeps up with Knox happenings through knoxnews.com and she stays in touch with several folks up here, some of whom are involved in the arts. Bobby, on the other hand, keeps up with Knoxville by listening to The Sports Animal on the internet. His large circle of Knoxville friends tends to be involved with sports. Both Wanda and Bobby were totally up to speed on goings on with the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation and, both being media hounds, they were full of questions behind the recent staff changes at WBIR. Interestingly, they both also were very familiar with social goings on in Knoxville. In particular the three high-profile divorces in the works here, none of which has been reported in any of the local media. Word of mouth is still the best source, isn’t it?
OK. Back to that dinner. Here are our recommendations.
Saturday was jam packed. First, the Naples Museum of Art where Wanda wanted to show us the exhibit on the history of the American Studio Glass movement. The exhibit featured two pieces by our friend Richard Jolley of Knoxville. I didn’t realize that the Studio Glass movement was so recent or that glass is the Rodney Dangerfield of the art world. For a long time it was looked down on as “a craft” rather than considered fine art. I would have loved to have shown you the Jolley pieces — and some of the fantastic Chihuly works the Naples museum owns. But, unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the Naples Museum of Art. For the record, I think this is a stupid (and probably unenforceable) policy. But I complied.
One funny thing happened. When we were buying tickets, we realized we had forgotten our Knoxville Museum of Art membership cards which would have given us a discount. So we asked if they gave discounts for members of AARP (Alan and Wanda are members — not me!). The lady behind us in line quipped, “We are in Naples. If they gave AARP discounts, they’d go broke!” Ha. Good point.
Saturday was closing day of an exhibit of work of artist Manolo Valdes. Some of his works were large sculptures, like the horse above, on display outside the museum. So we could take pictures of those. But some of the most interesting pieces were large paintings that were so new, you could still smell the oil paint on them. They were not yet completely dry. But they were fascinating. Click here for a link to some images of his artwork at other locations.
We had a few requirements when we were trying to decide on a lunch spot. We wanted it to be outside. I was still in my salad with seafood on top mood. And, if possible, we wanted access to a TV to watch the Lady Vols/Kansas game. We found just the spot! Brio Tuscan Grille.
We have a tradition when visiting Naples. We like to go out on a boat. This time, Wanda arranged for us to go on the Double Sunshine, an open-air double-decked boat with an affable crew. We were joined by Wanda’s good friend Mary Kozitka, with whom we also became friends when Wanda brought her and her husband, Dick, to Knoxville not too long ago.
One highlight of this cruise is looking at the mansions on the water — especially those in the tony Port Royal neighborhood. The boat captain shares tidbits about how much each of them costs and inside info about some of the owners. It’s fun to hear! I’ll just post pics of a few of them.
Next stop: Bobby Denton‘s house! We ran over there because he lives on a pond and he said some baby ducklings had been born the previous day. We wanted to see them but, unfortunately, they were not around when we got there. But we had fun at Bobby’s anyway. He said I could put up a few pictures.
After Bobby’s house, guess what we did. Right: nap time at Wanda’s! And then we acted on the sweetest invitation to have cocktails at Mary and Dick’s beautiful condo on Vanderbilt Beach followed by a sunset dinner on the terrace of their private club overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
We walked across Gulf Shores Drive to the beach side and settled on the terrace of La Playa Beach Club. On the beach, we saw a lovely table set with a wind shield and torches. Everyone was speculating what the occasion might be. Most of us thought it was a wedding proposal. Bobby suggested that it might be a very civilized divorce settlement — they were meeting on the beach to divide up the property! That Bobby is such a romantic!
The only thing left to do on Sunday before heading to the airport was meet our friends Sam Browder and Jane Miller for brunch. Wanda took us all to The Club at The Strand. Wanda had the best order, in my opinion.
See what I mean about a whirlwind trip? We are still resting from it! But, seriously, we highly recommend Naples for a casual good time — with all the amenities!