Birthday Staycation in the River District

Facing a summer with no vacation plans and a ho-hum birthday, I decided to create a vacation (“Staycation” as is the current buzzword) in the River District. The goals were: to celebrate my not-yet fifty-years on the planet, enjoy a few days off from home and work responsibilities, have fun with my over-worked, busy friends, and do my part to help the local economy.

With the help of several female friends, we decorated the town from Friday to Sunday, absorbing every moment and cocktail in the recently completed and beautiful River District.

As an attendee at Don Paight’s downtown Fort Myers redevelopment presentations in the late 80’s, it was pure pleasure to experience the fruition of his and other’s dreams. The beauty of the streetscape and refurbished buildings is enchanting and we made it our goal to support local businesses all weekend.

After a business meeting on my actual birthday (which this year fell perfectly on a Friday), I parked on the brick pavers and embarked on the weekend. The first activity was to find a spot for a pedicure. I started at Salon Nicholas. Exhibiting a spirit of teamwork and cooperation (pedicures are not in their repertoire) they kindly referred me to the new Greenleaf Day Spa on Second Street.

I called and scheduled time for my toes later in the afternoon and headed to the Hotel Indigo to check out my digs. masthead With a friendly welcome, Michael wished me a happy birthday and said my room was ready for an early check-in (perfection!).

So I valet parked the Volvo, dropped my duds in the beautiful room, and walked a few short blocks to meet a friend at the French Connection Cafe for lunch. 047

You can never go wrong there – the quiche melts in your mouth – and to kick start the celebration, a delicious bloody Mary 046 complements of the establishment for my self-proclaimed holiday.

Sated and jolly we went to the newly opened Greenleaf Day Spa. The lovely energetic owner Barbara greeted us warmly. She has completely transformed an older cracker box house on a busy street into a warm, charming haven of tranquility and pampering.

The massage chair eased my shoulders and a citrus-infused foot soak eased my mind as resident pedicurist/teacher Carla worked her magic making my feet look (almost) pretty. Comfort and joy filled my body as I began to glow). We headed back to the hotel for a quick freshen-up and walked two blocks to our designated happy hour spot, Spirits of Bacchus.

More than half a dozen fine female friends raised our glasses to life, liberty and the pursuit of a good time in our own back yard.DSC03308

The pleasant establishment was lively and filled with local VIP’s and politicians. Whether they were there for camaraderie or escape, everyone was indeed happy! The weekend was off and rolling.

As the happy hours waned, hunger set in and we four remaining ladies debated the many options for dinner, settling on Delicious Things, which lived up to its name. To help digest our food, we sought live music which was available at the Rooftop Bar, and then at ‘The Spot’ where a local female blues guitarist name Diane belted out some soulful tunes.DSC03319

Our fourth mate’s husband picked her up curbside, we three girls returned to the hotel where we inadvertently ‘crashed’ the Dunbar 7th Grade 40th Reunion. No one seemed to mind as we danced and joined in on the fun of their historic reunion of the first racially integrated class. The night was as fun as if we were in another world (or Vegas), and at 3:00 am we retired to the comfy hotel beds.

clip_image006Saturday morning was rough, but we managed to get up, don our sunglasses and face the too bright sun for a hearty breakfast at The Oasis, a classic Fort Myers tradition. We were joined by one of our smart friends who went home early and arrived chipper and smiling. With the help of caffeine and food in our queasy stomachs, we parted ways as one friend went to Main Street Antiques, the other to her office to catch up on work, and I went back to the hotel.

clip_image008Although the Butterfly Estates was on my wish list, the allure of the hotel room and time to myself, trumped that desire. I’ll do the estates another time. Hoping to refuel my body and clear my head, I went to the “Phitness Center” for a workout. After all, I did have another night on the town (check out all the “Phi” inferences at the hotel – fascinating background on architecture and history).

A leisurely shower followed by a much-need rest in the comfort of a chilly, clean hotel room (the bathrooms and beds rock at Hotel Indigo). Still feeling a little wobbly, I met two more friends for a “hair of the dog” cocktail at the rooftop bar (another fantastic feature of the Hotel Indigo) for a panoramic view of downtown Fort Myers.

The personable DJ catered to our diverse requests, as we enjoyed the music seduced by a warm breeze, tasty appetizers and the company of great friends. Round two of the birthday weekend, and a continuation of the celebration of the good life in southwest Florida.

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As luck and fate would have it, one of my friends was working at the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center where the Dunbar 7th Reunion hosted their second evening event. clip_image012[Can you see the pattern here? Even though it was a momentous, historic occasion for this elementary school class, my arrival into this world came first which gave me the inalienable right to participate in their party.]

We snagged the bartender from her duties and went to yet another beverage establishment, the Red Rock Saloon. A large, bright and let’s say energetic bar with great live music (hey those guys are old and jamming like that!). We were about to call it a night when my friend’s husband called to say he plus two wanted to join us for a nightcap. So being the convivial sorts, we obliged and closed down the Spirits of Bacchus with Dominic the Bartender (who by the way makes the best lemon drop in the world).

With the pressure of animals being left too long, all but me and my bunkmate went home. Hunger set in again, as it often does when imbibing after midnight. Enter Downtown Pizza to the rescue, which not only is open late, but makes one heck of a pie. We devoured a slice on a street bench and went back to the hotel satisfied.

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Breakfast at Bennett’s Fresh Roast was the ticket to start the last day of the celebration. Is there anything better to absorb acids in one’s stomach than the best donut in the world and a strong cup of java?

It could have been a doctor’s prescription and I would have filled it.

One of the remaining activities on my wish list was to walk the new ‘old’ Edison Bridge. Crossing the river with blue sky and white puffy clouds, a spectacular view of the marina and city skyline, I was most grateful to live in such a beautiful place.

clip_image016As I was coming back down on the bridge, a man in a manual wheelchair was eagerly heading uphill. My feeling of accomplishment was diminished by the feat he was about to perform, and apparently does every Sunday. It was even more endearing when he told me his chair has no brakes so he really enjoys the ride down. A life lesson served in humble pie.

If you are a Lee County resident and have not experienced the changes in downtown Fort Myers, check it out and support our local businesses! We are fortunate to have an aesthetically appealing, entertaining riverfront city filled with diverse art, culture, history and people. And for the ladies, I highly recommend this birthday gathering with friends – you can walk everywhere, be entertained and help local business owners succeed.

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