I visited the West Coast of Florida last week as part of a staff retreat. The destination was a little spot of a town called Pass-a-Grille Beach. To get there you must traverse a myriad of highways, interstates and even an 8 mile bridge. The route literally dead-ends at the Don Cesar Hotel, a “pink castle” built in 1928 as a playground for the rich and famous of the Jazz age.
If you turn right (or north) you encounter miles of multi-story condos, souvenir shops, and traffic congestion. If you turn left heading south, you are instantly transported to yesteryear (or at least my yesteryear spending summer vacations on the Gulf). Charm literally shakes your hand introducing you to quaint houses, breezes through the sea grape trees (that have not been mowed down for mass developments), and unobstructed views of a translucent ocean and talcum powder sand.
My husband and I stayed in a kitschy place called the Cocoanut Inn. There may have been 10 rooms in the entire place with its sliver of a pool and tiny galley kitchen.
It reminded me of places my growing up family stayed, all five of us piled into a one bedroom bungalow, my Mom complaining about my snoring.
This trip felt a little like the Yogi Berra line, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”. We chose the path leading to old Florida with its unspoiled and underdeveloped natural areas and independently owned markets, boutiques and restaurants.
Turning left might be symbolic of my political leanings, who knows. When our Governor and state legislature seem bent on ceding our natural resources to big developers and corporate interests, I’ll go left at the fork every time.