Arriving at Little Gasparilla Island

On the dock, getting ready to go to Little Gasparilla

Eleven months ago when we were booking this holiday, we were choosing between two destinations for this leg of our trip. Marco Island, where we spent the Volcanic Ash Cloud part of last year’s Easter holiday, or Little Gasparilla Island. Nancy, Tilly and I voted for the former and Lorna voted for the latter. However, in some Nick Clegg-inspired corruption of the voting system, Little Gasparilla was chosen. When Nancy becomes Prime Minister of whatever is left of the UK at that point and she installs an unelected dictatorship, historians should look to this incident and blame her mother.

The Gulf Coast of Florida used to be made of small swamp islands. Gradually, these islands were drained, filled in and joined together by roads and bridges. Little Gasparilla Island resisted this trend and today is, I believe, one of only two inhabited islands not connected by mainland.

It also has no commercial activity on the island. This means there are not shops or restaurants on the island. You have to bring all your own drinking water and all our food. If you forget the butter, it will cost you $60 just to get to the supermarket. Even in Waitrose (US readers Whole Foods), $61 for butter would be regarded as expensive.

We therefore shopped very carefully at the supermarket using a prepared shopping list. Frozen and cold foods were covered with ice. The supermarket bill was a large $408 but did include some DVDs and a fishing rod.

With our luggage and 2 supermarket trolleys’ worth of shopping, we boarded Pirates Taxi boat for the 15 minute trip to the island. The girls were excited to see eagles, cranes and all sorts of other birds I don’t know the names of. We waved goodbye to our low-cost rental car on the dock (upgraded twice due to unavailability but still sitting in the car park for a week). In the intercostal waters, we quickly saw dolphin 10 feet away from the boat.

When we reached the dock side of the island, a pull-cart and golf cart were waiting for us. All we had to do was load all of our luggage and shopping and try to find our beach house on the (beach) side of the island.

We’ve been to this island before in the Christmas of 2008. Lorna loved it, but I was delighted to leave at the end of the week for a really smart apartment in Longboat Key. I had found the inadequate cooking facilities, the cramped bedrooms and the sand absolutely everywhere unappealing. M view is that your holiday accommodation should be at least as good as your regular house. As part of the coalition deal in coming here, I had insisted that the bathrooms of the house had a bit of marble about them.

We rarely stay in hotels when on holiday. I see plenty of them in my work and resent hotel staff, exorbitantly priced breakfasts and general lack of privacy. When you have a family of four, the untidiness of my brood makes the experience even worse. We therefore have rented lots of houses in our (many) vacations. The norm is to rent a house that is purposed as a vacation property; it has all the attributes of a house but it is designed to serve a wide variety of clientele. This means the walls are that off-white colour women call beige or cream; furnishings are from Ikea; and it is minimalist in the extreme. The kitchen typically has four or six sets of everything and there are absolutely no food stuffs left behind.

The best rentals are those which also double as family holiday homes. This rental is superb (http://www.littlegasparilla.com/index.html). Like all the other houses on the island, it is made from wood and built on stilts. Situated on the sand of the beach, it has a wrap-around verandah. The front covered lanai gives an uninterrupted 180 degree view of the sea.

The kitchen cupboards and (marbled) surfaces are packed with utensils and goods. The variety of products betray the range of guests who have been here. Proper food (eg, oils and herbs of every type, flours and maple syrups) sit alongside lazy American easy-to-cook packets of hash browns and ready to pour pancake mixes.

The furnishings are mostly antique-type, and carpets adorn the floors and walls. The walls also exhibit art work that has a meaning to the owners. We were able to deduce quickly that the owner is ex-Military and a film director and that the son is a three-time gold medal-winning Olympic swimmer.

There are books on every shelf and a decent DVD library. There’s a huge HD TV on which to view these films and a satellite connection.

There are two stunning double bedrooms plus two other less appointed bedrooms. Lorna chose the ensuite room leaving the girls the room at the top of the house with 360 degree views of the island. This latter room also has a TV, the real reason the girls are delighted with their Mum’s choice.

Cold food and produce formerly known as frozen need to be put away first. The banana ice cream has become a victim to the 90 degree heat; it swims around in the food bag. Where do you put all the food, and did we really think we were going to eat it all?

We explore outside. The children delight in their finds: loads of fishing rods and tackle, hammocks galore, a canoe and surf boards. They run into the sea, having completely forgotten that they wanted to go to Marco Island with its decadent bicycles, movie theatre and ice cream parlours.

Julian and girls in front of beach house

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Melville Bishop on April 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Sounds ideal for a week of quiet relaxation with the family. Looking forward to the “hunter home with the catch” picture.
    I hope that you took a picture of the dolphin as we saw predious little sea life during the long cruise.

    Reply

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