A view of the old Naples Beach Hotel pool area, as seen looking toward the bar.
As a year-round resident, I often take for granted the simple pleasures of living in Naples. I don’t get to the beach enough. Tend to stick around my own neighborhood a little too much. Maybe I frequent the same restaurants more than I should. Like anything in life, you develop rhythms.
So it’s nice to have your nest tussled up a bit occasionally with friends visiting from out of town. This weekend two of my best friends from college, who also happen to be former Neapolitans, were in town for a quick visit. The plans were simple: Maximize our time together without worrying about what we actually did.
I passed on their first excursion, a trip to Ochopee for one of Clyde Butcher’s famed swamp walks. Something about being belly-button deep in the Everglades doesn’t sound all that fun to me. (However, their rave reviews have me reconsidering this philosophy.)
Instead, I caught up with them at the Naples Beach Hotel, where they were staying, for sunset and cocktails. My wife and I make it a point to try to get down to the Beach Club every once in a while, but hadn’t been in a few months. When we arrived the first thing we noticed was the “improved” bar area.
I use quotation marks because, although the bar itself, along with the accommodations around it, is certainly improved, the overall vibe has been diminished. Where there once was a classic South Florida pool area, a kidney-shaped pool surrounded by lounge chairs, is now a large patio. The owners filled in the pool to discourage non-guests from using their facilities. A new, larger pool area for guests, complete with a bar of its own, requires keycard access.
Nonetheless, with a few other friends in town, we made like tourists. We sipped pricey cocktails, soaked up the final few rays of a gorgeous Saturday afternoon on the Gulf Coast and headed out into the gloaming for a fantastic meal, forgetting for a moment the responsibilities a few miles away at home and living like tourists.