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Friday, February 10, 2006

In "the other Naples" -- on the Gulf

Note to selfDo NOT take a 6:30 a.m. flight that requires rising at 3:00 a.m. to catch a shuttle after taking phone calls till midnight.

Flew into Fort Lauderdale on a plane that must have seated practically every senior citizen from north Toronto. We pulled away from the flightway and were cleared for take-off, but five minutes later we were called back so they could rebalance the load of luggage. The captain of the plane instructed the flight attendants to prepare for arrival . . . in Toronto!

Sorted out some luggage issues in the Lauderdale airport and edited one last piece for Friday publication before grabbing a car rental. Then, off to Naples on "Alligator Alley," er, I-75 bopping to "The Mix" on satellite. To pull into Naples is to realize how great the disparity between American and Canadian standards of living has grown . . . it's not just a gap, it's a chasm. The cars, the homes, the yachts -- and the sheer critical mass of wealth. It's as though a whole whack of the American middle class took a quantum leap in net worth. When I first saw it, I was shocked. Now, I just shake my head.

And then, there's the Ritz-Carlton of Naples. A sign of a really good hotel is their ability to make anybody willing to pay the price of a night (whether full or discounted) feel at home. It's that old WASP ethic of hospitality at its best that dictates making people feel at home -- not intimidated or the object of condescension. (They may consider themselves superior, but true WASPs never show it, even if they do).

Spending a day on the water's edge, watching the huge dredgers gulp up sand to be used in grooming the beaches, with all that bleached-out skin seeking a respite from even a mild winter in the north, it makes one wonder about exit strategies . . .

P.S.: If you must be, there are worse places to pass an afternoon than the Ritz-Carlton cabana bar when you've been stood up! :-)

Posted by Russ Kuykendall on February 10, 2006 in Travel | Permalink

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