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gardkarlsen Naples - A travel report by Gard
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Naples,  United States - flag United States -  Florida
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gardkarlsen's travel reports

A road trip in Florida, part 4

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Naples travelogue picture
Our vacation started on October 14th and ended on October 29th 2001. The travellers this time was as usual my love Nikki Mooki and Gard Karlsen. We flew from Stavanger (Norway) via Amsterdam to Miami in Florida. We rented a car there and we spent a few days in Miami before we drove of to Orlando, Tampa, Naples and then Miami again. On our trip we stopped by places like Kennedy Space center, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Epcot, Busch Gardens and much, much more.

Favourite spots:
Naples travelogue picture
We didn't stay long in Naples. We stopped there for a night and then we drove through the Everglades back to Miami

What's really great:
Naples travelogue picture
We stop at Fort Myers to visit Thomas Alva Edison’s winter home and it was nice to find more about the lives of such a great person.

Sights:
Naples travelogue picture
Thomas Alva Edison’s winter home, Everglades

Accommodations:
Naples travelogue picture
We stopped at the tourist information in Naples. Based on the info we got there we found a room at Sea Shell motel. And back in Miami we stayed at a flat called the Mediterranean. We rented that for about 39 $ we got a room at the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania which is pretty central.

Other recommendations:
Naples
Our next destination was Naples but on the way there we had time to stop at Fort Myers to visit Thomas Alva Edison’s winter home. I have read books about the guy when I was younger but it was fun to hear stories about him again. The 16 $ that it costs to get in gives you access to the gardens, his house, his laboratory, a museum and a tour. The tour was more of a botanical tour to start with as the guide took us through his big garden with plants and flowers from all over the world.

The ride from Fort Myers to Naples is a short drive and the first stop in Naples was at the tourist information. Based on the info we got there we found a room at Sea Shell motel. Naples seems to be a very quiet place because we took a drive in the evening and there were hardly any people out at all. But we only stayed at this place for a night because next morning we were off to the Everglades.

The ride from Naples to Everglades City is also pretty short. Everglades City is a starting point for different rides in the Everglades area. A cold front was moving in at this time and the weather turned cooler and we got a few raindrops. But we wanted to go on a boat trip to check out the wild life. But we only went for a short 90-minute boat ride that took us out towards the gulf coast. The ranger that took us out there told us about the fish and the bird life in the area and pointed out the different birds for us. The highlight of the boat trip was when dolphins decided to swim along with the boat.

Back in Miami
The trip through the Everglades is a pretty short trip and before we knew it we were back in Miami. When we got to Miami we stayed at the Dezerland hotel but that was a bit out of town so we decided to try and get a place closer to the Art Deco district. The first place we tried was the Riviere hotel. They had a vacant room but there were no parking in the area so we turned it down. But then they said that they had studios or flats (called the Mediterranean) that we could rent not far away. And for about 39 $ we got a room at the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania which is pretty central. The place itself was not all that nice because people were coming and going from the flats so it was pretty noisy. The place had a few parking places outside but there was not enough space for all the cars of the tenants. So when I parked at night I just parked on the pavement closing the entrance for the 3 cars that were parked there. That was obviously a big mistake because next morning I had gotten two parking tickets: 1 for parking on the sidewalk and 1 for blocking the exit for the other cars. In total this added up to about 60$ so it was a pretty expensive parking. So the moral of the story is that the people that check these thing are always around (I got the tickets at 5.30 on a Saturday morning) and if you will get a ticket make sure you only get one not two tickets like I did J

The rest of the time on our vacation was spent looking around Miami. We went downtown to try out the Metromover and we also tried a drive in Coral Gables that the guide recommended. The drive itself was pretty boring but at least it too us to places like the Venetian pool that looks like a wonderful place.

And we stopped by Ventura mall, Miracle Mile and Bayside in downtown Miami.

Going home
On the 28th of October it was time for us to get back and we got to the airport about 4 hours before the flight left. Turning in the Avis car was quick and painless. But when we got to the counter to check in we were told we were too late. It turned out that Northwest had change the timetable during our vacation and all of a sudden the flight left 4 hours earlier than usual. Northwest was able to get us on a Martinair flight to Amsterdam later that night but we had to wait for about 8 hours. So I guess the lesson is that it can be smart to re-confirm tickets when you are travelling. The flight home to Europe was pretty quick as we had strong tailwinds. But I was not very impressed with the comfort and standard of the Martinair flight that we took. After a few hours in Amsterdam we got back to a rainful, windy and cold Stavanger.

A few tips and recommandations

Car rental
As I mentioned earlier we rented a car from Avis and we used Expedia to book it. When I rented the car I got a price of 100$ per week and I knew of course that there would be extra cost because you need insurance and so on. I thought that I would have an option to choose different insurances but when we got to Avis in Miami we only got one question “Do you want collision insurance?” And I said yes because saying no would be irresponsible. And this insurance was about 22$ per day and the total cost for renting the car was in the end 600$. In my opinion it should have been clearer what the total cost for renting the car would be and I have also shared this point of view with Avis.

Driving in the States
Apart from that driving is pretty easy in the states but there are a few rules that are different than what I’m used to. You are allowed to turn to the right when the signal is red (unless there is a sign saying something else). Cars were pretty quick to remind us of this rule (by using the horn) if I stopped on a red light. We saw quite a lot of police cars around on the highways and people were pulled over all the time. So I guess the moral is that we should keep the speed limits J

The gas was pretty cheap (about 1.15$ in the Orlando area) and driving 1200 miles did not really dig into our wallets. When you fill gas remember that you have to pay in advance.

I guess I also have to mention the coupons that are everywhere. It is possible to save quite a lot if you use the coupons for all the different attractions in the Orlando area. But I can’t understand why it should be like this.

Language
It was not always easy to communicate with people in Miami because many only speak Spanish. Or as Nikki put it: we heard more English spoken on our vacation to Mexico last year then in Miami.

Maps
As I have mentioned above we more or less only had maps from tourist folders when driving around. That was not very easy at times so I recommend that you bring along a good map of Orlando and Miami at least. I’m very pleased that I had Nikki as a map-reader by the way because there is quite a lot to focus on apart from the map. So I did the driving and she said left, right and so on.

Food
The Americans seem to love their food and there is a great selection of fast-food restaurants. I don’t eat that much fast-food at home so it was great to try out Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonalds, KFC and so on. We also went out to have steaks a few times and the portions are BIG so we soon found out that there was no need for starters. In general the portions are big so Nikki and me often shared a meal at least for lunch. Apart from that I just have to say that I love Dairy Queen and especially the Blizzard. It is basically the same as the McFlurry from McDonalds but only better J And there is a great selection of stuff that you can get inserted into the ice…I fell for chocolate chip cookie dough grin. And smoothies were also sold on different locations and that is a really healthy and great way to cool down. My favourite is the boring banana, strawberry, orange juice and crushed ice mix.

Cost
I have spoken about the cost quite a lot already and I hope that I don’t nag too much about it. But it is important to know how much a trip will cost so you can plan a vacation and set-up a budget. Here are some of the costs for our trip:

Activity
Cost

Universal Studios/Islands of adventure
190 $ + 16$ parking

Epcot
102 $ + 8$ parking

Kennedy Space center
53 $

Wet’n’Wild
60 $ + 5$ parking

Busch Gardens
102 $ + 7$ parking

Avis car rental
595 $

Gatorland
32 $

Wonderworks
30 $

Edison’s winter home
24 $

Boat trip in Everglades
32 $

Vizcaya
18 $

Museum of science and space transit planetarium
16 $




Hotel/Motel
Address
Price

Dezerland beach resort & spa
8701 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach
2 nights about 120 $

Quality inn international
7600 International Drive, Orlando
6 nights, 223$

Sea Shell motel
82 9th Street South Naples
1 night 42,5$

Best Western
7900 South U.S. 1, Port St. Lucie
1 night, 76$

Buccaneer Beachfront Resort Motel
10800 Gulf Boulevard, Treasure Island (near Tampa)
2 nights, about 70$

Riviere hotel
Miami
2 night, about 80$




As I said earlier, I was not very impressed with the Dezerland hotel. First of all I didn't like the location and second, I don't like these hidden expenses that came on top of the bill. The Quality inn that we stayed at in Orlando was located very central and it was pretty cheap. The Riviere hotel (or Mediterranean studios) were not all that great. The location was nice but the place was noisy and it seemed a bit worn down. The rest of the places were OK hotels and I don't really have much more to say about it.

Planning material
When planning the trip we did use both books and the internet. First of all we bought Eyewitness Travel Guide to Florida by Dorling Kindersley. But most of the other information came from the net. Best Regards (http://home5.inet.tele.dk/hans-h-c/) includes a travelogue from a Danish guy who went to Florida a few years back and that was a nice reference. We booked the Avis car and the first hotel by using www.expedia.com and you can read a lot of general information about Florida on http://www.flausa.com/index.php.

Summary
I think that we had a great time in Florida and I guess Florida turned out to be what I expected it to be: a very entertaining place to spend a vacation :-) We got to see quite a lot in the two weeks that we were there and we could probably have spent a lot more time in the states because there were a lot more to see. We got to see more or less all the things that we had planned to see. The only thing we missed out on was a Jai Alai game in Miami. But maybe we will go back to the Sunshine State one time in the future.

Published on Thursday January 2th, 2003


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