Paradise Coast

Like most days, we started out with a plan. Like the best days, it changed.

We began our morning by cruising over to Naples for the Naples Botanical Garden’s Sunday dog walk. I thought it was the perfect time to take a stroll before heading to 5th Avenue South for brunch and shopping. There was also a Lego exhibit I wanted to see.

Welcome to Dogs in the Garden!

Welcome to Dogs in the Garden!

‘Dogs in the Garden’ is held three times a week, Sunday 9-11:30 a.m., Tuesday 8:00-11:00 a.m., and Thursday 3:00-5:00 p.m. At these times, members and guests can explore the gardens with their furry family members. First, you’ll need to check-in and sign a waiver. They’ll give you a list of rules (one dog per person, no flexi-leads, no dogs in the Children’s Garden), and a poop bag if you don’t have one.

Uhm. Why don’t you have a poop bag?

Dogs whose families have botanical garden memberships, get in free. All other canine guests will need to go with their humans to the visitor’s center and pay. It’s $9.95 per dog, $14.95 per person.

 

Even though my granddaddy was a nurseryman for 25 years, and I love gardening, for some reason I haven’t been to a lot of botanical gardens. It just isn’t something that normally makes my radar (there’s no wine). However, I wanted to check out the Dogs in the Garden event, and frankly, the Legos exhibit looked pretty cool.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly by Sean Kenney. 37,481 bricks.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly by Sean Kenney. 37,481 bricks.

The whole experience was definitely something to be appreciated, and unfortunately, our photos really don’t do it justice. You can’t quite capture the intricacy of the Lego designs: the carefully formed petals in the rose, or the feeling that the butterfly might actually take flight. The broad landscape and tiny details seen around every corner of the garden just can’t be adequately shot with an iphone camera.

Sean Kenney’s Lego exhibit made me want to climb into the attic and pull down my old bricks. Of course, then it occurred to me that I never had that kind of vision or patience.

My one piece of advice would be to take your own water bowl for your dog. Even though they had water bowls placed throughout the garden, they were always occupied and sometimes empty.

After a couple of hours strolling the garden and meeting new friends, we’d planned to head to 5th Avenue South for brunch and some shopping. However, when you’re going new places and meeting new people, plans can change at a moments notice. So, when a woman with a super-cute Yorkie suggested that we just had to go to Marco Island for brunch at Mango’s Dockside Café, we adjusted. She assured us the food, with a canine menu, and the view of Smokehouse Bay would be worth the detour. She was right!

Mango’s was really crowded by the time we got there, around noon, and there was about a 20-minute wait for an outside table. We put our name on the list, and let the hostess know we’d be stepping down to the dock to get out of the way. We had enough time to enjoy one of my favorite coastal pastimes, discovering the names of boats. “Ship of Fools,” and “Far From Normal” were two of my (printable) favorites.

For the canine connoisseur

For the canine connoisseur

When we were finally seated the waitress greeted our table with a menu for me, and a water bowl for Henri.

Four Paws Up for that!

I was very pleased to discover ‘Sweet Pea’s Canine Selections’ on the back of the menu. It included dog’s choice of chopped chicken breast, chopped bacon, or the Captain’s Crunch, a combination of both. Everything is better with bacon, right? So, I ordered the Captain’s Crunch for Henri, and one of Mango’s signature brunch items, a Cuban bread battered in corn flakes and almonds, then grilled and topped with strawberries, bananas, and maple syrup. Henri seemed satisfied with his meal, and I can assure you mine was AH-mazing!

 

Cause everything’s better with bacon!

Best brunch EVER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we finished eating EVERY LAST BITE, we decided to explore the Esplanade, and lucked into an art show with lots of really unique jewelry, art, and my favorite: painted palm fronds. We also learned of a great annual event called Mutts & Martini’s that benefits Bedtime Bundles, a charity providing packages of supplies to the children of migrant farm workers. The event includes a red carpet, a pooch parade, silent auction, and of course, martinis. After having our fill of art, we decided there was enough time and daylight to go to 5th Avenue, after all. I’m glad we did.

Henri's favorite store.

Henri’s favorite store.

5th Avenue South in Naples is a great shopping experience. I loved the old world look and feel of the buildings with side-walk cafes and street-side dining, and the fact that there were dogs everywhere.

We visited several of the shops, including Pucci and Catana luxury pet boutique, where Henri was served water and liver treats. He also got a new black and red Jolly Roger collar to match Mommy’s black bikini.

 

We really enjoyed Naples, all of which seems incredibly dog friendly…except the three beaches. No dogs allowed. The one place you can let your dog enjoy the beach is Keewadin Island, but it is only accessible by boat. We didn’t make the trip, but on the recommendations of others, it would be worth a return visit and a boat rental.

If you’re looking for a little more to do with your pooch than just beaching it, Naples is the perfect weekend getaway. Plan your stay at the Naples Bay Resort, where Fergie’s, at The Shoppes at Naples Bay Resort, features complete pet concierge service. Naples Bay also offers boat rentals, and is within walking distance of 5th Avenue South and 3rd Street shopping districts.

Paradise indeed!

 

 

 

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