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Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

East Tennessee
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Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

Just back from a week's vacation, and I can't get Anna Maria out of my head.

Just so you'll know, this is not one of those trip reports that are basically just lists of recommendations. Yes, I have some favorites, but I feel compelled to write about the impression this special place left upon me--more so than just recounting the "here's where to go" stuff.

This was my first time on the island, but undoubtedly not my last. I found in AMI a place that resonated with me on many different levels.

The places I went and the people I encountered seemed to have a distinct kind of grace and charm that I think must be unique to the area. Yes, it was beautiful--no question about that. But it was also REAL. There was a genuineness and unpretentiousness that I spotted right away.

Things seemed comfortable and accessible on AMI--as opposed to some other locations that are deed-restricted and manicured to within an inch of their lives. I've visited parts of Florida that seemed, I don't know, kind of soul-less to me. Everything was magnificent, to be sure, but somehow a little too perfect, if you know what I mean. I like for signs to be hand-lettered (and even creatively spelled) every now and then. I celebrate the individual, the interesting, and the innovative.

Nowhere on the island was I intimidated. Everything (and everybody) seemed really open and accepting. People were inclined to generally reject the strict and suffocating conformity that plagues so many of those cookie-cutter communities. I never felt as if things were "off limits" without a membership or without "proper attire." This laid-back attitude really goes a long way toward making visitors feel welcome; indeed, it encourages total strangers to quickly strike up conversations that may eventually lead to friendships.

Instead of restricting myself to the most well-known places on the island, I spent a little time poking about some of the neighborhoods. I think my favorites might have been the teeny-tiny but neat-as-a-pin houses in the Bradenton Beach environs. My eye delighted in the obvious pride these homeowners took in their properties. Close observation yielded clues about the occupants, from a ham radio antennae to a sign on a house (the place looked to be about the size of a large shoebox) that read "As the Prop Turns."

Here are just a few of my impressions, in no particular order...

I loved that the staircase leading up to the restaurant at the Rod and Reel Pier lists ever so slightly--as befitting a waterfront establishment that has been around since the 1940s. I love that the free trolley is used just as much by locals as by tourists--and that the regular passengers greet the driver with genuine affection when he's been off for a week. I love that Ginny and Jane E's really IS "at the old IGA." I love that someone missed "Princess Patty" enough to place a memorial bench in her honor at the edge of a property line at Bean Point. I love that the person standing in line in front of you at the Star Fish Company is wearing a tee-shirt that lists the all-stars of the Manatee Little League baseball team. I loved that I saw mailboxes and mailbox supports in the shape of dolphins, seahorses, cats, and pelicans. I love that the volunteers with the AMI Turtle Rescue are so completely dedicated to (and justifiably proud of) their work. I love that ancient boats in various stages of disrepair (the kind that can't have seen more than rainwater for many years) don't seem to be truly abandoned; oftentimes they appear to be gathered on a spot of land--rather reverentially, it seemed to me--to sort of be "reclaimed" by nature.

So there you have it. Just a few of the reasons this place has become incredibly special to me in the span of seven all-too-short days.

As I write this, I can't help but think of the folks who are sleepless there tonight--long-time residents watching the path of the impending tropical storm and deciding about whether to stay or go. I mentioned that Anna Maria is in my head. But she's also in my heart. God bless them and the island home they love--and shared so willingly with me.

essen, germany
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for Walt Disney World, Anna Maria Island, Orlando
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1. Re: Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

Whow...

I love that!!

I couldn´t say it any better and know exactly what you mean.

It really IS special and unique...

The bug was successful again and another wonderful and friendly guest is more than welcome to join the (as you discovered) nice community of strangers on the island! (noone stays a stranger though!)

One of the reasons we all love that place.

Brandon, Florida
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2. Re: Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

Now you did it, Mojo ... we've been trying to keep this place a secret and you've gone and let the "cat out of the bag". LOL. Glad you had a fabulous time. And it seems that Fay will spare the island as it is heading up the middle of the state after making landfall at Marco Island near Naples.

Bradenton, Florida
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3. Re: Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

So much for keeping this place secret. Glad you enjoyed the island, and know you will return. Just an FYI to all our fans out there. At the moment, it is clear skies, a nice breeze and a bit cooler than it has been recently. Looks like Fay will pretty much miss us. May get a few of the outer bands, but nothing to really worry about.

Bradenton, Florida
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4. Re: Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

What a beautifully written and inovative report....I'm sure many people will appreciate your skills in putting over just what has made AMI so special.

Tampa
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for Anna Maria
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5. Re: Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

Gotmymojo....well, you certainly do have your mojo working. What a brillant summary of Anna Maria Island.

I have had the pleasure of knowing her for over 50 years, growing up with the sights and sounds of the surf, summer thunder storms and crabs walking across my feet on the sand.

I dont believe that she is perfect for everyone, some people do not get her, they think she is old and worn. I love the fact that you see her character in the little imperfect things like the staircase leading up to the Rod & Reel Restaurant.

There have been a lot of changes through the years, you mention the IGA, it was really the only grocery store on the island and had a real butcher, produce manager and they would use kids out for summer at the check out register. Where the Manatee Public beach is, on the weekends they would have dances and bands upstairs on the roof. Where the SunHouse Restaurant is at Bridgewalk sat the Silver Dollar Saloon and it was some more honky tonk, my mom would cover our ears when we would walk by, afraid of what we might hear but a couple of times we did sneak in and they had actual silver dollars embedded in the bar counter, hundreds of them.

Yes, there are changes but the character and people of this island remains the same full of charm and grace.

You made my day MOJO and thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights of our paradise.

Oxford, United...
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6. Re: Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

Great report !! Well written

I think you have summed up how we feel about the place - its charm and the reasons we keep going back.

Like you I love the way the place is not pristine

( e,g.Longboat Key is too tidy for me and lacks the character of AMI) but not in any way run down.

Places like Rod and Reel typify the island - looks and feels like it shouldn`t still be standing but it is; and good food and the local fishermen to watch and talk to thrown in.

Miami Beach, Florida
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7. Re: Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

That is one report that really wants you pack your suitcase and go there, right now...thanks

Mimi

Loudon, Tennessee
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133 posts
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8. Re: Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

Thanks for the wonderful report......my husband and I agreed that this was our best vacation ever!!!!

London, United...
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9. Re: Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

You've summed it up gotmymojoworkin

My hubby and I have been visiting Anna Maria from England for 10 years now and can't get enough. It's so laid back it's horzontal and is for us heaven on earth. We have stayed in a number of locations and have ALWAYS found the people to be very friendly and hospitable.

We are returning for our 16th visit in October and staying for the first time at The Coconuts........can't wait.

Cambridge, United...
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10. Re: Trip report--albeit, not a typical one...

That is one of the things I forgot to mention - the people over in America are so friendly. Everyone says 'Hi' and the staff in all the shops/restaurants/bars are so friendly and helpful. They all seem to love their jobs (whether they do or not!) and are so willing to do anything for you.