To celebrate Andrew’s birthday (33!) this year, we planned a little family vacation to Naples, Florida. It would be Andrew and Holly’s first time there, but for me, the trip was a familiar one.
Growing up, I spent many sun-filled spring breaks here with my family. The very first trip my parents brought Baby Melanie on was actually to Naples — a stay at the Edgewater Beach Hotel! Years later, I have fond memories of sharing a hotel room with my two little brothers and arguing about what to watch on TV, ordering chicken tenders and fries by the pool, and waiting in line at Kilwin’s on 5th Avenue. I hadn’t been back in a decade!
We headed to the airport on the morning of Andrew’s birthday with way too many bags in tow. Andrew, my hero, hauled almost all of our luggage to our gate, while I pushed Holly in her travel buggy. It was all fine, not easy, but fine — until we boarded the plane. Holly is not a girl who likes to sit still, so a 2+ hour flight was nearly impossible. She cried for 2 of those hours (at a certain point, I was bawling, too, out of pure defeat). Andrew calmed both of us down, got Holly to nap right as we started our final descent, and then navigated the 3 of us to our hotel.
At last, we arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort. It looked almost exactly the same as it did 10 years ago. As if it were my childhood home, I knew my way around all at once.
The Ritz had thought of everything. In our hotel room, they not only had a crib waiting for our exhausted daughter, but they also had a birthday surprise for Andrew: a handwritten card, balloons, a tote bag with small gifts, decadent chocolate-covered strawberries and cookies the size of my face, and a bottle of champagne chilling in an ice bucket. We popped the bubbly immediately!
That evening, we dined outdoors for Andrew’s birthday dinner. Holly babbled in her high chair, we ate chips topped with guac, and all of us reveled in the weather — breezy and warm! I loved, loved that night together.
Our vacation went by too fast. We slathered Holly in thick white sunscreen, splashed around with her in kiddie pool, lounged on our balcony, ate yummy food (my favorite meal was a BLT at the hotel, but I cannot discount the Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream cone I had for dessert), took Holly to the mall and chased her through Saks (she’s fast, even in her glittery jellies!), and spent a glorious morning at the beach. I don’t think I will ever forget plopping Holly down on the sand and watching her soak it all in. Her first time at the beach! A major milestone.
Traveling with a 16-month-old, of course, was an adventure in and of itself. Andrew and I joked when we came home that we needed a vacation from our vacation. Holly has a mind of her own, she is a bit of a picky eater, and when she’s tired, she is sure to let us know. For example, on our last night, we had a reservation at one of the best restaurants in town. We walked in, we got seated at our table, and we were back in our rental car 10 minutes later. Maybe next time, Bleu Provence. (Though I am happy to say I did get to at least sample the freshly baked French bread, and it was divine.)
We’re back home now, safe and sound in Lincoln Park. Our time away — just the 3 of us — was truly a gift. I’ll cherish my new, grown-up Naples memories forever.