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Caught in a time warp off the Gulf Coast

Where on earth does one go nowadays to savour the delights of old world charm, good manners, friendly service and a pace of life that pre-dates the digital age ? Well, contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to go to quiet backwaters like the West of Ireland or New Zealand.

A recent visit to the balmy oasis that is Anna Maria Island, a 7.5 mile long sand bank a few hundred yards off the West Florida coast just south of Tampa Bay, confirms that such delightful retreats lie much closer to home. A reporter on a visit from Boston arrived minus her luggage which had been misplaced by her airline. In need of refreshment, she and her companion called in at a convenience store to buy a couple of cold sodas. On hearing of their problem, the guy at the counter directed them to their lodgings and gave them some chocolate candies totally free of charge.

This is the sort of little gesture that gives this dream-like backwater its enduring charm. It seems that no-one is in a hurry here except when it comes to service and civility. People still have the time of day to engage in impromptu conversation and give way at traffic junctions with a friendly wave.

This pleasant retro atmosphere is all so reminiscent of life in the 1950-s and this is reinforced by the fact that there is only one high rise building with nothing else over 3 storeys. As our intrepid visitor from New England discovered “Fast-food franchises are few. Mom-and-pop-type motels and cottage colonies rule. Stores sell such vacation necessities as inflatable alligators and purple Slurpees.”

Local residents appear to revel in the fact that the 21st century has left the area so far behind. As far as they are concerned, they are at least 40 years behind the times and the idyllic island is a reminder of Florida as it used to be – just beaches, palm tress and pelicans.