A Long Lunch Tour, with SW Florida Walking Tours, provides the opportunity to take advantage of the great outdoors, while making stops at a few Punta Gorda restaurants and enjoying the sights. I met tour guide and owner of SW Florida Walking Tours, Evie Alexander, and a half-dozen other folks (who were visiting from North Port) at Bella’s Bistro, on West Marion Street, right at 11 a.m., where the tour began.

Alexander, gave us a guide of the restaurants and sites we were going to be visiting, and most of the restaurants had included some type of a discount or giveaway we could use if we decided to visit there again in the future on our own.

Bella’s offered us a choice of eggs benedict or biscuits and gravy, and being a good Southerner, I picked biscuits and gravy. Both dishes included quite a bit of food, and I silently wondered how I would ever be able to eat that amount of food at all the restaurant stops, but I was pretty sure I could persevere.

After we left Bella’s Evie took us through the back alley entrance to the Artisan Atelier, where we met several artists, like Loretta Evans, who was there making stained glass, and Howard Goldson, who was very happy to tell us the inspiration behind his interesting art creations. “Every conversation starts with an idea,” he said.

From there, we made our way to the Charlotte County Courthouse, but as we passed by a mural of early pioneer George Brown, Alexander stopped to tell us a little about the man who was the third postmaster of Punta Gorda, and at the time, owned 50% of all the real estate in the town.

At the courthouse, we had stopped in to just take a look at the early 1920s architecture, but were lucky enough to pass by Charlotte County Supervisor of Elections, Paul Stamoulis. He told us that the doors to the historic courtroom upstairs were open, and we should go up and take a look, so that’s what we did. It was a lovely representation of the design of that time, when both opposing parties and the judge looked to be seated way too close to each other.

Our next stop was Isabel & Anabel’s Mexican Restaurant, a wonderful family-owned eatery on Marion Ave. Owner Juan Ramirez came over to speak to us, while a server brought by some delicious tortilla chips and homemade salsa. The main dish was several plates of chicken quesadillas that were, quite honestly, the best I have ever had.

Hitting the sidewalk once again, we went into the Chamber of Commerce, where we spent some time in a room that had every square inch of wall space filled with information about things to do in the area. Afterward it was time for more food.

We made our way to Angela’s Restaurant, where Angela served us a caprese salad and drinks out on the shaded patio in back of her building. I honestly can’t think of a better place to be on a warm afternoon than under the branches of the giant banyan trees back there. It was heavenly.

Perch 360, which sits atop the Wyvern Hotel, was our next stop. We had some more drinks and the conversation flowed as we took in the beautiful scenery of the Peace River, and later had some yummy fish tacos. The restaurant manager, Chris, came by to speak to us, and we all took pictures from the rooftop.

From there, we went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which Alexander told us was an exact replica of the memorial in Washington, DC, just on a smaller scale. It’s also made of the same marble, and the setting is just as somber a place as where the original memorial is.

The last stop on our tour was T n D Bakery, where Debbi, the owner, brought out to us plates of coconut macaroons, brownie bites and blondie bites. She explained to us that her baked goods don’t contain any additives, gluten, GMOs or preservatives. I do know, however, that they contain calories, but that didn’t stop me from buying a box of those to take home. One thing is for sure, I may have been hungry when I started the tour, but I most certainly was not when it was over.

Debbie Flessner writes the Live Like a Tourist column for the Sun newspapers. You may contact her at dj@flessner.net.

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