Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dunedin and Tampa, Florida

Dunedin and Tampa Bay, Florida

1/27/2013 - 2/2/2013

On Sunday we drove over the cool causeways (bridges to us Westerners). Drove by restaurants and shops in the Pier 60 area. We would have stopped but there was no where to park. So many people out on a great day. We then drove over to Sand Key Beach where you can park and use the beach, that has showers, bathrooms and changing rooms for $5.00. It was a very nice beach. We took a walk along the shore and I don't think I've ever been to a beach that had more shells. We picked up some pretty ones. We ate biscotti (low fat, low sodium) for our lunch and had juice. We were on our best behavior. We actually used our chairs for the first time. Hard to believe we've packed around two folding chairs for so many months. I want to leave them in Dunedin for Dave if he has a storage place. 
Sand Key Beach
Clearwater, Florida
As we packed for this trip, along with being in the process of packing up our entire home that we had sold, it was hard to focus on what we needed. I thought I had our stuff that we were taking down to the bare minimum. We have actually sent home (our Cathy's house) two boxes of things we did not need. Our trunk was so full and now it seems more manageable. We do have Robert coming to join us so we had to get rid of more stuff so he would have room. You don't want a bunch of stuff in the back seat when you travel because it is a great temptation to break into the car. It makes me wonder how much stuff we do need. We have lived out of our trunk for months now and it gives us a free feeling. I'm thinking when I get back I may be able to downsize the things we have in our storage unit. We'll see.

Came back from the beach and went to the Tiki Bar for dinner and drinks to watch the sunset. We shared our table with some nice folks we visited with. John had grilled chicken sandwich and I had a shrimp po'boy. I'm getting addicted to these darn sandwiches. At sunset we had our free sunset shot and all cheered as the sun sank right into the ocean. Wonder where it goes?
Enjoying a cocktail at the
Tiki Bar
A beautiful sunset
Every sunset was different and fantastic

Monday we took a drive North up to Tarpon Springs. This area was populated by Greeks who were sponge divers. It is also a wintering area for the manatees. We went to Spring Bayou, a popular manatee area, but we didn't get to see any. The area around this watering hole is called the Silver Circle because the very wealthy built mansions here. Many of them are still there today and it was fun to look at the beautiful homes.
Fantastic tree
Florida has super trees
Different angle
Last angle
Just so interesting

We then drove out to Howard Park Beach. A nice beach area there, but we headed over to the park area and walked around. Picnic tables, shade, large group areas so it was a nice place. We drove back into Tarpon Springs and drove down the street called Sponge Row. At the end we stopped at a restaurant on the water called Rusty Bellies. A lady walking out as we went in said the food was great. We had a nice lunch, cute place, wonderful food, good service. I rated it a 5 on TripAdvisor when I got home. You would not have believe what John got for a small House Salad. Unreal.
We had the best lunch here

After we ate we went next door to their fish market and I bought a Blue Soft Shell Crab and two Stone Crab claws. The soft shell you eat it all, just clean out the guts and the rest you eat. The Stone Crab claws were so hard and I had no crab crackers. I had to use the end of a chef knife and wrapped the handle with paper towels and hit the claws until they cracked. They were already cooked so I just warmed them up. The Blue Crab, I had to clean it and then sort of fried it in melted butter with a little garlic salt. These crabs – and little bit that they were, cost $14.40. I'm glad I tried them since I'm a crab fiend, but I didn't think either type was very delish. My favorite of all time is Snow Crab. Sweet as sugar when they are good.
Sponge and fishing boats

So full and not wanting to walk down a tourist street, we just slowly headed toward home. We did stop at Walmart and I got a new outfit shorts, shirt and even new flip flops. I had a pair of short that had torn, so one thing could be replaced. When you only have about 6 tops, it is fun to buy a new one. I can't believe that I actually have 2 pair of shoes one pair of flip flops and one pair of tennis shoes. Isn't that unreal. We did decide before we ever left that we were not going to get dressed up for any reason so why take dress clothes. I did mail some shoes home, but I'm proud of myself for cutting what I have to have to the bone. John did tease me though and said I had to go get my shorts at the thrift store. I said that I was pretty sure I could afford Walmart.   He is such a nut.

We slept in on Tuesday since we had scheduled a 1:00 p.m. Lunch with John's cousin Rhonda and her husband, Sparky. John and I went into a few shops in Dunedin while waiting. I bought some cute turtle earrings and three hand painted water colors (Dunedin with a bird, flamingos, and a turtle for me). Spoke with the artist who was very interesting. He has been around Florida all his life and he talked about the old days in the Keys. He painted some paintings that had a red fish in the different scenes and they just cracked me up. Not my style, but they made me laugh. 
Founded 1899 by Scottish families
A wonderful city 

We met at a fresh and healthy Mexican food restaurant right in Dunedin called Casa Tina. It is very highly rated and it was a place Rhonda had wanted to go. They live in Tampa, so it wasn't too much of a drive over. We had not seen each other in over 20 years. Last time we saw them Robert was 18 months old, and they had come to Boise. John had chicken mole and enjoyed it. Mine had some spice I don't care for (but I'm not sure what it is), so I ate about half. They both enjoyed their lunch and we had a nice visit. Rhonda had brought some old pictures of John when she cleaned out some of her mother's things. She had a picture of John at about 9 giving Rhonda, just a little kid about 4, a big hug. Fun seeing those old photos.
Cousins, Rhonda and John

Spent Wednesday just messing around. The wind was howling, white caps on the water so not a perfect day in paradise today. Drove over to Honeymoon Island, founded for real honeymooners in 1939, just little straw type huts, served about 200 people and then closed when WWII broke out. From this island you take a ferry and can go to Caledesi Island, which has one of the top beaches in the world. We didn't take the ferry, but stopped by a deli for a turkey sandwich. Their sign board says they serve 30 lbs. of turkey a day which is amazing. Our turkey sandwiches were the best we have ever had. Oh I wish they were always close to where we are. Walked out on the pier at Beso del Sol, but with wind so high it wasn't fun. Packed up room and car so we're ready to hit the road tomorrow.

Up early, packed up and hit the road with breakfast along the way. We drove down to Clearwater to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. I would not define it as an aquarium, more of a rescue and research center, but we had a good time. They had sea otters, two nurse sharks, several rescued turtles and dolphins with the star of the show being Winter. They just made a move called A Dolphins Tale, starring Winter. She lost her tail when she was little and was rescued and nursed back to health with 24/7 care. A new technique in prosthetics was developed in creating a tail for her and the movie on this has inspired many people who use prosthetic devices. We haven't seen the movie, but now we will for sure.
Winter - showing where her tail
is missing
Now we have to see the movie

From Clearwater we drove down, or over, or where ever it is, to Tampa. We stayed at a house and rented a room for a reasonable price. This is the first time we have done this. The high season prices are starting to kick in here and finding deals is getting harder. The site is airbnb and you can find homes, condos, or rooms in homes for some decent prices. We rented the condo in Cancun where we will be staying for two months for a very good price through this site. The lady was not home so she e-mailed me that she just left her house open. We went and had dinner (a hungry day) a Pollo Tropical, a place they grill chicken, sort of Caribbean food. John had chicken and I had their pork. Both were very good. I don't think we've seen this chain in the West. Went to the house and unloaded our stuff. Sat on the couch and rested a bit and Danielle came home. She is very nice and we had a good visit.

I can't not mention that we ate at the Taco Bus.  The cooking is done in an old bus and they have a small restaurant attached.  They have opened a few other places in the area.  Had high ratings from TripAdvisor and they are open 24/7.  I read that they had cochinita pibil, so of course I had to go.  I ordered a c.p. and it was huge and so tasty.  We stopped in to a huge Cuban bakery, but they didn't have much so left with nothing.  Did some research to find Mexican bakery and boy did we find one.  The best Mexican pastry we've ever had.  I had something with quince in it, and we ordered 4 palm like pasteries we love.  Oh gosh, I wish I lived next door.  Such great quality.  We have in general had terrific food in Florida at reasonable prices.
Danielle's cute house
built in the 20's - old historic
area of Tampa
Friday, Gena up before 7:00 a.m. I actually get up earlier now than when I worked. It is 9:00 and little John is still sleeping. Danielle just e-mailed me and asked if we wanted to go out with her and her friends for an oldies cruise and make some stops for dinner and drinks along the way. She got home and brought her two friends from work. They got all fixed up and we hopped into her 1967 Chevy Impala. We went to a cool pizza place, then to a neat bar that had live music. We had such a good time being out in the evening. Danielle is awesome.
The girls - they all had on high
heels and I had on flat
Yikes, I'm not that short 

Saturday, up and spent a little time showing Couch Surfers to Danielle and explaining it all. Then we went with her down to a cute little shop in her neighborhood. The lady that owns the store is a super lady who tells great stories and has a heart of gold. She makes cards and has elementary school kids write notes to the service men and women and then she mails them off. Her own son is in the Marines and was in Afghanistan and is now in Korea. This lady has a heart of gold. After this visit we hit the road. 

We were a bit on the early side since check in at resort was around 3:00 p.m. so we stopped along the way in Lakeland, Florida. I went on TripAdvisor to see what to do and the number one attraction was Hollis Park. What a special park with the greatest kids area and beautiful Lake Mirror and Hollis Gardens. A very unique place. We had the best lunch at the Garden Bistro. I could eat the sandwich I had for lunch every single day. We then drove around Morton Lake and that was very pretty and had lots of swans – even a black swan. 

Loquat Tree - no one seems to be
familiar with these.  I found a ripe one on the ground
and ate it.  They must not have this fruit commercially.
I remember them as a kid in California and dearly
love them.  Anyone know about these?

Back on the road, check into our place and we were so lucky because we get to stay in the same room for 3 weeks instead of changing rooms. This is a blessing when for us since we move around so much. Three continuous weeks – besides our trip up to Tallahassee we will make this weekend to see Maria Gubbels, our friends daughter who will be checking on and auditioning at Florida State University. They have a wonderful music program that Maria hopes to get into.

Got settled in our room. Read my e-mail and we are invited to a Super Bowl party tomorrow. Our job is to bring the beer, so we went to the store and got beer and some other food for our condo so we can eat in as much as possible. With John's limitations of fat, sodium especially, vitamin K, it is just hard to find food that is good for him. So I'll cook us meals as often as I can. We did get Subway for tonight and I thank my lucky stars for Subway and the healthy meals we can get there.

So the fun continues and we will rest up a bit here. They have a wonderful swimming pool that is so warm you can just walk in because it has a sloping entry like the beach. No hesitation at all, just walk in.

Sorry, this really got long................