The first couple of months of 2017 had me in a whirlwind of stress due to some difficult work projects, so I was even more excited than normal to be able to get away with my husband for a relaxing beach vacation in Southeast Florida.
Clearwater Beach, FL
We weren’t the only ones who thought a February beach vacation was a good idea. Clearwater Beach was packed! It was fun to watch so many toddlers and children building sandcastles in the sand and wading in the ocean. It kind of made us wish our grandchildren were there with us. We were also entertained by a marching percussion band on the beach. A group of young men, who appeared to be part of a college soccer team, held soccer practice right in front of our chairs. I guess practicing on the beach is more fun than practicing on a soccer field. They had some serious skills! It was fun to see them in action. The ocean was packed with boats, as well. People were sailing, dolphin cruise boats were all around, and Captain Memo’s Pirate Ship fired a few “cannons” at us!
We browsed the Art Festival on the Pier, did a little bit of shopping, and searched out the best places for seafood before taking in the glorious sunset.
We spent the next day on a smaller, quieter beach, just enjoying the sound of the small waves splashing against the sand and watching for dolphins to pop out of the water. We did a lot of reading and a little napping. The weather was perfect, with warm temperatures, sunny skies, and a gentle breeze. Before we knew it, the pirate ship was sneaking up on us again. It looked like the passengers were having fun!
St. Pete’s Beach, FL
We did a bit of exploring on St. Pete’s Beach, and found ourselves at the Postcard Inn. This is an old motel that has been renovated with a vintage art deco theme. I was mesmerized by the over-sized bookcase that lined one wall. The end tables in the lobby were made out of painted bicycle rims, and the huge coffee table held a centerpiece of vintage luggage. The courtyard was lined with palm trees and eclectic lawn furniture. We enjoyed a lunch of fish and chips and tropical chicken wraps on the beach while watching some young people play beach volleyball.
Historic St. Petersburg, FL
We spent one afternoon exploring beautiful Historic St. Petersburg, where we found some amazing architecture and beautiful boats on the water. Wide sidewalks and park benches surrounded by flowering plants made for the perfect place to take a long walk. Adorable animal statues are relaxing on the benches in the town square, and the store front windows were filled with artistic creations. We loved visiting the Sweet and Savory Spice Shoppe, which offered a large selection of freshly-ground spices. I’m looking forward to experimenting with some of the spices and seasonings we purchased.
Ybor City, FL
Once the hub of Tampa’s cigar industry, this historic Tampa neighborhood is now a hot spot of cultural entertainment for tourists as well as Florida residents. Beautiful old buildings with wrought iron balconies line the brick-paved streets. Flavors of the cultures of Cuba, Spain, and Italy abound as a result of the many immigrants who once worked in the cigar industry. You can still watch people hand-rolling cigars in many store windows. There is an abundance of restaurants, offering every type of cuisine imaginable, as well as eclectic coffee shops and artists’ shops.
Restaurant tours and cigar factory tours are available, as well as trolleys running through the heart of the neighborhood, but we enjoyed just walking around, checking out the art galleries and Latin markets, having lunch, studying the architecture and doing some people-watching while relaxing on the sidewalk benches.
We visited during the early afternoon but I’m guessing that, with its many cigar bars, nightclubs, and occasional tattoo parlors, Ybor City is definitely an “adults only” place at night, but it’s rich history makes it a fun place for families to visit during the daytime.
One other fun thing about Ybor City is the fact that chickens roam freely along the streets. Upon doing a little research, I learned that they are the direct ancestors of the chickens that belonged to the immigrants who lived and worked there more than a hundred years ago. We saw a few chickens and a couple of beautiful roosters!