Kick Scooting In John's Pass, Ybor City, Tarpon Springs Sponge Dock, Dunedin, & Clearwater Beach
[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 3/15/2011 - www.Littleviews.com ]
Relaxing and Almost Seeing
FEBRUARY 20, 2011: It was probably a mistake to try to see the Salvador Dali Museum this weekend. Saturday and Sunday's perfect weather attracted crowds of tourists. We'll try to see it again on a weekday.
Wonderful Tourist Haven at John's Pass in Madeira Beach
FEBRUARY 21, 2011: Possibly unlike Rick Steves and other travel writers, I adore tourist spots where local people care enough about visitors to make their community a unique and welcoming place. Historic communities filled with awe-inspiring ruins are nice, but so are beautiful, pulled-together areas that make visiting fun.
Here, you'll find more than enough interesting places to enjoy food while overlooking John's Pass, which is a crystal blue bay filled with boats, Pelicans, the clean lines of the John's Pass Bridge. Best, you'll find several shops that truly represent Florida and the people who live here.
Another incredible find is Kip Barry's Magic Shop. Kip (pictured below) is an internationally known magician who teaches and sells magic tricks. Ask him to show you The Magic of D'Lite! Have some time on your hands? He also leads formal classes on the art of magical performances.
Other shops that particularly caught my attention were:
The Spice and Tea Exchange, where you can select from hundreds of spices and specially packaged tea blends.
Vegetable Ivory - Taqua Nut, where you find locally carved Ciclantacea Palm seed (which look like ivory) statues and jewelry. This particular shop, which does not have a website, is also located in Tarpon Springs, FL.
Besides enjoying all the bay views, dining, and strolling around interesting shops, John's Pass also offers boating opportunities that include jet skiing, paragliding, traditional tour boating (dolphin watching), party boating, and fishing. Consider a cruise on The Pirate Ship, which offers two hour sails during the morning, afternoon, and sunset.
And, of course, what really makes the John's Pass area interesting is that if you want to swim, enjoy a day on the beach, or just gaze at hand-held kites floating above the Gulf of Mexico, all you need to do is walk across the street.
Finally Got Into the Salvador Dali Museum
FEBRUARY 22, 2011: We were finally able to enter the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg without a long weekend or holiday line in front of us. With all the elbow room we now had, I thought it might be nice to take a picture of the museum's architecture. Unfortunately, right after snapping the picture, I was told that picture taking was not allowed on the third floor.
We really loved the museum (although Dali's sketchbook was horrific) and with that in mind, we were amused that we had to enter and exit it through its large and well-stocked gift shop.
Kick Scooting in Ybor City (located in Tampa, Florida)
FEBRUARY 23, 2011: Ybor City was founded by Vicente Martinez Ybor in the 1880's as a cigar manufacturing town. To attract workers to this then desolate part of the country, Ybor built hundreds of cottages to house the Cuban and Spanish cigar workers he sought to attract. Given Ybor's incentives to attract skilled labor, other cigar manufacturers moved into the area, making Tampa a major cigar production center until the mid-1930s, when cigarettes and machine-rolled tobacco became popular.
Today, Ybor's historic shopping area is still home to several small cigar making factories. We were particularly impressed by the Gonzalez y Martinez Cigar Factory, which is housed in the famous Columbia Restaurant's block-long building.
Because we met friends during our tour of the city, we didn't have enough time to browse through the Ybor City Museum Society and Ybor City Museum State Park. We did, however, did enjoy the museum's beautifully landscaped yard.
When we reached the restaurant at around 3PM, the wait for a table was 25 minutes. Instead of dining, we sat at its highly polished wooden bar where we drank rich Cuban coffee and espresso. When done, we toured the rest of its facility where we saw its sunny Patio Dining Room, built to resemble an outdoor patio in the South of Spain. This restaurant is definitely one of the area's highlights.
Tarpon Springs Sponge Dock and Clearwater Beach's Captain Jack
FEBRUARY 24, 2011: The picture below is of Clearwater Beach's white sand, not snow!
We've been in the Treasure Island/St. Petersburg area for almost two weeks. The first week was relatively chilly (for those of you in the North, don't laugh) just reaching the 70s by afternoon and dropping to the low-60s by evening. This week, however, has been perfect. Daily temperatures have been 75 to 80 degrees and early evenings remained warm. It's that warmth that led us to revisit the area from Tarpon Springs through Clearwater Beach, including Honeymoon Island and Dunedin, to see what we missed and whether additional Florida sunshine made a difference on our perceptions.
Yesterday, Janet and Don Casearelli of Tarpon Springs suggested that we visit their town to see its amazing Sponge Docks. While we were a bit cynical about what we'd find, we're delighted that we made the effort to get there!
The Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks is one Florida's few remaining downtown working waterfronts. The dock itself is devoted to sponge harvesting, while the surrounding Historic Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks Business District provides excellent Greek food (bakery, hero sandwiches, and full-service dining), plus a fabulous place to shop for local treasures and imports.
I purchased a very large, architecturally interesting sponge, plus six flowering bromeliads (also called air plants), which will blend nicely with my display of antique Japanese baskets. We found prices for everything to be quite reasonable and selections of handcrafted items from Greece and other parts of Europe to be fascinating.
Although you can't productively kick scoot on the island itself, you can reach it by kick scooting on the causeway leading to the island. Along the way, you can also stop to swim, fish, and/or rent kayaks, jet skis, and body boards.
Next, we drove to Clearwater Beach (below), which is known for its very fine, soft white sand and the park that surrounds it.
Clearwater Beachs' landmark is Pier 60 (see below), where all types of entertainers hold forth and the locations of small, table-top shops are marked by multi-colored umbrellas. For 50-cents, the far end of the pier provides a romantic place to see the sunset, but, as I wrote in an earlier post, so do all other locations along the beach.
Scooting is especially nice in this area as the sidewalk between Pier 60 and the southern edge of Clearwater Beach borders stunning scenic views. Scooting minimizes otherwise long walks to areas of interest and, when coupled with breathing the Gulf of Mexico's sweet-smelling breezes, makes for a refreshing way to travel.
Questions? Just ask!
Article by Karen Little. Photographs primarily by Karen Little with help from Philip Little. First published on www.Littleviews.com on 3/15/2011. All rights reserved.