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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 ]



The following five articles were initially a part of blog related to a road trip that took place between February 8 and March 5, 2011. They contain more pictures than the original blog, which is no longer posted.
Kick Scooting Savanna and Vacationing Near St. Petersburg

Kick Scooting In Treasure Island, Tampa, Clearwater Beach, Dunedin & Sarasota

<|> <|> <|> Kick Scooting In John's Pass, Ybor City, Tarpon Springs Sponge Dock, Dunedin & Clearwater Beach

Kick Scooting In Hollywood, Miami Beach, Ft. Lauderdale & Daytona Beach

Visiting Charleston, SC, Learning About the Festiva Hospitality Group, and Home Again
Thank you to NYCeWheels, specialists in portable vehicles including adult kick scooters for providing guidance, adult kick scooters, and a folding bike for testing. Visit them at 1603 York Avenue (between 84th and 85th Street), New York, NY 10028.

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.

On our way back to our motel, we discovered an old-fashion tourist shopping MECCA, called John's Pass Pier, which is not far from where we're staying. Until now, I thought that Florida's barrier islands were almost devoid of these types of tourist shops, replaced by occasional huge drug stores, grocery stores, chain t-shirt shops, and ever-present restaurants.

John's Pass Village appears to be a fairly new (or possibly remodeled) shopping district built around what used to be a small fishing community and pier, although that isn't evident from the road. It is located north of Treasure Island via the David Welch Causeway and Bridge in the City of Madiera Beach and features numerous boating and fishing opportunities, as well as shopping.

Like the Dali museum, it was also mobbed, so we'll visit tomorrow. With "nothing more to do," I spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beach, just 20 feet from the gently lapping Gulf of Mexico waves.

Reality Alert! By the way, if you are keeping up with the news and what appears to be the desire of some politicians and the Tea Party to dismantle environmental protections as well as to reduce the rights of the working class, you might be interested in reading the history of John's Pass. Not only could scenarios like this happen to us in the future, it appears that the process has begun.

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.

Madeira Beach's John's Pass Pier, which I briefly discussed yesterday, is an absolute delight. Its buildings radiate the feeling of an old fishing wharf without that "authentic" old fish smell. It is, however, still a fishing village, but a very clean Pelican and Dolphin-friendly fishing village, thanks to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

John's Pass, Madeira Beach, Florida - Feb. 2011

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.

Make a point of stopping by Impressive Design's Florida Wines where you can sample any of their over 40 bottles of Florida's finest fruit wines. I particularly loved their Key Limen, Banana, and Hurricane 5 Wine, the last of which is a 10% alcohol-by-volume Sangria. Pictured below is Janine who pours samples and provides reliable guidance.

Impressive Designs and Florida Wines - Feb. 2011

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.

(Note: I'll provide contact information on Kip Barry in the near future. With respect to The Magic of D'Light, you can see its fascinating inventor, Rocco, perform periodically at New York City's Monday Night Magic.)

Kip Barry's Magic in John's Pass, Florida - Feb. 2011

Other shops that particularly caught my attention were:

    Lori's Soap & Sponge Market, where you can buy a wide variety of sponges and the best smelling soaps this side of heaven.

    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.

The Pirate Ship at John's Pier, Florida - Feb. 2011

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.

Top of the staircase in the Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg - Feb. 2011

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.

Columbia Restaurant, Ybor City in Tampa, Florida - Feb. 2011

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.

Making Cigars at Gonzalez y Martinez in the Columbia Restaurant - Feb. 2011

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.

Overall, we found kick scooting in Ybor City to be a breeze. Apparently, there's a slight grade that starts in the west, allowing us to gently coast, rather than kick, as we traveled east.

Ybor City is about fresh cigars, and if you seek them for yourself, or as gifts, this is the place to come. Other highlights include tattoo parlors, night clubs, restaurants, the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, art galleries, and the spectacular Columbia Restaurant (pictured here), which was founded in 1905.

Karen Little after drinking a rich cup of Cuban coffee at Ybor City's Columbia Restaurant - Feb. 2011

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!

White sands of Clearwater Beach - Feb. 2011

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!

Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs, FL - Feb. 2011

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.

Here you can select from a wide variety of shells, some carved, all at reasonable prices. You'll also find beautifully scented olive-oil soaps, silver jewelry, and (you guessed it!) unusually shaped sponges. While you can purchase all of these things at various Florida coastal destinations, I've found the best selection of everything at this location. For a nice map of the area, click HERE.

Shops at Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs, FL - Feb. 2011

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.

There are, however, other things to do besides eat and shop. These include a sponge harvest demonstration cruise, Dolphin cruises, fishing trips, and Greek-related classes and workshops. You can also stroll through an aquarium, participate in ongoing events, take tours, and even play golf. Coupled with Florida's sunshine, Greek culture, and sweet Tarpon Springsair, it's a wonderful place to visit!

We then visited the Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area, a natural barrier island where, if you arrive at the crack of dawn, you can beach comb for beautiful shells. The picture below shows typical tourists, all holding plastic bags to accommodate the shells they find. By early afternoon, however, few big shells remain.

Beach combers holding plastic bags for shells at Honeymoon Island, FL - Feb. 2011

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.

Once past Honeymoon Island, we stopped at Dunedin's Edgewater Park, unfolded our kick scooters, and proceeded to scoot along Edgewater Drive, which runs along the Gulf of Mexico and leads all the way to Clearwater. It features miles of coastline, beautiful scenery, and plenty of placards telling us what we were seeing.

View along Dunedin's Edgewater Drive - Feb. 2011

Next, we drove to Clearwater Beach (below), which is known for its very fine, soft white sand and the park that surrounds it.

Beach during late afternoon at Clearwater Beach, FL - Feb. 2011

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.

Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach, FL - Feb. 2011

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.

Pier 90 itself, however, is fairly narrow, making "scooter walking" the best practice. Still, you never know what's going to happen along the way. I was commandeered by Clearwater Beach's Captain Jack. My husband, Phil, had to use desperate measures in order to rescue me, and most importantly, get my scooter back.

Clearwater Beach Captain Jack, FL - Feb. 2011

Questions? Just ask!
Karen Little

The following five articles were initially a part of blog related to a road trip that took place between February 8 and March 5, 2011. They contain more pictures than the original blog, which is no longer posted.
Kick Scooting Savanna and Vacationing Near St. Petersburg

Kick Scooting In Treasure Island, Tampa, Clearwater Beach, Dunedin & Sarasota

<|> <|> <|> Kick Scooting In John's Pass, Ybor City, Tarpon Springs Sponge Dock, Dunedin & Clearwater Beach

Kick Scooting In Hollywood, Miami Beach, Ft. Lauderdale & Daytona Beach

Visiting Charleston, SC, Learning About the Festiva Hospitality Group, and Home Again
Thank you to NYCeWheels, specialists in portable vehicles including adult kick scooters for providing guidance, adult kick scooters, and a folding bike for testing. Visit them at 1603 York Avenue (between 84th and 85th Street), New York, NY 10028.

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.





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