Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Holiday Update Post - Day 7, 8 and 9

Warning: Image Heavy Post!
Early on Sunday morning Leon and I were dropped off at Hertz to pick up our shiny rental car for the next few days. We had booked a “Ford Focus or similar” and I was hoping for an American car. However we ended up with a Honda Civic (Sadly no pics). I joked, on the way out, that I’d come a long way to end up in a Japanese car, to which the clerk responded, “but it’s good on fuel!” – and she wasn’t kidding!
Anyway, Leon drove us back to the villa to give him chance to have a go in the car before we got to Clearwater – our next destination. We picked up the case for our mini-holiday and headed off, alone.

Clearwater was about an hour and a half drive from the villa in Kissimmee, and despite the roadworks on the way, our Google maps directions got us to the hotel. We pulled up outside the “Quality Inn on the Beach” just as it began to rain. When it rains in Florida, it really goes for it. The man in the parking lot was very helpful and sorted us out with what we needed to do.
Anyway, once the rain was stopped and the car was legally parked, we went for a walk down to the main beach. We didn’t get that far, for two reasons: it was further than we thought and very hot, and there were more road works. Poo.
We did pick up some very useful maps of the area which had all sorts of useful bit on them, like where was nice to eat and who did dolphin cruises.
So, we ate in a small sea-food restaurant on the bay called Shells. It turned out that margaritas were 2-for-1, but they don’t say so, they just bring you two!  Clearwater Shells bar - Leon The food was nice, though I find I can’t eat as much when I’m hot. The view was nice too, but we decided that the view from the hotel tiki bar would be better for the sunset. In fact, our hotel room faced west too!
The beach had been busy that day (it was the last day of the summer holidays for the students we encountered on the beach, I think) and the bar just down the beach had some kind of live DJ thing going on, which we could enjoy for free where we were.
 Clearwater Tiki bar - Sunset There was a storm brewing that night, but it didn’t hit until quite late, by which time we were tucked up in bed! The next morning, and our only whole day in Clearwater, we had decided that we were going to go on a dolphin watching cruise. I had been on one of these tours about nine years ago, with my family, and they are fantastic. We booked in on the 11am cruise with “Dolphin Encounters” and then wandered around the shops for a little while, including buying stamps for our postcards. It got to “ten before” as the lady had said, and we went to see about the cruise. It looked like we weren’t going to go as they needed at least four they said, and we were just two. Fortunately a mad American lady, her friend and two children arrived. So off we went.
From the boat we could see our hotel,
The main beach,
And then, dolphins! Woo-hoo! Just as before, it was fantastic. I really enjoyed it. There were several dolphins feeding – one even came up to show us his fish!
 Clearwater Dolphins There was a mother and baby (calf) too, who were diving together. So much fun! Once we’d been out for our hour, they took us back to feed the birds. This sounds quite mundane, but isn’t! you can hold up bread for the seagulls and they’ll pick it right from your fingers. Cool, if a little nerve-wracking!
I enjoyed myself so much that we bought the souvenir photo too.

happy with our dolphin experience (if a little hot) we headed back to the hotel to collect the car ready for our next trip. We had decided to visit Tarpon Springs (home of the Greek community and the sponge divers) and also the Corvettes and Collectables museum there.
We had a bit of fun finding the museum because I thought we were on the 19 (a main road) but we were on the Alt19 (the coast road) – once I had figured that out we managed to find the place. Leon was driving so it was all my map-reading skill! It wasn’t expensive and the cars were all very pretty. Leon saw some of his favourite American Muscle Cars, and I liked the Batmobile.

We had dinner in a Greek restaurant in Tarpon Springs, which was very nice indeed. It almost felt like home, with the non-American food! (there’s only so many fries one can eat)
After this nice steady day we were ready to head back to watch another Clearwater sunset, so I drove us home. We headed down to the tiki bar again, and took some amazing photos – there was a storm coming in too, and it made for some dramatic pictures!  Clearwater Tiki bar - Sunset and Storm, Hayley and Leon After the sun went down we took a walk on the beach (very romantic, despite the sharp shells!)

The following morning, we got up and had breakfast in a small Italian restaurant. I got to have what I think of as an American breakfast (I guess it’s actually an Italian-American breakfast, now I think about it!) – I had eggs benedict Florentine. That’s poached egg on an English muffin with spinach and hollandaise sauce. It was sooooo good!

We had two more destinations before we headed back to the villa. The first of these was Treasure Island. Really. It’s south of Clearwater, but north of St Pete. The beach was so vast, so white and so empty! I had considered staying in Treasure Island rather than Clearwater, but given how quiet we had found Clearwater to be, I think Treasure Island would have been too sleepy.
 Treasure Island Beach It was very nice, mind, but not much to do.
Then we set off to see the Sunshine Skyway, which is a big old suspension bridge. It’s a pretty bridge too. I was concerned that the toll would be dear as we didn’t have much cash left. It was $1 (about 50p) so that was fine, except that we got stuck in traffic on the bridge. It should have taken us an extra 20 minutes to get back, a total of two hours. Instead it took us about three and a half hours to get back to the villa, where everyone else had got back only a short while before.

Leon and I had a fantastic mini-break during our holiday. The vast amount of improvements going on in Clearwater made it a bit difficult as pedestrians (and they have a roundabout, just to confuse you in the car!) but I’d recommend it to anyone. I haven’t seen anywhere on the planet with beaches quite like those on the Gulf of Mexico. (Though I have only been to northern Spain, northern France, Corfu, the Canaries [which come close] and places in the UK – there are so many other places I want to go to…)


Anonymous said...

Fabulous! You look very pretty in the green dress! Thanks for the knitting list, it gives me a bit more of a clue! SP xx

Dianne said...

It sounds as though you have a lovely time!!!