Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Week in the Sun

We were a bit hesitant about flying on Allegiant Airlines but the appeal of a non-stop flight to Florida convinced us to give it a try.  The base price was very reasonable but by the time we paid for carry-on luggage and reserved seats, it was not cheap flying.  However, the flight was comfortable and smooth and right on time and we were in Florida in 2 1/2 hours.  We left from a small airport (South Bend) where parking and security were easy and we arrived at a small airport (St. Petersburg-Clearwater) where getting an Enterprise rental car was also easy.  One disadvantage--no TSA priority clearance on Allegiant.

Our first night was in a Holiday Inn Express because the condo rental was not available until Friday--fortunately a day before the usual Saturday to Saturday rentals.  Except for the warm weather,  we could have been staying anywhere in a generic hotel and eating at Carraba's, a chain even found a few miles from our home. 

We hung out at the Inn until checkout time and then drove down US19,  which also could have been anywhere with all of its strip malls and chain stores, to Tarpon Springs, which was refreshingly unique.  The harbor was full of fishing boats, the tourist stores sold the usual kitsch, but also sponges, the historic resource found in the bay, and the restaurants were all Greek in cuisine.  Walking down the streets to where we had parked our car, we saw two unmarked buildings full of men sitting and card tables, drinking, and speaking Greek.  This was a Greek village.

We drove down the Gulf Highway, got groceries at a Publix, picked up our keys at Florida Lifestyles and then drove to 1513 The Beach Cottage, the 5th floor condo we had rented through Home Away.  We were relieved to see it was a lovely, spacious unit with a balcony overlooking the Gulf.  The photos were accurate.

Dinner was at The Pub on the Waterfront where I had shrimp and Jim had ribs.  Jim had lots of football to watch and I read.

Saturday:   We walked to Walgreens, crossing a drawbridge across the waterway, and bought the paper products we needed.  It was amazing to feel sweaty and hot!  After lunch we visited the Bird Sanctuary next door where we were most interested in the white egrets in the tree and the pelicans catching fish in their little ponds.

I read outside on the deck; Jim read on the balcony.  There were many comments and "likes" when I  posted a photo of  his reading a dissertation while on vacation.

Notre Dame's win over Georgia Tech in double overtime made it an even better day.  So did a fun supper at Crabby Bill's where Jim had Key West shrimp and mahi and I ventured into trying Florida crab at the market price.  The waitress said they had not had any local crab over the holidays but the traps had been checked and the crabs were just in today!  With hush puppies and cold slaw, I had an authentic local meal and it was very good. I like a menu that distinguishes "house wine" and "wine for fancy types."

Sunday:  A very quiet day.  We walked on the beach and drove to a crowded John's Pass which was billed as an historic fishing village but was instead a collection of the worst of tourist shops.  I swam in a very warm pool, Jim watched lots of football, and we walked to get a great pizza from Beach Pizza which we enjoyed at our condo.  I spent hours reading The Signature of All Things on my Kindle App--a good long read for a vacation.

Monday:  Another quiet day.  Jim found a nearby golf course, Baypointe Gulf Club, and rented clubs, got a cart, tees, balls, and 18 holes of golf all for about $30.  As could be expected, it was not a well-maintained course and his clubs were pretty bad.  But he enjoyed himself anyway and I enjoyed riding along. 

We walked almost a mile to Salt Rock Grill for their Supper Club menu--which meant early bird specials.  It was quite a contrast to Crabby Bill's with its lovely view of the waterway and male waiters with foreign accents dressed in white shirts.  However, it was not pretentious and the mahi Oscar I had was very nice.  We walked home getting periodic glimpses of the sunset when there was a break in the line of condos along the Gulf. 

We watched an amazing basketball game in which Notre Dame struggled to survive over Carolina and then enjoyed Dan's congratulatory text and phone call.

It was a cooler day--not a wonderfully warm Florida day--but far better than the 5 degrees in Granger.

Tuesday:  Another cool and quiet day.  We had a long walk on the beach but the wind made it feel chilly.  We took another walk later to get coffee and a sweet--and that was enough exercise for the day.  Supper was pizza from Beach Pizza again.  Neither one of us felt like a restaurant trip.

Bits and pieces:  I love seeing the moon over the water.  With a full moon and waking up at 4 am the last two nights,  I looked outside.  Last night it was cloudy, but Sunday night I was rewarded with the waves shining like bright lights in the moonlight. 

Pizza for supper tonight--and for breakfast this morning.  There was just enough cereal for one of us and I was quite pleased with my unusual breakfast.

The oddity of seeing Christmas lights and palm trees together.

The cottage kitsch décor of this place and too many mirrors--but it is very comfortable and home for the week.

South Haven, Michigan is the best place on earth for a week's vacation with the beautiful "Big Lake" and the restaurants and shops all within walking distance.  However, it is not the best place for a warm vacation in the winter!  We have found a restaurant, coffee shop, and pizza take-out within a walk but otherwise a car is needed here. 

Wednesday:  Coffee at 5 pm on Tuesday affected us both with difficulty in falling asleep.  Can't do that again!

Jim golfed at East Bay, a nicer course.  I napped and exercised in the pool.  Dinner was at Guppy's where I got the grouper sandwich I wanted to try before we left--and it was good! 

Thursday:  Very cold overnight--down to the 30s!  But it's -8 in South Bend with wind chill far below that.  We are at the airport now waiting for our flight which is scheduled to leave on time.  Leaving here should be fine--landing in South Bend--we hope for the best.


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