Salvador Dali in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

We left Amelia Island, watching a storm brewing in the sky above us. The weather channel had given tornado warnings before we left, and although we weren’t really sure what we were supposed to do, the roads were comfortably full of other cars, so we figured we would just copy everyone else. As we drove, I tried to Google what we should do if there was a tornado, and abandoning the car and flinging ourselves into a ditch seemed to be the main advice, so I hoped we wouldn’t need it (especially as we might end up sharing a ditch with an alligator!)

We had a couple of stops en route, for bagels and a Mc Donald’s ice-cream. The weather was windy and rainy and as we approached Tampa there was a very tornado-like storm cloud—big and black with wisps coming down. I kept my eye on the possible weather danger while Husband drove (and mostly ignored all my helpful advice about ditches).

We checked into a hotel in downtown St. Petersburg and went for a walk. It was windy, but dry, and we set off for the water front. As we crossed a small square (with fountain and white egrets) a woman passed us at a jog, and shouted: “I just felt 2 drops of rain!”

So what? We thought, and continued on our walk. Within the minute, it was raining—raining as in a deluge of water from the sky! We ran to an awning over some tables, and watched. The wind was blowing the palm trees, the water was coming in torrents, everyone was running for cover. It was amazing!

After a few minutes, it stopped raining, and we continued our walk. The water front was pretty, with boats and docks, but before we could enjoy it properly, we felt a couple of spots of rain. This time we knew what to expect, so began to run for cover! We dodged between awnings and over-hanging porches, until we came to a bar, all the time avoiding great fat drops of rain that the wind flung at us. We went into the bar.

The bar was fabulous. We sat up at the bar, looking at the room in the mirrors behind the bottles of drink. Everyone was damp and laughing, and having a nice time. There were huge televisions showing sport, and people eating, and a babble of conversation. I suggested we have some shots (it seemed appropriate). We didn’t.

When the rain stopped, we went back to the hotel.

Dinner was at The Ford Garage. The restaurant was set up like a garage, complete with a car hanging from the ceiling. Our napkins were like grease-cloths, and the walls were full of car paraphernalia. The food was really nice, and I had funnel cake for dessert (like donuts).

The following morning we went for our early run. The weather was warm and muggy, so running wasn’t very easy, but there was a small lake near the hotel, so we ran round that.

After breakfast (banana French toast and coffee) we walked to the Salvador Dali museum. This is now my favourite art gallery in the whole world. It was obviously designed by someone who loved Dali’s work, as even the building was very much in keeping with his style. There was a staircase that went up to the ceiling, and drippy benches in the garden.

Dali’s work is wonderful—though some needs explaining to be properly understood. It is also very clever. Some of his paintings are pictures within pictures, and the museum had little films next to the paintings, showing how the images combine. For example, his painting of a bull-fighter looks like statues of goddesses, but within that there is a bull dying, and a bull-fighter crying because he feels trapped by his life-style. In a painting of a slave market, as you walk further from the picture, you become aware of a huge skull, which is formed from the bodies of the slaves being sold. It’s all very clever. Plus, I really like Dali’s use of colour, and the way he challenges how we think about things (like time—have you seen his drippy clocks? Is time rigid?)

The museum also has a fabulous shop, and after enjoying Dali’s pictures, we could browse the same works made into notebooks and magnets and jigsaw puzzles. Great place for gifts. There was also a car, which Dali had filled with water, and was driven by a deep-sea diver—playing with the idea that people get taxis to stay dry in the rain. I think that’s what I like about Dali’s work, he plays with ideas. And he is a skilful artist.

Can you see the bull-fighter? (He is wearing a green tie, and has a multi-coloured jacket, and he’s crying…

The Slave Market…can you see the skull image entangled with the slaves?




We had lunch back at the bar we’d sheltered in the day before.

Then we packed our things, and set off for our next stop: Sanibel Island. I absolutely loved St. Petersburg, with its pretty waterfront, and fabulous museum, and amazing weather. I’m so glad we came, even though our visit lasted less than 24 hours. It was all so much fun!

I’ll tell you about Sanibel in another post. Thanks for reading.

Have a great day and take care.

Love, Anne x

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Amelia Island

Amelia Island

We left Savannah, and drove to Amelia Island in Florida. We crossed a large river/swamp to reach the island, so I guess strictly speaking it’s an island, but it didn’t feel like one! The guide book said it had an historical town, with strong links to pirates in times gone by, so I hoped it would be interesting. In actual fact, it had some deeply naff elements.

We passed The Beach Diner on our way to the motel, so after we’d checked in, we went back for dinner (because diners are usually excellent places to eat). We started with clam chowder, which arrived with warm corn bread (not as sweet as yesterday) and was delicious. While we were still eating the chowder, our main courses arrived, which felt a bit rushed. We watched them getting cold on their plastic plates (what is it with this country and plastic plates!) while we finished our soup. I had meatloaf (huge—enough for a family of four) with mashed potato (very tasty) and some indefinable green/grey vegetable that tasted as bad as it looked. My dinner looked barely started by the time I had finished, so I asked for a box. This has become a tradition—after every meal, I ask for the remains to be boxed (which saves embarrassing questions about why I have eaten so little) and then I dispose of it later.

We walked to the beach. Everyone else had driven, right onto the beach, parked their cars, set up a chair less than a foot away, and was relaxing. Maybe they were too full of dinner.

The town is called Fernandina Beach, and it was full of pirate stuff—statues and toys and fridge magnets and books. . . However, I could find no evidence that the island had ever actually been used by pirates. There was no ancient prison, or gallows, or look-out tower. I began to wonder how true the pirate link was. The next day, I asked in the Tourist Office, and we were directed to the Maritime Museum. The Maritime Museum was certainly an experience.

We arrived at the modern building, which is shared with a wine museum, and we went to the counter to ask how much it cost for entry. I was trying to peer round the man, to try and assess what was there, but I could only see one room. We said we were interested in the pirate theme of the town. The man (who to be honest, looked a little like a pirate himself) beamed, and told us he was a ‘treasure hunter’. Unfortunately, Husband misheard, and thought he said ‘treasurer’ and then launched into a conversation about accountancy and was it easy to make the museum financially viable; while I got the giggles and pretended to be very interested in a map of shipwrecks. We paid and went inside—except there wasn’t really an ‘inside’ as the whole museum was the single room that I could see.

We walked along, looking at the displays, while the treasure-hunter-not treasurer watched us from his desk. It felt a little uncomfortable. The museum was basically a room crammed full with stuff the man had collected during his many diving expeditions around the island. The highlight was a canon, from an original pirate ship, which had to be kept in a tank of water (don’t ask me why). The tank of water (looked like a chest-freezer to me) was full of very murky water, due to all the minerals (again, don’t ask me why). It looked to me as if it was full of bath-oil to me, and all we could see was slick grey liquid. It was impossible to tell if anything was in the bottom, let alone a canon.

There were many maps on the walls, and display cases of ‘treasure’ which might, I suppose, have been genuine but they did look suspiciously like they might have been won at the fair. We left the museum, and I felt the whole pirate thing was something of a scam/tourist attraction (though I do think Mr Treasure-Hunter genuinely believed that one day he might discover a hoard of sunken gold).

I’m not sure I particularly like Amelia Island, though it did have some pelicans resting on the jetty. It is also the starting point for the first cross-state railway, built by David Yulee, and his name appears a lot around the island—should you be interested in railways.

We had dinner at Artes Pizza, which advertised as having real wood-burning pizza ovens. We had a view of the kitchen and the only ovens I could see were definitely gas-powered, but maybe I missed something. I was feeling I had had enough of Amelia Island. To be fair, the town was pretty, and at night they decorate all the trees with fairy-lights, and people seemed friendly. But it didn’t feel very ‘real’ to me, and I had no desire to stay.

We left the following morning, and set off for St. Petersburg. Before we left, we checked the weather, which had tornado warnings for the region. Not really sure what we were meant to do with that information—should we cancel our 4-hour drive to St Petersburg? We didn’t, and I’m so glad we didn’t, because our time in St Petersburg was the best 24 hours of the whole trip. But I’ll tell you about it in my next blog.

Thank you for reading. Have a great day, and take care.
Love, Anne x

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A Stolen Holiday

After a week with my sister in New York, I flew down to Florida.

The ‘boys’ met me at Miami airport. Actually, it was Husband (hasn’t been a ‘boy’ for many years) and my sons (who are also no longer ‘boys’) but they will always be boys to me. I was able to hug Son 1 before he disappeared through security for his flight home, then we went in search of food. I was starving. I bought a burger, which I ate in the open-top Mustang they’d hired while we drove across Florida. It is the best burger I have eaten. Possibly the best meal. As I said, I was starving.

Once death-by-starvation had been averted, I looked out of the window. We were driving along ‘Alligator Alley’ and I was keen to spot a gator. I saw swamp, and birds —lots of birds. There were long legged white birds, and dumpy buzzards, and a big brown fishing bird that sort of hung itself out to dry after diving. But I wanted to see an alligator. Son 2 kept pointing them out, but I kept missing them.

Then, suddenly, I saw one. It was huge, about the size of a double bed, and black, and evil looking—horrible. I no longer wanted to see an alligator, they were horrid; and I worried I might have nightmares. I stopped looking. (Note, I may have exaggerated the size very slightly.)

We drove to the west side of Florida, and onto Sanibel Island. We were staying in Sanibel Moorings, which is where we stayed twenty years ago. It’s still lovely. We’ve hired a condo for a few days. It is very pretty, with lots of beach art on the walls, and pastel-coloured furnishings. There is a kitchen (complete with massive American fridge), two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a lounge, and a balcony (enclosed by a fly-net) overlooking the beach. Everything is very clean and comfortable.

It was dark when we arrived, so we unpacked, and the ‘boys’ went out for dinner. I went to bed (you might remember, I had been awake since a very early number!)

Day 1: We went for an early walk along the beach. There are shells everywhere. There are also birds everywhere: little sandpipers that run along the water’s edge looking for food, huge pelicans that glide over the sea like fighter-pilots, tall white birds (egrets, I think) with their funny yellow feet. The sea is full of dolphins, but we didn’t see any today.
There are also lots of palm trees. There is something very exciting about palm trees.

We strolled towards the lighthouse. It doesn’t actually have a house, and is more of a ‘light-pylon’; but I guess it does the job.
We then went back to the car (because when you’ve hired an open-top Mustang and have stolen a holiday in November, you kind of want to cruise in the sunshine while you can). We drove to Captiva, the next island. There were lots of expensive houses, and mangrove swamps, and strips of beach. There was also Santa, climbing a palm tree, which feels wrong.

We went to Bailey’s Supermarket and bought bagels for lunch. There was lots of fresh fruit. There were also cartons of orange juice, from Spain. This feels very wrong (in the UK, all the orange juice is from Florida). The world is mad.

For dinner, we went to a fish restaurant. Sanibel has a lot of restaurants, and most of them are fish restaurants. We went to one which felt a bit weird when we entered, as it was big and sold tee-shirts; it felt more like a sports centre. But once we were settled into a booth, eating fresh hot prawns (which Americans call “shrimp”) and drinking cold beers, it felt just fine. Eating in America is always good.

I will tell you more about our ‘stolen holiday’ soon. It feels sort of naughty to be here in November!
Have a fun week and take care.
Love, Anne

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