|We can highly recommend Hotel Hollander in St. Petersburg|
|Salvador Dali Museum, 2nd largest |
Dali collection in the world
Tallahassee was forgettable, but St. Petersburg and Tampa were nice, as were a few parts of the Keys and Coral Gables in the Miami area. Lodging in Tampa was very expensive, so we opted to spend three nights in St. Petersbug, at a nice historic hotel, popular with long-dead movie stars. It was close to everything downtown, including the Salvador Dali museum and the Sunken Gardens.
|Fun day of biking and frequently getting lost in Tampa|
|A mini cigar factory in Ibor|
We drove the crazy causeway traffic to Tampa and enjoyed a nice day of bicycling to Ybor (Little Cuba), having a memorable lunch at the historic Columbia Restaurant.
|The lavish Henry Plant Resort|
opened in 1891
|Bar at Columbia, the oldest surviving restaurant in FL|
|Wine & cheese on the dock.|
Ahh, now this is what we were expecting!
|Idyllic view from |
|Not-so idyllic view 36 hours later|
But 36 hours later a big storm blew in with 50 mph winds that toppled trees and made our idyllic evening dinner of wine and cheese on the dock the night before seem inconceivable. Our Air B&B room had no table or chairs, except for those outside, but they kept getting blown over.
When in doubt take a road trip! We drove 100 miles southwest to Key West. The Florida Keys are long. Sometimes on the two-lane highway we are surrounded only by the Gulf of Mexico on one side, and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. But traffic made it difficult to enjoy the view. The bridges are impressive, as is the abandoned railroad infrastructure from long ago. Not impressive are the strip malls in the towns along the way.
|The Florida Keys (some of them)|
Key West is quite the tourist town, but walkable and bicycle friendly. We toured the Hemingway home, saw Harry Truman's winter white house (used by every president from Taft to Clinton). We rented bikes for two hours, and it was delightful when the wind was at our back. Coming back, we nearly got blown over.
|One of 53 six-toed cats on the |
Hemingway estate, sleeping on his bed
The highlight of our visit to the Keys was a private boat tour to a very small part of the salt water portion of Everglades National Park. The mangroves were a calm and beautiful oasis from the windy open water. Many of the trees are as old or older than the redwoods and sequoias. They protect the coastline and are protected everywhere in the world except for Indonesia, which is destroying them to make room for shrimp farms. (Don't buy shrimp from Indonesia!).
|Drifting through the Everglades|
|The old and slow-growing mangrove trees|
|Our Air B&B suite was a former single car garage|
|Most of this is a parking garage!|
We ate lunch at a hole-in-the wall Cuban restaurant frequented by construction workers, then toured the over-the-top Vizcaya estate, completed in 1922. James Deering, the founder of International Harvester, imported entire rooms and ceilings from Europe and built the home around them.
|The Vizcaya estate|
We spent our final full day in Shark Valley, a grassland portion of Everglades National Park. We rented bikes and rode 15 miles along canals and grasslands and saw countless alligators and spectacular birds. A nice ending to a mostly urbanized trip.
|Photo bombed by a gator!|
|One of many herons we spotted|
|The only gator we saw moving |
the whole day
|Most of the Everglades are vast grasslands. |
It was soooo nice to be in an official US wilderness area!