Brandon and Gwen's Adventure

Brandon and Gwen's Adventure

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Our last post eluded to an overland adventure -but that fell through. I wasn't able to finish the teardrop camper in time for our departure, and rather than rushing it along we decided to postpone the build and go without it. Luckily, I have a wonderful wife who put together an exciting trip on very short notice. What could have been a major let down turned into a surprisingly amazing time! In all, we spent ten days in St. Petersburg, FL -or as the locals call it "St. Pete".

Most people have heard of Clearwater, Florida, but seem to be less familiar with St. Pete. I fell into the latter category. Approximately 250, 000 people call St. Pete home and enjoy an unbelievable average of 361 days of sunshine a year - once hitting 768 consistent days of sunshine; a Guinness World Record. For anyone who has lived in Florida, that is pretty incredible! Gwen and I have been to many cities, both big and small, and we both agree that St. Pete is one of the cleanest we have visited. The locals take cleanliness seriously and the evidence of their pride is also displayed with a heavy emphasis on local art. The city is also home to many museums including the Salvador Dali Museum, one of the largest Holocaust Museums in the U.S., and a Museum of Fine Arts just to name a few.

St. Pete is a walking city which means that you can enjoy everything it has to offer without the hassle of searching for parking. We stayed at the Hollander, a boutique hotel built in 1933. It's no secret, I have an affinity for old architecture and history and this place was full of character. The Hollander has original hardwood floors throughout, a mixture of new and old fixtures and hand painted artwork adorning the walls. The Hollander Tap Room and Restaurant has a great selection of delicious foods and an extremely friendly staff. A small coffee shop is conveniently located just to the side of the restaurant and is just across from the spa. While we were staying there a pool was being constructed and should be finished soon. The hotel is extremely pet friendly; in fact there were possibly 10-12 dogs staying there during our stay.

Speaking of dog friendly, St. Pete may be the most dog friendly city I've ever visited. Dogs were welcome in virtually every store and outside of 90% of the restaurants. Water bowls and treats adorned the entrances of nearly every business. Ninja and Kokopelli appreciated escaping the hotel for a chance to stretch their tiny legs. One thing I was surprised of was the abundance of homeless people in the city. There were areas in which they were permitted to sleep outside; one such place was Mirror Lake. They seemed to be welcomed by city officials, but the locals didn't seem to share their enthusiasm. Parking meters placed near the waterfront had been repurposed as "donation stations" for the large homeless population. For the most part they were benign and kept to themselves, with the exception of one in particular who taunted Gwen and I as we crossed the street, but he kept his distance.  Locals warned us about pan handling, but neither one of us experienced any in the ten days we were there.

The time we spent at the Salvador Dali Museum was well worth it. We were fortunate enough to have been there when the Pablo Picasso exhibit was on display. It was an interesting contrast and we learned a lot about the relationship between the two masters of surrealism. Gwen preferred Picasso's style where I favored Dali. I guess that makes sense if you know us.

The city was beautiful and the locals were very friendly. They were quick to recommend restaurants and their favorite dish. The Parkshore Grill appeared to be a local favorite and I must say for the both of us, their food is amazing! I highly recommend the double lobster tails. If you are into craft brews then you won't be disappointed with this region of Florida. Dunedin (pronounced done-eedan) was home to Florida's oldest craft brewery, Dunedin Brewery -which had some very tasty brews if I do say so myself. Virtually everywhere you go there are taprooms filled with Florida's finest craft brews. Warning: attempting to try them all in under a week may lead to cirrhosis.

We visited as many restaurants, breweries, and local attractions as we could (a daunting task but somebody's gotta do it) and snapped some pics along the way. Links to most of the places we visited can be found under the photos.

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Gwen and Kokopelli seated outside the Hollander Restaurant and Tap House.

 photo 86788f55-43d8-473f-9031-e89642e687ed.jpg7venth Sun Brewery in Dunedin, Fl.

 photo 476666AC-1A8D-4711-B5EA-9E4145F6DEA9.jpg The best burgers in St. Petersburg are at Engine Number 9. I highly recommend the "Dork" burger.

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Plaza Tower Courtyard, located downtown was a nice little shopping center with a wine bar, the Wine Madonna, and the Ale and the Witch which had a large selection of local beers on tap.

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The Plaza has live music at night and tons of outside seating to enjoy an adult beverage or sushi from next door.

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The Ale and the Witch.

 photo 57dd97de-5c90-4618-bba9-9ebb3767cce9.jpg The Wine Madonna.

 photo 2538ff81-64e7-41cd-9fa8-9e273e735d5b.jpg Dunedin Brewery "Florida's Oldest Craft Brewery."

 photo 0e3ebf7f-fba3-4274-b956-0437ce94a857.jpg 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House.

 photo 318d61d1-ba05-4249-8e5b-bd430e39dc0a.jpg Crabby's Bar and Grill in Clearwater, Fl.

 photo ab102468-dcff-43e9-9ef4-1aada11c0ce6.jpg Parkshore Grill. The Double lobster tails are amazing!

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Gwen and I at the Parkshore Grill. I definitely married up!

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Lemongrass Sushi Restaurant. Where the portions are massive and the sushi rolls are named after rappers -and, unfortunately, tastes like wrappers.

 photo d6ab8ce5-a6e0-4ead-882b-b322646ab094.jpg St. Pete Brewing Company.

   photo 45753b92-85d8-476b-852b-9cb5d576de3f.jpgSt. Pete Brewing Company uses chalkboard paint and skateboards to display current offerings.

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World of Beer.

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World of Beer has plenty of local and other beers on tap.

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First Friday. A small festival that takes place the first friday of every month. It occurs in the center of downtown St. Pete with live music, beer trucks and vendors all taking place amidst various restaurants. 

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One of many "donation stations" to help feed the city's less fortunate. This was near the famous inverted pyramid. 

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Clearwater, FL is beautiful. It's allegedly the top beach in the U.S. The restaurant selection and shopping are not the best, though.

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The Florida Aquarium was a fun retreat.
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Lemurs were an odd site at an aquarium, but they were playful and fun to watch.

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These divers had mic's on and performed a small teaching show to educate the audience on what kinds of life can be found in the tank.

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There were plenty of stingrays to be viewed throughout the aquarium.

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This little guy was quite curious.

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Ever feel like someone or some"thing" is watching you?

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Maybe it's not paranoia after all.

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What a cool job this must be!

Pics from around Town
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