Tuesday, February 2, 2010

St. Pete & Me: Day 1

I crammed so much into my six-day trip that I decided it'll be easier to do the write up per day. I won't take long to put these online, so if you don't care about beaches not in NJ, sit tight!

Also - this was NOT a sponsored trip (i.e. a tourism board calls me up and offers a free vacation in exchange for press coverage). I wanted to put that out there in case you were wondering given the hullabaloo about new FTC rules on bloggers. I paid for every penny.

I landed in Tampa on Wednesday afternoon. I picked St. Pete Beach again for vacation because I'm on the board of my the University of Tampa National Alumni Association, and our big meeting is in the winter. Why not take a few extra days to lie on the beach? Before headed to that beach, though, I made two stops:

1. Inkwood Books. A fabulous independent bookstore in Tampa. Instead of buying a guide book before I left, I went here - they should have the best stock, right? I picked up Moon Florida Gulf Coast by Laura Reiley for a guide, and Hot Damn!: Alligators in the Casino, Nude Women in the Grass, How Seashells Changed the Course of History, and Other Dispatches from Paradiseby James W. Hall for pleasure. Hall is a mystery writer but for a time had a newspaper essay column. The book is a collection of those columns. Perfect reading to go along with a Florida vacation.

2. Publix GreenWise. To cut down on restaurant costs, I hit up this Wholefoods-esque supermarket. I kept up with my marathon training while on vacation, so I needed to have a lot of food handy or I'd go Hulk due to low blood sugar. The Publix is also across the street from Inkwood, so that was a two-birds-with-one-stone deal.

Then it was over to St. Pete Beach, cruising over the causeway with all the windows down on a 70 degree day. I stayed at the Postcard Inn, which I read about last fall in a magazine. It wasn't expensive (especially with my AAA discount), and they didn't charge a resort fee - something I was whacked with where I stayed last year.

Here's the courtyard:

And the lobby:

The Postcard Inn reminded me a lot of a Wildwood motel - and not only because the hotel restaurant is called Wildwood. I'll get to that in a minute. It reminded me of the shore because it was an old, beach-side motel that was renovated with the younger/hipper/greener traveler in mind.

I liked it. It was cool without being too fancy, and the price was right. I did take a photo of my room but it doesn't do justice like the photos on the website do.

My first order of business was to hit the pool. I knew I wasn't going to have a string of sunny days, so I wanted to get in as much sun as I could.

Then I ate, changed, and did a six mile barefoot beach run. The sand is different along the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn't stick like NJ beach sand, but the beach was covered with a lot of little tiny shells, which made the run interesting. I ran at sunset, too, which made it one of the prettiest runs I've ever done.

That night, I ate at the hotel's restaurant: Wildwood Burger and BBQ. The bartender said it was not named after Wildwood, NJ, but I tweeted the hotel, and whoever runs the twitter feed says that it's named after the Wildwood BBQ festival (I'm hoping to do an interview with the owner to figure out where that connection comes in?) I cannot get away from the shore, can I? Here's the hotel at night:

For a first day with travel starting at the 6:29am PATCO train to Philadelphia (to catch the R1 Septa train to the airport), it was a nice one. Stay tuned for Day 2.

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