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A Trip to Florida

May 4, 2017

By Kath Dedon

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Have you tried Airbnb yet? On Wednesday, April 19, we flew to Tampa to see Bob’s cousins who live in St. Petersburg. I found the best Airbnb accommodation in Gulfport that was a short drive to our cousins’ homes.

This was our first experience with Airbnb and we loved it. Stephanie’s Lovely Guesthouse was perfect. It is a lovely one-bedroom guesthouse attached to Stephanie’s home. Stephanie has thought of all the little details, like plenty of hangers so we could hang up all of our clothes. It has a large private patio for relaxing outside. It’s a short walk to Gulfport Beach and all of the restaurants and shops in the town. There are even a couple of bicycles available. Gulfport is a great town for a leisurely bike ride; the neighborhood is flat with very little traffic. We didn’t use the bicycles. Maybe next time!

The guesthouse has a well-equipped kitchenette, but I have to admit we only used the Keurig coffee maker and the wine opener!

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Bob, in front of the entrance to the Lovely Guesthouse

Bob in front of the Lovely Guest House

Living room and kitchenette at the Lovely Guest House

Lovely Guest House

The Lovely Guest House 1

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The first night, after checking in to the Lovely Guesthouse, we drove to meet Maria and Carol. They took us to their favorite Greek restaurant in St. Petersburg, Athenian Gardens. It was excellent! I ordered their Greek salad with gyro meat. It turned out to be delicious and a huge portion. I took some back to the guesthouse to save in the refrigerator.

After dinner Maria drove us out to St. Pete’s Beach and we got there just in time for the sunset! It was a beautiful evening.

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Sunset at St. Pete Beach

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Thursday morning we walked to Gulfport to look around and have breakfast. Stella’s was obviously very popular, so we went there. It was so nice to eat breakfast outside in warm weather after the long, rainy winter in Seattle. (It has, in fact, been a record-breaking winter for rain in Seattle!)

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Sitting outside at Stella’s

Breakfast outside at Stella's

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Thursday night we met Maria and her son James and his family (Safina, Gabriel, and Dominic) at O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille in Gulfport.  O’Maddy’s is very popular pretty much all day long. James and Safina had made a reservation so we were able to get right in. The restaurant is right across the street from the water and it has a fun beach-town atmosphere. And the food was great! I enjoyed fried grouper, a Florida treat that we don’t get in the Pacific Northwest.

Friday morning we went to Mangia Gourmet for breakfast. They have a very pleasant outdoor patio that is bigger than the indoor seating area. We were the only people there so we had the patio to ourselves. The menu has a lot of gluten free and vegan options, but they also have eggs, cheese, and meat. But, as Bob pointed out to the very nice server, they don’t have bacon! I had a slice of quiche and a fruit cup; Bob had the bagel (gluten free because they only had gluten free bagels), lox, and cream cheese.  The gluten free bagel was actually quite tasty. The breakfast was good and we were ready for the day.

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Breakfast at Mangia Gourmet (Bob’s wearing his worn-out St. Petersburg Yacht Club cap.)

Breakfast at Mangia Gourmet)

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The last time we had been in St. Petersburg was 2009, eight years ago. Bob had gotten a St. Petersburg Yacht Club cap on that trip. It was a favorite cap and it was worn out. We stopped by the yacht club to get a new one for him. (As Seattle Yacht Club members, we’re able to enjoy reciprocal privileges at many other yacht clubs.)

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The porch at St. Petersburg Yacht Club

The porch at SPYC

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After driving around St. Petersburg a bit, we headed to Fort De Soto County Park. It’s a large park featuring camping areas, nature walks, and beaches (including a dog beach). There is a $5 parking fee collected as you enter the park. We went to East Beach. We had the beach chairs provided by our host, Stephanie, at the guesthouse and enjoyed an afternoon at the beach.

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At East Beach at Fort De Soto County Park

East Beach, Fort De Soto Park

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Bob with his new SPYC cap

Bob at East Beach, Fort De Soto Park, Tierra Verde, FL)

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Yes, I was there, too, in the shade and with plenty of sunblock! (The beach chairs were great! We found them in the closet for our use at our Lovely Guesthouse.)

Kath at East Beach at Ford De Soto Park.jpg

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Dinner that night was a feast at Maria’s! She made her cabbage rolls, which she called Arabian-style cabbage rolls. They were fabulous and different from other cabbage rolls I had seen. They were rolled into narrow cylinders. An Internet search produced several recipes for “Malfouf” that looked very similar to Maria’s. Maria said she had found a much easier way to make them. Instead of boiling the cabbage, she puts a whole cabbage in the freezer for two weeks. Then she defrosts it and the leaves are ready to be stuffed. I’ll have to see if Maria will share her recipe with me. 🙂 She served the cabbage rolls with a wonderful quinoa tabbouleh.

James, Gabriel, and Dominic are crazy about baseball! They watch it (they’re Rays fans) and Gabriel and Dominic both play on elite teams that do very well. It’s a huge time commitment with all of the practices and games. Each boy can have as many as 5 or 6 games on a weekend. (Safina likes it, too, but I don’t think she likes it as much as her 3 “boys” do!) We were excited to get to see Dominic play on Saturday. His first game was at 9:00 in Sarasota, an hour away. We decided to go to his second game at 11:00.

We drove to the Sarasota Farmers’ Market to look around and grab breakfast. There didn’t seem to be too many farmers at the market. It was mostly food vendors and crafts. We got breakfast from Annalida’s Gourmet Foods. Bob had a great crab cake and a sausage, and I had a gluten free wrap with a sausage and grilled onions, peppers, and zucchini. We didn’t spend much time at the market because we had to get to the game.

It was really fun baseball to watch, even though Dominic’s team didn’t win. They were ahead until the bottom of the last inning when the opposing team scored enough runs to win the game. It was disappointing for Dominic, but we got to see some great plays by both teams. So it was fun!

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Dominic at bat

Dominic at bat

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After the game we headed up Longboat Key, which was not as interesting as we thought it might be. It’s a residential area and you can’t see the water most of the way because of all of the large McMansions on both sides of the road. By the time we got to the north end of the key the traffic was stop and go because there was a beach and park area that was crowded with people. There’s only the one road in and out, so it was very busy on a Saturday afternoon. While we were stuck in traffic, I had plenty of time to look for a lunch stop on yelp. I zeroed in on Tide Tables Restaurant and Marina in Cortez. We finally made it to the place to turn to take a bridge to Cortez on the mainland.

Cortez is a small commercial fishing village on the Gulf Coast. Tide Tables Restaurant was very busy with a late lunch crowd. We felt lucky to get a spot to sit outside. They say the grouper is delivered right to their dock by the fishermen. So I chose fried grouper and Bob had conch fritters. Both were good, but I think mine was better. After lunch we continued on to Gulfport and relaxed at the guesthouse before dinner.

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Tide Tables Restaurant and Marina, Cortez FL.jpg

Tide Tables Restaurant.jpg

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Great Egret on the dock at Tide Tables

Great Egret at Tide Tables

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That evening the boys went to the Rays baseball game with friends. James wasn’t feeling well so he stayed home. We took Safina to dinner at Alesia, a Vietnamese-French restaurant a short walk from their home. Safina said she always likes to start with the Raw Honeycomb appetizer and it was amazing. The honeycomb was handcut from the hive and paired with a creamy bleu cheese, spicy candied pecans, grapes and toast points. It was a wonderful combination of flavors! I tried their Bún, perhaps my favorite Vietnamese dish. It’s a bowl of cooled rice vermicelli noodles served with lettuce, herbs, topped with crushed peanuts and grilled pork. It did not disappoint!

When we had stopped at the yacht club on Friday we learned that we could go sailing at St. Petersburg Sailing Center, which is across the street from and operated by St. Petersburg Yacht Club. If you’re not a member of St. Petersburg Sailing Center ($350/year for local people), you can take a boat out if you pay $45/hour for a sailing lesson. It’s not unusual for accomplished sailors to make an appointment for a “lesson” so they can take out a boat.

On Sunday we had an appointment at 10:00 for a lesson with Daniel. Dominic, Safina, and James had a day of Dominic’s games. Gabriel and his friend, Kevin, wanted to go sailing with us.

We got going early and needed a really quick breakfast so we (gasp!) stopped at McDonald’s for Egg McMuffins on our way to pick up the boys. It had probably been at least 15 years or more since I had eaten at McDonald’s. It wasn’t horrible, and it quickly solved breakfast.

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Egg McMuffin before sailing

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We picked up Gabriel and Kevin who had just rolled out of bed so they needed breakfast, too. We stopped at Burger King so they could eat. Then off to our 10:00 appointment with Daniel.

There was not much wind, but we still had a good time. Daniel helped Bob rig the boat, and then he just went along for the ride. Bob took the boat out, and Gabriel and Kevin each got some time at the helm. Bob and Daniel were both good teachers, giving them tips. We ended up being out for about two hours and it felt good to be out on the water.

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Bob, Daniel and Gabriel

rigging the sailboat.jpg

Gabriel and Bob sailing

Gabriel driving the boat

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After our sail we took the boys for lunch at St. Petersburg Yacht Club. They had a big Sunday buffet going on, but we were also able to order from the menu, so I had (of course)  grouper with sweet potato fries and remoulade sauce. Delicious!

Grilled mahi mahi with remoulade sauce and sweet potato fries at SPYC

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We took Gabriel and Kevin home and then headed back to Gulfport for an afternoon at the beach. The water seemed a bit warmer than it had been at Fort De Soto, but it was still not warm enough for me to consider swimming. We enjoyed sitting on the beach and watching the Laughing Gulls who were busy with all kinds of mating dances.

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Bob and Laughing Gulls at Gulfport Beach

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When we had had enough of the beach, we went to the upstairs balcony at Manatee’s across the street from the beach. Most of the buildings in Gulfport are one story, so the view from the upstairs balcony is the best in town. The food looked alright, but we just had Bloody Marys and enjoyed the view.

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The view from Manatee’s

Manatees on the Bay.jpg

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Relaxing on the patio at the Lovely Guesthouse

Relaxing at The Lovely Guest House

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After relaxing with some wine out on the patio at the Lovely Guesthouse, we headed back to Gulfport for a dinner for two at Pia’s Trattoria. Maria had told us about it and it was, indeed, very good. I had Shrimp Scampi with really delicious gluten free pasta, and Bob had Linguine with Clam Sauce. It was an excellent dinner for our last night in Gulfport.

Monday morning we took Maria and Carol for breakfast at Stella’s. It was busy, but we luckily got a table for 4 outside. It was fun to have the chance to see them again before we left.

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Stella’s is in the heart of “downtown” Gulfport. We loved that the town was so walkable.Stella's in the heart of Gulfport.jpg

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After breakfast we just relaxed at the Lovely Guesthouse and then drove to the airport to fly home. Both flights were nonstop on Alaska Airlines. It’s amazing that you can go from Seattle all the way to Tampa in 6 hours!

We had a wonderful, relaxing vacation in the Gulfport/St. Petersburg area. The best part was spending time with our cousins. We’re Facebook friends, which makes it easier to keep up, but it’s not the same as spending some time together. We all agreed that we can’t let 8 years go by without getting together again.

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The resident cat at the Lovely Guesthouse had a favorite chair on the patio

Resident cat at The Lovely Guest House

 Sign in private patio

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Pamela Morse permalink
    May 4, 2017 5:42 pm

    How much are we talking in price per day/per week? It looks like fun and suitable!

    Pam and Tony >

    • May 4, 2017 7:52 pm

      It was very reasonable for such a lovely, comfortable place. It was about $95 a night, much less expensive than nice hotels in the area.

  2. lostinapot2017 permalink
    May 5, 2017 1:37 am

    Kath – What fun reading and reliving your time in Florida. Yes, we’ve used Airbnb and Homeaway and love them both. However, when renting this way, It always comes with a little apprehension. Pictures can be misleading. We always try and find reviews on TripAdvisor or elsewhere on the web.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • May 5, 2017 7:09 am

      Yes, I think that’s good advice to be cautious. I filtered my search on airbnb to only search for Supehosts, experienced hosts with lots of 5-star reviews. Stephanie’s photos of the Lovely Guesthouse proved to be 100% accurate.

  3. Stephanie permalink
    May 6, 2017 10:59 am

    OMG Kath, I just saw this. What a wonderful review of our guesthouse and Gulfport. Thank you so much. I’m glad you love our town and our restaurants. I wouldn’t live anywhere else. Please come back again. We are landscaping in the gardens and have flowers coming up everywhere. We hope to see you soon. I love your descriptions of the places you visited and I hope to read more of your travels

    Stephanie

    • May 6, 2017 11:19 am

      Stephanie, thanks so much for your comment! I am more than happy to let everyone know what a wonderful Airbnb guesthouse you have. And we did LOVE Gulfport. We’d been to St. Petersburg and Tampa before, but never Gulfport. It is charming! We hope we can return soon!

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