Sunday, May 20, 2018

Montreal - Florida - Montreal, 21 April - 2 May 2018 (Pt 2)

St. Petersburg, Florida

Marie had found, before we left Canada, an Airbnb in St. Petersburg that was close enough for us to be able to return our car and check in early for our flight home, just 15 minutes from the airport. A scheduled 7am departure meant we had to be up at 5am, dress, have breakfast and make a dash to check in. But that would be a few days down the road and we first had to find our home for the next four days. Because we couldn't check in till around 4 pm with our hosts we decided to acquaint ourselves with the city and get our bearings, and wind down from our flight. We found a cute little café for lunch and then wandered down to the waterfront parks and around the Museum of Fine Arts. Although it was a planned beach and just relax vacation we did get to visit a local arts studio one day that was highlighting Dia de los Muertes - A Celebration of Life and also spent one morning wandering about the Saturday market downtown, buying a few gifts and admiring the local produce. I found St. Petersburg, home of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club and the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team, clean and oddly quiet with very little traffic and crowds. The weather while we were there was gorgeous, temperatures in the mid 80s and sunny. In fact St. Pete has an average of 361 days of sunshine a year and holds the record for the most consecutive days of sunshine - 768! No wonder it is named the Sunshine City. 

lunch, Café

Our AirBnB, St. Pete

Marie cooking in our AirBnB
Our hosts, Carla and Justin, lived in a quiet part of town, walking distance to Crescent Lake, a small but peaceful lake with the obligatory Florida alligator warning signs. Every morning we took off from the house and walked around the lake and back, greeted by the ducks, geese and turtles basking in the shallows. We stopped to admire the 'Great Banyan Tree' that had been a playground for generations of local kids (now fenced off due to its age), walking by the baseball field which was once the spring training home for the New York Yankees, and the old 1923 water tower that has been repainted as a giant salt water aquarium. It was a neighborhood we could both live in and found it friendly, peaceful and quiet. Marie took advantage of the kitchen facilities, cooking our suppers and making sandwiches for the beach, while I relaxed in their back yard with a cold beer. We used the car to go to the local beaches while we were there and found it didn't take more than 15 minutes one way, either to Treasure Island or Passe-a-Grille. The beaches were crowded on the weekend but quiet during the weekdays and we did a lot of walking, some swimming and people watched, before calling it a day and heading back to the AirBnB.

the old Banyan, Crescent Lake

We both thoroughly enjoyed the Florida Arts show Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) downtown one afternoon as we checked out the vibrant arts scene St. Petersburg is known for. As we have learned over the years from Fernanda this special day focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for those who have died and help support their spiritual journey. This particular show was about the celebration of the lives of those passed. We learned how the Aztecs developed the ritual 3000 years ago because they believed one should not grieve the loss of a beloved ancestor but celebrate their lives with food, drink and music offerings and welcome the return of the spirits to the land of the living once a year. I especially liked the wall of sugar skulls painted by mostly local artists.

Saturday market, St Pete

the lake and water tower in background

Crescent Lake, St. Petersburg

Pass-a-Grille Beach, St. Petersburg

The Don CeSar, the pink palace, St Pete

Super Scoops, Treasure Island, St. Pete

We ate supper our last night there at the Brass Monkey in Pass-a-Grille and stayed to watch the sunset. The food was typical Florida beach fare, tasty but not enough for me - I had the clams. The view was nice though and we were right on the Gulf. The sunset was gorgeous and one of the few things I really like about Florida. We were sorry to leave our very friendly hosts, wishing them the very best in all their future plans and leaving them with a few tips and suggestions for their fairly recent foray into the AirBnB business. Naturally, as we always have, we arrived with lots of time to spare at the airport, returned our car to a very efficient Alamo staff and hung around in the crowded and barebones waiting room Allegiant is known for. A short flight back to Plattsburgh, some shopping before crossing the border and we were back in Montreal for supper, swimming lessons with Amy and William, then home to the last remnants of snow that was quickly disappearing and preparations for summer.  gws


early morning, heading home






Montreal - Florida - Montreal, 21 April - 2 May 2018 (Pt 1)

We said goodbye to the cold and snow on the morning of 21st of April and were pleasantly surprised to arrive in Montreal to green grass and flowers already in bloom. As usual the grandchildren were happy to see us and it wasn't hard to convince me to take them to the park shortly after we arrived. Phil later showed me his latest gadget, a 3D printer built in the Czech Republic, the very popular and reliable Prusa i3. We made a sugar skull keychain for my sister Lyn which I would give to her on her birthday, explaining how it works and the materiel used. I was quite impressed and could understand their growing popularity for the average hobbyist. And no I don't need one.

Phils new 3D printer, a Czech i3 Prusa

fun at the big kids park
Our flight was leaving the next morning from Plattsburgh, NY so we were up early for the hour drive to the airport. It was a three hour cramped and basically no frills flight which went by pretty quickly as I listened to my music and tried not to hog the armrest. Don met us in St Pete on our arrival and we were in Brooksville by suppertime, the temperature in the low 80s and quite pleasant thank you. We visited with Dad the next day, having last seen him in November, spending a few hours chatting, trying to get him again to talk about his past and found one of his favourite songs on YouTube to listen to - Sarie Marais, a traditional South African folk song he used to sing to us as children. ' Oh, take me back to the old Transvaal, where my Sarie lives, down among the maize fields near the green thorn tree, there lives my Sarie Marais.'  We promised to return again before we left to take him out to lunch and he seemed, for a man nearing his 95th birthday, quite happy and in good health. Marie and I were up early every morning while we were at Lyn and Dons, either walking down Angel to Dempsey and back or down Benshoff to Malvern and back, before anyone else was up. Don took us out to the little town of  Ozello the next day, highly recommended by Lyn who said there were so many good photo ops there that I really needed to take my camera. Located between Crystal River and Homosassa we found it down a winding road (the Ozella Trail), twisting and turning through an aquatic preserve past endless salt marsh flats. I expected to see and feel more of 'old Florida' but there wasn't much there except a very popular seafood restaurant, Pecks, where we had lunch and where we took the lone photo. Marie and I had salads while Don had the house specialty - a half dozen blue shelled crabs. We drove into Crystal River afterwards and strolled about Hunter Springs Park, along Kings Bay, a haven for manatees, before heading home.

Plattsburgh, our Allegiant jet arriving from St Pete, ready to turn around

Gandy Bridge, Old Tampa Bay, Florida

admiring the flowering plant Cannabis, within the family Cannabaceae

Dad listening to Sarie Marais

getting ready for our early morning power walk

Peck's Seafood Restaurant, Ozella, Florida

Crystal River, Florida
It was Lyn's 69th birthday the next day and, as we had promised to take her out to a restaurant of her choice, we found ourselves after a bit of a drive at a small European eatery called Nouvelle Cuisine in Springhill which featured classic Belgian and French dishes. With excellent reviews and great expectations we had to wait awhile for the food once we ordered, but the French wine and Belgian beer selection was very good and comforting. I had the rack of lamb - a little rare but still tender and delicious,  that brought much raised eyebrows from all as I ate the whole thing - and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think Lyn had a good time and it was good to see her smiling most of the evening. She is going into surgery for her shoulder after we leave and the stress of thinking about it has been on her mind constantly.

birthday girl

Don's 1972 Love Bug

enjoying the sun

Nouvelle Cuisine, Springhill, Florida
Next day, as promised, we took Dad out to a new Cheddar's restaurant just down the road from where he was living. He said he wasn't hungry but still ate a bit of his salad, a croissant, and a chicken pot pie that he seemed to love. We took him afterwards to Walmart where we picked him up some wine, snacks, ice cream and some of his favourite mints. His caretaker Barb put them away for him as she told us he would eat the lot in one sitting if he could! I think Dad enjoyed our visit and hopefully he will still remember us when next we see him. Before leaving for St Pete where we would be for the remaining days until flying home we celebrated Brenna's seventh birthday. She is such a sweet little girl, full of energy and life and I always look forward to seeing her and her parents Shawn and Lauren. She got a guitar from Grandma Lyn and I will be keeping my fingers crossed the next Adele is living in Brooksville. Lyn and Don drove us to the Alamo rent a car in St Petes the next morning - Lyn had a pre-surgery doctors visit nearby - where we said our goodbyes and headed to our AirBnB only a few miles away. It was our first real visit to the city of St Petersburg and I was looking forward to some beach time!  gws

speeder, Walmart

Croom Road

Brenna, 7 years old