Friday, March 30, 2018

Back on Clearwater Beach

The journey ends, appropriately, as it began, on Clearwater Beach.  Strolling up the beach brings yet more great experiences and views of this fabulous vacation area.  We walk over the Sand Key Bridge from Sand Key into Clearwater Beach and view the city on one side and Sand Key County Park on the other.

 Crossing from Sand Key County Park to Clearwater Beach

 Sailing school heading out under the bridge into the Gulf of Mexico

Entering Clearwater Beach, we spot a great seabird, just hanging out on the land near the bridge.

Hanging out

Passing by the beautiful beaches, we head over to Pier 60, the fishing pier on Clearwater Beach.  The pier offers great views back toward the beach, and friendly pelicans standing by, waiting for the people fishing to catch something (and share it).

 Pier 60

Friendly pelicans on the pier

 Views back toward Clearwater Beach

At the entrance to the pier is a great playground, with slides and all sorts of other inflatable delights.

 For play

In the Pier 60 Park, at the entrance to the pier, there is a statue to Theodorus Griego, "the first Greek in America,"  who, on April 14, 1528, arrived in the Tampa Bay area as part of a Spanish expedition.  He did not survive the journey, but was followed in later years by many Greeks, including Greek sponge divers in the early 1900s.

Theodorus Griego

Just past the pier, the beach continues, with volleyball, dining, drinking, and soaking up the sun.

 More beach

One the main street through Clearwater Beach, the original Clearwater Taffy shop is still making taffy and we must have some.

Clearwater taffy

One more great experience is yet to happen:  dinner at Columbia Restaurant, a Spanish restaurant owned and operated for over 110 years by 5 generations of family.  Originally a corner saloon in Ybor City (in 1905), Columbia is the oldest continuously-operating restaurant in Florida, the oldest Spanish restaurant in the US, and, with 6 locations and 1,700 seats, one of the largest Spanish restaurants in the world.

We start with their special Manhattan and it is great!

Two Manhattans

We share Empanadas de Picadillo and Queso Fundido to start, with tetillo cheese baked in a rioja tomato sauce, followed by Fideua de Mariscos, a Catalan dish of fresh seafood, prawns, shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, garlic, white wine, and chili pepper in a spicy tomato sauce, and Roast Pork "a la Cubana", with a delicious marinade and served with beans, white rice, yucca, and plaintains.

Empanadas de Picadillo and Queso Fundido

 Fideua de Mariscos, Roast Pork "a la Cubana"

We're full after all this (we can't believe we ate the whole thing) and add yet another great dining experience to our list.

The Clearwater area has been fabulous to explore, lounge on the beaches, and dine in the tremendous restaurants.  We have to come back here!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsey - Sarasota, Florida

The Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsey is a fun, eclectic collection of art from all kinds of media, organized and displayed to "preserve work of artistic and whimsical importance."  The museum is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 1-4pm  during the winter season.  Founded and organized by Marietta Lee, the museum focuses on telling us to lighten up and not take ourselves so seriously.

The art and whimsey start in the parking lot with sculptures that delight.

 Art and whimsey in the parking lot

The entrance catches the eye and appeals from the street (North Tamiami Trail, US Route 41).

 Main entrance

On entering, we note that the security guard doesn't look up to chasing down any miscreants (more art and whimsey).

Security art

Inside, the rooms are full of art arranged to delight, tantalize, amuse, and mystify.  The art is taken down at the end of each season, stored, and reinstalled completely differently when the museum reopens for the next season.

 Inside the museum

The museum courtyard tends toward the whimsey side, with fabulous sculptures scattered throughout the grounds.

In the courtyard

Leaving the museum, there are final touches of art and whimsey to amuse and delight all of us.

Last displays, heading out

The museum is a lot of fun and can't help but put smiles on our faces as the displays unveil themselves and the fabulous staff point out the best of the best.