WEST COAST IN THE SUNSHINE STATE

 

 

I flew into St. Pete and let me tell you the airport reminded me of flying into Bangor, Maine. Small and easy to navigate. I was outside in 5 minutes if it took me that long from gate to door, I would be shocked.

My friend “L” greeted me and I immediately got into her car and started stripping off my layers. I was in Florida. The warmth and sun made me smile.

We went to meet my mom to do a dog transfer. L had made a picnic lunch for the three of us to eat grapes, hummus, crackers and cheese along the water’s edge. It was perfect. My mom took the dog and L took me to the beach!

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I can’t tell you how perfect that is to me. I have visited a lot of folks at the beach and they take you all over the place before they take you to the place you want to go more than ANYWHERE….the water! Not L, we went to the beach! Then we went back to her condo. Her hubby had gone to L.A. so we could have girl time. It was so much fun and so relaxing and I had never ever been in that part of Florida.

Out their window, they looked at water. Not the ocean, but more interesting in that it was waterways and cute Florida cottages.

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I went to the pool and walked in the water for an hour. I meet a really nice Israeli woman who lived in Morocco and then a bunch of Canadians. Nice, nice people.

Then we went to watch sunset with her brother. My family’s sunset tradition is to take cocktails to the beach at sunset hour with your pooch. Their family tradition…She and her brother eat a Ghiradelli chocolate together. Too cute!!

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We went back to her place for homemade soup and to relax. I was tired.

Next day, we drove up the beach. We drove up Route 699, which becomes Gulf Blvd. I was fascinated seeing all the “old Florida” architecture. It is truly charming.

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Our first detour was to go to Sunset Beach on Treasure Island. Apparently, there is a group that gathers at someone’s beach cottage weekly and they all go swim in the ocean, come back, shower and congregate for coffee. The homes are small and close together and rather pricey, but there is such a neighborhood feel there.

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Then we went further up the road passing through Madeira, Reddington, Indian Rocks, Belleair Beach, and we went to Clearwater. We kept crossing bridges, passing restaurants, cafes, shops and it was like stepping back in time. Clearwater was high-rise city. The rest were very old Florida in feel. It was really fun!

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We stopped in a restaurant my mom had eaten in and liked called Guppy’s. It was so nice to eat outside.

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I started with the Lobster Bisque. I am a sucker for bisque. Crab or lobster. I am not too picky. The bisque was rich and thick with chunks of lobster meat and topped with fresh cream.

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L ordered the Open Face Brie sandwich with Brie cheese, Granny Smith apple, Argula, Dijon Mustard, Tomato on a Rustic Ciabatta roll. It was delicious. You can even see all the layers.

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I ordered a blackened Grouper and dipped it into Crabmeat Guacamole.

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The guacamole is amazing! It contains Blue Crab, Avocado, Tomato, Cilantro, Olive Oil, and Garlic.

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After lunch we drove back down the Beach Road and went past the famous Don Cesar Hotel

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and then to Pass-a-Grille, because if the houses weren’t so exorbitant; my mom would have moved there in a nanosecond.

Here are some pictures that capture the essence of Pass-A-Grille.

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Then we went home and changed clothes and went to L’s favorite beach bar. It is called Jimmy B’s and it is a bit foreign to me, because we really don’t have many beach bars on Sanibel, or at least none as extensive as this!

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I’m not usually a drinker, but I am a sucker for a good Pina Colada (especially when it is made with ice cream) and theirs were pretty darn tootin’ good. We met up with L and her hubby’s friends Tuke and Pat

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and then (the best part for me) was that my cousin Kathy and her husband Dan came and joined us.

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It was so fun to see them down at the beach!

Here is a pic of L and me.

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After the bar, my belly didn’t like the pina coladas. Too sweet! We went to L’s friends Don and Lisa’s for dinner. I met Don and Lisa when they came to Cincy to visit, so it was fun to see them again. They live in a high-rise in downtown Chicago that dwarfs our 180-unit building. They have 945 units, but they also have views of Lake Michigan and the foods of Chicago out their door!

Lisa is a great cook. She was so sweet to make the bulk of her dinner to suit my diet needs. She also introduced me to the great spice shop in downtown St. Pete.

She and Don had gutted their St. Pete condo and moved out for a year while the work was done. They did a great job, but since I was there at night I missed their spectacular views. Next time.

The following day, L, her friends Pat, Lisa and I went to explore a little town called Gulfport. It’s my cousin Kathy’s favorite place in St. Pete.

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On our way there we drove by Stetson Law School. I had contemplated going there but decided studying law in Florida when the sun was shining and the beach was nearby was not a good idea. That is why going to graduate school in Cambridge was wise and going to law school in Cincy was even wiser!

After Gulfport, L had to pick up her hubby at the airport, so she dropped me off in downtown St. Pete. I wandered around town. Pretty downtown area on the water with the boats and lots of outdoor restaurants and shops.

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Then the skies opened and I ran into a gourmet food market until L and Jerry came back to get me. Me in a gourmet market? Heaven.

We went to a small airport downtown and grabbed a snack at the airport restaurant. Jerry told stories about learning to fly out of this airport. It was so cool. Then he dropped L and I at the Dali Museum, while he went antiquing.

The Dali Museum was really cool.

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There was a cool Disney/Dali exhibit. I had to see it to make the connection and then I was astounded that I didn’t figure it out earlier. After, we stopped at Publix for dinner and headed home.

The following morning L drove me to meet my mom. My mother went to Florida Southern her freshman year of college before transferring back to UC/DAAP. When I was about 5 years old, my folks and I roadtripped to Palm Beach via Lakeland, Florida, but I couldn’t appreciate the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at such a young age. My mom wanted to show me her school, architecture and share a little of her history with me.

On our way there we passed the World of Dinosaurs. Don’t ask…I do NOT know….

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We stopped to see a Polytech College my mom stumbled upon in one of her Architectural Digest magazines. This structure was so unexpected to us…

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And then here are the pics that captured the school and the town of Lakeland, Florida.

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Afterward, we drove to Sarasota. Our first stop was to the Ringling Museum. My mom wanted me to see the Walker house model that has been recreated to scale of the original that resides on Sanibel. It was so fun to see a Sanibel house in a museum setting.

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By the way, the Walkers are part of the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis.

Then my mom wanted me to see an up and coming neighborhood called the Rosemary District with all its bungalow-like houses.

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Plus, one of her favorite art galleries.

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Then we went to Venice to see her new home.

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I was so excited to see my Doodle Bug!!

 

Then we took Dulce to the Venice Dog BEACH…..an area of the beach designated dog friendly.

 

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We went to dinner at a restaurant called FINS out on the beach.

FINS view from restaurant

We sat outside and their outdoor heating system really warmed us up for a fabulous sushi meal.

FINS sushi

Hamachi Jalapeno

Hamachi, scallions, yuzu aioli, crunch, and asparagus topped with jalapeño masago and fresh jalapeño

 

Super Grouper
Tempura Grouper, cucumber, and avocado topped with togarashi sesame salmon, scallions and tobiko

 

And our favorite was Spicy Fin! Actually, we ordered a second roll of this!!!

 

Spicy Fin
Spicy tuna and salmon, togarashi, tempura soft shell crab, scallions, avocado and tobiko

 

The following morning my mom took me to the Venice Farmer’s Market.

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Our first stop was to visit a friend (Lizzy @ Venetian Coffee Roasters) who has a coffee shop and makes cold brewed coffee. It was the first time I had ever tried it. It was good. It doesn’t have the bitterness a lot of coffees have.

After the market, we went to wander around Venice and we went shopping.

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I got three awesome dresses that I can’t wait to wear in warmer weather!

Then we went to a yummy rustic BBQ joint called GOLD RUSH.

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I ordered a slab of ribs and I was happy as a tick on a hound dog. (I just learned that expression. This is my first time to use it, and I love it!)

 

Then it was time for me to hit the road and head to my Beloved Sanibel. Dulce hopped in the car and was ready to go, but she was coming later with mom! It was a real struggle getting her out of the car.

 

The rain came down in sheets, but I got caught up on calls and went to my friend Margot’s house.

 

It was so nice to have that time with her and have the opportunity to visit with her mom, Bess.

 

Margot and I sat and talked for hours. It was fabulous, because the next morning I had to drive them to the airport to head back to Tennessee.

 

I went to my friend Joyce and her boyfriend Don’s place. Joyce told me that I was not allowed to talk during the Superbowl or the ads. She kept saying, but I know you will want to watch the game. The funny thing is she NEVER stopped talking. I had to laugh. Only Joyce. I love her to pieces.

 

The following morning, I drove back North to pick up my mom and Dulce and bring them back to Sanibel. We stopped at CRAVE on our way to the island.

 

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We both love this place. It didn’t disappoint.

 

We shared a Spinach Southern Salad that had peaches, blueberries, blackberries and blackberry vinaigrette. I took off the onion rings on top. I couldn’t eat it fast enough!

 

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Then we split a shrimp, crab, asparagus, shiitake mushroom, broiled tomatoes omelette with hollandaise on top.

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We stopped to get gas and suddenly out of the bushes came these chickens across the gas station to greet all of us pumping gas. No joke! I can’t make this stuff up!

 

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Finally, windows come down as we cross the Causeway and sniff the Gulf air.

 

We took Peri the Pelican on a photo shoot around the island. We visited with friends.

 

Then it was time to go to our favorite restaurant for dinner.

 

SANIBEL GRILL.

 

Favorite meal. Crunchy Grouper Basket. The fish that taught me to eat and LOVE fish!

 

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And the best key lime pie!!!

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Next morning, I went to meet my friend Carol for breakfast at Normandie over at the West Wind Inn. She has this amazing granddaughter who is in remission after brain cancer. She is a trooper! And she has an amazing grandmother…actually two of them! Carol and I have a ball together. She is such a cool lady! I love hanging out with her. I had a small breakfast of plantains and bacon, because I knew I had a lunch to go to shortly after it.

 

Then I grabbed my mom and we went to meet her beach/dog friends (and hopefully my friends too!) AND their pooches for lunch @ Overeasy!

 

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Then my mom and I went wandering around the island. And then we went to meet our above friends for a beachwalk as we had done the night before at sunset. Red tide was happening so we didn’t walk as far or as long.

 

That evening my mom and I went to The SANDBAR. My friend Brian runs the place and told me I should try the Tilefish with coconut panko, mango, and sweet chili on top. I knew Brian would take care of me, because he fears what I will write in my blog, which is a hoot, because he is the ONLY person on the planet that worries about what I write. Brian, it was delicious!!!

Here is Chef Brian…

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And here is his Tilefish…

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And so was the Banana Foster cheesecake. That was killer!!!

 

Next day, last day on Sanibel….sadness…we hung out with friends. We walked on the beach and we let Dulce run wild. We walked with our friend Shelley. Then we went to a Restorative Yoga class with Shelley. My back has been giving me fits since New York, and that yoga class corrected it. It was amazing!

 

Then we met Shelley’s husband and the four of us went to Starfish for sushi. I love sushi. It makes me happy! It was great to catch up with Shelley and Bill. It had been awhile since I had seen them.

 

Mom and I had to share her favorite @ Starfish.

 

GREEN DRAGON.

Starfish-Green Dragon

 

Next morning, I hung out with Joyce and the dogs. My mom and I left “our Sanibel” and Sanibelian friends and went to meet her childhood friends, one of which was a close friend of mine in New York and again here in Cincy.

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Then it was time to fly home. I sat next to a lovely lady from Indiana, who spoke so fondly of her granddaughter. At the end of the flight, I gave her my business card and told her to go to my website and see if she could find a book her granddaughter would like, and if she did, she should email me and I would mail it to her.

 

Well, this gal from the plane named Debbie. Long story short. She is friends with one of my Sanibel friends, who grew up and now lives in Indiana. Actually, an old neighbor from Sanibel. Well, Debbie, discovered I had written some books about cancer and she invited me to come speak and sell my books at a Relay for Life that she runs in Indiana. Pretty cool. Funny how life works sometimes!

 

The following morning I had to go to the market for food and because I was craving those roasted plantains and bacon. Not as pretty looking as the ones I ate on Sanibel, but they sure tasted every bit as good! YUMMY!

 

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Until we meet again…

Enjoy! Eat, travel, laugh…often….

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