Ah, yes. This is one reason we all want to visit Florida especially in January - breathtaking sunsets. For five days there was no snow or ice, no heavy rain, no dark dreary skyscapes when the horizon seems 100 feet above my head.
This was taken at the Dunedin Beach driving home from a fun-filled day of friendship, shopping and food in Tarpon Springs. Many thanks to my new friends, Lynn and Frank, for taking the time to drive out of their way for this photo.
Eight months ago, my husband had emergency cardiac bypass surgery in Montana, far from our Indiana home - bad enough, right? Three months after we returned home in August, my son fell into a situation when he had to unexpectedly move home - not ideal.
My college roommate and intuitive friend, Cindy, and her husband, Monte, winter in Dunedin, about a 45-minute drive from Tampa's airport. On the Gulf side, it's situated halfway between Clearwater Harbor and St. Joseph Sound on Florida's mainland. It's named for the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland (brief historical sidetrack).
Anyway, I was eager for a change of scenery to recharge my batteries. Cindy and Monte invited me to visit for a respite. While a sense of duty trumps lots of things, this was one opportunity I and my husband agreed was badly needed.
So, here's what Cindy and I do best: talk and eat. We talked over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Over coffee, wine and dessert. Shopping and driving. We jabbered as Chip and Joanna renovated yet another house. We reminisced. All great stuff for friends of many years.
What did we see and do? Here's a brief overview of the places and things we enjoyed.
Carmelita's Mexican Grill in downtown Dunedin. This is my plate, all well done. A tostada, chili relleno, pork tamale with refried beans and a side salad with a nice Negro Modelo. I wanted a little of everything and got it!
Here's Cindy's plate with a chimichanga, black beans and rice. Delicious!
In Dunedin, they're proud of their Scottish history and protection of historical natural landmarks. We visited several antique shops as well as Irish and Scottish inspired businesses. But my favorite was this 150-year old oak tree outside Cafe Alfresco's dining room. From the acorns laid about the ground, I thought it was an oak, but didn't recognize the familiar leaves of oak trees in the Midwest. Take a look at a brief history! And to think townsfolk wanted it removed - heresy! Dunedin women - stand united!
And we enjoyed a lovely lunch - generous salads, hot pastrami, bellinis and a blueberry mojito (highly recommended) at Cafe Alfresco.
All this activity and fun within the first few days! Except for a little rain, the weather was fantastic, and warmed up considerably along with lots of bright sunshine.
The last full day I was there, we went with Lynn and Frank to Tarpon Springs. It was a perfect day.
Lots of shopping! Lots of great food and baked goods, and lots of Greek Americans. In fact, Tarpon Springs boasts the largest population of Greek American citizens in the United States.
In 1887, Tarpon Springs was incorporated with a population of 52. Within the next three years, settlers discovered that sponges could be harvested off the Gulf shores. In 1890. the Cheney Sponge Company sold nearly $1 million worth - that's a lot of sponges!
This memorial was erected in 2002 to honor the spongers of Tarpon Springs.
Our first stop was to Lori's Soaps and Sponges. Lori's is well stocked with olive oil and goat's milk soaps, shampoos, creams and lotions, all with most pleasing scents. I bought bars of lemon and peach scented goat's milk soaps.
I LOVE the goat's milk soaps. They lather up thick and creamy, and left me and the whole bathroom with a clean, gentle smell. AWESOME!
Lori's also sells any kind of sponge you're looking for. I bought loofahs, and a sturdy back scrubber with a huge sponge at one end.
Throughout Tarpon Springs, you'll find stores selling all types and sizes of sponges.
Cindy, Lynn and I continued shopping. But Monte and Frank opted to sit at a picnic table in the plaza to enjoy a beer and some live music. Vendors along the plaza offer a good variety of Greek wines and snacks. It's a great place to enjoy the sunshine and take a load off.
Here's a little history about the Aegean Isles. Don't know the shark's history . . .
Two words: GREEK BAKERY
OMG! What a delight!
Front counters, countertops, racks along the back walls, all filled with any cookie, pastry, pie, canoli, eclair or dessert your little heart desires - along with serious baklava. Many of the "big-as-your-head" cookies are made with almond paste.
These are very sinful places and they serve coffee! Perfect!
The Greek and European Bakery is one of two large bakeries on the main drag in Tarpon Springs. The other is Hella's. Both have restaurants where patrons can order a tasty Greek meal and top it off with one or two, ahem, of these ample delicacies.
OK - we're winding up our splendid day of food, sunshine, and fun in Tarpon Springs. What shall we do for dinner? Seafood, of course.
Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill has been serving up some of the Gulf's freshest seafood since 2005.
According the Rusty Bellie's website:
Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill is named for our family's love of fishing, namely gulf grouper fishing. A "Rusty Bellie” is the nickname given to the large male gag grouper. A "Rusty Bellie" generally ranges between twenty and sixty pounds, and is typically caught by the true at heart fisherpersons.
As we were gearing up to leave, I stopped inside Rusty's fresh seafood shop that's conveniently next door to the restaurant.
The owners say they and many, many fishermen bring fresh catches to the store to prepare for sale. All are dedicated to bring to market Florida's freshest wild caught seafood.
After dinner, it's time to head home. Before bed, Monte shared the Red Velvet Cake he brought back from Hella's. I don't even know how to describe it; out-of-bounds good.
Relaxed and rested, I returned home the next day, bringing with me soaps, sponges, sandals, spices, and a variety of salts.
As a side story, Cindy and I visited Lafayette and Rushford in Dunedin, where they sell unusual gifts and unique home decorating items. It's a small world, we came to know, as the storeowner said she formerly lived in Zionsville, Indiana. Turns out, the storeowner recently returned to Zionsville on family business, and stayed at a bed and breakfast, where our other roommate and husband operated an adjoining restaurant, Patrick's Kitchen & Drinks. In fact, she remembered Patrick well. Crazy . . .
I'm signing off with pictures of my most prized souvenir, my lamby planter. I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff. Thanks! Cindy for taking me back to Beall's before someone else snatched it up!