St Pete Beach, Florida Trip Report

Aug 21st, 2010, 01:17 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 26
St Pete Beach, Florida Trip Report

We booked our trip last minute, though not through the last minute travel, and ended up traveling Air Tran. I had never traveled with them, so had no idea what to expect. Our flight from Dallas to Atlanta started boarding early, and as everyone was aboard, left a few moments early. The plane seems a little old, but everything was clean and comfortable. The flight attendants were very professional, but had a nice sense of humor in how they approached the necessary announcements. At landing, we were assured they had checked and none of us should have any problems making connecting flights. Those of us making a connection in Atlanta were actually encouraged to stop by the desk in the terminal when we exited, where a young lady was specifically provided to tell us where we needed to go to catch our connect. I think she must have been the person that checked our connections as she informed our party where to head in the terminal without even looking it up when we said "Atlanta to Tampa". I really only reported on our air travel to mention this little service as I have flown through Atlanta a number of times on other airlines and never had them say anything other than "Check the board regarding your connecting flights as gates may change" upon landing there. Our flight from Atlanta to Tampa also began boarding early, and we took off a full ten minutes ahead of schedule after everyone was aboard.

The rental car company in Tampa airport was a completely different animal. My spouse has not traveled much, and Dollar implied to him our insurance would not cover the car. I was lucky to return from the restroom in time to inform him our credit card company provides insurance for all rentals that covers the gap our personal Texas insurance cover would have left. The clerk then made a big deal that we were going to be arrested in Florida for relying on this insurance. I called my credit card, was assured this was not the case, which I already knew anyway from past research but did only to calm my spouse's fears. They helpfully emailed an insurance card to us, which we were able to retrieve via cell phone. The woman sniffed the police would only accept a printed card but refused to allow us to print the card there. We refused their coverage and obviously this must have been ok as she acted pouty but gave us the car. Our hotel had no problem printing the card out for us from my laptop, and the clerk even refused to accept a tip for doing it. We later happened upon a police officer in St Pete who assured me the card on my cell was fine, btw. She also made a huge deal about how much trouble it was going to be for us to refuel the car for return trying to sell us their $2.75 a gallon refill pack, which they stated was 6 cents per gallon over the local fuel price. Don't bother, there are several stations just where you exit from 275 to get on the road to the airport well within the you must refill within 10 miles range. We noticed as soon as we left the airport their contention of only 6 cents above local prices must have been made using the highest local price they could find. We actually got our gas 12 cents per gallon cheaper.

Which brings me to the best part. Our week on St Pete's Beach. We stayed at the Beachcomber Beach Resort and Hotel. I was a little nervous as I had read reviews of this hotel and some mentioned the condition of the hotel, but the deal was really exceptional and many liked the hotel. What I found was this. The hotel is clearly not new. The tub and other fixtures in our tub were clearly a throwback to the 70s. Mattresses were firm but comfortable, all the bedding and towels spotlessly clean. Despite all the sand we tracked in, the cleaning ladies were polite and smiling and kept the place spotlessly clean. Even in the back corners. The clerk at the front desk took one look at our tired faces when our family arrived and said "I'll put you in room 204 near us" which was a perfect choice. We could sit in the provided lawn chairs on the lanai in front of our studio room and enjoy the music from the beach bar, or go inside and enjoy peace and quiet.

I've posted a blog at http://gertie.drivemeinsane.com with pictures of our week, but I will post an excerpt here.

We made a sand castle. We found shells. Found the beach bar, too. Honest, we only had that bucket of pina colada at Jimmy B's to get the bucket for making sand castles. If you go, sit by the outdoor bar. The burgers are pretty good. Skip the potato salad and have the fries, they were the best!

Went out to eat Sunday brunch at Palm Court in the Tradewinds Island Grand and boy, was it good! They had a sword fish infused with ginger I really loved. Outside we found Koi and one fat swan waiting for their dinner, too. Lucky we found the feeder. Boy, did they know the sound of coins dropping in that feeder!

We ate a lot while we were gone. Skidder's is a diner a short walk south from our hotel. We had a really nice breakfast there, and the coffee was really good. We also had a really nice breakfast at Paradise Grill another day, just a short walk up the beach. As far as we could tell, it was just a part of St Pete Beach, but they had a sign that said "Upham Beach". Somehow I only have a picture of the sunset from Upham Beach. I guess you'll have to go if you want your own picture of paradise.

We went to Ceviche in St Petersburg one night for dinner. I want to know what they put in their sauce on the escargot wrapped in chicken. That stuff was so good, I swear I would bathe in it! We had dinner at Mid-Peninsula Seafood another night. It was really tasty. We tried cracked conch for the first time. It arrived breaded with bread crumbs, and we found it very tender. Hard to believe conch is a tough critter they have to beat to make edible. The place has more kitsch on the inside as out, but the food and the prices were hard to beat. My scallops must have been nice and fresh as they arrived with a lovely sear and a light, delicate flavor. Yum! The catfish was a bit of a surprise, but it was so light and flaky we didn't mind. Being from Texas, we're used to a corn meal breading. If you go, say hi to Don and Joan for us.

We rode the Shell Key Shuttle over from the Merry Pier in Pass-a-Grille early one morning. While we waited for the shuttle to leave, we watched the birds hanging around. Look at that great big pelican! We got excited when we got our first glimpse of Shell Key. It was threatening storms but we didn't mind. The clouds just made it cooler. By the time we got around to the Gulf side, it seemed to be clearing. We found a lot of shells. Found a hungry bird, too. He wanted some of our picnic lunch. We saw a pelican finding his own lunch. We really enjoyed Shell Key, at least until the storm snuck up on us. I didn't mind that much since I was in my swim suit anyway. The winds attacked Restil while he was trying to protect the camera with the umbrella and he got a little testy. Finally the shuttle arrived to pick us up, and we headed back to the hotel after our little fresh water shower. Because we could not stay the full day due to the weather, they offered us a half price trip the next day. We were sad we couldn't make it, but we had plans to go to the St Petersburg Pier that day.

The Pier was pretty nice, in a touristy sort of way. It rained while we were inside. We had coffee and desserts at the little snack bar there. The coffee was really good, but it was kind of warm for it. We saw a candle stand and wished we could figure how to take one home. Aren't they pretty? Maybe next time. We enjoyed the little aquarium they had upstairs. We found Nemo living there, but he seemed in a hurry. Surely he isn't camera shy?

On our last day it stormed a bit. We went out to take a few pictures at the beach when the rain stopped and found the waves were really high.


I'll just insert a bit of review here.

Skidder's had a great breakfast and the prices were reasonable enough. The place is a diner with desserts under glass domes. The service was excellent.

Paradise Grill has two locations. One just at the north end of St Pete Beach in Upham Beach and one down south in Pass-a-Grille. The home fried potatoes we had there were the best, and the coffee was good. Our breakfasts were very very reasonable at $5 each, and the food was great. The only dining area is picnic tables, some with umbrellas, on a deck outside what looks like a beach snack shack, but the menu is pretty full service for a beach snack shack. The view was just great!

Beverly's La Croisette was another place we had breakfast. It was fun listening to groups of regulars gossiping, and the service was excellent. Our waitress was a real gem and I wish I had got her name, but she was just bustling around taking care of people so much I didn't quite get the chance. My Florentine Benny was really top notch, and reasonably priced for the quality. My husband said he preferred the omelet at Paradise Grill, but I think that was partly the enjoyment of the beautiful beach at sunrise. We were really happy we went to Beverly's.

Ceviche had a closed for renovation sign on the restaurant, someone said due to someone cleaning the floor with something that made it too slick to walk on. They had copious safety mats out downstairs in the bar but something got on my shoes while under the table that made them so slick I had trouble walking and had to lean on my spouse until it kind of walked off. Never the less, the food was outstanding. Especially loved the escargot wrapped in chicken for the wonderful garlic-y tomato sauce. We lucked into Tuesday Happy Hour, and many of the tapas were only $4, as well as the excellent sangria. Among the happy hour tapas we enjoyed, each was well prepared and a good sized portion. The meat balls were memorable, nicely spiced but not overly done, well cooked, with a very nice sauce. Despite the floor issues, our server was smiling and service was outstanding.

For those interested in Anime, Anime Fix in St Petersburg was a nice surprise. The shop was well organized and their prices were very good. We ended up making two trips, which made my daughter exceedingly happy.

The Pier - your basic tourist trap shopping experience over all, but it was nice and had some interesting surprises. There is a shop to the left as you enter that specializes in things like fossil shark teeth, Native American arrowheads, and crystals and rocks of all sorts. It was so interesting just to browse through and read all the provided information on their stock. and they even gave our daughter a little shark's tooth. The aquarium upstairs is very small but has a good many interesting exhibits. We mainly went because it was shark feeding day. My daughter got to feed a couple of the small sharks swimming in one of the tanks, and they let us feed one of the rays as well. Five dollars initially seemed a tad steep, but the place wasn't crowded and we didn't feel rushed. Overall we felt it worth it to have relaxed enjoyment of all the neat fish, and we took a lot of pictures.

Mid-Peninsula Seafood in appearance is pure kitsch. The dining room has wood picnic bench-type tables with beach umbrellas and twinkle lights! Our cracked conch appetizer arrived hot from cooking and was tender and breaded with a light hand. The calamari appetizer was crispy on the outside, tender inside, with a good fresh flavor. My scallops arrived with a sear one can only achieve with good fresh scallops and were perfectly cooked with a great light, rich taste. I had the rice accompaniment and it was also very good. Light and fluffy with a buttery garlic flavor. The home made hot pepper sauce was spicy and tasty with a kick. I thought the cocktail sauce was a bit bland but my friend who is from the area tells me it was probably the normal local recipe. Being from Texas we usually get sauce with a bit more kick. My daughter had the catfish, which was a surprise as we are used to cornmeal breaded, but the lighter breading (I think flour?) was perfectly cooked and the fish was flaky and moist. Overall, we really enjoyed the place and recommend it highly. They also sell fish for you to take home and cook. I didn't pay attention to the prices they charge for that, but our meal was very reasonable. About $65 for three and included two bottles of beer.

Last, the flight home. Air traffic was backed up in Atlanta due to late arrivals from airports on the east coast due to storms. Our flight was over an hour and a half late. We sat near our gate a lot of the time and received regular detailed updates via a gentleman at the microphone, a service I had not experienced to this degree with certain other airlines on the occasions I have had such delays. When I went to get some food, some passengers with another airline had no idea why the delays, and we filled them in, but there again they may have only missed the report at their own gate while in the resto. When it came time to board, they really hustled us on the plane and we got underway pretty quickly. Air traffic at Atlanta seemed to really be shoving them out as fast as they could get them in, so I will commend Atlanta airport for that. On the negative side, they are awfully short of seating and we couldn't find any sort of sit down restaurant, just fast food, although there were several sit down bars in our terminal. We did find out from a flight attendant our plane wasn't originally intended to go on from Atlanta to Dallas that night but our expected plane was still sitting on a runway due to weather. This plane was more of a small puddle hopping commuter plane, and space between seats was very tight for my six foot six hubby. Thanks to the new program Air Tran and many other if not all airlines have of selling off the exit seats with their extra leg room at a premium, there was no way to get hubs in one of those seats. We refuse to pay a premium for what used to be a service. It really wasn't so bad, he did fit, and we made it home just fine. Although they had apparently been pressed into extra work they did not expect, the flight crew was professional and even jovial the entire flight. We will definitely be traveling with Air Trans again.
TravelinGertie is offline  
Aug 21st, 2010, 01:29 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
I love St Pete Beach! I stayed at the Beachcomber in February for a few days. My experience was similar to yours, with the bathroom being a bit dated, but clean, and the bed was comfy. I happened to be ill (flu-like symptoms) so kept to myself the first day/day and a half. Cleaning staff was very nice and understanding. I would definitely go back to the Beachcomber for another stay. We have AirTran service from two 'local' airports so it's pretty easy to get to TPA from where I am located. Much prefer TPA area over the Atlantic coast of FLA.

Now I need to check out your blog and look at the pics!
simpsonc510 is offline  
Aug 21st, 2010, 01:37 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
Enjoyed your blog. Nice pics. Loved the multi-colored toenails.... are you starting a new fashion statement, or is this common in Texas??
simpsonc510 is offline  
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