Every day of this week in Florida has been amazing, but I think today was definitely the most fun (and also the most expensive!)
My son was finally off work for a day (as a shift manager, he practically lives at the store) and the weather was looking good, so we drove south about 20 miles to Clearwater Beach. There’s a reason (actually a lot of reasons) why Clearwater is one of the most famous and popular beaches in America. It’s probably the prettiest beach I’ve ever been on, and there are tons of things to do there. I definitely got that “I’m on vacation and enjoying every second of it” feeling today.
Clearwater is touristy, but in a good way. The snowbirds haven’t arrived yet and it’s past the peak of the summer season so it wasn’t that crowded. The beach and surrounding area are very clean and well maintained, and the merchants are all friendly. Parking is a bit of a pain, but it wasn’t too bad. We paid $16 for the day because we got an $8 discount for buying drinks in the Surf shop. It would have been $24 if we hadn’t bought the drinks so it was a good deal.
The beach itself is gorgeous. The sand is pure white, almost as white as snow, and a bit blinding until you get used to it (or put on sunglasses). The water is the closest to a Carribbean aqua I’ve ever seen in person. Today the water was a very clear pale green. Someone told me normally it’s more aqua, but there’s a hurricane or tropical storm brewing somewhere in the Gulf which is causing more wave action, making the water cloudier than usual. I still thought it looked different than beaches farther north, the water a lot paler and clearer, and I could actually see the bottom when I was up to my neck in water. It’s also quite warm, much warmer than beaches off the Atlantic.
The water felt so nice I didn’t want to get out of it. Besides, it was way too hot to sit there on the beach and cook. My son stayed in the water too, and we had a long conversation out there treading water. There were waves but they weren’t very big–just big enough that they bobbed you up and down very pleasantly. There were three people near us–two men and a woman–who had driven all the way from Michigan, and the poor woman was having a panic attack. It turned out she had never been in the ocean before. The two guys tried to coax her into going in further and she wouldn’t, but after awhile she seemed to be more relaxed and even enjoying herself.
Someone near our spot on the beach had left a bag of chips open, and the seagulls descended like vultures. People kept trying to shoo them away, but the birds kept coming back, trying to get at those chips. They certainly aren’t afraid of people! I love this photo I got before the owners came back and put the food away.
My son and I ate dinner at a nice restaurant overlooking the beach called Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe, which serves seafood and things like burgers. The food is very tasty (and you get a lot of it) but it isn’t exactly cheap. Fortunately I hadn’t spent much money this week, so I was able to afford to buy us dinner. Our tab came to $62 but it was worth it. We skipped dessert there and went to an ice cream place instead and ate it outside.
We browsed around the surf shop and I bought a small souvenir mason jar which I filled with some of the white sand and a few tiny shells I’d found–a nice keepsake to bring home and remember this day.
Just after sunset there are performances out on the pier. It was a bit of a walk to get there, but along the way, we saw a postcard-perfect tropical sunset so of course I took pictures. There were a lot of boats too, including a pirate ship. I liked the way the post-sunset clouds still reflecting the sun looked behind it in this photo.
There were all kinds of performers on the pier, including a guy dressed like Spiderman who gave us fist-bumps and another guy dressed like a Transformer with glowing electric eyes. There was also a performer dressed like Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and he pulled me out of the crowd and made me fake-dance with him! I was so embarrassed but it was fun too. My son was in hysterics the whole time!
The first of the two main attractions were a father and son escape-artist team. The son was wrapped up in a straitjacket and then two other guys picked at random out of the crowd wrapped him in heavy chains but he still managed to free himself. The other main attraction were husband and wife acrobats. They were very good, but the husband was also extremely funny. He’s 41 years old and I told my son that when he got too old for acrobatics, he could turn to comedy.
This will probably be the last of the vacation posts. Tomorrow is my last day before I start the long drive home on Saturday, and it will probably be a fairly quiet day. I’ll probably go over to Rees Park again for an hour or two, then my son is taking me out to lunch (he just got paid). After that, I’ll probably just relax by the pool and do a small load of laundry so I don’t have to bring dirty clothes and towels home with me.
It’s been a fantastic week. This was the first real vacation I’ve had in eight years (the last one was to Myrtle Beach in 2008). If I’d known this trip (including gas) would be so inexpensive I wouldn’t have waited this long. I’m planning a shorter trip there in late March (hopefully things won’t be too crowded with the spring-breakers) and I’ll be bringing my daughter with me. I’m seriously considering moving to Florida at some point when I figure out how to make that a reality. Until then, visiting isn’t nearly as daunting as I’d expected.
I hope all of you are having a great week too. I really needed this time away and to be with my son.