Florida: The Sundrenched Life

Florida is so famous for its sunshine that it’s easy to think all Florida has is sunny days and lying on a beach and retirees. There is real Florida culture here, some of which I found this summer in a variety of places along the Gulf Coast of Florida:

Ann’s Monroe Street Gallery, where I found a friend from grade school days, Ann Feldshue. The gallery hosts her work, of course, but also works by several artists who share the creative studio space and the gallery display space. There is real talent in the quiet town of Dunedin, Florida.

Dade City Motocross track in Dade City, Florida. My 8-year-old grandson, Jake, races at the track on the county fairgrounds. He has been doing this since he was five, and it has become a central family activity, as it is with any regular participants here. There is a lot of adult supervision and safety is stressed. Dade City is located about an hour away from the beaches, set in a more rural atmosphere with rolling green hills. It’s not the common image of Florida. An abbey is located a few miles from the race track and I pass it when I drive up to watch Jake ride.

Number 971 in action:

The Colombian is a beautiful restaurant in Ybor City (say “eebor”,) which is really part of Tampa these days. It has been in this location for over a hundred years and serves wonderful food, exemplified by the Cuban Salad! I had lunch with Mike, a friend of mine from high school.

Ozona Blue is not pictured, but it is an excellent seafood restaurant on the water, a few miles north of Dunedin. My friend Julie and I celebrated my birthday there, helped by the very friendly staff, live music, and their Happy Hour!

Honeymoon Island is a state park located a short causeway away from Dunedin. It has the great beaches that Florida is famous for, and we spent a lovely, relaxing afternoon here. There is a restaurant, but I haven’t been in it. People get married on the beach here, and we watched a rehearsal going on while we were there. The water is shallow for a long way out, and I enjoyed leaning onto a couple of “noodles,” and just moving with the waves.

Marker 8 in Dunedin is more a “bar that serves food” than a restaurant, but the food is quite passable. It’s main draw, however, is being right on the water, and having a ritual at sunset. All patrons present are given a free shot for a toast at sunset. It is delivered to your table in a plastic salad dressing container, mixed with something that tastes like tropical fruit, and at the moment of sunset, the bartender shouts a toast and everyone drinks up. Sunsets on Florida’s Gulf Coast are generally beautiful – it’s easy to get spoiled.

Hog Island Fish Company is a real restaurant in Dunedin, and a fun place for a casual lunch or dinner. I was there for each, and it provides good seafood in a relaxed atmosphere. No photo for this, but it’s easy to find.

Lastly, I want to mention Adventure Island, which is all about water, swimming, and water slides. They have done an excellent job of providing something for everyone: toddler splash park, bigger-kid splash park, a “Lazy River” for those who would like to float on an inner tube and relax, a large pool for swimmers with high jumps (3 meters) and agility challenges mixed in, and, of course, the exciting water slides. I went on all of them, and had a great time! And, so did the kids, by the way…. I didn’t have a waterproof camera, so there are no photos of going down the slides, but they are really fun!

(That’s my newest granddaughter, Katie! We had fun at the splash park, but she decided to pass on the water slides – she hasn’t reached 42″ yet.)

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