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Florida 18 - T2 - Day 4 - Tarpon & Clearwater

Today we woke to rain but as the forecast was for it to clear by 10am we were not too bothered. After the standard breakfast (remind me not to book to stay in a Holiday Inn Express again for at least another year as I am not sure I can face the same fare again for a while) and with now freshly cleaned teeth from the new toothbrush we were on on way out for the day.

Our first stop was Tarpon Springs. This is supposedly the Sponge Diving Capital of the world. We have visited previously and found it to be a pleasant place to wander around. The history of the place is that was inhabited by lots of Greek people who apparently have a heritage of diving for sponges. There are lots of Greek restaurants and shops.

Today though we found it to be a sad and run down place. It could be lovely but needs a lot of investment. There were very few people wandering around passing empty buildings that have seen better days. The ones that were open were just selling tat. There were lots of quite aggressive people selling boat trips who kept repeatedly crossing the road to talk to us. There were coffee shops as such either, it was all rather strange. So disappointed we got back in the car and left.

We drove to Howard Park which is an island connected by a mile causeway. It would have been a lovely place to be on a calm day with blue skies. It had fantastic beaches. Unfortunately though by the time we arrived, the wind had picked up considerably and there were some ominous looking clouds bubbling up. We sat it the car and ate some fruit before deciding to move on in search of an elusive coffee for Karen.

Heading south we came across an Ice Cream Parlour called Strachans that we had been to on a previous trip and so pulled into the car park. Karen had a Carrot Cake Ice Cream whilst I just had the pleasure of watching her eat it.

From here we drove down further to Dunedin, the second town with that name we had visited this year. Whereas Tarpon Springs is a strange Greek enclave, Dunedin is a strange Scottish one albeit a much nicer place. We found a cafe we had eaten in before and ordered Eggs Benedict as a late brunch. It wasn't Wetherspoons prices but very nice all the same. We decided to explore the main drag but as we got to the very end of the street the heavens opened with proper Florida rain for about 10 minutes. We were sheltering outside a restaurant that was preparing for evening service and they very kindly invited us inside to wait for the rainclouds to pass.

As soon as the rain cleared, we could see blue sky on the horizon and so drove the few miles further down to Clearwater Beach. When we have been here in the past in has been in the peak season and finding a car park space a nightmare but today there was no problem. We walked along the beach for a while heading towards the pier but then went back to the road and eventually found the Starbucks much to Karens relief. After a quick pitstop we went out onto the pier. It was still windy but now hot and sunny. We stayed a while chatting and trying decide to where to go on future trips.

The drive back was not fun. It was Friday rush hour and on I19 there seemed to be red traffic lights every mile for the 35 trip back. It took ages.

In the evening we thought we would eat at Red Lobster as this was not a place the boys would choose once they join us later in the week. We had a good meal but as usual ate too many of the complementary warm cheese 'biscuits' before our meals arrived.

On the way back to the Hotel we stopped at the Bed, Bath & Beyond store which always amazes us with the amount and variety of stock it contains - especially the beyond 'bit'. Karen bought herself a new make up mirror. I wonder how long before she loses or breaks this one!

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