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2023 - November - Florida - Day 1

By 4.30am I was wide awake. As quietly and as keeping still as possible I laid in bed checking my phone. Just before 5am though, Karen’s phone beeped and woke her up as she received a message from her sister. We were now both wide awake with no hope of going back to sleep and so chatted as we caught up with news on our phones.

We both checked our Premium Bond Checker apps and found we had both won £100, which was a good way to start the day.

At 7.15am after getting ready we made our way the very short journey to reception to get some breakfast. Disappointingly they only had fancy tea bags on offer so I went without and instead went to investigate the hot food. It was the usual acceptable Holiday Inn Express fare. I had some scrambled egg with what they laughingly call pork sausages.

I then tried the porridge. Served up in a big tureen. I do not know what it was made from but they were the weirdest oats I have ever seen. After a couple of mouthfuls, I gave up and had some more egg instead.

Pleasingly there were some bananas put out and two of them may have found their way into my pocket for later.

Back in our room we busied ourselves for a short while as we figured that if we went out too early everywhere would still be closed.

At 9am we were in the car heading to our first stop – John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk. It took just over 10 minutes to drive there. The place was like a ghost town. Everywhere was shut and nobody was about. It was a shame as the place looked interesting and as if it would be quite vibrant in the summer months. There was a street of what looked like old fishing shacks converted to shops, bars and restaurants.

The one negative fact that the whole area seemed locked down by aggressive signs saying parking fees enforced everywhere. This seemed overkill considering we were the only ones around. I drove slowly looking for somewhere where we could just park for a few minutes but in the end gave in and pulled into a deserted car park. The fee was $3 per hour (which we subsequently discovered was the standard amount all along this part of the Florida coast).

Getting out of the car we realised the sun hadn’t yet worked its magic and that it was still quite cold. This came as a shock as isn’t something we usually encounter in Florida. We quickly returned to the car to put on another layer.

We walked along the Boardwalk and it was all rather lovely. It had a touch of the Keys about it. We walked under the bridge to where John’s Pass meets the sea and then continued walking along the beautiful white beach. There were a few other people doing the same thing. The tide was quite low and there was a lot of natural debris left by the high tide. There were all sorts of large shells and interestingly lots of natural sponges, reminding us that we were quite close to Tarpon Springs – the sponge capital of the world.

As I had only paid for an hour parking we returned to the car and decided to drive over the bridge and found ourselves in Treasure Island. We thought we would keep driving to try and find the motel we had stayed in with the boys many years ago. We failed. Not only did we discover later that it had been demolished in 2005 but also that I had no photos in my iCloud from that part of our trip. Indeed, we struggled to work out what year we had been here. After exchanging messages with Barry, we believe it was in 2000. I will be on a mission when I get home to track down the missing photos and get them scanned into our photo library (which currently sits at 27000+ photos).

Anyhow after driving for a while, we ended up parking (and paying another $3) parked at Archibald Park for another walk on the beach after having a drink at the beach café. The weather was by now lovely and warm. It was beautiful walking on the beach and there were even more things to find on washed up on the tideline. The highlight for me was a Leopard Crab (dead) something I had never seen before.

We were back in the car with a couple of minutes to spare to avoid the $60 fine and headed to Boca Ciega Millennium Park. On route we stopped at a Publix to buy some things for lunch (tuna and fruit for me and a salad for Karen). We took these to the park. The park was large but again deserted. It was divided into different habitats and was quite impressive. The best part though was that it was free admission and parking.

We stopped at picnic spot #5 and ate our food whilst basking in the sun. We both ate an apple and perhaps irresponsibly threw our cores into the bushes. Actually, we did discuss beforehand about doing so and decided that they would provide food for some critters and then rot down. We didn’t expect though to cause such excitement so quickly as after a couple of minutes there was a large rustling next to us from a bush and out popped a large wild tortoise who was obviously attracted by the smell and came in search of the core. He was surprisingly quick.

Then we went for a walk along the boardwalk and went to the Observation Tower which we climbed and sat for a while. We discussed how fortunate we were to be here.

Then we headed back to the Hotel. I decided to try out the Hot Tub for a while, whilst Karen sat outside with me and started to try and plan our 2025 trip schedule. She didn’t get very far.

For our meal we headed back out to John’s Pass where we went to Crabby’s restaurant. We were seated inside with a view out to sea. The service was as good as the food. We both had the Mahi Mahi sandwich which was excellent. Just as we were thinking of leaving, we found we were in the ideal spot for what turned out to be a stunning sunset over the sea.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a Dollar Tree to pick up some things Karen was after and some cleaning products in preparation for our villa stay from Sunday.

Back in the room we struggled to get the TV working as there seemed to be a cable disconnected behind it, instead I connected the VPN and we watched the recorded BBC 10pm news on the iPlayer. We were both fast asleep early as we tried to get our sleep patterns into Florida time.

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