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Tampa Bay

September 2006

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As I mentioned in the blog, this FAM was organized by Florida's beach specialists, the St Petersburg Clearwater area tourism office. So the area we visited is on the west coast of Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico side, but along an area known as Tampa Bay.

After checking into the North Redington Beach Double Tree Hotel,

 

which by the way is a great place with ocean front balconies (and the traditional warm chocolate chip cookies but not the free internet connection), we were taken on a dinner cruise aboard the StarLite Princess. This is a paddlewheel Riverboat that cruises the St Pete beach area.

The food was nice, the music was fine and the sunset was breath taking.

The next morning we started the day with breakfast and a visit of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club. This hotel was built in 1925. It is a pink landmark that can be seen from far away.

It is a beautiful property, very elegant, with lovely gardens

The rooms have been redecorated in today's style,

 

but the lobby still has the original hand painted beams and murals.

I was impressed.

Next they took us to the pier for a trolley ride.

 

There are 2 museums close by, but we did not go in. The pier itself is nothing more then a group of touristy shops and restaurants. There was an antique car gathering on that day.

 

At the top you get a nice view of St Petersburg.

 

Next we were driven to a property called Pasa Tiempo. They call themselves a boutique hotel
To me it is more of a cross between a B&B and an efficiency hotel. The sign outside is not at all inspiring but once you go through the gate you enter an oasis, or a jungle like garden with fountains gurgling everywhere.

The rooms are all right, they each have a small kitchen, one had a Jacuzzi, another has a balcony.

 

The service seems to be what sets this property apart. Guests are greeted with a glass of Champagne, they are offered cocktails in the afternoon and liqueurs at night. The owners really go all out to pamper everyone. Unfortunately the smell from the dead fish is very noticeable and would keep me from staying there.

 

Our next stop was no better smell wise, but not because of the fish as it was not on the water. It just had a terrible musty smell
The furniture was a mishmash of old things, the beds were lumpy, the bathrooms were oddly placed I did not like it at all. It is called the Sea Breeze Manor.

Thankfully my nose got a treat in the next property. The Peninsula Inn and Spa smells of good quality (Yonka) beauty products as you walk in. This place boasts a bar, a grill, a wine cellar and an elegant restaurant. The building is not young, and the rooms are not fancy but at least they appear to be clean. One of the owners is Canadian and offers to take Canadian money at par (granted these days it is not such a big deal but still).

After all this hard work we were rewarded with a few minutes of shopping in a kind of boardwalk shopping area. I expected junk it was not that bad. I saw some unusual fun items.

Next we visited two properties across the street from each other in Madeira Beach. The first is directly on the beach. It is called Barefoot Beach Resort. The building itself is nondescript but the studios are quite nice, clean and new. They all have a kitchenette and some have great ocean view. I would stay here without hesitation.
The second property is brand new. It is a condominium concept but with hotel services for people who rent. It is called Madeira Bay. Even the back units have a nice view. There was only one unit left for sale, it was very tempting had I had money.

 

The next morning we started with a beautiful hotel called the Tradewinds Sandpiper. It is a big property, with both kiddies and adult pools but it targets mostly an adult clientele as their sister property the Island Grand has a lot more amenities for children. The décor is elegant and colorful. I would recommend this place without hesitation.

Finally, last but not least: Safety Harbor Resort and Spa! This resort is built over natural mineral springs. These waters had already been identified by Hernando De Soto in 1539. A sanatorium was built there at one point. Things have evolved and now it is a 189 rooms hotel that is in the process of being renovated. The visit insisted way too much on the almost miraculous virtues of the waters for my taste. It sounded like someone selling St Joseph's shrine.
I am not that credulous and I had an upset stomach for days after drinking the water there.
Visiting a spa is the most boring thing to me but I have to admit they had nice gardens.

 

In conclusion, the Tampa bay area is very nice, it has a lot to offer: sandy beaches, beautiful parks, museum and amusement parks and a wide variety of lodging options, restaurants and shops. The Tampa airport is easy to navigate. There are shuttles are well as trolleys in the various communities.