May 10, 2005

No Going Back

Well, we’ve gone and done it now. We booked our vacation and there’s no going back.

Hubby finds the beach therapeutic. There’s something soothing about the gently lapping waves, the desperate calls of the seagulls, the sugar-white sands, and the kaleidoscope of umbrellas lining the beach for miles in either direction.

Not to mention, the sea air clears up any complexion problems a person might have. *ahem*

The first time we visited Florida was about four years ago. We went to Pensacola, Florida. We stayed at a Hampton Inn RIGHT off the beach. We could literally walk out the door and be on the beach. We really enjoyed ourselves but discovered that Pensacola is really a party town and not geared toward children. There weren’t many kid-friendly eating places and the restaurants that were available were outrageously expensive. We learned a lot from that trip.

The next time we went to Florida, we stayed at Madeira Beach. We stayed at a Holiday Inn and though our room overlooked the parking lot, we were still within easy reach of the beach. We had a better time in Madeira, but the hotel room was cramped and once again, we had a problem with spending so much on food. We did purchase a Styrofoam cooler and keep sandwich foods in it, which saved on lunches out, but it was still outrageously expensive. We also made the mistake of trying to visit too many nearby attractions and didn’t spend as much time on the beach as we had wanted to.

The third time we went to Florida, we stayed in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area. Oh my goodness! I fell in LOVE with this area. It felt less touristy and more authentic beach lifestyle. People in this area were laid back and very friendly. We stayed at the Sirata. We ended up with a suite directly overlooking the ocean. It was breathtaking. We had plenty of room and it had a small kitchenette. We purchased groceries and saved a ton of money on food. We did eat out a few times, but we didn’t feel lost or rushed when we selected the restaurants. We ate at a seafood place one time and it was a blast. The atmosphere was fun and geared toward tourists. They even had a traveling photographer who took our picture.

We actually stumbled onto the deal through the American Airlines website. We carry one of those AA Advantage cards and rack up points whenever we use it. We can then cash in the points and save on airfare. We had enough saved up by the St. Petersburg trip to purchase two airline tickets. American Airline had a deal with Sirata and we were able to get an incredible deal, suite and all, for a low 1200 dollars. That included hotel, car rental and air fare. We were ecstatic. And we had an absolute ball. That was our best year in Florida, by far. The only fly in the ointment was the church revival that happened to be scheduled for that same time and those people were incredibly loud and rude. They completely disregarded the fact that people might actually choose to SLEEP while there, but we still didn’t let that spoil our time. We most definitely will be going back to stay at the Sirata again.


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