Tuesday, January 29, 2013

St. Petersburg, Florida

Travel Buddies Reunite!
I lobbied to add St. Petersburg to my family's August 2012 road trip to Florida because one of my best friends, Katie, lives there.  What better time to visit and catch up than when we're already in the same state?  We met back in 2009 on Boston University's study abroad program in Madrid and traveled all over Europe with our group of adventurous travel buddies (Madrid, Granada, Lisbon, Paris, Zurich, Salzburg, Mondsee, Toledo, Segovia, Córdoba, and El Escorial).  Since returning to the United States, we have braved another icky Boston winter, worn holes in our rain boots, eaten about a ton of Thai food at Nud Pob (because there's a world map on the wall), lamented moving out of the very glamorous StuVi(2), taken some fabulous Photo Booth photos, read some Siglo de Oro Spanish literature, chatted on Skype, and planned at least ten potential future trips to everywhere we haven't been yet.  After all that, unfortunately only one of us was wise enough to move out of a freezing climate into a sunny place with palm trees.  So, I decided to visit!

• St. Petersburg, Florida •

August 6, 2012: A bit later in the day than we intended, Mom and I left Sanibel Island and drove in the pouring rain up to St. Petersburg and Tampa.  We planned to arrive in time for dinner with my amiga, Katie, but left Sanibel Island later because we got sidetracked when we found ourselves face-to-face with an alligator.  What can we say?  It was an exciting moment.  And we had to take some pictures.  Anyhow, we made a quick stop at Subway, the ultimate road trip quick stop restaurant that's not McDonald's, and drove on into St. Petersburg.  Eventually we arrived, and Katie, grinning from ear to ear, ran excitedly over to our car to greet us.  It was super fun catching up!!

The Dalí Museum
Tortilla Española at The Dalí Museum
August 7, 2012: Our first stop of the following morning was to St. Petersburg's Salvador Dalí Museum.  On the first floor of the museum, where we had breakfast, there's a little tapas café, which fits perfectly because Dalí was Spanish.  It's not a breakfast food, but the three of us split a tortilla española for breakfast.  It's like eating cold pizza or cold macaroni and cheese for breakfast, but Spanish styled, right?

The Dalí Museum
Me and Dalí's Famous, Melting Clocks
Having recently returned from Madrid, where I visited Dalí's work at the Museo de la Reina Sofía, I was super excited to check out some of his other pieces.  One work in particular that stood out to me was one that turns into a portrait of Abraham Lincoln when you step back about 100 feet from it.  Up close, you don't even see him, but as you back up he appears!  It's so cool!  As usual, the subject matter of the rest of Dalí's work was pretty bizarre.  But then again, that's Dalí's surreal style for you.  All three of us enjoyed the visit and the audioguide tour, and we recommend visiting The Dalí Museum if you're traveling through St. Pete.

Later in the afternoon, and Mom and I strolled around, did some boutique-ing, and make our way to the Chihuly Collection.  Dale Chihuly's work is pretty incredible no matter where you see it.  The glass swirls and bends and forms into a million flowing shapes filled with bright colors.  To be honest though, I think the entrance ticket for this exhibition was overpriced for the small amount of Chihuly's work on display.  We went through the collection in about 25 minutes, looked around for stairs or an elevator to the next floor of the collection, and then realized that we had just seen the entire collection.  Leaving the museum, we decided to eat lunch at a restaurant called The Moon Under Water, where we split a cranberry salad and a curry dish - delicious and highly recommended!

Lunch at The Moon Under Water - St. Petersburg, FL
After a bit more strolling around the city, Mom and I hopped in the car and drove out to Tampa to have dinner with a good friend of my Mom's and his family.  We went to a steakhouse for dinner and had a wonderful time chatting and catching up.

Katie at The Trop
From there, we drove back to St. Petersburg to see the Tampa Bay Rays play at Tropicana Field (Thanks, Katie!!).  According to Katie, and pretty much everyone else around the bay area, the field is more typically referred to as "The Trop".  The two baseball fields I usually hang around are Sox Park/Comiskey/U.S. Cellular (whatever it's called now) in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston.  The Trop is hugely different from both of those.  Well, let me clarify something: I do not "hang around" Sox Park.  I hide all the stuff in the car, rush into the field, see the game, rush back to the car, and get out of that gross neighborhood as quickly as possible.  The neighborhood around the Trop is a thousand times nicer, easily.  The very festive Fenway Park, where Katie used to work, isn't bad either.

Tickets to see the Rays
The one feature of the Trop that really stood out to me as being different from other stadiums was that it's inside.  The stadium has a lid!  Or rather, a ceiling.  The ceiling makes it very difficult to see the ball sometimes.  On the way to our seats, Mom and I stopped at a stand to have a baseball card made with us on it.  It's super cute!  I never thought my face would be on a baseball card, especially since I only know about half the rules of the game.  Anyhow, we really enjoyed watching the game!  I think it was Evan Longoria's first game back from an injury, so it was really exciting to get to see him play.

Evan Longoria's First Game Back
After the game, I went to meet up with Katie and got to see where she works.  She told me about putting together and editing all the videos that play during the game, including the Rays' classic "D.J. Kitty" video, and gave me a tour of where she works.  Part of the office where she works overlooks the field, and she can see the game while she's working from that room.

August 8, 2012: The next morning, we all had breakfast, and I got to try a southern breakfast dish I had been curious about for quite some time: grits.  I'm not kidding.  I've really been wanting to try them.  As it turns out, they're pretty good.  The flavor is even better after you add a bit of butter and salt.  Then again, butter and salt help any dish.  In any case, I thought grits seemed like a nice alternative to oatmeal.

After breakfast, we bought a couple pairs of jeans and a t-shirt (hey, it happens), wished an hasta luego to Katie, and started driving off to our next destination: Charleston, South Carolina.  Along the way, we saw some exciting highway exits for Jupiter and Waldoville.  Yep, that's right - I've traveled all over the world, and finally, after years, I found Waldo!

One more of my photos of the Rays that I just have to share with you:

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