Wanna Get Away?

You know those Southwest commercials that show some fabulous beach locale and a low low flight price of $49* and then end with "Wanna Get Away?" Well, this weekend Tony and I were like, "Yes, please".

So that is exactly what we did.

(Well, almost exactly. Technically we flew Allegiant air instead of Southwest, but you get the gist).

We decided to take Friday through Monday to do a quick jaunt down to Saint Pete's in Florida. (I think Tony felt like he needed to do something to intervene since the last forecast for snow flurries had me rocking back and forth in the fetal position while pulling out large chunks of hair). To say I needed a beach vacation is an understatement in the worst way.

But I digress.

The flight was uneventful (the best kind to have in my opinion) and we arrived in the Tampa/St. Pete's/Clearwater area just after noon on Friday. Since our hotel room wasn't available for check-in before 3pm, we decided to pass the time with a nice stroll on the beach.

(PS- You should know that I'm a crazy-long beach walker. You know those personal ads that are like, "I enjoy long walks on the beach"? Yeah. That's mine. And not just long walks. I'm talking marathon walks. Miles and miles and miles. Don't even suggest turning around now because I'm walking until I run out of beach. I don't care if the sand has pumiced all the skin from the bottom from your feet and you're leaving bloody footprints in our wake. We stroll on. Luckily, Tony is also an expert beach walker, so he's able to keep up with me. It's one of the millions of reasons this man is my soulmate).

After sticking a toe or two in, we decided that the water was still too cold for wading (although there were more than a few people who decided to brave the frigid temperatures anyway), but the sun was warm and the sand was soft and there were shells and sand castles and tourists aplenty to keep us entertained as we walked.
Tony deciding that the water is a bit too cold for his liking and he'd just as soon stay on dry land.

Me, having literally walked to the end of the beach (and back).

Of course, you can't go to Florida without partaking of the really fresh seafood, so Tony and I found a little out of the way locals-only place that was low on frills and high on taste. In fact, it seemed to be a seafood market first and a restaurant as an afterthought. You ordered at the counter up front before sliding into a back room to eat at picnic tables with plastic forks and paper plates. But OH MY WORD THE FOOD! I had the crab legs, and the way I tore into them was almost indecent.

(We don't eat seafood much because Tony doesn't really care for it. He says he doesn't like the taste, but I have a feeling that he just doesn't like the idea of eating something that still resembles its animal form. I, however, do not suffer from that problem and I always enjoy messing with him.)

Me, with fistfuls of crab legs and my face dripping in melted butter: NOM! NOM! NOM! (Glances up) What?
Tony (watching in awe): I assume you're enjoying your crab legs?
Me: They're fabulous! (Crack! Dig! Slurp!) Well, don't mind me. I'm just going to sit over here and dismember this delicious crustacean.
Tony (looking slightly revolted): dismember...crustacean?
Me (reaching for the claw crackers): Yep! I just break his little legs and slurp out his flesh!
Tony (disapproving): Enough playing with your food, Hannibal.

It's so hard to faze him it wrong that I enjoy these little moments so much?

Saturday welcomed us with more great weather: sunshine, blue skies, and a high of 78 degrees. We took advantage by catching a spring training baseball game between the Phillies and Detroit. Apparently everyone else had the same idea though, because by the time we arrived the only seats available were out on the grassy knoll in the outfield. I was worried about grass stains on my pretty new jean skirt at first, but the atmosphere out there was like being on a picnic with about 200 people, so it wasn't long before we were all stretched out, shoes kicked off and enjoying the grass between our toes.

Our sports day continued that evening. Tony, being Tony, had arranged for tickets to see the Tampa Bay Lightning play the Washington Capitals (that's hockey for my non-NHL following friends). Washington is currently doing really well, whereas Tampa Bay isn't, but the majority of the crowd was definitely rooting for the home team, so it was fun anyway. And it was a really great game. Tampa came thiiiiiiiiiis close to scoring roughly eleventy-bajillion times, but Washington's goalie is really, really good. (Not to mention a total cutie-patootie).
See? Jose Theodore, Washington's resident Cutie Patootie, and just one more reason that I loooooove this game.

Sunday dawned with rain in the forecast, so we were in a bit of a quandary as to what to do. I had wanted to visit the Sunken Gardens that day (50,000 species of exotic plants! Beautiful theme gardens! Last day of the orchid festival!), but Tony was worried that a severe thunderstorm (Rain! Lightning! Fierce winds!) might put a damper on the whole flower viewing experience. (At first I thought that he was exaggerating the storm to get out of seeing 50,000 plants, but then I stepped outside the hotel room and was almost blown away by the wind, so I had to concede that maybe he was right on this one). Instead, we headed to the mostly indoor Clearwater Marine Aquarium to see some dolphins and otters and sharks (oh my!) If you ever have a chance to visit the CMA , do it. They aren't just a tourist destination- they're actually a marine animal rescue and rehabilitation hospital. Their goal is to rescue, heal, and release most of the animals back into the wild. The ones they keep on permanent exhibit have failed their official re-release readiness tests.Titus the turtle, whose rear end constantly floats due to "buoyancy issues" after being hit by a boat. Seeing how I have similar buoyancy issues whenever I try to snorkel, I can sympathize.

This is Sunny, the orphaned 4 month old baby river otter that the CMA rescued. She's roughly the size of a small stuffed animal, and was enjoying a fierce fight to the death with her blanket just prior to me snapping the picture.

And where would we be without not one but TWO dolphin videos? (Don't worry, they're short). I apologize if the camera movement on the jumping video makes you a bit nauseated...I was trying to keep the dolphin in the frame. (Bonus material: If you listen, you can hear me go "ooooooh!" every time the dolphin jumps. I know! It's this kind of movie magic that is going to win me an Academy award one day.)

No, this is not me with Tony. This is "Patriotic turtle". I have no idea why I made Tony pose with him other than to say that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I could continue with Monday's account, but everything about it was pretty mundane; the checking out of the hotel, returning the rental car, and grabbing a quick lunch before hitting the airport. I will say that we spent every last moment we could outside in the sun before dashing into the airport to catch our flight back home.

Where ironically, it was once again spitting snow.

*Well, $49 one way, plus the additional $49 to get back, plus the airport fees and the fuel surcharge fees and the baggage fees and the online reservation fees and the no-longer-complimentary drink and peanut fees...all of which actually ends up meaning that you can get away for about $140.**

**Which is still not that bad all things considered.