De Soto Park and First Night (New Year’s Eve)!
Our list of to-dos is growing for today. Besides De Soto Park and First night we are now going to a Bead Store, a bakery, a gas station, and, as the sports agents put it, "future considerations". Nothing to be done on the boat but with Kayt here, that's all right. We get the impetus to go out and see things that we might otherwise have delayed and perhaps even not even done. De Soto will be a serious day at the beach with a picnic, swimming, and major sun tanning. Barb and Kayt have made it their mission to relieve me of my farmer's tan.
We didn't get away from the boat until 1030 then a quick stop at the coffee shop for a recharge and then into Passe-a-Grille for some shopping on a little street called Corey. It's a fascinating place with some interesting stores. One place specialized in wind socks, lawn flags and kites and Barb bought a kite to fly on the beach that looked like a monarch butterfly. Another place specialized in shells where I bought a really good book on beachcombing and recognizing plants, animals, fish and above all, shells. There were numerous other places including two jazz cafes but we didn't go into too many of them.
Now, on to De Soto Park and the beach. We decided to go to the north beach on the assumption that there would be less people there and we were right. There were fewer that Canadian standards or at least Nova Scotian standards, but for us there were still quite a few. I can't get really used to having someone else's beach blanket set up within ten feet of your own but down here that is quite acceptable. Even with that the parking lot was only 15% full so I could only imagine what it would be like if the place was full! We did some sunbathing and shelling and I took the shortie wet suit and snorkel and went out to waist deep water to look for sand dollars. No luck but we did find some other shells that were very nice. By the time we come to return home we should have a really good collection. Barb had prepared a great picnic for us to have on the sand including chips, sandwiches and soft drinks. As I munched down I looked around and saw more than a few envious glances looking our way.
After lunch we headed back to Passe-a-Grille for some more shopping. We found a couple of Surf Shops which for me were really interesting since we don't have any specialty shops like that back home. Sunglasses, suits, boards, knick-knacks etc. - all really off the wall and unusual.
After we made a further stop at a grocery store to replenish stores, it was back to the boat to get ready for First Night in St. Pete's. This meant a meal and a quick shower to wash off the salt from the day on the beach. At about six thirty we drove into St Pete's for the big party. This was an incredibly well organized street party. Admission was $10 for which you got a really snazzy button that blinked with LED lights that got you into all the venues. Aside from the unavoidable food kiosks, there was entertainment ranging from ghost walks to jazz to African drums and dance, steel drums to Brazilian regge, silhouette puppets cast on the wall of the fine arts museum to a DJ, and from French chanteuse to classical ballet all performed on the street and all covered by the cost of admission. The food stalls sold all the normal stuff - cotton candy, popcorn, hotdogs, pizza slices, but also a new sort of French fries to me - spiral shaped ones. I just had to try them and found them delicious except for the fact that it was impossible to eat one in its entirety. There was always something hanging out of your mouth so you had to be messy. There were thousands of other people there and the organizers had fireworks popping off every hour on the hour to keep people interested and prepped for midnight.
Barb Kayt and I made the rounds and decided to come on home to ring in the New Year from the cabin of Nelleke so that we would miss most of the traffic madhouse of everyone trying to get home at the same time. As it was there was plenty of traffic, some of it incredible as I was doing the speed limit and some folks were speeding by me like I was standing still. You'd think that on New Year's they'd be a little more circumspect but apparently not. New Year's at the marina came with both fireworks and small arms fire. We used to do this at home when we lived in the country but I must admit that I didn't expect to hear the sound of someone emptying his pistol in the air by way of celebration. The last time I saw this was in Croatia at a wedding that I had been invited to when after the couple had made their speeches several of the guests drew handguns and fired them into the air, indoors! A great make work project for plasterers, but at the time it had me reaching for my weapon and looking about for cover thinking that I was about to come under attack. I just didn't expect it in a major North American metropolitan area.