St. Petersburg, FL
by Kiko Matsing
St. Petersburg lies 2 hours southwest of Gainesville, on the Gulf-side of Florida. The most direct way to get there is through the long bridge on I-275 across the bay from Tampa. I always enjoy going over these bridges that connect disperse land masses separated by blue waters that are typical of Florida, and hope to see someday the überlongbridges of the Keys.
We headed north on this earshaped peninsula looking for Clearwater, having been lured by a tourist pamphlet we picked up at gas-station convenience store that advertised Fort De Soto somewhere there (voted Best Beach of 2005!). The sand was ashen white to grey, the water a murky bottle green; it was a quiet family day on the beach. I must say though that the beaches at the panhandle were better: Pensacola having the typical yellowish coral sand, and Destin, my favorite here so far, having a fine sugary white texture (is it actually silica?) that rivals the Broacay white sands back home.
We then drove south from Clearwater, generally following Gulf Blvd. along the long island, stopping by Redington Beach for more sun and swimming (be sure to stock up on coins for the parking meters), and Guppy’s for lunch, our best surprise find on this trip (it looked well patronized!). Their Gulf amberjack cooked carribean style with banana/mango chutney, that we capped with key lime pie for dessert was just perfect for that hot day on the beach.
Fort De Soto itself did not live up to the hype. The beach was ashen grey, and there were portions where sad-looking old men tanned themselves wearing nothing but a peewee pink pouch, just narrowly complying with the city ordinance against nudity. The Fort looked like a mere husk of its former self, displaying canons from the Spanish-American War that actually never saw real battle, unlike their only other surviving cousins in Corregidor Island in the Philippines, used heavily during WWII. These old geezers lie idly under the sun, slick-shiny and dark, pointing at the clear sky, pointing at nothing.