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April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

Saratoga Springs...
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April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

We arrived via Southwest at TPA at approximately 10:30 on Saturday morning. We proceeded to pick up our luggage and then directly to the Budget Fastbreak location for our mini-van. If you read my review last year, you may remember that I went on and on about how nice the mini-van was. Suffice it to say, this vehicle was equally fetching (equipped with leather, navi, dvd, etc) and came at a bargain rate. I love Budget Car Rentals!

Since we had some time to kill before check-in, we stopped in at the Red Barn on our way to the island. I honestly found this to be a little overwhelming! I wish that I had printed a map and brought it with me. My daughter bought a pickle on a stick, and the rest of us stocked up on beautiful (and cheap!) produce for the week. Instead of staying for lunch, we proceeded to a Subway for a speedy lunch and arrived at the island by 1:30.

My parents checked in at their condo at La Costa early, and I will repeat my previous La Costa Review here: “I just wanted to report back that my parents had a wonderful experience at La Costa, and have already rebooked (for a month!) next year. Dan Talley was absolutely wonderful as a manager. He was able to accommodate them with a late check out (the day before Easter), and helped with all the details of their stay (wireless access, baking sheets, tennis racquets… everything that they needed!) The unit itself was spotless and updated and very private and quiet. It even had a private washer/dryer (I'm not sure if all units have them.) They loved the keyless entry (they had a lock code on their door) because it was so convenient not to keep track of the room keys on the beach. La Costa was fantastic, and we highly recommend the facility to other travelers.”

We then checked in at our condo next door at the Bradenton Beach Club, and headed straight to the beach. Pure bliss! Since we had a late start, we went to dinner later than we normally would (around 7pm) at the BeachHouse. The new décor was gorgeous, and we caught the sunset outside before our meal was over. I can’t count how many loaves of pineapple/coconut bread our party of 8 consumed. It was as wonderful as I had remembered it. So was the house salad! The Red Fish Creole was out of this world. The service was a bit slow, but, to be fair, the place was packed. After dinner, we dropped the kids at the condo with the family, and made the obligatory Publix trip at 9:30. We stocked up on all of the necessities, including our Publix Key Lime Pie and Blue Bell Ice Cream. Crowds were minimal at that time. It was a marvelous first day on the island.

The next morning (Sunday), we awoke to a spectacular, sunny day. We all enjoyed the extra depth of the beach, thanks to the renourishment project. The only real drawback was that our favorite snorkeling rocks by Gulf Drive Café have disappeared altogether. We tried (to no avail) to find a new favorite snorkeling spot. If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to share. After breakfast overlooking the beach, we headed to Coquina Beach for a walk, and happened upon the Farmers Market. We had already stocked up on produce, but we did pick up some gifts to bring home, including some of that great smelling Sea Salt Scrub (love that stuff)! We did not dilly-dally for long because we wanted to get back to our beach. We spent the rest of the day soaking in the sun and warmth and beauty of the gulf. It was heavenly. In the afternoon, my SIL took the kids to our favorite ice cream spot (Cream, next to Banana Cabana). It was also every bit as wonderful as we had remembered. Later, we headed to the Bridge Street Bistro for our 6:00 reservations. I had the Coconut-Almond Crusted Mahi-Mahi with Tropical Fruit Salsa. Food and service were excellent, as always. We were treated to a partial sunset (it was beginning to cloud over) that was still breathtaking. We walked down the pier towards the end, but were disappointed to find it closed for safety issues. The dolphins put on quite a show for us, though, and we ended our visit to Bridge Street with full stomachs and smiling faces.

The next morning (Monday) the sun was shining. My older daughter went on a Deep Sea Fishing Charter with some friends from home, and the rest of us had breakfast overlooking the beach and then another walk at Coquina Beach. We took the short ride from there to check out the LBK Publix, which was quite large and lovely.

Then we had lunch at the condo, and hit the beach. My daughter caught some King Fish, so we went to Mar Vista at about 5:15, where they cooked our catch for $15pp. They had huge sides of coleslaw, hush puppies, and fries, served family style. The fish was served blackened, grilled, and fried. Also, the Gourmet Tater Tots are worth trying. All of it was outstanding. Then, we proceeded to Bean Point for a fabulous and memorable sunset.

The next morning (Tuesday), we cooked some of the Crème Brûlée French Toast from Ginny and Jane’s (yum!) and ventured to the Coquina Bay Walk (Leffis Key) for a leisurely walk and some letterboxing. During lunch back at the condo, it sprinkled a little outside (we were on the covered porch) and we spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach and the pool, even though it was overcast. It was still absolutely delightful. We then proceeded to the Rod n Reel for our beloved Blackened Grouper Sandwiches. I loved the refurbishment, including the relocation of the bar. Their menu has photos of the refurbishment process on the front. It was very windy, but did not rain on us, and we had no wait for our party of 10! We went for a visit with our friends at their house rental in Holmes Beach, and then called it a night.

The next day (Wednesday) was gorgeous and pretty much business as usual: breakfast overlooking the beach, walking at Coquina Beach, lunch overlooking the beach (including a smorgasbord of leftover goodies), and lazing about on the beach. We decided to take a night off from seafood, and ordered out from the new Fire n Stone location at Bridge Street. The personal pizzas were quite generous (11 inches) and were $8 each, including 3 toppings. The pizza was delicious and inexpensive. The sunset at the condo was stunning.

More in a minute...

Saratoga Springs...
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1. Re: April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

The next morning (Thursday) started out windy but sunny. We went for a walk at Joan Durante Park in LBK, and were treated to a remarkable view of the osprey on his perch, eating his breakfast. The park and trails are quite fantastic. My husband, daughter, and her friend went on a fishing charter in the flats. (Jon Cannon/Highliner Charters- highly recommended http://www.highlinercharter.com ) They caught Ocean Trout, and some Snook (not large enough to keep), and brought back their catch for lunch at Tide Tables Restaurant and Marina. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), Ocean Trout is much different from Lake Trout, and very tasty. It was sunny and hot, so we hit the beach for the rest of the day. At dinnertime, it began to sprinkle on the beach, and then clouded over (no sunset), so we headed to Mar Vista to meet some friends and cook the rest of our catch. It was now pouring rain, and the restaurant was overwhelmed with the inside crowd. The food was excellent, but the service was very slow.

Friday was our last full day on the island. The forecast was rainy and cool, so we decided to head to Busch Gardens. The weekday tickets were $50, and the forecast kept the crowds away. It turned out to be a perfect day for an amusement park, and we were lucky to find many rides with no little or no wait. At about 3:30, a tornado warning was announced, and a huge thunderstorm rolled through. We ran for our car, and were lucky to be issued a rain check to use next year! We made it back in time for dinner at the Beach Café. I had the Blackened Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa (2 for $6.95, and yummy!) To our surprise, we were treated to a very spectacular sunset and walk on the beach. It was an unexpected treat on our last night!

Our last day (Saturday) was very chilly and windy (high of 71), but we were lucky to have a late checkout to linger in paradise just a bit longer, and enjoyed every minute. We went for a last walk at Joan Durante Park, and then headed back to the condo for a really huge smorgasbord lunch. (We tried unsuccessfully to finish all of our food from the fridge!) The surf was very rough and there were severe rip tide warnings, but we were able to enjoy the beach and pool for the rest of the day. We then made the very sad trip to SRQ to fly home with Delta at about 5pm.

Overall, it was another fantastic and relaxing trip to paradise. The weather forecast was very iffy for the majority of our stay, and we were lucky to have a direct beachfront location for this reason. Since we were not lugging our gear to the beach, we did not have to decide and commit to beach time. We could choose to enjoy the beach in short spurts when the weather was cooperating, without fear of getting rained on and lugging our stuff back and forth. This was an aspect of our location that I had never considered before.

Thank you, again, for all of your help and input on this forum. We have already rebooked for 2015!

Edited: 30 April 2014, 01:34
Cleveland, Ohio
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2. Re: April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

not long winded at all.....

Vermont
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3. Re: April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

Great report! Thanks! Really looking forward to March 2015 when we return!

Eastlake, Ohio
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4. Re: April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

Great report! Thanks for sharing. Really makes me lok forward to our trip in Oct. We are booked for LaCosta, my DD & SIL might joi us. Ill keep in mind that BBC is right next door.

Tampa
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5. Re: April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

I always look forward to hearing how your family vacation went and I am so happy that you guys had a great time and made such wonderful memories. It sounds like your daughter is quite the fisherman, I love the idea of catching the fish and having the restaurant make it for you, that is just too cool.

We will be going in a couple of weeks and I cant wait to see the newly renovated Rod & Reel, my favorite. Did you get over to Cortez Village and the Star Fish this visit.

Glad your parents loved LaCosta, Dan is a wonderful manager and aims to please and does. See you next year!

Ottawa, Ohio
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6. Re: April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

I'm sorry to here about your snorkeling spot. I just packed our gear last night. We snorkel at the rock formation a couple hundred yards north of the Gulf Drive Cafe. It is practically across from the Silver Surf resort in front of the southern most in a small row of cottages on stilts. Is that the area you are talking about?

If it is that's a bummer,but at least we can enjoy the new beach.

Rusty,we are staying at Tradewinds Resort 4/4 thru 4/15 . Maybe we will see you at one of our favorite dive bars. Look for a tall bald guy with a long white goatee and say hi.

Tampa
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7. Re: April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

STEVE, do you mean 5/4 thru 5/15 or next year?? Glad to hear you are coming back, and yes, we may be around on the weekends. Crowds are almost gone so it's time for us to migrate to the island. You just missed the Wine on Pine, that's this Saturday and always a good time. Hope to see you around. I love Tradeswinds, great place to stay!

Ottawa, Ohio
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8. Re: April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

Yes,it is next week. But it has always felt like next year!

Kansas City...
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9. Re: April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

I love following your posts when we head to FL! We're on our way to AMI tomorrow and interested in the Food & Wine on Satureday!Thanks!

Kansas City...
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10. Re: April 2015 Trip Report (just a tad long-winded...)

Thanks for the great info, so helpful as we head to AMI tomorrow. I copied it and will use it as another guide!