Friday, August 21, 2015

A Little Work, A Little Play...Down in the Sunshine State

August 13 - 16, 2015
St. Pete Beach, FL

Enjoying the shell-strewn sands of St. Pete Beach
Last Thursday and Friday, Scott had business meetings with Nespresso's logistics supplier and warehouse distribution center in Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL.  Conveniently, my childhood friend Barb happens to live in Tampa as well.  Tagging along with Scott on his business trip gave me a great opportunity to meet up with her, to enjoy some beach and pool time while Scott was at his meetings, and then to spend a relaxing, beachy weekend together with Scott.  Seemed like a perfect plan! 

Upon Barb's recommendation, we booked four nights in a 3rd floor courtyard-view room at the Sirata Beach Resort in laid back St. Pete Beach.  

Peek-a-boo beach view from the open-air corridor leading to our room at the Sirata Beach Resort
The Sirata is a basic but pleasant beachfront hotel with 3 pools and two beach bars, and located on the beautiful strip of sand that is St. Pete Beach, FL.  Upon our arrival, I immediately fell in love with the easygoing, no frills vibe of the both the resort and its guests, alike.  

Following our 11 pm arrival on Wednesday, Thursday dawned hot, humid and partly sunny, despite the forecast that was calling for rain and thunderstorms for the duration of our stay; already things were looking up!  After a trip on foot to the nearby Publix for some daytime meal staples and sunscreen, I snagged a chair with an adjustable sun shade at the largest of the hotel's pools, lounging and reading my afternoon away, happily moving between my chair and the pool until late afternoon.

My favorite pool at the Sirata
I had planned to meet up with Barb later that afternoon at one of the hotel bars, just the day before she was slated to fly out for a week's vacation to Chicago.  I was so pleased with the good timing!  Luckily Scott was free from work obligations that evening as well and in a torrential downpour, and the only rain we saw on our trip, the three of us did some quality catching up over a couple of drinks at the open-air bar at Rum Runners.

After a beautiful afternoon, Scott and I found ourselves waiting for Barb in the pouring rain at Rum Runners
When the rain let up, we drove over to the Pass-A-Grille area not far from our hotel.  There, the three of us dined on local grouper at an outdoor corner table overlooking the water at the pleasantly casual Wharf Restaurant, located on the scenic intercoastal waterway. 

Enjoying an evening of catching up with an old friend at the Wharf Restaurant in Pass-A-Grille
On Friday morning, while Scott finished up his work meetings, I walked to the beach shop across the street from our hotel and bought two new bikinis on super-end-of-season clearance (and if you know me, you know how much I love a bargain!).  Going by the forecast, I had assumed that I could get by with only one swimsuit for the weekend.  However, as the weather continued to be hot and partly sunny, defying the forecast with all its might, I found I had nothing to wear!  But mind you, I was not complaining in the least!  

Following my shopping coup, I returned to the Sirata and ate my Publix deli chef salad, enjoying the view, as usual, from my favorite umbrella-shaded table.

Imagining how much Scott would love that hammock...
 Scott returned from work early-ish on Friday afternoon and the remainder of our weekend was filled with lots of sunning, swimming, reading, lounging, eating and drinking.  In fact, we never ventured further afield than walking distance from our hotel (and only for eating and drinking purposes) until it was time to leave for the airport.  And we can't wait to do it again!

More photos:
Enjoying the white, sugar sands of St. Pete Beach

Reunion time at the Wharf Restaurant!
Here's to childhood friends!
Hangin' in the pool after work with Scott.  Hmmm, I could really get used to this...
St. Pete Beach
Scott, on the sandbar

Evening light
The super-casual Postcard Inn Beach Bar was just a short stroll down the beach from our hotel
Postcard Inn Beach Bar
Postcard Inn Beach Bar
The scene at Postcard Inn Beach Bar
St. Pete Beach sunset

Morning coffee on the beach 
Enjoying the view with our Starbucks
Palms swaying in the breeze in the courtyard at the Sirata
On Saturday, we rented a beach cabana - best idea ever!
Mango chicken salad
The view from our favorite table at Rum Runners - our go-to shade spot!
Happiness is St. Pete Beach!

On Saturday evening we went out to Woody's Waterfront for some casual seafood, where we found J.D. The Entertainer doing his thing, much to the delight of a crowd of drunk locals. It definitely wasn't boring...
Love, love, love the white, sugar sands and warm, calm waters of St. Pete Beach!
When in Rome...
We sure spent an awful lot of time at this table...
Scott, in his happy place
Savoring one last Pina Colada before heading home
Farewell, St. Pete Beach....until we meet again...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Making More Family Memories, This Time in Rhode Island!

August 7 - 9, 2015
Cumberland, RI & Mystic, CT

Say "bunting!!!"
Aside from being an exciting place to live and explore, moving to New York City has had the added benefit of being within much easier visiting distance to various friends and family who reside up and down the East Coast.  It's been a busy summer for us, as our weekend travel has focused on visiting family in the more northerly reaches of the country while the weather is at its best.  In light of the weather factor, we decided that August would be perfect for paying a visit to Scott's Uncle Roger and Roger's new wife Margo, who live in northern Rhode Island.  Just a 3-hour drive from LaGuardia International Airport where we could easily rent a car, we decided to make a 3-day weekend of it and planned to visit Roger and Margo at their lovingly restored historic farmhouse home in Cumberland, RI.

On the eave of our departure, Scott was very busy with the usual month-end close at Nespresso and so we got a late start on Thursday evening; after a speedy, 15-minute Uber ride to the LaGuardia Avis location, we set off for New England in our little, silver Kia right around 10 pm.  While we would have liked to have been able to leave earlier, departing at that late hour gave us the advantage of very light traffic on the trip up I-95 and it proved to be an easy, 3-hour drive.  We arrived at Roger and Margo's promptly at 1 am, to a welcoming committee of Roger and the four resident cats, who were all very curious to see who these midnight visitors were!

On Friday morning, after a rather brief night's sleep (for my taste, at any rate!), Roger prepared a delightful breakfast of potatoes fried with onions and scrambled eggs topped with a deliciously sharp, white cheddar cheese.  Enjoyed on Margo and Roger's pleasant patio on this gorgeous summer day, the food tasted extra scrumptious and definitely made getting out of bed after too little sleep worth our while!  

After our leisurely morning meal, the four of us filled our afternoon with a short, but pleasant hike at a park near the house, followed by an enjoyable, if abbreviated, pub crawl (we only made it to two establishments -  I know we can do better next time!).  Our first stop was at The Grange in Providence, a very cute and trendy vegetarian restaurant, where we ran into Roger's longtime friend Joe and his charming wife Pam.  The men ordered beers, Margo had an iced tea and I selected a lovely French rosé, all of which were enjoyed over a shared order of perfectly seasoned pommes frites, while chatting with Joe and Pam. 

After leaving Providence, our mini-pub crawl took us to the marina where Roger keeps his sailboat in dry dock while he decides what to do with it.  We checked on the boat and used the convenient restrooms before we continued on to Bristol for a stroll along the very picturesque waterfront there.  Before long, our stroll found us settling in at an outdoor table at Aidan's Pub for more beer (this time a tasty sauv blanc for me), along with a lovely house-smoked salmon plate and an order of lightly fried calamari. 

Bristol waterfront
Our first day in Rhode Island came to a satisfying close as we hung out around the fire pit in Roger and Margo's backyard, dining on pizzas and toasting marshmallows over the fire.  Roger is a trained chef and food-lover and his backyard garden was bursting with sun-ripened tomatoes in vibrant hues of yellow and red.  Along with fresh basil also from the garden, the tomatoes made an amazing addition to the already-delicious cheese pizzas Roger had ordered.  Joe and Pam joined us around the fire pit, along with Joe's tasty home-brewed beer and their two large dogs, and it was a convivial evening of story-telling and laughter among friends.

Following another breakfast on the patio, Saturday's activities began with a trip to the local farmers' market, in order to pick up raw, local oysters for later. Mmmm mmmm!

At the local farmers' market - oysters, check!
Back at the house, Roger and Margo's daughter-in-law, Melanie (cousin Ben's wife) and grandson Dracen joined us for lunch, and we enjoyed yet another meal on the awesome patio.

Melanie and Dracen joined us for lunch and catching up.
Once again, Roger prepared a delicious meal, but the highlight was definitely the oysters we'd picked up at the farmers' market earlier.  A bit on the small side, they more than made up for their petite size with their delectable freshness and flavor.  To top it off, it was a real treat that Roger single-handedly shucked all 27 of them for us to enjoy. I do believe that this qualifies Roger as a veritable host with the most!  

After lunch, and once we were finished enjoying the cats enjoying the garden (and slow-motion video-ing the athletic Chester jumping out of the garden...repeatedly - ha), our party of six went for a pleasant stroll on the Blackstone River Valley bike path. While on our walk, we enjoyed spying cute little painter turtles swimming and diving in the water and watching the birds swoop among the trees on yet another perfect summer day.

Zephyr and Chester, enjoying their garden enclosure
Our amazing weekend weather continued to cooperate and after we said goodbye to Melanie and Dracen, Roger drove us into Providence's lively Federal Hill area for a lovely al fresco meal at Costentino's Venda, located on the bustling DePasquale Square.  We were seated at an intimate (read small - ha) four-top near the pretty fountain in the middle of the square, lined with people out enjoying the evening.  During our meal we had the pleasure of listening to a live band playing well-executed hits from a variety of decades and even got to see Roger and Margo exhibiting their not-insubstantial dance skills.  For dinner, Scott and Roger both enjoyed a delectable porcini-filled agnolotti with a rich truffle butter sauce and my veal piccata with roasted potatoes and green beans was mouthwatering.  Unfortunately Margo's rigatoni in pink vodka sauce was less than stellar; hopefully the lovely bottle of Malbec we shared somewhat made up for it!

A delightful evening at Costentino's Venda on DePasquale Square
On Sunday, it was time to say goodbye, after a truly enjoyable family weekend.  It was such a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know Margo better, as well as to bond with Roger, with whom Scott did not spend much time during his youth, due to the geographic distance between Scott's home state of Michigan and Roger's home and family on the East Coast.

After saying farewell to Roger and Margo, we slowly made our way home, making a couple of brief but enjoyable stops along the way.  Upon the recommendation of an old college friend, we shared a wonderful seafood lunch (more oysters!) and a (too short) stroll in Mystic, CT, followed by a brief walk-about on Yale University's summer-quiet campus in New Haven, CT, both of which were conveniently right on our route back to New York.

Lunch with a view at S&P Oyster Company - life is good!
New England has really grown on me since our relocation to New York City and I look forward to continued travels in the region, hopefully soon and often!

More photos:
Lovely Bristol, RI
Cosi, Queen of the Cat Tree
That sweet girl, Tika
At the local farmers' market, picking up our oysters 
Zephyr, in the garden
Zephyr, Rhode Island's most handsome loverboy!
Chester, in a relaxed mood...prior to his many escapes

Enjoying Roger and Margo's unofficial - and free! - petting zoo!
Family portrait, featuring classic Rhode Island bunting
Strolling the Blackstone River Valley Bike Trail
Admiring the tranquil river on the Blackstone River Valley Bike Trail
Dracen loves a free shoulder ride!

Dracen and his entourage on the Blackstone River Valley Bike Trail
Scott makes friends everywhere he goes! (His secret? Helicopter videos on Youtube!)
Our delightful host and hostess with the mostest treated us to a wonderful meal at Costentino's Venda on Federal Hill in Providence
Charming Mystic, CT
Although cloudy and cool when we left Rhode Island, the weather in Mystic was positively idyllic
Lovely Mystic in August: I could get used to this!
Classic New England - Mystic, CT
Seaside lunch spot!
Artistic olive oil and balsamic swirl at S&P Oyster Company
We couldn't have asked for a nicer day for lunch on the water!
Of course we had to get oysters!
Scott's crab Louis sandwich was ones of the special's of the day
For once, I managed to out-order Scott.  It may not look like much, but my baked seafood ambrosia with a side of green beans and corn was absolutely superb!  Kudos, S&P!
Awww, do we have to leave?  Mystic, I love you!