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Kayaking Down the Weeki Wachee River

March 13, 2009

The Weeki Wachee River may be one of Florida’s best kept secrets.

Weeki Wachee Springs Offers Beautiful Views

Weeki Wachee Springs Offers Beautiful Views

If you want to see what’s left of part of the “real Florida”. You have to check it out Weeki Wachee.

Weeki Wachee is in Hernando County, Florida, located about an hour north of Tampa at the intersection of Highway 19 and State Road 50. It’s crystal clear waters twist through tons of stunning scenery to flow 12 miles west into The Gulf of Mexico.

The naturally beautiful springs are home to one of Florida’s oldest attractions, Weeki Wachee Springs, famous for its live underwater shows featuring beautiful mermaids. (Fun for little girls, and grown men.) It recently went from private ownership to become a Florida State Park. It’s still the same as it was when I went as a kid, which is not a bad thing. It’s a nice respite from today’s modern hyper-active world. They also have the Buccaneer Bay Water Park.

Weeki Wachee Springs Park dates back to 1947. I went there as a kid in the 70’s, re-visited in 2000, and made my latest visit in November 2008 over Thanksgiving weekend.

We spent a half day for the park, and half a day to kayak and canoe down the river. Going down the river was by far the most enjoyable for getting away from the hustle and bustle and seeing the real Florida.

The Canoe and Kayak rental says, “Your self-guided adventure averages about 2.5 hours”.

I feel sorry for the people that paddle through it that quickly. We took about 4.5 hours, stopped to enjoy the lunch we packed, took beautiful pictures and relaxed in the comfortable light breeze, warm sun, and tranquility of the Weeki Wachee river.

There were many people that just whooshed past us with their mouths just blabbering non-stop, missing half the sights and sounds, and breaking the tranquility like scraping of nails on a chalk board. We let them pass and then resumed our enjoyment.

Wildlife we saw included turtles


Turtle Getting Sun on Weeki Wachee


Comcast Broadband TV Commercial Rejects

There were snakes and racoons…


Snake Swimming in Weeki Wachee River


Racoon Drinking Crystal Clear Spring Water

We also saw many different types of birds, fish and ducks. There were Manatees too, but I missed the shot as too many people scared them away at the end of the trip.

This was a fun, interesting and relaxing day. It was great being away from the hectic world, enjoying peace and quiet, nature and stunning natural beauty.

Weeki Wachee River

Weeki Wachee River

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See all 69 pictures in the full gallery - Weeki Wachi Kayaking

St. Petersburg Pier and Columbia Restaurant

February 24, 2009

We went apartment hunting all day in St. Petersburg without stopping for lunch. By 5 pm we were starving and headed over to The Pier where we ate at The Columbia Restaurant.

There are spectacular views and great food. I was so hungry and tired from the day that I ate most of the food forgetting to take pictures of it. Ooops.

We had fresh baked Cuban Bread.

Fresh Baked Cuban Bread

Fresh Baked Cuban Bread

The Cuban Bread that I am used in the Miami area to has a much lighter, almost white crust, so I asked my Cuban hottie, Laura, why this one had a golden brown crust.

I was suspicious that it was inauthentic. Laura educated me from her upbringing by Cuban immigrant parents in Puerto Rico. She told me that there are two kinds of Cuban Bread.

Pan Sobao - soft pale bread - this is what I am used to finding in the Miami area.

Pan Sobao

Pan Sobao

Pan de Agua - has the hard golden brown crust, more similar to Italian or French bread. This is the one the Columbia Restaurant serves.

Laura told me that for special occasions at her family’s gatherings they make sure there are both types of Cuban bread available.

I found an interesting discussion about the different styles of Cuban bread on Chowhound.

We accompanied our Cuban bread and the rest of our meal with table side, fresh-made Sangria.

Sangria Made Table Side at the Columbia Restaurant

Sangria Made Table Side at the Columbia Restaurant

The Pier in St. Petersburg is an inverted pyramid structure with five-stories. The Columbia Restaurant is on the fourth floor and wraps around for 360 degree views. We had a spectacular view of Tampa Bay.

View from The Columbia Restaurant

View from The Columbia Restaurant

There was a tall sailing ship docked there and we were told that it had a part in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean.

Ship had a role in Pirates of the Caribbean

Ship had a role in Pirates of the Caribbean

That was the best shot we could get of it from our vantage point above as there are parts of the building structure that obscure it.

We had a bunch of other food including …

Croquetas de Pollo
A Sunday dinner tradition. This is Carmen Hernandez’s special recipe for chicken croquettes. Six croquettes made with chicken and Cuban cracker crumbs and fried. Served with Columbia Hot Sauce.

Boliche “Criollo”
Roasted Eye round of beef stuffed with chorizo and roasted in flavorful gravy. Served with black beans, white rice and platanos.

Ropa Vieja
Originally introduced to Cuba by Spanish sailors. The name means “old clothes” because the choice beef is shredded, sauteéd and simmered with onions, green peppers and tomatoes. Served with platanos and white rice.

I am sorry I didn’t get pictures of these, but my appetite overruled my brain at the time.

After dinner we did a little shopping for birthday gifts for Miguelito and then headed back to our Clearwater Beach Holiday Inn & Suites.

Here is the view of The Pier from out front in the evening.

The Pier at Dusk

The Pier at Dusk

Columbia Restaurant
800 2nd Avenue N.E.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

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