correction: An beforehand adaptation of this adventure misspelled the name of artisan Chad Mize. It is Chad Mize, not Chaz Mize. The adventure has been updated.
The St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, the bigger in the world, attracts players of all ages. (VisitStPeteClearwater.com)
Sizing up the triangular downcourt target, I admiration if my wife and boyish son apprehend what an only-in-Florida arena we make.
Not alone are we arena shuffleboard. We’re accomplishing so in burghal St. Petersburg, as accustomed associates of the bank city’s celebrated shuffleboard club, the bigger in the world. You absolutely can’t get added Sunshine Accompaniment than this.
While beforehand association are advance pucks on this Friday afternoon, best players are far younger, abounding in their aboriginal 20s and hoisting cans of beer. The club and city, it seems, accept accomplished absolutely a revival.
Like best of our friends, aback we confused to adjoining Tampa about three decades ago, my then-girlfriend, now-wife, Gail, and I admired the half-hour drive aloft the bay to St. Pete as about as fun as a cruise to the DMV. Derelict barrio seemed to outnumber retirees in a boondocks continued derided as “God’s Waiting Room.”
My. How times accept changed.
Today, St. Pete’s arts and nightlife scenes are clearly added active and hipper than Tampa’s, as a aftereffect of the adolescent bodies and ambitious baby businesses that accept aggressive its walkable downtown. On weekends — and abounding weekdays — beach cafes, restaurants and confined are packed. Hotels admirable and baby accept been refurbished and are anew popular. Adolescent Tampans, you’ll abhorrence me for adage this, but you apperceive it’s true: St. Pete is acknowledgment than Tampa.
Hankering to acquaintance added of St. Pete than we’ve been able to on day trips and accidental brief visits, the three of us absitively to break for a able weekend. Besides revisiting some admired places, we’d analysis out some newer spots we’d heard acceptable things about.
We bead our accoutrements at the city’s iconic blush block of a hotel, the Vinoy, a Mediterranean Revival-style celebrated battleground abreast the bay. Then my wife and I airing with our 15-year-old, Ewan, several blocks southwest to Il Ritorno, a adolescent restaurant whose riffs on acceptable Italian dishes accept been accepting acclaim from friends. As active as our shuffleboard bold beforehand in the day, it couldn’t annual for how avidly we constrict into a banquet of pan-roasted branzino and rib-eye steak. A aggregate bowl of admirable taleggio-filled agnolotti, brindle with brittle $.25 of absurd lamb abdomen and broiled leeks, is decidedly light.
A post-dinner airing forth Beach Drive to our auberge takes us through a active army of affable revelers old and young, dressed up and bottomward and aggregate in between. The strumming of the scattering of guitar-playing buskers we canyon is affable enough, but it’s the active beforehand guy built-in at a table covered with several dozen wine glasses of assorted sizes that compels us to stop. Aloft the vessels, half-filled with water, his easily whirl, fingers archetype the rims, bearing a spot-on agreeable sampling of aggregate from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to the “Star Wars” affair song. Awed, we ankle to accept and to chat. He tells us his name (James Turner), and about the art of arena the bottle harp, which he says he has done on big-time TV shows in the United States and abroad. We accede this was yet addition acumen to break the night.
The abutting morning, we alcohol coffee on our auberge balcony, admiring how all-embracing the boondocks has become. In the basin below, a half-dozen crumbling athletes move added or beneath in accord to the commands of a abundant adolescent baptize aerobics instructor. Aloft the street, in the bay, an fleet of toylike sailboats navigates about glassy motor-powered yachts. About a mile further south, ballista planes booty off and acreage from the city’s tiny bayside airport, aloof aloft where, a little added than a aeon ago, the world’s aboriginal bartering commuter flight took abode — a small, board seaplane that went to Tampa. To the south, the battleground St. Pete Pier awaits its arrant redevelopment. To the west, the aboriginal of a dozen-odd planned new buildings, some of which will be high-rise condos and apartments, soars aloft burghal St. Pete’s once-modest skyline. But I’m admiring to apperceive the city’s arbitrary neighborhoods abide intact.
Boats anchored at the Vinoy Yacht Club, with the alteration St. Petersburg skyline abaft them. (Monica Herndon/For The Washington Post)
By the time the seniors abalienate the basin to adolescent kids and their parents, we bethink we accept an arrangement to keep. Hoofing it several blocks southwest, we accommodated St. Pete-born muralist Derek Donnelly in an alleyway off Central Avenue. It’s in these aback streets that he and a few added artistically absorbed adolescence began experimenting with cans of aerosol paint. A decade later, his aforetime “semi-legal” accessible art career has gone legit. Today, he juggles commissioned painting gigs with the city-sanctioned tours he leads of St. Pete’s alfresco mural scene.
Through once-seedy burghal passageways, we airing as if through an amphitheater art arcade with our amiable, tattooed docent. Derek credibility out examples of his own work, but seems best agog talking about murals done by the growing cardinal of adolescent hometown artists, as able-bodied as civic and all-embracing ones. No two murals assume similar. And none is blessedly of the “beaches and margaritas” Florida brand Derek says some tourists expect. We canyon ’60s figure Twiggy, corrective by bounded artisan Chad Mize, gazing dreamily from an alleyway wall, and Los Angeles graffiti artisan Bluff Toof’s alarming red and atramentous bluff splashed aloft the behind of the Accompaniment Theatre.
As if on cue, a burghal bus pulls up to a stop nearby. It’s captivated with an angel of the aforementioned swirly, checkered mural that covers a bank of a three-story architecture in advanced of us.
“This mural being is contagious,” Derek says with a laugh.
At cafeteria on the covered alfresco patio at adjacent FarmTable Cucina, we analyze photos of murals and curiosity at the food. We booty turns aggravating to call the absurd cauliflower’s flavors, which assume to outnumber its ingredients, including feel lime, aureate raisins, guanciale and sea brat aioli.
“Don’t you feel like we’re not akin in the aforementioned accompaniment anymore?” Gail asks. To which we all agree.
If I hadn’t afresh visited — and actual abundant enjoyed — the city’s Morean Arts Center accumulating of absurd bottle sculptures by Dale Chihuly, I ability abominably accept begged we skip the mile-plus-long ankle up Central Avenue to the just-opened Imagine Museum, which showcases flat bottle artworks. Over the hour we absorb browsing the museum’s collection, I lose calculation of how abounding times we say “That’s cool” and “That’s amazing.” Amid our favorites are the bristling argosy ancient from bottle accoutrement by Toots Zynsky and the sea-creature-like sculptures of William LeQuier.
Wandering aback bottomward Central Avenue, we canyon shops and restaurants old and new as if time-traveling every few paces.
Several bayside blocks from our hotel, we pop into the abundantly odd-looking Salvador Dalí Museum, arranged with added of the mustachioed artist’s works than anywhere alfresco of Spain. Though it’s amid our favorites, we’re activity a little museumed-out, so we cut abbreviate our appointment to seek out an acclamation achievement by our bottle harpist pal on the way aback to our room.
Having been agreeable to analyze the bunched burghal by foot, we accede with some abhorrence to drive six afar west to the Reading Allowance for dinner. The new restaurant, which says it strives for “a avant-garde access at cornball tastes,” has been accepting gushy acclaim from accompany and media alike.
I can’t bethink a banquet chat focused so abundant on what’s on our plates and in our glasses. Gail says her sgroppino cocktail, busy with a excellent blade added to the rim with a tiny clothespin, is bigger than any she has had in the drink’s Italian hometown of Venice. We agitation whether the arbitrary and adorable beets and berries bowl would assignment as able-bodied for breakfast as it does for dinner. Yes, we decide. We accede at aboriginal chaw that the browned adulate and persimmon cake, topped with a beat of cautiously blue La Tur cheese, is amid the best desserts we’ve anytime tasted.
Sunday morning brings beginning balcony-side theater. Below, auberge agents besprinkle and adumbrate hundreds of checkered artificial Easter eggs in alertness for kids to hunt. A army of millennials arrives at the bench restaurant, their amusement and accidental dress signaling that they’re in chase of a post-night-on-the-town brunch and Bloody Marys. Skyward, we spy an osprey that has swung by for breakfast and is aerial northeast with a afresh nabbed angle in its talons. It reminds me of the places we didn’t get to on this trip: the white sugar-sand beaches and the mangrove-lined waterways that can be explored by kayak. We’ll be back; afterwards all, they, too, are alone a abbreviate drive from home.
Abercrombie is a biographer based in Tampa. His website is paulabercrombie.com; acquisition him on Twitter: @paulabercrombie.
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