Way back in the beginning of the summer, my mom called and said she wanted a weekend vacation at the beach with her girls. By her girls, she meant me, my 10 year old daughter Sophia, my sister, and my 12 year old niece Allie. Since my mom retired last year, she has more time to travel and her favorite destination is the beach.
At the time, school was coming to an end and Sophia was complaining about not seeing her friends for a few months. To cheer her up, I told her that Grammy, (my mom), invited us on a girls trip to the beach! The trip was scheduled about a week after her 10th birthday, so I said it was part of her birthday celebration. Even though her 10th birthday was months away, she was mad that I was not going to buy her a phone. Exhibiting true pre-teen rebellion, she said “NO!” She would rather stay home with her dad instead of going to the beach. This went on for three weeks until I threatened to take her brother instead. Then I gave her 24 hours to decide, and she finally said yes she would go.
Wow, I can’t wait for the teenage years. These pre-teen years are a breeze (said with sarcasm).
On our way
All summer I’ve looked forward to our trip to the beach. My uncle lives in St. Petersburg, Florida and he generously opened his house to FIVE girls for the long weekend. A few weeks ago, Sophia and I got up at 4:45 on a Friday morning to go to the airport. We quickly passed through airport security, then stood in line for over 30 minutes at Starbucks so I could get coffee. We flew direct from Dallas to Tampa and my mom, who arrived a few days earlier, picked us up at the airport. Then it was just a short 20 minute drive to St. Petersburg.
For lunch we picked up Chipotle and went to my uncle’s house. He bought his 1920’s house about five years ago and has renovated it from top to bottom. Putting in a pool was at the top of the priority list. Can you tell by his yard that he enjoys landscaping? I may need to hire him to landscape my backyard in Texas!
For the rest of the afternoon, I sat by the pool, watched Sophia swim and read my new book, Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. Because of the early flight and the warm sun, I fell asleep in one of the lounge chairs. Sophia and Mom let me rest while they went back to the airport to pick up my sister and niece.
Later that evening, we drove over to Madeira Beach and Johns Pass Village and Boardwalk. My uncle owns a jewelry store on the Boardwalk called City Bazaar. It is a super cute beach-themed jewelry store, where all the jewelry is just $10. EVERYTHING! The store also carries scarves, scarves, hats, sunglasses, soaps, etc. Of course we had a shopping spree! I left with three bracelets, earring and a new pair of sunglasses.
We continued walking down the boardwalk, stopped in a few more shops and ended up at Scully’s for dinner, a seafood restaurant that overlooks the marina. Of course every trip to the beach requires ice cream, so my sister and I took Sophia and Allie to Kilwins after dinner. The girls also wanted to get henna tattoos that night but since they fade in water and we had a full weekend of swimming ahead of us, we convinced them to wait.
Since I only get to visit my mom, sister and niece once or twice a year, we stayed up late talking and watching the Olympics. Finally we made the girls a bed on the floor of the living room, my mom slept on the couch and my sister and I shared the guest room. I would guess it has been at least 20 years since my sister and I slept in the same bed!
Saturday at the Beach
My plan was to get up early Saturday morning for a 7 AM boot camp class near the beach. But when I my alarm went off at 6 AM, I turned it off and went back to sleep. I had not slept well and knew I would not be awake enough to exercise. Around 8 AM, my sister and I decided we needed coffee. The night before, I got on Yelp to find a local, independent coffee shop nearby and found Craft Kafe so we headed there to pick up lattes to go. After coffee, we made breakfast for the girls and packed turkey sandwiches to have for lunch at the beach. Since I am still participating in the Oxygen Challenge, I did a quick bodyweight workout by the pool. By 10:30 AM, we were all in our swimsuits, packing the car and heading to the beach. Mom drove south, past the historic pink Don CeSar hotel, to Pass-a-Grille beach.
My sister and I set up our beach chairs at the edge of the water and watched the girls swim in the ocean. Mom bought them snorkels, so we barely saw them come up for air the entire day! When they did come up for air, it was to bring us shells they found in the ocean and we would tuck them into the cup holders of our chairs. Mainly we just read our books and relaxed on the beach. Unfortunately, I forgot to reapply sunscreen and burned the tops of my legs that are usually covered by my running shorts!
After a few hours at the beach, we drove back to my uncle’s house and went straight to the pool again. Because VACATION. The girls made up Olympic events in the pool that were a combination of swimming and gymnastics. My sister and I watched and awarded imaginary medals.
Saturday evening, most of us showered and got ready for dinner. My daughter was not one of them. She decided that swimming in the ocean and pool make her clean enough. I gave her a side eye of disapproval, but didn’t push it since it was her vacation too.
My mom and uncle recommended Hawkers, an Asian fusion restaurant in downtown St. Pete. After about a 45 minute wait and drinks at the bar, we got a table on the patio. The sun was still so bright, my sister had to wear her sunglasses through most of dinner. So many options on the menu looked good, and since they were small plates we ordered several dishes. I tasted the steamed buns with duck, pork char siu, chow faan, five spice chicken, gue tie, and spring rolls.
Sunday morning we were all slower to wake up and get to the beach. My sister and I went for coffee again, then we all watched the Olympics and ate lunch before packing the car with our beach bags and towels. This time we drove to Madeira Beach, right across from Johns Pass near the drawbridge. Several times throughout the day, we heard horns and watched the draw bridge go up so larger boats could pass through.
The girls wore their snorkels again and stayed in the ocean almost all day. Mom rented an umbrella and lounge chairs and mainly stayed in the shade. She also watched the girls while my sister and I took a walk on the beach. I think I also took another nap, my third in three days. Something about the sound of the waves just puts me to sleep!
Instead of going out to dinner that night, we stayed in and ordered pizza from Gianni’s. Then I convinced Sophia to shower and wash her hair. Finally.
Sunsets and Tattoos
My sister and I made a promise to our girls earlier in the trip, so had to go back to the beach to get henna tattoos. But first, we wanted to watch the sunset.
Sophia has never enjoyed taking pictures and beach trips are no exception. I tried to get her to pose with the sunset behind her but she refused. Instead she walked down to the water and started doing gymnastics. At first, I just snapped a few shots to send to her dad. Then I showed her how cool they looked and she actually let me take more pictures!
With our mini photo shoot behind us, it was finally time for henna tattoos. Both girls asked for traditional henna designs on their hands. It takes a full two hours to dry, then you wash it off. We were warned to “not panic” because it is very light once you wash off the ink. However it darkens over the next 12-24 hours and can last 2-4 weeks. I get major mom points for letting her get a tattoo. Even if it is temporary.
I volunteered to drive my sister and Allie to the airport Monday morning for their 7:15 AM flight home. I figured I could take advantage of the early morning to finish some blog work. Since I needed wifi, I went back to Craft Kafe again. This time I took Sophia with me and we ordered coffee and breakfast. She watched Netflix on her iPad, while I wrote and edited a post.
Sophia was not interested in playing in the ocean without Allie and I was a little sunburned, so we did not go to the beach on Monday. Instead, mom took us for a drive along the water and checked out all the local beaches. For lunch, we wanted to eat near the water so we ended up at The Hut Bar and Grill overlooking the marina.
We went back to my uncle’s house and visited with him a little more before we packed our bags and drove to the Tampa airport. Mom was flying back to Dallas with us, so she could visit for another week. But Sophia and I were still sad that our beach vacation was over. It had been two years since I buried my feet in the sand at the beach. I hope I don’t have to wait another two years to go back!
When is the last time you visited the beach? Have you ever been to St. Petersburg? What is your favorite beach?