Florida's Gulf Coast – Day 2

Quick note: The official OWTK digital camera (phone) is in disrepair. After speaking with several Cingular 800# reps it was determined that the now 72 hour old phone cannot be saved and despite the presence of a Cingular store in every strip mall and shopping center in America, a replacement phone must be mailed because I bought my device online and not in a store. That is helpful. So the pictures I snapped while in the airport are lost and no other pics will be taken digitally for the remainder of the trip (the picture to the left is a stock photo from The Columbia Restaurant). We do have a traditional APS camera, so trip photos will appear but not “Live”.

Day 2 is going swimmingly. This morning we ate a complimentary breakfast at our hotel then prepared for our first trip to the beach (ok, that is not true. The OWTK family walked the beach last night after dinner, an event that had my young daughter in her birthday suit relaxing in the warm Gulf water within 10 minutes). But, this being the first proper trip to the beach, we had to apply the sunscreen, pack a change of dry clothes, sandcastle building equipment, etc. We made the easy 10 minute journey from the hotel (much more on this in the trip wrap-up on Tuesday) past St. Armand’s Circle (busily preparing for the Arts Festival weekend with vendors lined up inside the rotary) and parked at Lido Key, right in front of the outdoor showers. It was now a little after 9 a.m. and the beach was quite empty. The water was pristine and warm. The great thing about this section of the Gulf is the flatness of the Gulf floor. You can walk straight out 40-50 yards and still be standing, those 6 feet tall and over, and able to see your toes. Nothing better than calm, clear, and clean water. This morning there was an abudance of small fish swimming within 2 feet of the sand – in 6 inches of water – which had all the young kids on the beach with their heads down, pointing, and laughing. When leaving the beach a bit past 12 Noon for lunch there was still plenty of open sand with room to spread out and let your children roam…not bad for mid-day on a Summer (close enough) weekend.
We proceeded into St. Armand’s Circle for lunch at Columbia restaurant, one of a mini-chain of 7 in south Florida. The restaurant is very good. It is a Spanish place with a kid’s menu that is, unfortunately, quite ordinary save for the cuban sandwich. They have an opportunity to include something a bit more challenging than chicken fingers, maybe something more in line with the style of cuisine the serve (shrimp and rice, etc). We decided, as we often do, to share everything we would order with our daughter instead of getting her just one standard item. As a result, we are shared:
a Ceasar and “1905” salad, which is the house specialty with ham, swiss cheese, and garlic dressing
blue crab cakes with a passion fruit aoili (amazing)
mahi-mahi stuffed with shrimp, artichoke hearts, and crab then baked in parchment paper served with yellow rice
marinaded pork with black beans and white rice.
Everything was exceptionally good. The restaurant is casual and welcomes kids. There is a lot to see inside as the decor is classic spanish with ceiling fans, stucco and ornate ceramic tiles throughout. The floor-to-ceiling window/doors open up and the restaurant spills out on to the pavement with plenty of outdoor seating. The highchair provided was clean and lined with a linen napkin (very nice touch). They provided two crayons and a large paper placement with pictures of boats and a plane carrying a sign behind it (a recognizable sight at any beach) to color. (During the month of September The Columbia inserts a slip into the check folio containing information about their long-standing program of donating 5% of every guest’s check total to charity. They provide a sizable and diverse selection of local charities for you to choice from making this one great program indeed).

It is naptime right now (for both OWTK Mother and Daughter). Look for a posting tonight on the Arts Festival, St. Armand’s Circle shopping, and another restaurant.

On Tuesday, OWTK will wrap up this trip with a full Sarasota area report including traveler tips and insider information available nowhere else!

till tonight…



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