Tonight I finally completed the piece on the last couple of days of my Florida visit including the walk along the Suwannee River. (“Drenched down the Suwannee”). It joins the retrospective postings about Days 3 and 4 of the Road Trip around Florida. They can also be found below. (Entitled “St Petersburg and a taste of Cuba” and “Is it a real one?”).

All the photos are up in the gallery now. Enjoy. Start of Road Trip photos

Day Three might have gone either way really but by the end I think it turned out well. St Petersburg skylineMy vague plan had been to check out any attractions we deemed interesting in downtown Tampa, although unusually I hadn’t really done much research prior to arrival apart from a cursory perusal of the Rough Guide before bedtime. So after breakfast the hotel internet connection was put to good use looking up what might be worth seeing. We settled on a trip to St Petersburg (named by a homesick Russian apparently) not because it enjoys on average 361 days of sunshine a year, but it has a pier to wander along and some sunken gardens with plenty of photo opportunities. The plan was to look over the bay from the pier and get a view of the Tampa skyline but the way the day started I think we were there on one of the “sunless four”. Maybe the grey weather was a factor, but somehow on the drive from Tampa to St Petersburg we got on to the morbid subject of funerals and how they differ in the UK and the USA. For the record my chosen funeral tunes were…

Wheeled in: “In my life” – The Beatles
During service: “There is a light that never goes out” – The Smiths
Closing of curtain: “It will never be over for me” – Timi Yuro
Congregation departs: “Imagine” – John Lennon
If I’m being greedy ;-) I’d like to sneak in the “Intermezzo” from Cavalleria Rusticana (an opera by Pietro Mascagni), and if I had to have a hymn then I’d go for “The Day Thou Gavest Lord Is Ended”.

Anyway on to brighter things… For the Americans the short traipse along the pier at St Petersburg is too far to walk so for $3 you can park your car and take a trolley to the entrance. Tina and I being being more frugal and energetic parked for free a quarter of a mile away and walked it. It was actually a bit grim to enjoy the skyline of Tampa especially as it is 10 miles away, but we saw a couple of pelicans perched on the pier, and we made quick work of the “attractions” inside apart from a magnificent music and movie memorabilia shop in which I could have easily spent a lot of money. Having ticked the pier off the list we ventured forth to find the Sunken Gardens made more attractive by a two adults for the price of one coupon (thank you hotel receptionist!). Thrift and prudence Gordon Brown would be proud of.

The journey to the garden looked straightfoward, drive straight off the pier for four blocks and turn right up 4th Street for a mile. Hmm shame it was a one way street. So taking the next right and running parallel soon we worryingly disappeared into the suburbs and local neighbourhoods of beautiful old wooden houses, brightly painted in pastel colours. The American system of organising everything on a grid basis made it easy to get back on track and find the gardens apart from one incident with an irrate Mercedes driver who clearly felt I hadn’t pulled in enough to give way to her as she hurtled towards me. Well madam if by slim chance you are reading let me offer this advice… next time you start waving your hands about in pantomine fury at a fellow motorist, consider the following: First get a smaller vehicle that you might be able to drive without needing a bus width to pass others, secondly don’t drive while holding your mobile phone to your ear, and finally DON’T DRIVE THE WRONG WAY DOWN A ONE WAY STREET!

Thankfully not only were the gardens beautiful, they gave the chance to relax after the near miss, and as suspected offered lots of photo opportunities as you can see in the gallery. St Petersburg Sunken Garden DragonflyBy this point the sun had come out too and it was very hot. For lunch a quick drive down to the waterfront found us at a park under a shady tree having a picnic looking out at the pier we’d wandered along earlier. The drive back to the motorway to Tampa meandered along the shoreline for a while passing some beautiful homes with garden placards proclaiming “No to the waterfront stadium”. Bearing left and heading away from the waterfront, placards appeared in gardens demanding “Lets build the stadium now”!

Back in Tampa we bypassed the downtown area and continued the short distance to Ybor City, founded in 1886 by cigar magnate Don Vincente Martinez Ybor, and settled mainly by Cuban immigrants. Ybor City restaurantParked up in a “parking garage” or multi-storey car park for $1 per 3 hours (take note NCP), we strolled down the main street which retains much of its Cuban character and architecture. There were ornate metal railings on balconies, palm trees growing at the street corners, and many of the Cuban coffee houses also produced hand rolled cigars. The large cigar factory that once employed the vast majority of the city’s inhabitants is now a series of trendy shops and bars. The whole area is undergoing a revival and is the place to be seen at night by all accounts. Second of course to staying in with a microwaved meal. We settled for a late afternoon coffee before the two hour journey to Titusville on the East coast.

The sky turned black on the way and passing Orlando the rain came down heavily as we hurried past the exits for the theme parks and Disneyland “attractions”. Caution Snakes - You won't see that at Keele Services!Another toll road had us in Titusville fairly rapidly and it brightened up for our arrival. The trip over was unremarkable accept for a sign I saw as we stopped for a comfort break in some services between Tampa and Orlando. (See left). It didn’t encourage me to hang around for long that’s for sure, and it’s not something you’d expect to see on the M6! Apparently there are two snakes over here with yellow, red and black rings that look very similar (the Scarlet Kingsnake and North American Coral snake) but have different consequences (basically a bit of a nip or rapid death). If you are ever faced by one of these hissing horrors remember the following rhyme… “Red on black you’re alright Jack, red on yellow you’re a dead fellow”. Nice. Anyway, once again our accommodation for the night in Titusville was decent, but minus a computer in the lobby, and praise be there was no microwave in the room. Therefore I was spared another zapped veggieburger and in fact we treated ourselves to an excellent Mexican meal in the Rodeo Restaurant which shared the Super 8 motel’s complex.