Monday, September 30, 2013

Where to eat in St Petersburg, Florida: Café Alma

When friends told us they'll be visiting St Petersburg, Florida, we were thrilled! We love downtown St Pete, and the beaches on the gulf side, and I've written many articles on both topics (see links on the sidebar).

When I wrote Where to Eat in Tampa Bay last year, I learned that the St Pete Ceviche (in the Ponce De Leon Boutique Hotel) is now open for lunch, and like its other locations in Tampa, Clearwater and Orlando, is offering $4 tapas on Tuesday all day. We couldn't take advantage of the excellent offer on this particular day, so we decided to check out Café Alma, a couple blocks from Ceviche.
entrance to Cafe Alma
inside Cafe Alma
We've heard great reviews about Café Alma, but never got the opportunity to stop by. Turned out Café Alma serves tapas also, and like Ceviche, the restaurant has been offering half price tapas for the last few years!  I love tapas; they are so tasty, and each bite bursts with flavors reminiscent of the Mediterranean. Tapas are small appetizer portions, so you can sample many dishes, and if you don't like one, it's not such a waste. The size of the tapas at Café Alma is not that small, as you can see in the pictures below. Café Alma's menu features a wide selection, from seafood to meat and vegetarian, as well as the usual fare of burgers, sandwiches and pasta. Everything was delicious, and we were delighted to find musicians arriving around 6:30 pm to provide live jazz entertainment.
Smoked Salmon
Portugese Spicy Shrimp
 Garlic Clams
Café Alma
260 1st Ave S #100  St Petersburg, FL 33701
Closed on Mondays
Click on their website for hours, specials and menu

Mark and Judy, have fun in St Pete!

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Buy, sell, or build a boat

We're not buying, selling, or building a boat. But we do know this. The happiest day of your life is buying a boat, and the second happiest day of your life is selling your boat. If you've ever bought or sold a boat, you'll agree with the saying. This past weekend, we saw two boater friends making a transaction on a houseboat (one party selling, the other buying.) We celebrated with both parties at a local pizza joint.

The people who are passionate about building their own boats (with plans from Glen-L or other boat builders) gathered at Hales Bar Marina again this weekend. This is their fourth year here. This year’s gathering seemed to be a tad smaller. We saw lots of cute miniature boats when they first gathered here in 2010 - see posting of pictures and a video here.

We felt bad for these people because the weather wasn't cooperating, raining all morning on Saturday. Strong winds blew one of their tents into the water. Luckily, it cleared up in the afternoon, and the group was able to carry on their parties and swap meet, as well as walk around to admire each other’s labor of love.

A 1959 engine. What a beauty!
 

Sunday turned out to be a gorgeous fall day. We gathered the usual suspects to take a leisurely walk up the hill.

Anything exciting on your end?

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Hiking in the fall at Stringer's Ridge

Fall is here! The nice, cool weather is perfect for hiking. Our favorite trails are on Lookout Mountain, but we also love to explore other new and interesting trails.

Sunset Rock, Lookout Mountain
A view of the Tennesee River atop Sunset Rock
This weekend, we decided to hike Stringer’s Ridge, an easy to moderate hike that is located close to downtown Chattanooga.

The trailhead is next to Nikki's Restaurant (899 Cherokee Blvd, Chattanooga, TN 37405). There is room for 5 cars along the roadway, but if you drive up further, there's parking for another 5 to 6 cars. The major trails are wide and paved with asphalt and gravel;  there some narrow dirt trails. Feel free to explore; there are maps at most junctions, and all the trails are well-marked.
Map of Stringer's Ridge
A view of downtown Chattanooga
If you feel the need to reward yourself after the hike, check out Nikki's, a hole in the wall that takes you back to a much simpler time. The joint is famous for its jumbo fried shrimp and onion rings. Too greasy for your taste? There's Mamacita, a cute Tex-Mex restaurant down Cherokee Blvd on 109 N. Market Street, and a Whole Foods Market on 301 Manufacturer's Road. Both are minutes away from Stringer's Ridge trailhead.
Nikki's Drive Inn
How was your weekend?

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Cruising the Chesapeake Bay

Last weekend, we bought some fresh peanuts from HMart, our favorite Korean supermarket in Duluth, north of Atlanta. This time, I got a little more adventurous with my boiled peanuts, flavoring them with Old Bay seasonings. The smell transported me back to the Chesapeake Bay. The iconic spice mix hails from Baltimore, and is now available in major grocery and seafood stores nationwide. Whenever you order blue crabs or shrimp from a restaurant in the Chesapeake Bay area, you can bet the seafood is cooked, steamed or dusted with Old Bay.
Yummy blue crabs at our favorite crabhouse - Sandgates Inn, Mechanicsville
This time almost ten years ago, we were cruising the Chesapeake Bay. It was our second time cruising the 200-mile long estuary, and we were determined to explore all the major rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. After spending about two months crisscrossing the expansive bay, getting as far north as Georgetown on the Sassassfras River, we finally tied up at Anchorage Marina for the month of August.

Many cruisers we'd met along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) also stopped at Anchorage Marina, so we had lots of companies! The marina had  wonderful facilities - clean restrooms and showers, laundryroom, boater's lounge with a big TV and a ping pong table, and a pool overlooking the Patapsco River. We couldn't have selected a better location. Across the street were stores, restaurants and a Safeway supermarket. Located in Canton, the marina is within walking distance to other wonderful neighborhoods like Fells Point, Little Italy and the Inner Harbor.

Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Southbound Cruiser's Reunion

Every Monday night, boaters would round up a group of people to dine at Coburns; the food was superb, and  the crab dip and crabcake were to die for! I was surprised to learn the restaurant is now closed. Other memorable events included the free O'Malley's March concert (Celtic rock band leader Martin O'Malley, now governor of Maryland, was the mayor of Baltimore at the time) at Patterson Park and the 3-day Southbound Cruiser's Reunion.

We frequented the ubiquitous crab houses every chance we got. The blue crabs here were meaty and so delicious! Sometimes peppered with so much Old Bay seasonings that your lips would go numb on you after eating dozen or more of the blue crabs. Several friends who visited said that they had never eaten so many crabs in their entire lives! Have you?
A pagoda at Patterson Park in Canton
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Monday, September 2, 2013

Port of Call: Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

A popular weekend getaway from Boston is Cape Cod, or the Cape, as it is affectionately called. However, during the summertime, the traffic getting to the Cape is horrendous! One of the reasons we love boating in New England so much is because there is no traffic on the water whatsoever. At least not until you get to the harbor of your destination. Only then will you encounter boats maneuvering in tight quarters.  

Edgartown Lighthouse in the background
One Labor Day weekend found us in Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard. We had left Marina Bay in Quincy on a nice sunny day, but as Mai Thai pounded its way south, the rolling waves proved too uncomfortable for my sister- in-law. She and her husband were our guests for the long weekend holiday. She suffered from a severe bout of seasickness, so right off the bat, the trip had bad omen written all over it.
Oak Bluffs Marina, Martha's Vineyard
Sunrise at Martha's Vineyard
We had reserved a slip at Oak Bluffs Marina in Martha's Vineyard. We were delighted with the marina and its location. There's a hotel across the street, and the town is a few minutes walk away. The next morning, we grabbed breakfast at a cafe in town, rented some bicycles and went out to explore the island. We spent the entire day biking the scenic island, stopping at beaches and the charming Edgartown. When we returned, we found the marina shower/restroom facilities closed! It was only 7 p.m. on a Saturday night. A tad early on Labor Day weekend, don't you think? We were four adults on a 28 footer with a 3 day reservation, so of course, we needed to use the facilities. We walked to town to find the public restrooms closed also. This is a resort town and we were there on the one of the biggest holiday weekend! We were baffled. I remember checking out the hotel, and they were charging $5 for a shower. Per person, of course.

We left Martha's Vineyard on a late Monday morning. While topping off the tank at the fuel dock, we learned that a storm was heading our way. Just then, it dawned on us that we were the only boat around; most transient boaters apparently had already taken off. No sooner had we left the marina than the storm came. Thunder, lightning, followed by rain. Buckets of it. It rained so hard water was literally dripping through the canvas. In a frantic effort to keep the driving station and ourselves dry, we held towels against the canvas to soak up the rain water and wringing it into a bucket. My mind, however, was on the electronics. I wasn't sure if we could find our way home if we lost the GPS and the radar to the lightning. The only consolation was that we were not alone. There was a sailboat with a really tall mast bobbing nearby. We stayed close to her and waited nervously for the storm to subside. After what seemed like hours, it finally cleared. We breathed a sigh of relief and continued our trip back to our slip at Marina Bay. This certainly was one adventure we will never forget. 

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