In October 2013 Lisa was booked to speak at a conference in St Petersburg in Florida. And Ray, being at a loose end as usual, went along for the ride. This is the second time we’ve visited the Tampa Bay area and America was as America always is; big, brash and full of fun.
We stayed at the four star Trade Winds Island Resort. The hotel was very comfortable but we felt it was a little disappointing after the sheer luxury of Buccament Bay. I suppose we were a bit spoiled really. The Trade Winds is a great hotel. It’s family friendly with plenty of bars and restaurants on site. It’s situated right on a white sandy beach. There were plenty of two sunbed cabanas on the beach to relax and an enormous inflatable water slide for the kids to play on. Well, I say kids… some of them were nearly as old as me.
The sea there was a pretty murky green; at least it was when we were there. Apparently the conditions and visibility in the sea can be very variable. Naturally I had to see what the diving was like so I booked a trip with a local dive charter. We went about three or four miles off the coast to the dive sites but still didn’t have great visibility. Not that I would let anything like that stop me from enjoying a dive. The highlight of the trip was on the way back though when we saw a dolphin that decided to swim alongside the boat for a while. We were passing an area where houses back right onto the water front so some lucky people get to enjoy such sights right outside their back door.
Any trip to the Tampa area has got to include a visit to Busch Gardens theme park. We actually went in the evening. They were running a special event for a few nights that they called Howl-O-Scream. Obviously a Busch Gardens tribute to Halloween. We were lucky! We got there just as the day visitors were leaving and before the night visitors started flocking in. There were no queues for the rides. There were also about four or five ‘horror houses’ where people dressed as ghouls, ghost, monsters, etc. would attempt to scare the daylights out of people. We didn’t bother with any of those.
If you’ve never been to Busch Gardens is a fairly unique mix of theme park and nature reserve. Apart from the usual rides and attractions you can also see enclosures where they keep Cheetahs, Elephants, Alligators and so on. There’s also an enclosure full of birds, mainly parakeets. You can walk into it and feed the birds a special liquid; at least you could the first time we were there. The bird enclosure was closed in the evening while we were there this time. All-in-all, kids love it, adults love it, it’s just not that cheap unfortunately… but then those kinds of places never are.