Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cycling one of America's most beautiful beaches: Fort De Soto Park, Florida

Yes. I felt it. I felt like I was on one of the most beautiful beaches at Fort De Soto. Wow!

The big beach cruisers float and roll over the hard sand at low tide so easily. It's a funky feeling. Perched on a wide, overly soft, bouncy seat, holding on to high handlebars with all your stuff packed into a big wicker basket, you feel goofy as you pedal in bare feet or sandals. You know you look goofy, and don't care. It sets you free.

Great. It was the first week of January 2014 and we picked the coldest week of the year to visit southern Florida from Canada's deep freeze.

It was 34 degrees Fahrenheit (1 Celsius) when we woke up and looked out the patio door of a beach front rental on St. Pete's beach on the Gulf of Mexico, Florida.

By noon the temperature climbed to 58F (14 C) according to the thermostat in the rental car. The stiff blowing nor’easter made us think differently.

Let's go to Fort De Soto beach . . . in our ski jackets! 
Why not. We're from Canada. We've got the gear and we didn't need boots.

Stranger than fiction, I found a lone, rotting tree stump firmly planted in the low tide at the beach. What's your story? It was impossible to do a one-legged standing yoga pose on it and difficult to stand on it with two legs in the strong wind.

Fort De Soto Park is southwest from the city of St. Petersburg, Florida, accessed by a series of causeways and bridges from Tierra Verde. It's about a 20 minute drive (10-12 miles/16-19 kilometres) from St. Pete's Beach, or you can get there by bicycle via off-road bike trails. Entering the park by car cost $5, but no charge if you enter on foot or by bicycle.

Fort De Soto Park is the largest park within the Pinellas County Park System with 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys): the main island, Mullet Key, Madelaine Key, St. Jean Key, St. Christopher Key, and Bonne Fortune Key. All are connected by bridge or causeway. The island group is accessible by toll road from the mainland.

Fort De Soto Park is known as one of America's most beautiful beaches. It's now on my list of favorites too.
Fort De Soto North Beach, Gulf of Mexico, Florida
When it's too cold and rough to kayak, Fort de Soto Park is still a great place to visit on foot or by bike. The beach is usually number one on people's list.

Part of the charm is that the fine sugar-white sandy beaches at Fort De Soto are within a protected park uncluttered by the incessant rows of high rise condos and resorts that line many beaches.

With over 7 miles of waterfront, 7 miles of paved walking and cycling trails, and three miles of beautiful white sandy beach, let's see what we find along the route when the wind is up and the water is wild. 
Purple sea urchin
Lots of sea shells, including cockles of all sizes, fighting conchs, and white fan scallops. 
Horseshoe crabs.
The vertebrae of a large fish or animal?
Pelicans.
Red sea sponge.
Sand dollars. Is three a lucky number?

Fort De Soto, built during the Spanish-American war in the late 1890s, is within the park. Its remnants and remains are open to the public. There is much to discover and experience beyond what you see. This is where Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico meet, which made it a naturally strategic location for a fort. You can spend hours diving into the interesting history of this location.
12-inch seacoast mortar, Fort De Soto
Fort De Soto Park is a must see destination in southern Florida and a camping paradise with some 238 sites, many waterfront.

The park is dog friendly and has a specially designated section of beach where your dog can enjoy the water too.
Remember, the weather may be your best friend when it is not nice. The park won't be crowded!

Fort De Soto Kayak/Canoe Trail
And for the paddle crowd, there is a beautiful kayak launch in the mangroves. You'll come to it as you drive or cycle along 679/Anderson Blvd. It's easy to spot. There is plenty of parking and look, a bike rack! Two thumbs up.

A kayak rental company marks the spot. They also rent canoes and paddleboards. Bring your own kayak or rent one. You'll need to know the tide charts ahead of time. Avoid paddling the mangroves during low tides. You'll get stuck. The launch site here is very kayak-friendly and takes you into Soldier's Hole.
There is a basic map posted on-site and a numbered trail you can follow.
For more information about the park visit: Fort De Soto Park, Pinellas County website
Fort De Soto Park trails, Florida, Gulf of Mexico
Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Welcome to the Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida

Dali fan or not, you don't have to be, to be struck by the mad genius of something odd, authentic, grand, and well-designed. If this place doesn't make you curious, you may want to look up the meaning of the word.

The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida is very welcoming. The door at the entrance says so in 10 different languages. See if you can find yours.
It doesn't matter where you look. Everything has a touch of Spanish artist Salvador Dali. A visit here is a complete experience.

The building, designed by architect Yann Weymouth with HOK Architects, Tampa, Florida, is a giant rectangle with 18-inch thick hurricane proof cement walls – rounded geodesic, glass bubble windows that form a beautiful atrium constructed from some 1,062 pieces of specially designed, thick, triangular, insulated and laminated glass.

The atrium is 75 feet high at the tallest point. It wraps around one side of the building from the ground floor and climbs to the top of the building. Incredible! When thinking of geodesic structures in simple terms, think rounded domes making friends with triangles in a lattice shell structure for support and strength to resist and avoid destruction from wind.

I think of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg as a beautiful bunker for art.
If you are a photographer, the place can drive you deliriously mad shooting it from every angle. Your eyes will not want to forget. I travel light with a snap n' shoot and pocket my camera. You can go much further in image detail if you want to lug around a professional camera. But no shooting pics in the gallery. Museum security in suits are everywhere watching everyone like a hawk. Follow the rules!

The Dali Museum is a really cool 20,000 sq. foot state-of-the-art gallery. It doesn't feel like a museum. It's a genuine Dali experience in a spectacular waterfront location across the street from the beautiful 4.78 acres Albert Whitted Park and the South Yacht Basin on Tampa Bay.

The Dali Museum is an architectural wonder. The massive glass atrium lets in natural light and gives you beautiful views on every floor. It is a stunning masterpiece. Was the architect inspired by Dali's Santiago El Grande painting . . . and famous architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome designs?

We were lucky to visit the Dali Museum at 1 Dali Blvd., in the southern Florida city of St. Petersburg off Tampa Bay, in the first week of January 2014 on a cold windy weekday mid-afternoon. 

Notice, I didn't say we were lucky with the weather. We were visiting Florida from Canada's National Capital Region, hoping to escape the coldest winter our region has had in 20 years. We brought our ski jackets, and Canada's cold North wind followed us for most of the week, but with less zest. Some days we could even wear shorts.

Luck is a funny thing.

You can be unlucky on one hand, but lucky on the other. It depends on your perspective. Others say, “Timing is everything.” Dali had a thing with time and clocks too.

There were no big crowds and plenty of parking at the Dali Museum when we arrived. I hear it can be a busy place depending on the day and time you visit. So, beware. And . . . hope you get lucky.

During our January visit, we had time and space to relax and ponder each painting with a medium flow of reflective, quiet people.

Parking was $5, and there is a fee to view the gallery. But you can enter the museum without charge and eat at the Cafe Gala or visit the museum store/gift shop.

The new Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida opened in 2011.

It is popular! The museum has the largest Dali collection outside of Spain, with 96 Dali oil paintings (permanent collection), and much more with prints, sculptures and drawings.

There are many Dali museums around the world. 

Salvador Dali created an immense body of work during his lifetime. He was born in Figueres, Spain in 1904 and died in 1989 in his birthplace.

The intriguing Dali collection in St. Petersburg, Florida spans several periods of Dali's eccentric life, from early to late, where his inspirations and visions took him from the real to the impressionistic, a deep and long plunge into the surreal, modernism, and the science of DNA.

Other Dali museums and galleries can be found in his birthplace in Figueres, Spain, as well as Berlin, Germany, Paris, France, Australia, New York, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee in the U.S.A., Madrid, and Cadaques, Spain, London, England, Venice . . .

The blue Dali dolphin is out front, or is it the back of the building? 
Dali Museum blue dolphin, downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. Mahaffey Theatre next door.
Is this the Dali effect with a little bit of Florida mixed in? I have no concept of what is the front or the back of the Dali Museum. The entrance to the building, which opens into the museum store/gift shop, seems like the back door to me. But I like the building and grounds from all angles. My concept of front and back is transformed.

There are other exhibits featured at the Dali Museum as well:
Warhol at the Dali. Art. Fame. Mortality. Jan. 18-April 17
On the main floor you'll find the Cafe Gala. 
I'm looking down on the cafe admiring the view as I descend the spiral staircase from the third floor exhibits.
The cafe is named in honor of Salvador Dali's wife Gala. The menu is inspired by Spanish cuisine offering light fare, tapas, desserts, coffee, and wine and beer served in a casual open atmosphere. You can eat inside the cafe or outside on the beautiful waterfront terrace.
To view the Dali paintings and exhibits, follow the spiral staircase up to the third floor, or take the elevator. The view is better from the staircase.

The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida was founded with the works collected by Reynolds and Eleanor Morse. They bought their first Dali painting in NY, in 1943, met Dali and his wife Gala a month after their first purchase and became friends. They collected his paintings over 40 years.

You have of choice of  how you want to tour the Dali Museum Exhibits: 

  • on your own
  • with a group guided by a docent (museum guide), or
  • with self-guided audio (earphones)

You can't take photos of the original paintings inside the beautiful gallery, but in the museum store/gift shop, you can take photos and purchase prints of selected Dali works for a reasonable price. They are displayed on the wall of the museum store. I chose two of his early impressionistic works of festivals. Each print under $20 U.S.D. (Not all available prints are shown in this scaled down image.)
There is so much more to explore and enjoy at the Dali Museum and its beautiful location in St. Petersburg, Florida than I can explain or present in one post.

For more information you can visit the museum website: The Dali Museum 

Time for dinner

After our visit to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, we headed to one of our fav Italian and seafood restaurants a few minutes away, BellaBrava at 204 Beach Drive NE.

Enjoy your time on and near the water.
The BaffinPaddler

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day from the BaffinPaddler

Depending on the time you visit, I wish you, Top o' the mornin', Top o' the afternoon, or Top o' the evening!

Canada's National Capital Region (Ottawa, Ontario/Gatineau, Quebec) has not changed much since winter began, except that the birds are singing more, and the sun is shining longer since the time change.

I'm still walking on water. Much of it is frozen solid. And, we will be skiing in spring.

I wish you happy and safe trails.
The BaffinPaddler