Travel Diary: Florida’s West Coast

From Sarasota to St. Petersburg (and a few places in-between), I visited some fun cities over spring break and captured the experiences through my eyes. Though the idea of calling a new place “home” is still an adjustment, it doesn’t hurt to be in a region brimming with culture, gorgeous views and lots to explore.

Friends, family and random Internet visitors from the north, I hope this gives you a little slice of sunshine. Here we go!

First stop: Downtown St. Pete

To see: Chihuly Collection – Morean Arts Center

You don’t have to be an advanced art-appreciator to enjoy Dale Chihuly’s one-of-a-kind glass pieces. The Chihuly Collection features rooms of incredible blown glass installations that will make you stop, stare and wonder what you are looking at. Some sculptures are suspended from the ceiling, while others look as if they are growing straight from the ground. One of the most amazing parts of the exhibit was a live glass-blowing demonstration that put into perspective the talent, patience and craftsmanship required for each piece of glass.

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“I never met a color I didn’t like.” – Dale Chihuly
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A philosophical moment in the Chihuly museum.

The museum is located in the adorable downtown district of St. Petersburg and is within walking distance of lots of artisan shops and fun restaurants (and some unique wall art/photo-ops).

St. Pete is also home to the Salvador Dalí Museum, which is on my list for the next visit.

Second stop: Siesta Beach

Siesta Key is straight out of a 1950s beach getaway postcard. This Sarasota-area beach was recently named the #1 beach in the U.S. on TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Beaches list – and, I promise, it lives up to the hype. The sand was so soft, it felt more like baking flour than actual sand. Everything about Siesta Beach was idyllic, from the rainbow umbrellas against a cloudless blue sky to glimmering turquoise water.

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For lunch: Sun Garden

Sun Garden was the perfect lunch/brunch spot for a day in this paradise-like beach town. Whether you’re dining with a vegan, a flexitarian or a carnivore, the café-style joint is equipped with options for everyone. (Think quesadillas, omelettes and lots of guac.)

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Fun advertisement wall decor at Sun Garden.
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Siesta Key = P A R A D I S E

Final stop: Sarasota

To explore: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

I like the outdoors (minus the bugs), but the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota made me love nature just a little bit more. This living museum of sorts is a dreamworld of colorful flowers and plants blossoming at every corner. The gardens are featuring a special Marc Chagall exhibit that lasts through the summer, so there are stained glass pieces and quotes from the artist woven throughout the different spaces, making for an even more beautiful and historical experience.

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For dinner: Columbia Restaurant, St. Armands Circle

Attn. fellow Spanish-cuisine lovers: Add Columbia Restaurant to your food bucket list, ASAP. Columbia opened in 1905 and is Florida’s oldest restaurant chain. The paella, signature sangria and tapas – combined with the crowded-but-cozy indoor-outdoor setting at St. Armands Circle in Sarasota – really did take me back to my time in Spain.

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And, of course, the museums, foodie adventures and days at the beach wouldn’t be the same without special people to share it all with. It’s hard for a new place to feel like “home” right off the bat, but (as cheesy as it sounds), it’s hard to not feel “at home” when you are with people you love.

I’m now back into the swing of story assignments and studying. Pretty soon, I will be wrapping up the semester and scheduling my classes for the fall of my junior year. (OMG)

Until the next adventure,

Darcy

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