We flew on Southwest to Tampa, picked up a rental car (A Corvette - I kid you not) and hit IH 75 towards Bradenton Beach. For once I would not have minded driving a little further. Had it not been for that annoying GPS voice - "... half a mile ahead, keep to the left and then take a right." Huh?
The Corvette is part of Hertz' 'Fun Collection'. They got that right. We spent as much time in our room as in the car... Sporting a six-speed paddle shift transmission, the ZHZ makes the most of the dual mode exhaust delivering 436 horsepower. Even a half-assed car enthusiast will get a kick out of firing up that baby (it is keyless) just to hear the throaty growl of its 6.2L v8, complete with performance exhaust. Its impressive features are wrapped inside a uniquely packaged Corvette that features Hertz’s iconic yellow and black, colors that have a storied past in sports car history.
No I did not get a ticket but could have, and for once would not have minded. Adjust the lumbar support in the low-slung leather seats, select 'Sport Mode', brace yourself and press down on the accelerator... Better hang on to the steering wheel or you might end up inside of a La Madeleine Restaurant, as a Hertz client did a while ago, in Dallas. Be sure to sign up for the optional insurance. It was a total blast!
As for Anna Maria Island, it was just as advertised: 'old-time' Florida, with friendly people, a slow pace, quiet and peaceful with beautiful, family-friendly beaches. Sort of the anti-Miami: none of the glitz, no highrise condos, high-dollar hotels or ripoff prices. Not too many vegan restaurants (how about none...) but I made do perfectly fine with the local eateries including a couple of Italian places, one of which -Da Giorgio - was excellent. We also tried Bones Restaurant (a curious mix of barbecue, Caribbean Island cuisine and some Indian vegetarian dishes) and a Cuban-Mexican joint in Bradenton. All good and reasonably priced.
Other than cruising around in the 'Vette, we spent most of our time on the beach. And what a beach! Fine, clean white sand, nice cool water with pretty decent-sized waves, and all the space in the world to explore for shells, run, fish, sail, surf, ride the waves, play or relax. We even signed up for a local 5K on Saturday morning - Sammy's Run, and it turned out to be one of the best organized 5K's we've ever run. The runners were faster than we had anticipated: we both came in 5th in our age groups. Awards were given 6 deep so we were in luck: hardware 2 weeks in a row!
Part of our 'efficiency' room at Tortuga Inn, on Bradenton Beach. We really liked staying there and we're already planning a return trip. Maybe even a family reunion.
The efficiency apartment had a full kitchen with fridge, stove with gas burners, microwave - the works. We didn't cook a lot (other than my breakfast oats, some toast etc.) but next time we will be sure to plan on it.
Anna Maria Island has several restaurants which sell excellent locally made ice cream. Kathleen is quite the ice cream connoisseur...
The recession has not had much of an impact on the shoppers at St. Armand's. They were out in force. And the restaurants were crowded - especially Columbia, a large Cuban restaurant.
The sunsets at Anna Maria Island are almost all gorgeous, we were just not around for them, most of the time.
And closer in. The beach lends itself pretty well to running, especially when the tide is low. Further east on the island there is a 'jogging' trail as well.
Thanks to John King for the head's up about Anna Maria Island!