Hello, and welcome back to another edition of Sweet Summertime Reads Roadtrip! Each Wednesday this summer I'll be taking you on a virtual roadtrip to various places on the map and hopefully introduce you to some new reads along the way as well. This week we're heading south to sunny Florida as Jenna from Jenna Does Books takes us on a very unique tour! Grab your sunglasses & a bottle of sunscreen as she shows us around the setting for one of my favorite books, Where the Stars Still Shine.
Thank you so much, Ginger, for having me on the blog!
Welcome to sunny Florida!
When one thinks of Florida, those thoughts typically consist of Mickey Mouse ears and thrill rides, hotels and lots and lots of beaches and sun. Well, you’d be right... A good chunk of the state of Florida involves those things, seeing as we do have more miles of beaches than any other state, as well as the largest concentration of amusement parks. If you want to read a book involving the more “touristy” aspects of Florida, I recommend that you check out The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder.
Today I’d like to take a road trip to a part of Florida that few people ever get to see. The book is Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller. The destination is Tarpon Springs, a quaint Greek town nestled on the Gulf Coast just west of Tampa. Blink and you’ll miss it.
I have the privilege of living mere minutes away from Tarpon Springs and can’t wait to share some of its secrets with you.
On the surface, Tarpon Springs screams “tourist trap”. The city is known for being the prime location in the United States for once specific product. Mike Rowe brought people from far and wide when he featured the city on his Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs. He joined professional divers on the floor of the Gulf harvesting, that’s right… sponges. You will find the squishy product both inside and outside nearly every store on Dodecanese Blvd., the main stretch located right on the sponge docks.
In the book Where the Stars Still Shine, the main character, Callie, works in perhaps the most famous tourist shop in town – home of the most popular sponge diving tour, as well.
While in town, you may wish to forgo shopping or one of the many boat tours. Instead, sit back and check out the locals. Although the “Greek” heritage usually involves boisterous fun and great food (trust me on this, you can’t go hardly a step in town without hearing “Opa!” from one of the restaurant windows or smelling the sweet aroma of pita bread and pastries galore) there’s a chance that the greatest beauty in this town will actually be found in the silent moments.
The setting really does take you to the Greek coast, almost as if you’ve stepped into an exotic place unlike any other in the United States…
But let’s not stop there. In Where the Stars Still Shine, the characters Callie and Alex take a brief trip to another part of the coast, Anna Maria Island, which is located roughly an hour south of Tarpon Springs. I’ve taken the same road as them on more than one occasion. And if you ever find yourself on the west central coast of Florida, you may want to do the same. Although Anna Maria Island is my most highly recommended beach in all the state in Florida, what I would like to talk about is not the destination but more-so the experience on the road there.
The highlight of the trip that Callie and Alex take is the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This four mile bridge – which replaced an older bridge that fell in the late 20th century – connects the peninsula to the southern mainland. To say it is a wonder to behold is an understatement. Since words themselves cannot do this bridge justice, I will let my photos do the speaking, as well as a passage from Where the Stars Still Shine:
“…We reach the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay. Bright-yellow cables angle down to the deck from two huge support pillars, making it seem like rays of sunshine are beaming down on the bridge. I scramble for my phone and Alex laughs. “Tourist.”
I reach back to give him the finger as I stick my head out the window like a happy dog and tilt my phone up to capture a picture of the bridge. The result on the screen is a series of slanted yellow bars with the vivid blue of the sea and sky in contrast.”
all photo credits to Jenna
Thank you for reading this post and for taking a look at this small part of Florida that I love. If you ever find yourself down here, I hope you take a detour on your way to wherever else you may be going.
If this is your first time visiting the roadtrip, don't forget to enter my giveaway (just click the image below). You could win one of my favorite YA summery contemps! I'll choose a winner at the end of the month (2 winners, to be exact!). I hope you've got your passport because next week we're hopping the pond to visit The Netherlands as Judith takes us around Amsterdam!