• You can't afford the time or the coin to go on a full-fledged real-life vacation this summer.
• You kick yourself for living in the Sunshine State and never going to the beach.
• Your brain is in desperate need of a rest.
[Editor's Note: Anyone who has ever met CL News & Politics Editor Mitch Perry knows him as intensely focused, tirelessly hard-working and blazingly fast-talking (must be from all those years on WMNF). We know for a fact he zones out on football on Sunday afternoons, so it's not as if he never relaxes. But when we were thinking of who to send to the beach to test out the latest retro-chic motel makeover — Frenchy's Oasis Motel, the former Olympia in Clearwater Beach — Mitch just seemed like a guy who could use the rest. Here's his report.]
I must confess that for years I denied myself this local pleasure, perhaps leery of the premise that the closer you get to the water, the quicker your IQ points seem to drop — yours, and everyone else's around you. Fortunately, I found that it's possible to create your own world and transcend the temptation to dumb down even while enjoying the white sands of Pinellas County beaches.
There are numerous accommodations to choose from — and in the summer, the off-season provides the best rates. But if you're going to spend a weekend in Clearwater Beach, Frenchy's is the cool place to hang. Owned by the man who seems to have created a mini-empire in the region, Michael "Frenchy" Preston, it's an intimate motel with just 16 rooms, most of which offer patios with stunning views of Clearwater Bay. There's also access on the first floor to a deck that juts out into the Bay.
Decorated in aquas and lime greens that are bold yet not overbearing, with terrazzo floors and Bauhaus lamps, the rooms are very clean efficiencies, each one featuring a refrigerator/freezer, microwave, stove, toaster and silverware; if you stock it with your own supplies, you'll never need to leave. Plus, you've got a 40-inch flat screen Magnavox television with cable, and as a welcome gift, you're supplied with Folgers coffee and a pack of Orville Redenbacher's gourmet popcorn.
However, if/when I go back I'm taking my own bottle of Cabernet and popping it open on the patio.
(Note: At $139 a night, Frenchy's is a bit more expensive than some other lodgings on the beach, but surely you won't receive as many amenities.)
Frenchy's Oasis Motel, 423 East Shore Drive, Clearwater Beach, 727-44-MOTEL (727-446-6835), frenchysoasismotel.com
There are numerous fun restaurants to check out in the Clearwater Beach area, such as family-owned Al & Stella's Italian Café (483 Mandalay Ave., 727-461-70000). Cooters is a fun sports bar (albeit filled with Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia) just a short walk from the motel (423 Poinsettia Avenue, 727-462-2668, cooters.com). For a more formal dining experience, choose between Bob Heilman's Beachcomber and Bobby's Bistro & Wine Bar, which share a parking lot and the Beachcomber's extensive wine list. Both are located on Mandalay Avenue, and both are approximately a five-minute walk from the Oasis (447 Mandalay Ave., 727-442-4144, bobheilmans.com; 727-446-WINE, bobbysbistroflorida.com).
If your brain's rested enough, thank you, sample some ahts and culchah in a … BAYcation!