We’ve returned home from fun and frivolity in Tampa, Florida! It was our first weekend away from the boy, who stayed with my parents (and had a blast!).
We had tickets to CrueFest 2 at the Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa on Friday evening. Billy is a HUGE Motley Crue fan and they weren’t bringing the show to Arkansas, so we decided to follow them. I had wanted to take Billy to Tampa for several years and when I found reasonable Southwest airfare there, I snapped at the chance!
I had intended to blog before and during the trip, but things got harried while he was traveling on business and I was trying to hold the fort down and plan for the weekend. Then the hotel’s internet was abso-freaking-lutely horribly slow and spotty. I nearly lost it just trying to check my email.
Let’s do a recap!!
Billy got home from San Francisco on Thursday and we took Noah over to my parents’ house to spend the night because we had a 7:10am flight the next morning. Mom and Dad had the pack ‘n’ play set up in the guest room and we tucked Noah in like normal and he went right to sleep. Hooray! I don’t know what I would have done if he was upset!! I started tearing up just kissing him goodbye.
We went home and I did laundry and stayed up too late packing and planning as usual. Billy’s alarm went off at 4:45 in the morning and I JUMPED out of bed!
We hustled around and decided to get breakfast and coffee at the airport. Once past security, we stopped in at the Great American Bagel Company, where I got a multi-grain bagel. I was shocked to find out that they didn’t have any peanut butter, only butter or cream cheese (???!!!). I got mine dry and then headed to Starbucks a few doors down in hopes of scoring a Justin’s nut butter squeeze pack, but no luck there. They didn’t sell bagels or oatmeal and they looked at me like I was from mars when I asked for it. I ended up getting a banana, a bottle of water and a tall soy misto instead.
Not a bad spread for an airplane ride, huh? I don’t eat well when I travel so I had about a 1/4 of the bagel and then coffee and then ate another 1/4 and the banana as a snack later.
Here are the snacks that we got from Southwest: plane graham cookies; honey roasted peanuts; and pretzels.
I had two cookies before reading about the partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredient list. Then I had two peanuts, but I don’t like peanuts unless it’s peanut butter or sauce. I skipped the pretzels due to the same hydrogenated oil ingredient as the cookies. No thanks.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself not having Noah around to fuss over, but I eventually got my iPod out and chilled out.
We got into town around 1pm, got our rental car and immediately headed to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express directly across from the entrance to the amphitheatre. We were starving by then and the front desk suggested a Wing House next to the hotel or a row of chain restaurants down the street. We headed down the street to see what we could find. It wasn’t looking too promising until I saw a Macaroni Grill. We pulled in and then I saw a sign pointing to a Cheesecake Factory. Billy had never been to one, so I thought it would be fun to mix things up a bit. He was very reluctant as he was thinking it was a dainty sandwich or quiche shop, but I convinced him to try it and we saddled up the bar.
Sam Adams Lager. Bread while we waited:
We knew it would probably be our last meal of the evening because the concert started at 5pm, so we ordered hearty fare.
I got the Baja Chicken Tacos, three Soft Corn Tortillas Filled with Spicy Chicken, Onions, Cheese, Avocado Cream, Tomato and Cilantro. Served with Black Beans, Rice and Guacamole. I asked them to hold the avocado cream and put the cheese on the side.
See some creamy stuff on my tacos? The bartender told me it was chipotle sauce. I was annoyed, but thought I had just missed it on the menu. Only later I discovered that they just decided since I didn’t want avocado cream, I must want this stuff instead.
I ate two of the tacos and about half of the beans and rice. It was really good and filling, exactly what I needed!
Billy got a Factory Burger on wheat, which was served on on this hoagie type loaf:
After lunch, we didn’t have much time to get ready for the concert. The gates opened at 4pm and we had lawn seats, so we wanted to stake out our grassy territory as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed, but I did manage a few shots with my phone before it got dark.
We had the best time just watching people walk down the promenade in front of our seats. Freaks, old rockers, skaters, everything. It was fabulous.
Oh and the music wasn’t bad either.
I shall not admit how many Sierra Nevada Pale Ales that I drank that evening. Quite a lot. I got really familiar with the path to the women’s bathroom. And then I made the mistake of mentioning whiskey and Billy shows up with a double whiskey and coke in his hands.
Oh well. It was a good time and we deliberately chose a hotel within walking distance! The music was great and Vince Neill is skinny again. The big screens were disappointing. The bands’ screens didn’t show live shots of the band too much and the amphitheatre’s screen at lawn level was grainy and awful. A drunk guy invaded our space in an attempt to get a little too close to some girls in front of us and we had security make him move. Then a drunk girl rolled (yes, rolled) into the couple next to us and almost created a scene. The lawn is definitely where the action is at!
The next morning, we slept in obviously. We woke up just in time to grab breakfast from the hotel’s offerings.
Awful coffee, cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and a banana. I wouldn’t call it delicious but it got the job done. Then we were off for a day in historic cigar capital of the world, Ybor City. My cousin, Kim, brought me here a few years ago and I’ve been dying to bring Billy ever since. It’s beautiful, historic and you can always find the smell of a nice cigar wafting out from somewhere.
We started at the Ybor City Museum, where we got a semi-private tour of one the casitas, houses built for the factory cigar workers by the factory owners. With Tampa being a really swampy, humid environment, it was interesting to see how the houses were built (circa 1905) with lifted foundations to allow for airflow, windows to catch crosswinds and tall ceilings to allow the heat to rise. The mosquitoes were (and are) a major a problem and the residents apparently used cheesecloth and/or mesh netting on the windows as primitive screens.
We started sweating as soon as we stepped outside of the museum, so props go out to the original residents and their hardiness.
After the tour, we wanted to head next door to the Museum store and to the Saturday town market, but we were starving. Our stomachs lead our feet directly to the famous Columbia Restaurant for delicious cuban food.
Mojito….made from scratch and simply amazing.
Cuban bread served wrapped in paper:
I had a bowl of black bean soup with rice and topped it with onions.
Next time I’ll remember how big these portions are! I didn’t even eat half because I was trying to save room for a 1905 salad, which was suggested to me by a local.
They make it tableside, so I tried to go with the flow. But look at it all shimmery…you guys know I don’t use a lot of dressing and it’s always on the side! It was too much for me and I ended up just picking at it a little.
Billy got a cuban sandwich, which was huge.
I think the soup got the best of us both!
After lunch, we wandered around the restaurant (it has 16 different dining rooms and is Florida’s oldest and the world’s largest Spanish restaurant) and then strolled around town checking everything out.
We headed back to the Museum store only to find that they had shortened their hours and we missed them by about 30 minutes!
Then we strolled back down to the restaurant row area to King Coron Cigar Bar and Cafe. Billy found a couple of cigars, a cigar smoking hat and I found a nice place to settle down and have a double espresso.
Billy in his element:
Me, secretly lusting after his new hat:
We had big plans to have dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse, a Tampa institution. Unfortunately, they were booked up and I didn’t bother to make alternate plans. Billy suggested going to see a movie, which we don’t get to do very often anymore. After walking around Ybor all day on already blister-worn feet, I was more than happy with that plan. We found Harry Potter playing at the Imax in 3-D. woot! Woot!
In actuality, only the first 12 minutes of the movie are in 3-D. We did have fun with the majorly geeky 3-D glasses though.
And yes, they serve wine at the theater. Take some lessons, ARKANSAS.
Billy looks way cooler than me.
The movie started at 6pm and was way longer than we anticipated. We had some suggestions of food in town that we were aiming to check out, so we walked past some great looking food options and plugged addresses into our rental car’s GPS. This turned out to be a mistake. The GPS was not able to accurately guide us around downtown Tampa and with so many dark, one way streets, we wasted a lot of time circling around trying to find places. We ended up going to a different part of town only to find that parking cost $10 and we had spent our cash on beer the night before. Whoops.
It turned out to be a frustrating mess and we decided to give it up once the clock struck 10pm. We headed for the Wing House next to the hotel. Uhh…yuck. Apparently Wing House is a cheap rip off of Hooters. It’s full of rednecks and the wings were definitely nothing like Wing Stop’s.
I started with an Amber Bock (the best they had to offer) and salsa and chips.
The salsa was very generic, so we didn’t eat very much of this.
Then I ordered 10 naked (skinless, not fried) wings with BBQ sauce.
Every once in a while, I would get a weird twang, which was freaking me out. I had visions of food poisoning and not being able to get home the next day, so I ended up only eating 5 or so.
Billy got french fries and I ate six of them:
Best thing on the table by far.
We witnessed two near bar fights and then got the heck out and turned in for the night.
We headed to the airport early the next morning and scoped out our breakfast options. The Tampa airport has an adjoining Marriott and we headed to their restaurant, Elise Cafe, for a hot sit down meal.
I got the Fast Break, which was scrambled eggs with diced ham, hash browns and whole wheat toast.
Billy gave me a strip of his bacon and I took one bite and gave it back. Thin and tasteless. Note the shiny on the toast…slathered with butter! I ate one slice until I realized I just wanted the butter.
After wandering around the airport for a while, we finally headed through security and to our gate after hitting Starbucks and the newsstand.
Great magazine! There are a lot of meals that I want to try in there.
We had a lengthy lunch time layover at Houston Hobby airport. We scoped out the whole airport and settled on Pappadeaux’s as our healthiest option. Other choices: standard airport sports bar, fast food court or a Buffalo Wild Wings.
I ordered salmon with dirty rice and asked for the sauce on the side.
See that yellow bowl full of stuff? THAT’S THE SAUCE! I dug a few pieces of crab out and said a prayer of thanks that I had asked for them to hold it. As someone with a dairy allergy, that cream sauce would have put me DOWN. And added 5 lbs on me in the meantime. I ate most of the salmon and a few bites of rice.
Glass of Yalumba cabernet:
Then we roamed around the airport some more and ended up at the sports bar (too much time on our hands) for more wine.
When we arrived home, we picked up a veggie pizza and salad for dinner, cuddled and tucked our boy in at home and then we settled in to enjoy the latest episodes of TrueBlood and Hung on HBO.
We had a wonderful getaway weekend, but it was so nice to be back home with Noah. And now I’m flushing the wine and beer out with WATER WATER WATER!