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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Touring Tampa

For quite a while, Josh and I have been talking about buying a house in Florida.  We got married in the Keys and last year we spent a week in the Fort Lauderdale area to see if we like that area.  We decided that we might like the Tampa area better (not that we didn't LOVE Ft. Lauderdale) so finally after months of looking at houses we had some time to fly down for a few days and check it out.  We left Thursday morning, and in a short three hour flight (I got airsick for the first time on a jet!) we arrived.  It had just stopped raining and it was SO humid when got there!  After 6 months of winter, some real heat felt amazing.  

After we picked up our car, we headed to Ybor, where our first hotel of the weekend was located.  This is a historic part of the Tampa downtown, also known as Cigar City.  There are tons of great restaurants and bars, and of course cigar shops.  If you didn't know better you would think you were in Cuba.  It is lovely!

We found this guy serving the BEST iced coffee ever.  Out of a tap like beer.  But seriously, amazing and not watered down because there is actually no ice in your cup.  Check out all about the company here.

Josh picking out some cigars.

Our first drink and cigar of the trip.

We found a place for dinner that served $10 Prime Rib from 4-630 everyday called Carne Chophouse.  We had every intention of getting said Prime Rib, but they also had $2 martinis.  After a couple of those we decided to get an appetizer which was this huge plate of the BEST poutine!  By the time we finished this and a couple of those martinis we were pretty much full!  We then went to the Tampa Brewing Co. and tried to eat more food but we were unsuccessful and just went back to the hotel to bed.  haha

On Friday, we headed out bright and early to start looking around the Lutz and Oldsmar areas.  For lunch we stopped at a place I had found online that had been on Man vs. Food called Skipper's Smokehouse.  A delicious, eclectic small town Florida restaurant and music venue.  You really have to see it to appreciate how cool it is.

We got the Gator Bites for an appetizer.

I got the steamed platter,

and Josh got the Gator Ribs that Adam ate on Man vs. Food.  Everything was awesome!

After looking at the Lutz and Oldsmar areas which we really liked, we thought we would head a few miles over and check out the beach.  This was just a quiet locals kind of beach but it was lovely, and the Gulf water is so warm!  This was our only calm water day and it is so nice compared to the ocean.

There are more Geckos and little lizards than I have ever seen anywhere!  Found this guy on the screened pool area of one of the houses we were looking at.

Also found these vultures noshing on some sort of dead creature in a park.

Downtown Tampa.

After a long day of house hunting, we headed back to Ybor and our hotel then to a place I had been excited to try,  Cigar City Cider and Mead.  As the name indicates, there are a huge amount of ciders and meads that they brew onsite.  We each tried a flight of different ones.  They were all pretty delish.

We then decided to give the Brewing Company another more sober shot.  I ended up getting the Wild Warthog Spicy Curry Mussels and Josh got "The Bomb" burger, both of which were on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.

We decided to tour around Ybor some more as it was our last night.  When it starts to get dark the streets come alive like crazy.  This is definitely a fun, party kind of area for those who want that!

Saturday started out bright and early out toward the St. Petersburg area to look around down there.  We then drove up the Causeway, zigzagging back and forth to the mainland to look at houses.  We found a ton with in a few miles of the beaches and loved the areas they were in!  

We stopped to take a look at some quieter beaches that would likely be the ones we would be enjoying the most if we lived in the area.

As we were driving along the Causeway, we glanced over to see something that everyone knows is my cup of tea... a Water Spout off shore from Madiera Beach.  I made josh pull off into a parking lot so I could run over and get some pictures before it went back up.  It is hard to tell in these pictures (I never have our good camera when I need it!) but it is pretty sucking pretty strong for a water spout.  Most people knew that this was not going to come ashore (water spouts rarely do) and stayed on the beach but some people were not sticking around!

We continued on and decided to take the afternoon off from driving around and head to our second hotel on Clearwater Beach.  We passed this cool one on the way.

Our hotel was a smaller one, but really was right on the beach, literally sand out of the front door.  So we changed and headed down to get some sun on our very pasty NJ bodies.

After some sun we decided to go for lunch to a pretty iconic place on the Beach called Frenchy's Rockaway Grill.  Frenchy's has several locations in the Clearwater area, and if you ever get the chance, make sure you check them out.  Great food, great staff, a very island feel and a great view.

This seafood salad... OMG.  The best thing ever.

Awesome Entertainment.  He sounded just like Shaggy.

With our belly's full and a bit of a buzz it was time for a swim.  The water was a bit choppier because there were a lot of storms in the area and all over the Gulf.  It was still much calmer that pretty much anywhere we have been.  And so warm!

We decided to walk down there shore.  The area was packed and there was the Sugar Sand Festival around the area of the Pier with some cool shops and trinkets as well as bands and other attractions.  We also got to take a quiz about wine at the Cupcake Vineyards (my favorite wine, and the wine we used at our wedding) and try a sample. I won a glasses cleaning cloth haha.

View from the Pier.

All over Clearwater Beach there were sea turtles and dolphins painted in the theme of wherever they were.  I love when places have these.

There was also a sand sculpture competition.  Somehow we missed it (must have been in this building) but I saw some pictures after and it was amazing!

This guy was real.  Many of you know how I feel about Mimes and people that paint themselves gold and silver.  I get really freaked out.  Although I must say this guy was pretty talented.

Time for a drink stop down the beach.  It seemed everyone had these little buckets on sale for a ridiculously cheap price with some of the proceeds going to different charities.  How can you say no to that?

We decided to stray from the beach and walk up through the streets.  It is a pretty typical touristy, fun area with lots of cool stores.  Also, for any of you that are Hulk Fans rf watched his reality show, you know he lives in Clearwater.  He also owns a cool little Hulk gift shop with all things Hulk and wrestling.  We actually had just missed him, he apparently goes in every few days for photo opps and to mingle with his fans.  We had to settle for his statue.

By this point it was time for a break so we went back to the hotel to clean up and then went to a really cool place right in front of our hotel, called Palm Pavilion for dinner.  We waited FOREVER because it was so packed but it was totally worth it and we got to see this sunset.  I got the blackened Grouper and it was some of the best fish I have ever eaten.  After dinner we went back to the pool at our hotel for a dip and then to bed early for another day of house hunting.

Sunday started early, with a trip to Dunedin.  I am IN LOVE with this town.  It has the most beautiful downtown area filled with shops and restaurants and historic buildings   You could really tell that this town has a huge sense off community and great people.  This is a pet grooming shop.

And of course more food at a cute little BBQ place in the downtown.  Josh had an amazing burger and I got this to die for pork belly salad.

A Dunedin dolphin.  We also noticed that on the weekends you can take a trolley from downtown Dunedin to Clearwater beach for free which would be fantastic!

Again we spent more of the day driving to different areas checking things out.  We went back to the strip in Clearwater for one last evening of wandering and enjoying the weather.  Me and a lobster dolphin.

A stop at Cooters for a Colada and some Oysters.

A Greek dolphin.

We walked over to the boat slips where all the tourist companies are located for deep sea fishing and water sports.  So much to do!

A cute little bar right on the water (literally on the water).

A very hungry bird.

A major bird fight over some fish scraps.  This was hilarious and scary as they fought a couple feet from us.

Hungry Pelicans.

Amazing final dinner at Crabby Bills.  The beast crab legs ever.

After another early night, we went down to the beach bright and early for one last swim.  It was cloudy and windy but still a lovely day.

On our way to check out Palm Harbor, we saw this cool Jeep.  We also loved the Palm Harbor area.

At the airport waiting for our flight we had lunch at the Green Iguana.  I finally got my key lime pie.  Finally and it was totally worth it!

Coming into Jersey, this shot really reminds me of Saskatchewan!  Made me homesick (luckily after this crazy bumpy flight I wasn't actually sick)

So we had a great time, and did end up narrowing down the areas that we would consider living in.  We also still love Florida and I know I am super excited to finally have a place to call our own, especially one that is warm all year round! If any one from Florida or otherwise has any advice about where you think the best place to live is, please let me know!

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