February 6 – 20
We’ve made a number of trips to Florida in the past, but all have been primarily to the northern part of the state (Tallahassee and Fernandina Beach). Deciding to follow the path of snowbirds, we thought it might be fun to spend a month traveling throughout the state and enjoy its sunny climes while Charlotte is held in the cold steely grip of winter.
This trip would be a typical excursion for us, spending three to five nights in each location and utilizing a mix of camping, hotels, and Airbnb’s. Tampa, our first destination was nine hours from home and a manageable day’s drive for us. To make it easier though, we opted to stay at Casa Nautical Airbnb so that we wouldn’t have to set up camp early in the evening. Located in a quiet neighborhood on the north side of town, our private room with bath had its own external access and a small gated patio where we could store the bikes.
During the drive down we made a brief stop at Peach World hoping to find a fresh product to consume, say a milk shake or something similar, only to find it carried mostly canned and jarred products. Later, we’d hit a Subway for lunch, splitting one of their foot-long subs, always just enough for the two of us to stave off hunger until dinner.
Which is where I thoughts turned after we’d arrived, checked-in with our hosts, stored and locked the bikes and had a cold beer. Perusing Trip Advisor, we noticed that close by, Terra Sur Cafe, featuring Peruvian cuisine had high ratings and so took an educated chance.
And we were very glad we did. We started with a couple of local craft beers, for Joanna the Night Swim Porter from Coppertail Brewing and for me a Reef Donkey Pale Ale from Tampa Bay Brewing, which complimented nicely the small Ceviche Mixto we ordered and consumed with relish.
This is when we discovered just how large the portion sizes would be, ours enough that we had to confirm with the waitress that it was indeed the small order. Next up was a Crab Causa, a mashed yellow potato cake with aji Amarillo pepper and lime juice, essentially a mild crab salad between the two potato cakes with more crab salad on top and served with chunks of avocado. Yes, it was as good as it sounds.
On the edge of feeling full, we pressed on for our final dish, the Tostones Con Carne, fried green plantains topped with seasoned minced beef sautéed with onions and red bell peppers. I had this style dish, only with French fries, a number of years ago when I visited my Dad in El Cajon when we went to a Peruvian restaurant nearby. I’m not sure if it’s the recollection of the dish or just spending that time with him that made me evoke the meal, but it was and still is one of those memories I cherish.
Too stuffed for dessert, we settled our tab, a total of $51 (not including the tip), an incredible bargain given the size of the dishes and their quality. We’d not return during our stay in Tampa, but easily could have found something interesting to eat each night if we’d chosen to do so. The next day the only thing on our agenda was to get in a good bike ride.
We determined that it was possible to safely ride around the surrounding neighborhoods and took off late in the morning for what would end up being 29 flat miles. Midway through we hit a donut shop for a snack and then after getting off track a bit (much like in Charlotte, streets here change names without any rhyme or reason and we missed the one we needed to turn onto), we returned to the house to get refreshed before heading out for some exploring in the car.
Our first stop was the Tampa River Walk, 2.6-mile-long open space and pedestrian trail development along the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa. It travels alongside the city’s Arts District and includes Curtis Hixon Park, The Macdill Park, the Tampa Museum of Art, Glazer Children’s Museum, Rivergate Tower and adjacent atrium containing the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts.
Likely the site of a number of outdoor festivals, not much was going on when we got there and so after a quick walk up and down a section along the river, we walked a block away to Pokey’s, where we sat down to enjoy a beer, much needed after our morning bike ride. From there we drove a few miles to Cigar City Brewing’s Tasting Room a large facility with two separate bar areas, both crowded for a late afternoon.
We grabbed two open seats at the back bar and ordered a flight of some of their stronger selections, including a Hunahpu barrel aged stout with some hints of vanilla and cacao. Feeling the first sign of hunger, we hit the food truck outside for a couple of very good Wursts served with a French roll, the perfect food to sop up some high gravity beer.
Our next stop was the Tampa Bay Brewing Company (TBBC), home of the Reef Donkey I’d consumed the night before. The place was jumping so we headed straight to the bar which had some available seats.
It being the end of the evening for us, we split an Old Hop Hoarder Imperial IPA and an order of the Cantonese Calamari hoping that it might be similar to the treatment that Dressler’s, a favorite spot of ours in Charlotte, applies to theirs.
Typically, this dish is served deep fried with some type of sauce or dip as an accompaniment. At Dressler’s, it is billed as a Thai Peanut Calamari, that is a braised Calamari fillet strips with wasabi aioli and peanut sauce. A sweet and spicy taste as unique as any we’ve found. The dish at TBBC was deep fried, but still quite good in its own right, a nice way to end a good first day in Tampa.
We’d ramp up a number of days of full on tourist activities the next day so we retired to our room happy to have started out the trip in such a positive fashion.
Casa Nautical Airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/21097292?guests=1&adults=1
Peach World: https://georgiapeachworld.com/
Terra Sur Cafe: https://terrasurcafe.com/
Tampa River Walk: https://thetampariverwalk.com/
Tampa Bay Brewing Company: https://www.tbbc.beer/home