Day two was a solemn day – we had to check out of the beautiful Grande Lakes hotel and hit the road for Tampa. We wanted to hit the pool one last time before we left, but a nasty tthunderstorm struck and we had to leave the pool area. In lieu of the pool, we took the time to carefully pack and use the wonderful bath amenities. Checkout was a breeze, and we were on the road in no time.
The drive to Tampa was not that bad – pleasant even. But once we got to Tampa around 3:30PM, our luck ended. The whole area is a conflicting jumble of interstates, toll roads and major highways. Couple that with pouring rain and heavy traffic…and you have instant stress. I missed the exit to the hotel, mostly due to my Garmin GPS letting me down. The GPS went haywire in Tampa, constantly routing and rerouting me into odd and dangerous places. I finally gave up on the GPS and just used the directional compass in the vehicle. After 5 tries of being shut out, nearly run over and just plain missing the turns, I found Bayport Drive, the road to the Hotel.
The road to the hotel was pleasant enough…but the hotel lobby and dropoff area was chaotic. It was hard to find a place to park and unload, exacerbated by the constant influx of cabs and buses. But I managed to get unpacked. The bell staff was conspicuously absent and unwilling to help all that much. After arriving at the front desk, the guy there secured by credit info to pay for incidentals. The rest was free – part of an awards points stay. Checkin was slow. The registrar said there were no rooms available, and we had to wait some 45 minutes to get the room.
Upon arrival, the room was nice, 10th floor, room 1022. It was a single room, not upgraded in any way, and had about 350 sq ft of space. There were two beds, one directly against the wall and one near the window. An expansive view of Tampa Bay was visible from our 10th story window, and it was quite impressive. The view alone was almost enough to make the trip worth it. Unfortunately, my pics from this leg of the trip mysteriously disappeared from my camera, so all I have is the few cell phone pics I took.
Along the back of the hotel against the Bay, there is a nice boardwalk that goes out to a gazebo. This was very nice. Many small species of crab were visible along the boardwalk, and I think it is the first time I have ever seen Tampa Bay up close. The Bay is really teaming with life – minnows, fish, horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, blue crabs and bird life were all readily visible. It was sort of a mangrove swamp area with oyster beds here and there. Very scenic.
Back to the hotel, the lobby was quite small. It became apparant that the hotel was geared mainly toward business travelers or airport layovers. Most of the hotel consisted of conference rooms or meeting halls. As a leisure traveler, I felt very out of place. However, the teens had a blast in the hotel trying to do their own thing. There was a lobby bar, but it was kind of small, and we did not have occasion to visit it.
Somewhere along this two day stretch, I got into a relatively moderate argument over something completely stupid, and hurtful words were exchanged. I really do not think the vacation was the time for that type of crap, and I am still resentful that it occurred. But overall, it was a good stay.
On our first night, we went to the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. We were all sort of scared because the area looked completely unsafe…but we got a good meal in the end. L was very upset about this choice of restaurant. Being of Hispanic origin, it always makes me chuckle at her hatred of her own culture. She hates Spanish/Latin food. In defiance, she ordered the black beans and rice as her only dish, then made a scene to “hold the black beans” when they arrived. I pity her sometimes. The other girl got the empanadaas appetizer for her meal. Teens…always concerned about phantom weight gain.
We both got fish selections – Margarita got the Pompano en Papilote and I got the grilled Mahi. We shared a pitcher of Sangria. It was excellent, and quite historic. After dinner, we went to the International Plaza mall, which is one of the biggest in the state. Very nice, indeed.
The next day will be covered in Part 2…the day we visited the sights and sounds of Tampa.