It is hard to believe that it has been almost 3 months since I left Reno-Tahoe, but time flies when you are busy getting on with it. What is even more surprising, however, is that I have not yet done a real blog post on my new locale. But first a word from the Florida Gators.
Okay, here we go….
Tampa, Florida encompasses much more than a cartographer’s little star would imply. The city draws its strength from the fact that it is situated on Tampa Bay, which constitutes a 400 square mile basin fringed with white-sand beaches, dotted with islands, and fed by channels and rivers. Because of Tampa’ Bay’s unique geology, it has become Florida’s largest port, carrying more than 50 million tons of cargo per year. It has also served as a destination for ancient tribes, Spanish conquistadors, Civil War troops, Spanish-American War battalions, entrepreneurs, and of course, “snowbirds” escaping the colder climates of the north for the warmer retreats of the south. Suffice to say, each faction has left its own mark on the city’s history and evolution.
Tampa contains some very distinctive neighborhoods that have evolved over time due to ethnicity, affluence, and geographic position. You have Hyde Park, SOHO, Palma Ceia, Channelside, Davis Island, Rocky Point, and others. But one clear indication of this is Ybor City.
Ybor City was once the cigar-making capital of the world. This phenomenon brought on an infusion of Cuban, Mediterranean, and European culture that melded together to create a unique and vibrant area filled with excellent restaurants, live music, and beautiful architecture. Imagine old red brick buildings, mixed with classic European construction, set against the backdrop of rusting tankers resting in the water next to a modern city rising into the sky.
Something especially interesting to me are the social clubs that dot the downtown district. In the early 1920s, social clubs served as the heart of the community. It was where members went on the weekends to dance, get married, receive medical attention, or just hang out over cigars and dominos. Nowadays, the surviving social clubs hang on with the help of their historical designations, donations, and a constant stream of events. Walk around inside, for instance, the Centro Asturiano or the Cuban Club, and you will discover beautiful theatres and ballrooms made of materials that are no longer affordable or readily available.
The Tampa Bay Hotel
Another place recently visited that I found very interesting is The Tampa Bay Hotel and the Henry B. Plant Museum, located on what is now the University of Tampa’s campus. It is an incredible building that combines Moorish architecture with a Victorian, European style that seems more applicable to some foreign land. Even now the lights burn bright with old Edison electric filament bulbs, and the rooms are decorated with furnishings that came from Paris in 1891. At one time, Teddy Roosevelt relaxed there as he and the rest of his Rough Riders readied for the Spanish-American War.
So Much More…
Of course, Tampa has much more to see and experience, and I will have to cover those in subsequent blog posts. Needless to say, it is proving to be an interesting place with much more depth than I would have ever originally guessed. Stay tuned for more! In the interim, here are a few pictures that I have gathered thus far.