Today's blog post should probably be entitled: the story of the City Mouse and the Country Mouse because I think pretty much everyone knows that story, right?
Anyway, Tim and I decided to explore north of us for a change over the weekend so we headed toward Tampa. Other than the airport, we don't know much about Tampa really. The airport we are very familiar with. But the only other times we've been up in that direction were for a Tran Siberian Orchestra concert, one visit to St. Pete's Beach and a few times, passing through on our way elsewhere. Otherwise, we didn't know much. Well now that I think about it, we did an official tour of Ybor once nearly three years ago. So we decided to start in Ybor once again. When you take an official tour, you only see what the guide shows you. This time, we would see whatever we chose to see!
What's that you say? There is a problem with the photograph? You can't read backwards? Silly me! I'm not sure why I took the photo from the back. Just to be weird maybe? It's Ybor Square. Ybor City is area of Tampa. Tim and I were there on Saturday!
In case you are wondering, Ybor is pronounced eee-bore. Sort of like Eeyore from Winnie-the-pooh. And much like the famous Eeyore, Ybor is a little battered around the edges. Once upon a time it was the cigar capital of the world! Wow! That's really something eh? Now one of the wonderful old brick cigar factories is instead an Scientology center. There are some restaurants, some bars, some empty buildings, some shops and a ton of feral chickens.
Mostly what we saw was a lot of historic charm and old Cuban influence. I love that part. I adore the signage, the brick streets, the fancy metal work and big porches in front of the houses (most of which had been turned into businesses). There was a market going on that, apparently, is a weekly thing. Farm goods of course but also hand-crafted items, food trucks, live music and dancing in the streets. It was awesome!
It's a small area, about a mile square, so it didn't take long to walk around. But we felt as if we started off on the right foot for this explore and jumped back into the car to see a wee bit more of what Tampa has to offer.
I have to interrupt myself here. Tampa is a city. A big City. One of the biggest in Florida. The Greater Tampa area, at last census, was over 4 million people! Holy Cats! And I've never been a city person. Ever. And now, living in the small city of Venice which is even smaller than the small Colorado city of Parker (where we lived before moving here) I am finding that big cities intimidate the heck out of me. There is a lot of traffic, a lot of signage, a lot of people and buildings, and well, lots of everything, and if you don't know where you are going, it's overwhelming. It's important to start out knowing that about me because it influences everything else I am going to say here today.
Back to the story. Tim got us back onto the highway with no problem and we just kind of wandered. We drove through part of the Hyde Park area which was so much bigger than I anticipated, but very nice. We went over the bridge to Davis Island which seemed to be the land of condominiums. Very nice ones, but still. Seriously, condos as far as the eye could see which wasn't very far because, y'know, condos. And then after wending our way through traffic and streets south of Tampa proper, we headed west, toward the water.
Somehow, we always end up heading toward the water. I'm not positive what the name of the area of St. Pete's we visited, but I think it was Pass-A-Grille Way. It was very cute. Lots of beach rentals and small hotels, a few larger ones, but mostly not. In addition to restaurants and cute little shops, there were houses of every shape, size and design imaginable. And with water on three sides, we were never more than a few streets from The View. One side was all beach with lovely wooden bridge access points all the way down and decent enough parking. Then coming around the point it was just a nice side walk along the water which was filled with boats and boats and boats! We just sat for awhile and watched them all. Lovely. It looked like a GREAT place to vacation if you don't already live by the water (which we do).
But so far, it just didn't speak to me. It didn't say, this could be your home. And some places do. Old town Santa Fe did. The Quarter of New Orleans did. Parker Colorado did. And Venice Island FL did. And I felt that draw with all of those places from the very first time we were there. That feeling of "home" was instantaneous in those towns. But so far, nothing in the Tampa area has said that to us. Which is fine. We are happy in Venice!
When we finally pointed the car toward home I felt relieved. Odd I suppose. But driving away from the big city just felt so good to me.
I'm not saying that we will never go there again. Not at all. In fact, I'm quite sure that we will go again, many many times. There is a lot in Tampa to see and do! In fact, like most big cities, if you can't find something to do there, you aren't trying! I anticipate that we will visit Tampa enough times that eventually I won't feel quite so uncomfortable by it's size, the noise, the highways, the toomuchness of it. I'm positive that eventually it will be a comfortable and happy destination.
But it will never feel like home. Which works out very well, because it's not. I'm not suggesting that it's a bad place to live. Clearly it's not. 4 million people all believe that it's the perfect place to live! And that is wonderful!
Like I said, this post is sort of like the old tale of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse. Well I guess it's more the tale of the City Mouse and the Small Town Mouse. Vive la difference!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.