Tampa was a sweet surprise. I wasn’t traveling alone for a change, so that was special. And although it was hot and humid, we found our way to fun. Our hotel was on the River Walk, a lovely pathway for an evening stroll, beautiful boats at dock and city lights reflecting off the water. There were plenty of opportunities to enjoy live music with drinks and tapas outdoors. One night we found our way to the Hyde Park neighborhood for a delicious dinner at Timpano‘s. And shopping — furnishings for the next reno project are all scoped out!

Another night we took in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I laughed and cried and laughed again. The Hubs thought it was good, too. Of course, while I was working, someone else was playing. Highlight for the Hubs was a great seat at Tropicana Field for a Rays game. He sat only three rows behind the dugout for 58 bucks! The Hubs said he’d never seen such an influx of senior citizens at one time as when the retirement community shuttle buses flooded the parking lot.

Several times, we rode the trolley to Ybor City — a quaint and convenient way to traverse the town. Tampa’s Latin Quarter is rich with culture, history and architecture reminiscent of an earlier time. Cuban cigars, Spanish tile, and ethnic food are Ybor’s trademarks. Well-worn brick streets, intricate ironwork, and brightly colored facades present a feast for the eyes. Dinner and a flamenco dance show at the famous Columbia (est. 1905) were supreme! We also enjoyed a flight of craft drafts at the Tampa Bay Brewing Co., winding down after the conference closed.

And, oh! We won’t forget the wild dolphin tour from the Florida Aquarium anytime soon. We were out on the Bay for an hour and a half, most of that time surrounded by ten or more of a dolphin nursery. Mamas and their young, including a newborn, were great entertainment accompanied by informative aquarium staff commentary.

But best of all was meeting up with my Auntie Beasley and cousin Sally. I haven’t seen my beautiful aunt for nearly two years (and my cousin, who is much like a sister, a year) so we were long overdue. Aunt Bea has a new hip but still a bounce in her step. We trolleyed to Carne Chophouse for a nice meal. I could not resist returning to the Columbia to shop Spanish pottery and they were good sports about the detour. In truth, I didn’t want the evening to end. It was wonderful to just be together, laughter flowing as warm as Florida sunshine.

The trip was topped off in a remarkable manner by a private tour of the plane before departing Tampa. My cousin’s husband just happened to be in the cockpit on our flight. Steve ushered us on board in advance for an up-close look, inside and out, from the pilot’s perspective of the big bird. Fascinating! Top to bottom, Tampa was a reminder that a pleasant surprise often awaits on the other side of familiar.











~René Morley

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