St. Pete Beach: Ybor City

While we were in Florida, Andrew, Marvin (Abigail’s hubby and my foodie/brother-from-another-mother) and I spent an afternoon in Ybor City, the home of Cuban cigars in Florida. Today, it’s a small district outside of Tampa full of cigar shops, coffee shops, boutiques and night clubs. (Apparently the nightlife is an attraction in and of itself; Andrew and I will have to check it out next time we’re in Tampa!)

Our first stop: lunch at the Colombia. It’s a historic restaurant with incredible food.  We started with a round on mojitos!

Deciding what to order was seriously difficult, so we decided to get three different things to share.  We had to get their signature salad and Cuban sandwich, then chose a Cuban combo meat (featuring roast pork, beef, black beans, rice, fried plantains and an empanada) and shredded beef in red sauce.

Here’s my plate, with a little of everything:

We polished off every. last. bite.

Even after all that food, we managed to have room (or maybe we didn’t) for dessert, a white chocolate bread pudding (which must be a thing in Florida, since it was on multiple menus):

Delightful! Even Andrew, who isn’t a big chocolate fan, wanted to lick the plate. Some of the best bread pudding I’ve ever had, I can tell you that much.

After lunch, we walked up and down 7th Street and finally settled on a cigar shop for Andrew to pop into.  He enjoyed a cigar and some Cuban coffee and I was thankful the place was equipped with multiple air purifiers so I could actually enjoy sitting near him.

Our last stop was Cuba! (Not really, but there is a tiny park there that ‘technically’ belongs to Cuba.)

On our way back to the car, Andrew grabbed a couple cigars for the road.  We actually saw them hand-rolling the cigars right there in the shop.

I’ll admit, the smell of a cigar is actually growing on me.  BUT!  That does not mean Andrew doesn’t have to brush his teeth twice and take a shower before he climbs into bed after smoking one…

St. Pete Beach: the Don

Andrew and I spent last week in Florida at the Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach.  It was our family vacation with Andrew’s grandma, taken every two summers or so these days, and our first repeat (we went four years ago).  It’s a big, beautiful pink Art Deco hotel on the beach with all the amenities.

The best part?  We got UPGRADED to the Penthouse!  (Andrew and I didn’t; we and his parents stayed in rooms on the second floor while his sisters, their spouses, nephew Blake and grandma got the Penthouse.  We’re pretty sure it was because the top floor wasn’t booked and we had such a large party, the hotel offered it so they could sell the suite we’d reserved more easily. Bummer.)

Check out this view:

The Penthouse came with a small kitchen, dining and living rooms, and three separate bedrooms.  Hi Grandma!

We spent most of our time camped out by the pool, taking turns swimming with Blake, who is a little fish!

I had to do a long run–14 miles–the day after we arrived.  I started on the beach and did 7.5 miles (from one end to the other and back), before heading inside for some air conditioning.  Running on a treadmill never felt so good!  My runs that week may not have been my fastest (how do the local runners do it?!), but I was pleased with my performances.  If nothing else, I gained mental toughness in the heat.

I also did some open-water swimming in the ocean (!!) and weight-lifting while I was there.  I really enjoy my workouts on vacation, but wish I had a buddy to do them with.

I’ll leave you with this photo of Andrew, hogging all the noodles to stay afloat: