Picking up a buddy at the Tampa airport Saturday evening, it was very convenient to head over to International Plaza for some eats, which is about a mile outside the airport. Very upscale shopping mall, with two levels, over 200 shops, and high end department stores such as Nordstroms and Neiman Marcus. We went into the Nordstroms to do a bit of shopping, my buddy wanted some cologne, and as much as I loathe shopping for clothes, I saw some really nice stuff this time out. At Nordstrom, service is key, and just the sales associates we made contact were very friendly and helpful as usual in this type of store. The plaza was VERY busy this Saturday evening, as we went to a few other shoppes. Could be because of the rainy day we had, but also, this is peak season for visitors from all over to the Tampa Bay area. For eats we headed out to Bay Street, connected to International Plaza, an outdoor entertainment area, with over a dozen eating and drinking establishments. We checked out The Grape, a great place for wine with tastings paired with foods, and they also have live music. All the restaurants were busy, but we found a table outside of Bar Louie, the evening weather was perfect for eating outside and doing some people watching, Blue Martini next door had live music playing that could be heard throughout Bay Street, and made for nice background music. Chopped Chicken Salad, Buffalo Chicken Sandwich and a side of Tator Tots, all very good..the crispy Tator Tots reminded me of being in grade school, although they were not as greasy. As a side note, Bar Louie has over 24 beers on tap from all over the world, and has a lively atmosphere inside with a very, very large bar area.
Sunday we all went to the Annual Hyde Park Village Art Festival. Easy to park in one of the garages at the village, as we go to the streets in the village it was wall to wall people amongst over 100 artists from around the country showing their wares. It was a great day to just browse around, people watch and one thing that is great about local festivals like these is it brings out the local people, I must have run into over a dozen or so that I haven't seen in quite some time from previous employment to college to long lost friends. It's a great way to reunite and catch up or just keep in touch, and also talk about the good times from the past. Hyde Park Village really looks good with all the improvements, there are alot of new shoppes and cafes they have opened or are getting ready to open(City Street Sweets, Wine Exchange, JJ Smoothy, Abbots Frozen Custard), the restaurants were all very busy today. Getting hungry and not wanting to wait over an hour to eat in the Village, we left the Art Festival and went to one of my fav South Tampa neighborhood eateries, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, to sit outside and enjoy their Sunday Brunch menu.
Looking forward to the Gasparilla International Film Festival that starts on Wednesday through Sunday, there are over 80 films this year, a few from the local area, and many that have not opened to the public and are showing for the first time.
And to end the 2008 Gasparilla season, the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, rated one of the finest in the country and largest of it's kind in the South, takes place downtown Tampa this upcoming weekend, march 1st and 2nd. Over 300 artists, live entertainment, food, and best of all great people watching!