Winter is in full gear in Tampa...and led us out to enjoy a great bike ride to start of Saturday morning. We drove across the Bay to St. Pete and parked around 62nd Avenue, east of 4th street. Taking the bikes, we followed 62nd ave east to Bayou Grande Blvd, onto Grand Canal Blvd, to Overlook Drive, onto Snell Isle Blvd, and then to Coffee Pot Blvd, and along North Shore Park, Vinoy Park, through downtown along the waterfront, and ending at the Saturday Morning Market near Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Pete. A great 45 minute ride, seeing lots of beautiful waterfront homes of all kinds, along the parks in downtown there were many people out, couples enjoying the great sunny weather this Valentine's Day. The Saturday market is the biggest of its kind in the Tampa Bay area, lots a vendors, live music and FOOD! People watching is a must here....we then walked around downtown, and met up with another friend for lunch at the Lucky Dill on Central Ave. All the restaurants where you can sit outside had long waits today, we were able to grab a table in the Lucky Dill, sandwich's were HUGE, my greek salad was very large, had some grilled chicken sliced on top...could've used more dressing which they give to you on the side, but with plenty of Feta, and Veges, the salad was good.
After lunch, we bikes it back up to the car, and got back in time to get ready and head out to Ybor City for the Gasparilla Night Parade(pictures in link).
Our first stop in Ybor was Gaspar's Grotto, nothing better than awaiting a night time pirate parade than from a Pirate themed bar..the very large outdoor patio was busy, with an acoustic guitarist entertaining us...7th ave was already closed off for the parade which was to start in a few hours...we then headed over to the James Joyce Irish Pub above the Green Iguana on 7th Ave...met some more friends there, and then the parade got started, with good views from the second level pub. We wanted to meet some more of our friends who were on the street, and also say hello to some of those we know in the Krewe's marching in the parade, so we went down a block and had a perfect spot...it was not very busy at all, you could walk right up to the parade route at any time, the beads were flowing left and right...I call the night parade a little more 'intimate' because there are not as many people, and it also runs down 7th avenue in the Historic District which is ALOT narrower than Bayshore Blvd or through downtown like the Day [parade. Also, there are still around 100 floats, but most are all decorated with lights which is a great site to see at night.....Having seen lots of our friends, and of course piling on the beads, we went over to the Crowbar, and then Green Iguana...many of the Krewes were scattered about all over Ybor after the parade.
Sunday we were in need of a greasy, juicy, fresh made burger and fries...so it was off the Five Guys..and sure enough, it hit the spot, with all its greasiness, I like that they have over a dozen toppings, and the burgers are made fresh to order And they pack the paperbag with Fries.
Monday was a Holiday(President's Day), so my friend that moved to Alaska and I met some others at Canoe Escape on Fowler Avenue in Tampa, we were going to explore the Hillsborough River. My buddy is a photographer, and exclaims that the Hillsborough River is a wildlife lovers dream in Florida...the day was perfect, with our kayaks, they were able to transport us to the top of the river(Seargent Park), and we kayak for as long as we want, only to meet at the pick up spot(Morris Bridge or Trout Creek) by 5pm. Plenty of Gators, Turtles, we seen over a dozen species of birds, including the Rosette Spoonbill, one of my favs...snakes, and just you and the wildlife, no cars, planes...just peaceful, lazy river...it flows downstream, so paddling is effortless, unless you want it to be...with plenty of logs, twists and turns, the river is different around every bend...occasional you can also sometimes see deer and wild boar along the banks...its almost completely shaded, and never gets deeper than a few feet in some spots...perfect day!!
After the great Kayak ride, a few of us cleaned up and went over to Channelside downtown to see Friday the 13th at the IMAX....great entertainment to wrap up a perfect holiday weekend. Unfortunetly we were also starving and the Westshore Pizza in the Channelside Theaters DID NOT satisfy...at 8pm they only had pizza or cheese bites available to eat, the pizza was cold and stale...