Back from the holiday hiatus! Hope everyone rang in the new year right and are off to a vibrant 2017.
This past week I ditched the cold and headed down to warm and refreshingly weird Florida, a place I called home for 5+ years. It’s a different world down there- an oasis for anything you’re looking for in the tropics.
Fort Lauderdale was the first stop in our journey. This city taught me a lot. A few years back I took a leap and was stomped down hard there. It humbled and inspired me. It is a great small city by the shore often overshadowed by the glitz of Miami. The city offers a lot of different vibes.Some of my favorite parts of the city are the Flagler Art Walk, Eucalyptus Gardens and Rosie’s in Wilton Manors, Lazorwolf and Funky Buddha Brewery. This was a relaxing time at my girlfriend’s family’s home and the beach. We had one night out starting with the famous Elbo Room, a Fort Lauderdale Beach staple since 1938. The two story bar hosts live music every night and is always rocking with a diverse crowd. The last time I was at the Elbo Room I had a drink with a girl with a infected nose piercing who kept asking me to take it out for her. This night was wonderfully weird, but luckily no extracting cheap piercings. We met a bunch of Canadians and folks from Michigan and someones grandpa drunkingly fell in my lap. The music was good, the crowd was on and the beer was cheap. After a rowdy time my girlfriend and I hit the bar we had our first date in. Another great live music beach bar properly named, Dive Bar. It’s night like this that replenish me. Great live music, a bar with character and great people.
The next morning we jumped in the car and headed out across alligator alley to another part of Florida I hold close. I went to college in Tampa and learned a lot about myself and life in general. St Petersburg was always a place to retreat- hit the beach, catch a show. St Petersburg is a great place with the beaches from Fort DeSoto to the great resorts like Don Caesar or Postcard Inn to the spots like my favorite Pass-a-Grille beach. There’s also downtown- with the classic architecture. beautiful parks with incredible banyan trees and the artistic energy. In college I spent a lot of time going to shows at the State Theatre or at Jannus Live. I also loved checking out one of the best record stores in the country, Daddy Kool Records. In the five years since I last been, the city has taken off. The city has taken an initiative to grow the mural program and businesses have opened up creating new popping strips.
New Years Eve we hit downtown with some old friends. The night moved up to the 600 block to the funky Fubar and finally off to the Bar @ 548. The night was filled with dancing, music, getting David Blaine’d by magician Corey Van Valin, joined crews with a glass eater and enjoyed a surprisingly good free all you can eat buffet. It was that Florida drunk that was just right to end such a weird year.
The next morning we stepped out to check out the new murals which features work from artists around the world. I saw some favorites like LA’s Ricky Watts and found some new favorites like St. Pete’s own Sebastian Coolidge . You can find more information on the murals here. St. Pete’s murals are wonderfully covering the city, a city which has a rich history in arts. The city is home to great museums like the Dali Museum and the Chihuly Collection at Morean Studios. After grabbing a great meal at Bodega we headed down to the Dali Museum. Since I had been there last there has been a complete renovation. The outside of the building is now a bubble architecture marvel perched on the bay. We were in for a treat, not only did we get the mind bending work of Salvador Dali, but we were lucky enough to be there for the Frida Kahlo exhibit. Being in the building with that much history of people who pushed the borders with their personalities and art was inspiring. Frida’s elegance and beauty of pure emotion, pain and love is mesmerizing. Looking at her gaze in photos, her movement in videos and how she expressed herself in writing and painting was moving. Salvador Dali’s work is such a psychedelic in-depth story. I never like doing the tours, but after over hearing two paintings I quickly joined. He was an interesting spirit- a patriot, a free spirit, a lover and an intellect, but most of all he was Dali. The museum experience finishes in a new outdoor garden complete with brass sculptures donning his iconic mustache, the melted time bench and a thinking maze. The tree that offers shade from the hot sun has turned into an art exhibit of its own as every visitor has tied their bright colored bands to the tree. We ended the day at the beach with some new and old friends at the Postcard Inn. The perfect ending to a day full of beauty and color.
The next morning the adventure was coming to an end, but first a quick trip across the bay to Tampa. The city has also been on the rise, with a booming downtown improvement effort and an influx of entrepreneurs. We didn’t have long so I went to one of my favorite places in the world, the place where I started in entertainment photography as a fresh faced 18 year old, Ybor City. The strip is the origin of the Cigar rolling boomtown, a New Orleans-esque strip of culture. The neighborhood is the culture center of Tampa and has some of the best people watching in the country, all drenched in history. I was in serious need of Ropa Vieja, but it wasn’t Ropa Vieja day at la Teresita so we hit the incredibly elegant Colombia Restaurant. The restaurant is a Tampa staple since 1905 and has grown from a small immigrant ran cafe to a beautiful 15 room restaurant encompassing an entire city block to now 7 locations around the Tampa Bay area. The bar has shaped Tampa history- from celebrities to gangsters (Al Capone/Santo Trafficante) and more the Colombia Restaurant is a storied American treasure. Also more importantly the food and sangria is some of the best you can have in Tampa. We walked off the meal past memory lane like retro-shop La France, music mecca Crowbar, Skatepark of Tampa’s bar The Bricks, and the old school sports bar Elmers. We ended our trip with a fine hand rolled stogie and strong Cuban coffee from King Corona.
Florida is weird, a place where your weirdest dreams come true. These cities all held a very special part of my young adult life and revisiting them has inspired me anymore. Coming back I miss the charm and vibrancy. There is a great energy in the sunshine state and a creative movement that is often overshadowed by the likes of Wynwood. Hope you enjoyed the trip with us and I hope we can inspire you to check out the Tampa Bay area.
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