Saturday, April 26, 2008

HitchHiker's Guide to Tampa, Florida











TAMPA . . . The word "Tampa" is a Native American word used to refer to the area when the first European explorers arrived in Florida whose meaning is sometimes claimed to mean "sticks of fire" in the language . . ."The place to gather sticks" . . . which also relates to the high concentration of lightning strikes that Tampa Bay receives every year during the hot and wet summer months.


HISTORY


Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon first arrived in the Tampa Bay area in 1513, but the Spaniards focused their attention on settling eastern Florida and left the western areas alone. In 1824, only two months after the arrival of the first American settler, four companies of the U.S. Army established Fort Brooke to protect the strategic harbor at Tampa Bay.

Tampa owes its commercial success to Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River. When phosphates were discovered nearby in the late 1880's, the resulting mining and shipping industries prompted a boom of growth and wealth that lasted through the 1890's. The Port of Tampa is now the seventh largest in the nation; today phosphate shipping is supplemented by trade in shrimp. A pleasure cruise line operates as well.

In 1886, Vicente Martinez Ybor established a cigar factory in Tampa. From the steps of Ybor's factory, José Marti, sometimes called the George Washington of Cuba, exhorted the cigar workers to take up arms against Spain in the late 1800's. Hispanic culture enlivens Ybor City which covers about 2 square miles between Nebraska Avenue, 22nd Street, Columbus Drive and East Broadway.

The military has also had an ongoing role in Tampa's development. The city was the primary outfitting and embarkation port for U.S. troops bound for Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Today the U.S. Operations Command is headquartered nearby at MacDill Air Force Base.





WHAT MAKES TAMPA UNIQUE . . .
DIVERSITY

One of the things that makes Tampa unique is the Gasparilla celebration, a festival similar to Mardi Gras with a pirate theme . . . best to check out the video . . . click here.

As far as I'm concerned, this is as close as I'm going to get to living in paradise. There are warm breezes, gone is the humidity, the daily afternoon tropical thunderstorms or threats of an impending hurricane and only the occasional cold day and night (what I call cold) . . . this is winter in Tampa, the best time to visit my part of the world. We occasionally get a freeze at night, but it never snows and cold fronts usually move fast and last a day or two, then back to warm and sunny Florida weather.

No matter what you are in the mood for, you can find it here, there is lots to do . . . you can relax and dine at a waterside cafe, take a streetcar ride to Channelside for shopping and back to Ybor City for a delight all to itself.

Ybor City is an experience that takes you back to another era, known as Florida's Latin Quarter, wrought iron balconies, globe streetlights, brick-lined walkways and the majestic architecture of cigar factories, social clubs and other unique buildings. It provides a glimpse into an era rich with culture and history . . . famous for Spanish Flamenco dancers, Cuban sandwiches, hand-rolled cigars, shopping at Centro Ybor by day and when the sun goes down, party at the many restaurants, nightclubs and bars that line the streets of Ybor City that are so reminiscent of New Orleans.

For those into sports, Tampa is home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning and winter home of the New York Yankees and served three times as Super Bowl host.

Tampa is one hour away from Disney World and the home of Busch Gardens, where you can ride world known roller coasters like the Montu, Sheikra, Gwazi, Kumba and many other attractions, one of the most awesome zoos in the world and gorgeous gardens to walk through. Check out all to do at Busch Gardens by visiting their website, which is a treat in itself . . .
Busch Gardens website

Cross Tampa Bay and you will find white, sugar sand beaches, sport fishing, jet skiing, parasailing . . . there is nothing like walking the beach at dawn or watching a spectacular sunset on the Gulf of Mexico.





















There is also an abundance of state parks, botanical gardens . . . a nature lover's paradise.

Famous people from Tampa . . . Ray Charles, Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys, his brother Aaron Carter, Hulk Hogan, Lauren Hutton, baseball players Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield and Steve Garvey, singer/songwriter Stephen Stills . . . and me!





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