A Tampa Bay Art Weekend

I lived in St. Petersburg for seven years, attending college and working there between 1970 and 1977. I’ve traveled all over Florida and I think the Tampa Bay area is the top place in Florida to visit….beautiful beaches, diverse cuisine and lots of culture.

In March, we spent an art weekend there visiting the Dali Museum, a Chihully museum and attending the annual Gasparilla Arts Festival.  And of course availing ourselves of the area’s cuisine. For me, part of travel’s allure is sampling the “local” cuisine not the same old, same old of a chain restaurant.

Rather than take the interstate, we took a scenic drive near the coast and stopped in Crystal River for lunch at a waterfront restaurant that’s been there for decades.

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Lunch with a view at Charlie’s in Crystal River

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Fried catfish for me and a sampler platter for her.

Salvador Dali is my favorite artist. Maybe it’s because I am a bit of a surrealist in my own life. And to my knowledge St. Petersburg is the only American city with a museum dedicated to Dali and has the largest collection of his works outside Europe. The museum opened in the mid-80s but a new one opened in 2011 which I had not visited before.

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At 14 feet high and 9 feet wide,”Discovery of America” is one of Dali’s largest works

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Classic Dali

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A Cuban bakery was just a block from our AirBnB apartment. I couldn’t resist the guava turnovers (second row, center).

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Ybor City is the Cuban section of Tampa and is always fun to explore, whether you’re seeking hand rolled cigars, good Cuban food or both.

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You can’t visit Ybor City without having a Cuban sandwich and Spanish bean soup.

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St. Petersburg is also home to a permanent Chihully museum. This glass artist’s works are just incredible. The admission ticket allows you to go across the street and try your hand at glass blowing.

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This is a ceiling

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Even when I was in college in 1970, Ted Peters’ was the place to go for smoked fish in the Tampa Bay area. It’s been in business over 65 years. We sat outside! I wanted mackerel but it was not in season.

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Smoked salmon in front; smoked mullet in back. With German potato salad

Tampa’s annual juried Gasparilla Arts Festival is one of the largest in Florida and is over 45 years old. It is held downtown on the banks of the Hillsborough river. We spent Sunday there.

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Compared to other artists’ prices, including other glass works, I thought it was a bargain to buy this piece for about $550. The artist worked with Chihully.

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We couldn’t leave Tampa without bringing back an edible souvenir – a loaf of Cuban bread.

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It’s about three feet long

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