In the time since my last post (So We Went to St. Petersburg [Part One]), someone mentioned to me that the Hotel Indigo is haunted. I poked around the internet and found out that the hotel used to be a hospital. It is purportedly haunted by a little girl who died of polio, and a man in a wheelchair who haunts the lobby. I saw none of the ghosts, but Thai family lore says that we’re protected by too many angels to be successfully haunted…
On the middle day of our trip we took a break from St. Petersburg and headed to Tampa. We went because we are food geeks, and wanted to find a Cuban sandwich that was as good as the ones we used to eat at Kool Korner in Atlanta. If any place in the world has good Cubans, we reasoned, it should be Tampa (or perhaps Miami, but we weren’t anywhere near Miami)!
On UrbanSpoon we found La Segunda bakery, which has existed in the same neighborhood of Tampa since the turn of the 20th century. The neighborhood is a bit on the scruffy side nowadays, but the second we stepped inside we realized we were on the right track.
It was packed, an excellent sign. We got our number (just like at the DMV) and stood waiting for fifteen minutes while people walked in and out with long bags of Cuban bread, boxes of pastries, and thin-pressed sandwiches. I watched one woman pause at the door, throw away all the extra bread packaging, and dig right in.
We ate the sandwiches in our car in front of the shop, with the sauce dripping down our fingers and the Florida heat making us sweat buckets. We had it with strong, tall-poured café Cubano, with guava-cheese pastries for dessert. It was grand. The Cuban was not as good as Kool Korner, but still tasty.
Dave’s dad mentioned to us that Ybor City was worth visiting. After imbibing our Cubans we went for a sweaty walk down the long row of old storefronts that make up the center of Cuban history in Tampa. The streets were lined with cigar shops and bars and historic places. I caught snippets of stories as I walked, especially enjoying the tale of the Italian-born Cuban revolutionary (photo below). Now the corner where the revolutionaries met to caters to tourists.
Dave bought a cigar from a friendly gentleman who said that he’s got a cigar cutter chained to his garage. “The whole neighborhood stops by when they need to trim their cigars,” he said. Dave bought the cigar cutter too.
The cigar shops of Ybor
After a long wander through Tampa (including a stop to browse through Mojo Books and Music, one of a rare breed of Florida’s small used bookstores), it was time to return to St. Petersburg for one last drink. Also on UrbanSpoon we found The Ale and the Witch, a low-key but honest bar that reminded me of the brewpubs of Portland, but with much more sunlight. I had something I’d never tried before, a Belgian Ale that was dark with no bite at all and a mocha aftertaste — heck if I can remember the name, it wasn’t my usual Omegang. (…Darn, this will bother me.)
Then a band began to play Grateful Dead covers, and it was time to head back to the hotel.
We had no haunting on our last night, but I really missed the morning wake-up cat and child. It was time to head back home! All-in-all, I think I should plan more of these anniversary things. Apparently advanced planning means that we get to have a nice time together – imagine!
One last drink!