Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pre-Cruise: Tampa’s Historic Ybor City

Blue skies, palm trees, and balmy breezes. This is Tampa, Florida. More specifically, it’s historic Ybor City. My Fodor’s colleagues were right—the Hilton Garden Inn at 1700 East 9th Avenue is ideally situated for our pre-cruise visit before we embark on Carnival Inspiration for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise on Thursday. All the restaurants and shops are within walking distance of the hotel and, from what we've seen so far, Ybor City is a pleasant surprise. It reminds us of an eclectic cross between Key West and New Orleans without the tackiness.

While we didn’t have much of an opportunity to explore the area last night, we discovered Carmine’s Restaurant on 9th Avenue for dinner. The setting is old Tampa with brick walls, a tin ceiling, and Victorian-style chandeliers. The food is described as “the flavor of Ybor City”—Spanish, Italian, and substantial. The Devil Crabs are huge. We brought our leftover portions of crab, sweet plantains, and Cuban sandwich back to the hotel. Our hotel room has a refrigerator and microwave so we’re set for lunch today.

Before turning in we took a stroll down 9th Avenue and stopped at the Cuban-inspired Casa del Mojito where Mel bought a hand-rolled cigar. We’ll be back tonight for a drink and to play dominoes while Mel enjoys another cigar. Yes… smoking is allowed.

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