How was your holiday weekend?
Even though I grew up with Christmas being all hot and sunny, I became used to having a literal white Christmas since we moved to the Midwest. There’s something very romantic about swirling snowflakes outside your window while Christmas lights twinkle from every window you see. And Chicago is an undeniably Christmassy city – just walk down the Magnificent Mile and you’ll see for yourself! This Christmas the plan was to be in Chicago and have a couples’ Christmas. But then my very generous father in law stepped in and invited my husband and I to come down to Florida for Christmas with the family. The most fun part? It was a complete surprise for my mother in law!!
We rolled up on her at the airport bar to ensuing squeals of surprise and tears of happiness. And later that night my husband and I hid in a closet and jumped out to surprise my brother in law Patrick. So much fun!!
Most of my time in Florida was spent on the Miami side, experiencing South Florida and the Florida Keys. But this year my in laws moved to the Tampa Bay area, and now my trips to Florida are just as (if not more) likely to be on the other coast. And you know what? I LOVE Tampa Bay! It’s got such a different vibe from Fort Lauderdale and Miami. So much more relaxed and low key.
This was me on Christmas Eve!
What places did I love the most on this last visit? I’ll tell you!
On Christmas Eve we went to Clearwater Beach and it was lovely! Super soft sand, lots of families enjoying the afternoon and making sandcastles. And my FAVORITE part — restaurants and bars RIGHT ON THE BEACH. After a lovely stroll along the water’s edge we headed for lunch at Frenchy’s — all fresh seafood everything. Ceviche to die for. Ginormous grouper sandwiches. Oysters and peel and eat shrimp and big yummy cocktails, oh my. We had a ball, and then headed to another, more casual bar — the Palm Pavilion which was very local, chill, and fun. Mai tais were the unofficial cocktail of this holiday season, and I enjoyed quite a few there!
Christmas day was all about family time, opening presents and using Skype to catch up with friends and family who were far away. I’ll be seeing my parents soon, but it’s so reassuring to see and speak to them through Skype. I would be so much more homesick without it!
On Boxing Day we headed to St. Petersburg, which is clean, beautiful and tourist friendly. It’s a great place to visit with a family. We went to visit The Dali Museum, where the genius artwork of Salvador Dali is displayed to stunning effect in a truly remarkable building complete with glass protuberances, a spiral staircase in the middle, and a beautiful surreal garden with a labryinth in it.
It’s definitely worth a visit but I’d recommend you go on a less crowded day than right in the thick of the holiday weekend — crowds were DEEP on Boxing Day, and for an artist like Dali you want to be able to look at the art up close and also from a distance to truly appreciate the detail.
We followed the visit to the Dali museum with a delicious lunch at a tapas bar called Ceviche — notice a seafood theme? The restaurant was busy but the food was delicious — I really enjoyed the sangria, too. We ended the evening with a return to the Sponge Docks. The Sponge Docks is the Greek mecca of Tampa Bay; expect to see tons of Greek restaurants and bakeries, and of course souvenir shops selling sponges and olive oil infused soaps and body lotions. There are finds here, but the Sponge Docks is really commercial. Your best bet is to stroll along the main strip and drink in the sights, then head to Rusty Bellies for a drink on the outdoor patio and their super yummo grouper “bellie bangers.”
On our last day in Tampa Bay, we visited Honeymoon Island, a state park that’s pristine and stunning. That’s where the photo above was taken. What am I wearing?
Earrings — Steve Madden, via Macy’s on State Street in Chicago
Sunglasses — Polaroid Eyewear, via 6pm.com
Top – asymmetrical suede tunic from City Chic
Jeans — curvy fit by Eloquii — wore these every day of the trip!
Cardigan — Calvin Klein, via TJ Maxx
Purse — Charming Charlie
Flip flops — Old Navy
Bracelet — jade, and my mom gave it to me when I was 15. I’ve been wearing it ever since and literally can’t take it off.
It was a breezy, overcast day at the beach, perfect for looking for shells during a long stroll along the sand. The beach is studded with wooden benches, and each bench bears an engraved memorial to someone loved and lost. This struck me as an especially beautiful way to commemorate a loved one.
We ended our trip to Tampa Bay with a cruise through Dunedin, a cute beachy town with beaucoup boutiques, bars and restaurants. We shared an absolutely delicious last family meal together at the Dunedin Brewery, Florida’s oldest microbrewery. The fish tacos are AWESOME, and my husband loved the red ale. Good times were had, and then it was straight to the airport. Tampa Bay’s airport is large and quite lovely in terms of restaurant selection, seating, and available charging stations — I wish more airports were like Tampa Bay’s. (I’m looking at YOU, LaGuardia!)
And that was my Christmas in Tampa Bay. I’m still coming down off the sunny afterglow. How was your Christmas weekend, bellas?