My wife Carrol and I consider ourselves seasoned travelers. Because of the trips we’ve taken (Charleston 2015, Asheville 2016, Williamsburg 2017, Wilmington 2018, and Miami 2019) we have a pretty good understanding of what is amazing and what is just meh. So as our trip to what was supposed to be warm! Tampa Florida begins, I am filled with trepidation. The “Big Question” in question concerns our hotel choice, the West Wing Boutique, which turns out to be located in a less-than-great part of town. I worry that, despite all of the reviews, I will have to whip my phone out and book another property. But… well we’ll get back to that later. Let’s just say that she must trust me, because I usually select the properties, running them by her for approval before going final.
Things start smoothly enough. As a result of an online conversation with Delta Air Lines, we are upgraded to Delta Comfort for both flights. This means more leg room, and also a generally quieter, less bumpy experience as we knew from our first trip to Boston together. While I am of course pleased with this arrangement, I still point out that the company needs to work to create accessible seat maps so that I can make a choice about where we are to sit. After consuming the long crackers they provide, we arrive in Tampa earlier than our ETA of 10:30 AM. I think it has finally occurred to someone to schedule more time than necessary, thus vastly reducing delays and causing passengers to build the time into their itinerary.
The Tampa International Airport is large, so we spend another 20 minutes or so making our way onto one train and then another before arriving at the rental car facility, where she chooses a comfortable Nisan. Then the fun begins.
Knowing that it is unlikely, we decide to first see if our room is available for check-in. As we approach the hotel, a 30-minute ride along I-275 North, she sees two individuals standing in front of the building smoking. I think that this, as well as the general look of the area entirely, made her nervous, in turn making me nervous. Upon entering the loud lobby, we are told that we must wait till 3:30 and try again to see if a room has become available.
So off to breakfast we go, at a restaurant called Village Inn, which seems to be mostly present in the Tampa area. The people there, as well as the other places in which we ate, are very friendly. Because this was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, they are understaffed and only using a fraction of the available tables. This is not a big issue though, and I enjoy the cheese omelette, sausage links (they had run out of the homemade patties I really wanted) toast, and hash browns.
The last significant thing we do on this day is visit downtown Tampa. We are underwhelmed, as this location is fairly quiet and nothing seems to be happening. We are unable to locate some kind of bus tour, as we like to find when visiting major cities. So we just sit on the riverwalk for a few minutes, then head back to the hotel in hopes that a nap might be had. I should note as well that the temperature was only low 60s, rather than the 70s we are hoping for. But we do avoid the deep freeze that hits North Carolina. I made a joke before our trip to Miami that historic cold fronts would follow us whenever we seek warm weather, and thus far it actually seems to be happening.
At the hotel, as we walk the long halls on the second floor after successfully checking in, my panic builds. This cannot be a bust, this cannot be a bust… She opens the door with the key, and immediately exclaims: “wow!” We are greeted with an amazing suite that contains a living room/kitchen with love seat, a bar, a fridge, two chairs at a low table for eating, and a totally separate bedroom. The bathroom is very nice, having been appointed with full-sized towels that are almost like sheets. They also provide a bathrobe and slippers for use during and after the shower, which is nice. The only thing Carrol does find odd is that the front wall of the bathroom is made entirely of glass, and must be obscured with a curtain if one wishes for privacy. Overall though, it is the fanciest room we have stayed in.
That concern disposed of, our feeling about the trip finally begins to improve. Crashing, we awake around 6 and head off to dinner at Chili’s. Other than enjoying the room’s ambiance for the remainder of the night, nothing else significant happens. More on Tuesday.