March in Florida means balmy weather, manatees, nesting birds and - oh yeah - spring training! Recently, I traveled to Tampa and stayed a short jaunt away from Steinbrenner Field, the New York Yankees' spring training home.
I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, a luxurious hotel set along a 35-acre wildlife preserve. A stroll through the grounds is actually an eco-adventure. There's a six-acre tidal pond where you might see egrets, cormorants, roseate spoonbills and other rare birds. Another eight acres are devoted to salt marsh and mangroves.
The Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay received the First Annual Florida Audubon Society Corporate Award for Environmentally Sensitive Development, and yet, it’s just ten minutes to Steinbrenner Field.
Nearby is La Teresita, where I found an authentic Cuban meal. The restaurant, whose food is nearly as good as my mother's, also served me a perfect cup of café Cubano. There's nothing quite like the jolt of Cuban coffee; it's the perfect delivery of caffeine and sugar. After lunch on the unpretentious side of this foodie compound, I drove less than two miles to the ballfield.
For dinner, I went to the well-regarded Oystercatchers, one of the restaurants at the Grand Hyatt. This sophisticated restaurant offers an incredibly romantic bay view, tasty tapas and fresh seafood to satiate my palate. Yummy indeed!
Sightseeing in Tampa is easy too. In this part of the state, there's lots to explore within a short drive. Near Tampa's downtown is Ybor City, a historic community dating back to the 1880s. Cuban and Spanish immigrants first settled here and established it as a cigar-rolling capital.
Just over the bridge is St. Petersburg, where you'll find the newly inaugurated Salvador Dalí Museum. The Greek enclave of Tarpon Springs, just an hour away, offers excellent cuisine and cultural exploration. Also nearby are superb hiking trails and natural springs.
Oh, and there's some other sightseeing you can do on one of the pretty islands on Hillsborough Bay, just south of Tampa. That's where Derek Jeter built a mansion unlike any other. According to this New York Times story, his new hacienda has more than 35,000 sq. ft., garage space for six cars and too many amenities to list!
You might even catch a glimpse of Mr. Jeter himself. If so, would you mind snapping a photo and sending it to me so I can update my blog?
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