Gulfport, FL – Part III

The afternoon we got back to the boat from Captiva, Ben’s parents arrived. Gulfport was still chilly and didn’t feel much like FL but there was a huge polar vortex happening in Chicago so we all put on our thin packable down coats and dealt with the stiff FL breeze and on and off rain. They arrived on a Monday afternoon just in time for the Tuesday farmer’s market in downtown Gulfport.

As soon as the girls finished up school work we headed over to the market. Stocked up on some goodies, ate lunch at the crepe cart and then headed to the playground to burn off some energy since it was too chilly for any swimming or dinghy rides.

Never too old for a push on the swings!

The girls had just finished up their Cuba unit for school and we were interested in taking a day trip to Ybor City. Ybor City is a neighborhood in Tampa where many Cubans settled years ago. During the Cuban Revolution many Cubans fled first to Key West and then to Tampa when they realized Key West still didn’t have basic necessities. Ybor City turned into a melting pot and built an amazing community. The Cubans brought cigar making to Ybor City.

Ben’s parents and the girls and I headed that way to check it out. We parked in the historic town square. The girls loved all the roosters running around. They commented it felt like Key West. Fitting since many of the Cuban settlers first started in Key West before moving here.

We toured the Ybor City Museum and learned all about the history and culture and what each set of immigrants brought to the table. The museum is set in a 1932-era bakery. We started with an informational video about the settling of Ybor City. We learned that the Ybor City flags represent the first settlers to the area – American, Spanish, Cuban and Italian.

After touring the museum including the bakery exhibits and the cigar making exhibits, we walked around town a bit. We loved the old streetcars that are still running. And we spotted a number of the old buildings we learned about at the museum. We found the Stein building! The Jewish immigrants were merchants – providing clothing more upscale goods to Ybor City citizens.

Ben was able to meet us after finishing work for the day. We decided on Cuban food for dinner. We hesitated on going to the typical touristy place, The Columbia Restaurant, but Nikki’s second cousin was with us and assured us it was the right choice. We had a fantastic meal! The restaurant is huge, but we were lucky to be seated in the original dining room. We had incredibly good mojitos and really great Cuban sandwiches. Topped it all off with perfect flan. We loved our little side trip exploring Ybor City!

Next up with the grandparents was heading into downtown St. Petersburg and going to the Dali Museum. We went two years ago and the girls still remember the self guided tour that is led by Dali’s mustache! So we did it again and enjoyed a new exhibit with Magritte and Dali.

And then….it was finally WARM! The girls and I hopped in the dinghy with Fred and headed to the island. Molly and Madelyn were excited to show him the tree houses and play in the sand with him. It stayed warm and we were able to inflate the paddle boards. We hadn’t used them in months and the girls had so much fun getting back out on them.

I caught a gorgeous sunrise the next morning and then anxiously awaited my college roommate Denise and her husband John to arrive. They have a condo in Tampa and it’s often simpler to get together in Florida than Chicago! We wanted to take them out in the sunshine for a bit so we went to none other then the island yet again. They brought their adorable dog Champ with them so the girls played with Champ and we had a chance to visit for a bit.

Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday. My mom joined us and we had a mini watch party with my mom, Fred and Nikki and the four of us. We made lots of goodies and Molly, Nikki and my mom baked a Key Lime Pie for dessert.

Monday morning brought another round of good byes. Fred and Nikki began their drive north. Tuesday Maddy and I flew to Chicago and actually arrived by air just before Fred and Nikki arrived by car. We had a quick 28 hours on the ground – ice storm, cold, and a mini set of braces put on and we high tailed it back to Florida!

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