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Ybor City | Tampa, FL

I joke about the monotony of conferences, and there's no doubt The Conference Shuffle can be tedious, but I'm having a great time. This is actually one of my favorite annual conferences. It's an international research conference and I always take home great data to inform my work, advance the program, share with colleagues, etc.

The other great element of this trip is that I'm spending time with some of my favorite people. I'm lucky that I can work with people I consider friends. In addition to my higher-ed gig in Salt Lake, I consult for a national organization and work specifically with four other consultants who live all over the country. In addition to our individual travel and consulting, we meet together a couple times each year and this time around we piggybacked this research conference. We'll spend half the time in Tampa at the conference and half the time in St. Petersburg on the beach at a Tradewinds resort continuing our meeting. Rough, I know.

Yesterday afternoon, two friends and I decided we were burned out on longitudinal studies with huge Ns and aggregate data that all start to blur with the last four 90 minute session you sat through. Time for Ybor City. What better way to travel to Tampa's old town than via the old street car system?

Ybor ("e-boar") is the last name of the founder of the city, Vicente Martinez-Ybor. It was once a very busy cigar-making district, and still is to some extent. It was home to primarily Cubans and Italians, and is known as the Latin quarter. We wandered the narrow brick streets, ate lunch at the Green Iguana, poked around in a vintage clothing store called Fetishes (it was huge, like Decades for those readers that live in the SLC), and we had 20 minutes to kill before the next trolley so what was there to do but play in the gay sex boutique.

We went back to Ybor City that night with everyone, had dinner at Columbia, and watched a live Flamenco show. This Spanish (+ Cuban flare) restaurant is in its fifth generation of family ownership (established 1905). It's the largest Spanish restaurant in the world, seating more than 1,700 people in 15 different dining rooms and a cigar bar. The local tradition of hand-painted tiles is evident in the mosaics and art throughout the restaurant. Colombia is such a beautiful place and a must-do with every trip to Tampa. I ate there twice on this trip...both times Cayo Hueso (mahi mahi in the most magical citrus juice), with rice, yucca, platanos, and mojo. Yum. I highly recommend the guava cheesecake.

Here are a few pics of the adventures and lots more will be posted (eventually) to flickr.

Street in Ybor City.

I may not be a drinker, but I recognize a formidable wine list (and cellars) when I see them. The Columbia is beyond top notch.

Hand painted ceramics, a staple ware of local artisans.

Stairway in Columbia with hand-painted tiles, many depicting Don Quixote.

Random Ybor City Surprise | Vintage clothing store

Random Tampa Surprise | Poolside Flower