It’s nearly Spring as it’s the beginning of March, and living here in Florida it’s a period of great weather before the brutal Summer heat. I started a large multi-site project in the Tampa area this week, so will be going here on and off over the next several months. As we have several sites located all over town, I chose a central site to call home for the week – the Hyatt Place Tampa near Busch Gardens. This hotel is only a couple blocks from the Busch Gardens theme park, and I can see one of the roller coaster’s towers from my fourth floor hotel room. And even though it’s early March, vacationers are already swimming in the pool in the nice mid-70’s weather.
While I won’t have time to go to Busch Gardens during the week, it provides a bit of a tourist feel to this hotel and area. I no longer do the roller coasters like I did a few years ago – call it age, health, or lack of interest – or perhaps sheer fear of the mega-coasters that soar into the skies these days! Here’s a picture I took from the stop light just across the street from Busch Gardens.
Although Tampa is only a couple hours drive from my home in Orlando, I rented a car from National Car Rental at Sanford Orlando Airport, the ‘other’ airport in Orlando used mostly by Allegiant Airlines and international charter flights to the U.K. This airport is closer to my house, but unfortunately doesn’t have the legacy carriers like MCO does, so I don’t use it for business travel, other than to get an occasional rental car there.
My first work day on Tuesday was busy with morning and afternoon meetings at two different sites, but my co-workers and I did manage to have a fun lunch at Taco Bus! Taco Bus is a Tampa area fast-food, Mexican restaurant with a ‘Bus’ theme as it apparently started as take-off food from a bus. It was actually quite good and authentic Mexican food, and we sat in the outdoor courtyard area and enjoyed our meal, after first ordering it inside the restaurant and then having it delivered fresh to our table. The food is prepared in one of two buses however, so it lives up to its name, even now it’s grown to have a counter-side ordering area in the main building. The tacos were great, and at $2 a piece on Taco Tuesdays a bargain – you even got to pick your filling types; i.e. pork, beef, chicken, steak. I’ll have one of each please – and they were delicious!
The rest of the week went fairly quickly as I had meetings all day, and leaving my hotel at 6:30am each morning (due to the traffic and driving all over town) I was tired out by the time I got back to my hotel each night. Fortunately Hyatt Place has a deli/bar downstairs, and I had a huge Grilled Chicken salad one night in lieu of going out.
On Thursday night I finished up and met Steve (DOS) at the Tampa Airport Marriott for an overnight stay before our trip to Roanoke for the weekend. We had previously booked our weekend trip to Roanoke, Virginia to see my parents and family, leaving out of Tampa as I have back-to-back work trips here, instead of having to drive back to Orlando to fly out.
I had always wanted to stay at the Tampa Marriott as I’ve flown through Tampa many times over the years. Unfortunately, my first impressions on-site were less than stellar. The hotel looks so modern and sleek from the outside, and I was really looking forward to having a relaxing evening and going to the top floor revolving restaurant, but unfortunately it is now closed.
I asked the front desk staff about it and they said it was 45 years old (wow!) and it no longer revolved, so they use it for special events. The main restaurant is now an informal bar and pub off of the lobby. I don’t understand why they don’t just have a nice restaurant where the revolving restaurant was, as it least it would have a good view, they said the roof-top restaurant never did much business; hmm maybe it was the menu? I’ve eaten at some great hotel restaurants (Mr. G’s at DFW Hyatt) and others such as the Hyatt MCO’s recently updated Hemisphere’s restaurant that have eclectic and specialty-type tapas foods that are generally unappealing for the airport crowd, (i.e. head-on prawns, Haricot verts, grilled octopus, grilled cauliflower, etc) and thus not busy at all. For an airport restaurant I like a mix of the casual burger to the great steak and wine. Don’t know what they used to serve there, but if it was really good, I would think they would draw airport guests too judging by how busy the airport restaurants were we would later find out.
The Marriott elevators seemed to be possessed; we were on the six (top floor minus the former rooftop restaurant) but they would go up, stop, and then go back down! You have to use your card key which we did, but when they were full they seemed to operate at will. One trip down we started out on floor six (top floor) and the elevator was already full of Shriner’s (huge Shriner convention going on at the hotel), and every floor was already pushed going down! Seemed strange that the whole elevator would ride all the way to the top floor, even though every floor button had already been pushed, and people got off on each floor – bizarre.
Anyway, we made it to our room, and had a view of the Southwest terminal, and directly in front of us the Control Tower. While the rooms have a mini-French balcony, the balcony was permanently sealed shut, I guess for security.
We did get upgraded to the Concierge level on the six floor and DOS and stopped by for a bit for some snacks, before walking around the airport. The Tampa Airport is undergoing major renovation, and like Orlando (and most major airports) has many areas closed off. The airport did have a nice airport gallery along the walk to the Marriott, showing galleries and models of various Tampa Airport mock-ups both present and future, as well as various artwork and memorabilia including these drums and guitar exhibits,
as well as models of the airport and projections for the future generation of the airport in the 2030’s.
We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe on the 3rd (main) level of the terminal, pre-airside and security. It was quite busy when we sat down at 7:30pm, and we were surprised just how busy it was as it was before security. Tampa is an older airport (undergoing renovations) and still has a couple good dining choices before security, unlike many airports that moved their establishments after security, thanks to Sept 11th.
We had a yummy flatbread pepperoni pizza for appetizer, and a burger and chicken meal for the main course at Hard Rock.
After dinner, we walked a short walk across the concourse to P.F. Chang’s for dessert and a glass of port. While we didn’t see any port on the menu, we did have a HUGE chocolate dessert, and I had a glass of so-so Argentina Malbec.
Even when we left the restaurant at 9:40pm, it was still fairly busy, unlike Orlando and many airports that more or less shut down by 8pm it seems.
Anyway, back in the room at the Marriott, and getting ready for our trip to Roanoke tomorrow. I had previously packed my weekend bag for Roanoke, and DOS brought it by the hotel tonight. Tomorrow afternoon we will be heading out for the weekend. Until then, Good Night and T.G.I.F (well almost!)