Friday, September 6, 2013

Sharks, Seahorses, and Somersaulting Otters, What Could Be Better?

    


 A 10-year old boy giggled while he took a video of a playful otter turning somersaults over and over and over and over. The only thing that separated them was a glass panel and a few inches of air space. The otter played and the boy was entranced. It was just another day of magic at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.
     Designed to take visitors on a journey from Florida’s fresh water springs to the open water of the Gulf of Mexico, the aquarium is a great opportunity for young and old alike to learn about Florida and the bounty of its waters and related habitat.
    There are otters and turtles, roseate spoonbills and ibis, small fish and large sharks. Ethereal jelly fish, no bigger than limes, float and dance in darkened tanks. Seahorses glide through coral curling their tails around branches and each other. Divers swim with sharks while chatting with an attentive audience gathered in front of the big tank.
     The Aquarium also provides the opportunity to get outside on Tampa Bay with dolphin cruises throughout the day in search of the 500 wild dolphins that call Tampa Bay their home.
     For children who want to have an adventure of their own, there is an outdoor play area complete with shooting fountains of water, waterfalls, mist areas, and a giant sand box beach.

     Covered patio areas with tables provide comfortable spots for lunch. Food (hamburgers, sandwiches, pizza) and drink are available.
     The Aquarium is located on Channelside near the SS American Victory Museum Ship (Station 7 on the Teco Streetcar Line). Convenient parking is adjacent to the aquarium.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Oxford Exchange: My New Favorite Spot in Tampa



The Oxford Exchange is my new favorite place in Tampa.

First, there are books. Not just any books, but a well curated selection of books on interesting subjects well displayed with helpful hints from bookstore staff. The room is light filled and comfy chairs give you a spot to peruse your selections. I couldn't leave without at least a couple new books to add to the pile on my bedside table.

Then, a walk down a richly, wood paneled hallway leads to a coffee/tea bar featuring local favorites Buddy Brew Coffee and Tebella Tea. There are large sofas, comfy chairs, high top tables, and bar seating. There was a nice vibe in the air as friends and associates chatted over a cup of brew. Jerry and I sat at a high-table and enjoyed an espresso and iced coffee before heading to ...

...the restaurant. Chef Erin Guggino creates fresh, simple, flavorful meals served in a high-ceilinged, high-windowed room or the adjacent atrium. The menu emphasizes seasonal, local, and organic ingredients. Currently, it is open for breakfast and lunch (I bet regulars secretly hope they start opening for dinner).  Jerry had the chicken chili. I had a delicious, light fish soup. And, we shared the spicy fried chick peas. Yum.

And last, but not least, are the treasures waiting to be found at the Shop at Oxford Exchange. The shop has a smart collection of home d├ęcor pieces, vintage finds, and gifts.  

The Oxford exchange is located in a lovingly restored old building across the street from the University of Tampa at 420 West Kennedy.  Parking is available on the Grand Central Avenue side of the building.  The Oxford is open until 5:30 PM, Monday - Saturday and 5:00 PM on Sunday, so no date nights for us there...yet. 

For more information as to hours, menu, and offerings: www.oxfordexchange.com. Visit them on twitter at @oxfordexchange.