West Florida!!!

Ok here trying my creative mind or lack of lol!! hard to come up with titles but just glance at some old pictures and gave me the idea to do this post on three cities of West Florida dear to me. I have several posts on last stronghold in the United States, but not enough on the cities of Tampa, Cape Coral,and Fort Myers. I will try to bring them to life in my blog for memories’s sake. Hope you enjoy it as I.

Let me introduce to you the city of Tampa in the county seat of Hillsborough on the west coast of the State of Florida. It is located about 300 km from Miami, on Tampa Bay. It was discovered in the early 16C by the Spaniards, the town was founded around Fort Brooke.

The conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez was the first European to discover the Tampa region in April 1528. The following year, another Spaniard, Hernando de Soto, rescued the members of the Narvaez expedition. In the 18C, the region of Tampa saw the installation of Cuban fishermen, in the current district of Hyde Park. When Great Britain acquired Florida in 1763, in the treaty of Paris (Spain, GB, Cuba) ,the bay was baptized Hillsborough Bay (which is the name of the river). After a second period of Spanish domination, the Territory of Florida integrated the United States in 1821,finally becoming the 27th State in March 3,1845.

Tampa was a major center of cigar production, when Vicente Martinez Ybor relocated his tobacco factories from Key West to Tampa in 1886 (after coming from Cuba to Key West). Tobacco was imported from Cuba and processed by Cuban and Spanish workers. At its peak, Ybor City had nearly 12,000 tabaqueros (cigar workers) in 200 factories ! There are still a couple left in Ybor City (name after Vicente) , The Ybor City district has many historic buildings, including two former cigar factories, the El Pasaje Hotel, the Ritz Theater and the Ferlita Bakery, which now houses the Ybor City State Museum. It was the center of Cuban revolutionary actions for independence from Spain.

In 1891, Henry B. Plant had the Tampa Bay Hotel built in the then fashionable Moorish style. 400 meters long and with more than 500 rooms, it was equipped with electric lighting and the city’s first elevator. The building is a testament to the tourist boom in Florida in the last years of the 19C. Three years after its closure in 1930, its premises were taken over by the University of Tampa (which I played soccer against them) In 1956 the University of South Florida was created (which I played soccer against them and had my girlfriend from PA,,,).

The city of Tampa on thing to do/see : https://www.tampa.gov/info/things-to-do

The Tampa Bay tourist office : https://www.visittampabay.com/

I have several cousins living here now, and been visited this city since 1985 to 2009 my last coming for a visit from France, The wonderful road I4 reach the Tampa area from Orlando and Daytona Beach areas, I remember fondly visiting Busch Gardens (a zoo and beer park owned by Budweiser), Ybor City , where you will find the oldest Spanish restaurant in the USA ,est, 1905. Columbia our home away from home wherever they were in Florida, several location now.  Also Shells restaurant home of show business,  and shopping at Channelside, Hyde Park Village, Westshore Plaza,and Ybor City own stores. Also, the Florida AquariumLowry Park Zoo, etc ; nice memories here. I ,when not with family stayed in nice hotels like the Grand Hyatt, Marriotts, Intercontinental,Embassy Suites, and Holiday Inn Busch Gardens locations.

tampa busch gardens MF et boys c1998

tampa shells resto MF et PF c1998

The memories of going to Tampa Stadium at 4201 North Dale Mabry Highway are huge this stadium was called Houlihan’s Stadium from 1996-1998 known also as the Big Sombrero (hat), then demolished to built the  Raymond James Stadium. The new Raymond James stadium webpage : https://raymondjamesstadium.com/

And for the historical incline like me info on the old Tampa Stadium where I cam to see the Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) football/soccer team with leyends like Rodney Marsh,  etc!! : http://football.ballparks.com/NFL/TampaBayBucs/oldindex.htm

I have an old picture from the later name Steinbreinner stadium for the spring training of the New York Yankees baseball team, my team since birth, their webpage : https://www.gmsfield.com/directions-and-parking

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The city of Fort Myers is the seat of Lee County. The city is named in honor of military officer Abraham Myers. On May 10, 1904, access to Fort Myers was improved with the arrival of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad from Punta Gorda, Fort Myers stretched along the winding banks of the Caloosahatchee River. While the urban expansion of recent decades has pushed the city limits beyond Interstate 75 or I-75 and into the neighboring towns of North Fort Myers and Cape Coral across the river, the city center, now renovated, with its restaurants and old houses, attracts tourists. The city of Ft Myers on things to do/see : https://cityftmyers.com/1744/Venues-Attractions

As we had and still have cousins nearby we came by here a lot for a long period, One thing that took us in with the boys was the Seminole Gulf Railway trains, This is a short line freight and passenger excursion train base in Fort Myers, The run we took ran from Arcadia south to North Naples via Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Estero and Bonita Springs ! Memories of parenthood in my dear Florida, They did operated a more adult ride still doing call the Murder Mystery Dinner train running weekday nights year around at the stop in Colonial Boulevard.

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The official Seminole Gulf Railway webpage : https://semgulf.com/

The Florida State tourist board on the train ridehttps://www.visitflorida.com/travel-ideas/articles/seminole-gulf-railway-train-rides-from-fort-myers/

The city of Cape Coral is in Lee County. The town contains one of the largest canal networks in the world (640 km) on the edge of which many houses are built which have direct access to these canals via a pontoon, Most of these canals are navigable and allow access to the Gulf of Mexico. Cape Coral is a large peninsula and is bordered by the Caloosahatchee River. The town of Fort Myers sits on the south shore of the river.  The town’s origins can be traced back to 1957 when developers Leonard and Jack Rosen purchased 270 square kilometers of land in Lee County for $ 678,000. The development of the city began in 1958: canals were dug, streets cobbled, houses and businesses built. The first homes were completed in May 1958 on Riverside Drive and Flamingo Drive. My parents also had two lots to build here but sold them as they left with us to France, we did spent many trips here to see them and check out the development then, cousins still there they follow us for the purchase and built their homes.

The city of Cape Coral on things to do /seehttps://www.capecoral.gov/department/parks_and_recreationhome/beaches.php

You can reach it from the I4 to the I75 south or the Tamiami Trail I75 all the way to Cape Coral  , When visiting we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express  at the entrance to the city nice property, as well as the Casa Loma Motel (now management and new name here for the memories).  Shopping best is by the Coralwood Shopping Center or the Miromar Outlet mall other land side of the I-75.

cape coral casa loma hotel MF boys c1997

I am doing the post as found couple pictures from the bridge crossing into the Cape Coral Gulf side, The Cape Coral Bridge spans the Caloosahatchee River connecting McGregor and Cape Coral. It is made up of two parallel fixed spans, each 3,400 feet (1,000 m) long. The original span opened for traffic on March 14, 1964, with one lane in each direction , The Cape Coral Bridge was the only link between Fort Myers and Cape Coral until 1997, when the Midpoint Memorial Bridge opened just north of the Cape Coral Bridge on the Caloosahatchee River now allows Colonial Boulevard to extend, connecting to Veterans Parkway on the other side of the river. The Lee County webpage on the bridges :https://www.leegov.com/dot/tolls/lw_facilities/cc

cape coral intracoastal bridge jun2002

cape coral intracoastal bridge crossing jun2002

For reference, the Florida State tourist board on the Central West and Southwest areas: https://www.visitflorida.com/places-to-go/

There you go folks, a short but very memorable post to have on West Florida in my blog for us. Hopefully, it will help your planning too visiting a wonderful part of my dear Florida. I lived first 13 yrs in Central NJ and the last there 18 yrs in Central and South Florida before coming for good to France already 18 yrs here!!! (8 Yvelines 78 and 10 Morbihan 56)!!!  A lovely life only cut short for losses to dear mom and wife. Enjoy the post as I doing it for you and me.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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