Day 29: Red

Car rides are boring, especially when you have to drive 17 hours from Florida to New Jersey. As much as I love vacationing, the car rides are not much of a favorite. I usually sleep, listen to music, chat, and text on the car rides, especially this one. My parents decided to drive home directly instead of stopping at Virginia overnight so you can imagine the horror. So there I was, snapchatting friends and listening to Taylor Swift, when one of my friends sent me a snapchat of her on the car to Taylor Swift’s Red Tour at the Prudential Center. I immediately became jealous even though I already knew that she was going.

As mentioned before in my blog, my friends and I love Taylor Swift and country music. When Taylor Swift announced her Red tour, we all wanted to go. One friend was lucky enough to get tickets as her birthday present from her parents, but the rest of us could not get tickets in time. I really wished that I could attend Taylor Swift’s concert but my mom said that if I wanted to go I had to pay for my own ticket… Which would be expensive to say the least. So here I am, bored to death on the car, while my friend goes to Taylor Swift’s Red tour. I hope she has fun for all of us who could not go!

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Day 28: Tampa

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After watching the intense Yankees game, my family headed to the Clearwater Beach. Compared to Miami, Clearwater Beach was filled with families instead of young adults. The beach itself was family-oriented as well, with less bars and more water sports. My mom told me that Clearwater Beach was known for having warm water, unlike Miami Beach’s cold water. Either she lied or the weather was still too cold because the water was icy cold. I could barely stand still in it. Clearwater Beach was not as pretty as Miami Beach, but it felt nice to stroll along the beach. The wind blew and the water rushed. It was a great experience.

Tonight marked my last dinner in Florida because my family will be heading back to New Jersey tomorrow. My mom and I searched reviews to find the most affordable and delicious restaurant in Tampa. We found a Cuban restaurant called Pipo’s Restaurant. We really wanted to eat paella before we left for home, so we called an hour ahead as the online menu requested. Unfortunately, the restaurant did not have any ingredients in stock, but we decided to go anyway. I expected it to be some fancy Cuban restaurant; instead, it was a casual yet traditional restaurant. It was kind of like Taiwan’s zi-zhu-can style restaurant where you ordered a main dish with two sides of your choice. We had fried pork, pork chop, shredded chicken, and roast chicken. I would definitely recommend this restaurant for people who want to get a taste of traditional Cuban food. For the sides, you must get the fried plantains because they were the best I have ever tasted!

Pipo's Restaurant

Once my family was satisfied and full, we happily left the restaurant and headed to the hotel. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Tampa – Airport/Westshore. It was a really nice hotel with an accessible amount of room so it did not feel crowded. They have complimentary breakfast, too! (They make omelettes based on the ingredients of your choice!)

Slice of Life

Day 28: Yankees Spring Training

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I arose early this morning, at the time when the sun was just about to rise, bringing in a rainbow full of light. A glance out the window reminded me of the big plans that would be happening during the day. I quickly helped my family pack our belongings and left the Renaissance Hotel before the clock could strike 8:30. With that, we continued on another four hour journey from Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa. It was a beautiful drive. We drove across island after island before finally reaching a halt at the parking lots for the George M. Steinbrenner Field at exactly 12:45. With excitement, my family and I walked across the long bridge and settled into our pretty good seats.

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This was my first Yankee game, even though it was considered as the last spring training game. Four years ago, the season the Yankees last won the World Series, my mom planned on taking us to a game at the Yankees stadium. It would have been a great game with well-known players such as Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Chien-Ming Wang, and Mariano Rivera on the field and batting. However, that one day, New York City was expecting rain, so at the last minute, my mom backed out and decided not to go. It did not rain. Yes, not a drop of rain fell that sunny night. At home, the four of us sat on the couch and watched as all the great players caught impossible balls and hit doubles. Mariano Rivera even pitched the last inning. Chien-Ming Wang pitched as well, in the season that would essentially be his last with the New York Yankees, until now. To say that I was upset was the least that I felt. I was heartbroken to see the Yankees win a terrific game on television when I could have been there, in the crowd.

I was thrilled to see the Yankees play, but I was also disappointed because many of the best players were not there due to injuries. It was the Yankees’ last spring training game with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game was neck-to-neck with a score of 0-0 until the seventh inning when Yankees’ pitcher, Cody Eppley, slipped and let the Pirates gain two runs. However, the Yankees fought on and gained a run in the ninth inning with second and third bases occupied. Their designated hitter, Travis Hafner, was up last when the Yankees already had two outs. Hopefully, he would have sent everyone home with a home run, but instead, he struck out three times. Although it was disappointing to not see my all-time favorite players and to watch the Yankees lose, it was a great experience and I hope I can go see one of their regular season’s game!

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Day 24: Key West

Wow! That is all I can say to describe Key West and the drive down there. We left Boca Raton and drove four hours through the Florida Keys to reach Key West. Every part of the Keys was beautiful! The bridges, the island, I could not believe when we finally got to Key West. It was a busy afternoon. My family and I strolled around the main city area, visited highlight spots, watched the Blue Angles, and went to Fort Zachary and the beach. However, there were two best parts of my day.

First, my family went to Mallory square to see the best view of the sunset. I was not let down. My brother was intrigued by the performers on the square, but I was drawn in by the beautiful scenery before, during, and after the sunset. I have never seen anything like it before. I could not stop taking pictures and taking in the beauty. It felt like forever before the sun set, but once it started, it quickly ended, leaving behind only pink rays before turning completely dark. It was breathtaking. Luckily, I was glad that my night didn’t end there.

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After watching the beautiful sunset at Mallory square, my mom told us that we had to eat at a well known and delicious Cuban restaurant. El Siboney is located at the corner of a neighborhood in key west, apart from the hectic and lively city in the middle of the island. When we got there, the restaurant already had a thirty minute wait, but my mom would not leave Key West without eating there so we waited. Good thing we waited because I would have regretted the decision if we had left. The food was delicious and traditional, and the service was incredible. We ordered conch chowder, roast pork, tamales, steak, and chicken. For dessert we had key lime pie and flan. I have never eaten anything better than the foods in that meal and I am not lying. I understood why the restaurant was well known and why people waited even though it was a long wait. The only entree I wish we could have tried was their paella, but that had to be ordered an hour in advance.

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We stayed at the Marriott Key West Beachside Hotel that night.

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Day 23: Spring Break

Spring, spring, spring, spring… The sound echoed through the multi-purpose room yesterday. Students counted down and chanted for the bell to ring. Once school let out, it marked the beginning of my 2013 spring break. I have exciting plans for this year’s break. My family decided to drive down and sight-see Florida. Basically, we are going to key west, Miami, and Tampa. I can’t wait! We started driving right after school yesterday and stopped for the night at Country Inn and Suites in Emporia, Virginia. It was a fantastic hotel. The service was incredible. We checked in at midnight and the person at the counter was so lively and friendly that it woke me right up from the long drive down. Breakfast this morning was fast and always hot because they constantly checked for refills and ice. If I had to rate the hotel, it would’ve gotten higher than a 5 star!

Today, we continued to drive down towards Florida and stopped for the night in Boca Raton, where we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Boca Raton, as shown below.

From the exterior, the hotel looked really fancy and cozy, as did the interior. Unfortunately, I felt like the woman at the front desk was judging my family because we were not dressed formally (most people who were staying there were business people). She sounded annoyed and aggravated when my parents asked simple questions, but immediately changed expressions when a business person asked her a question. I thought she was really rude and impolite, but in life, I will have to deal with people like that. The room had a king bed because they didn’t have any two doubles left so my brother had to sleep on the pull out bed. It has been a long day. Good night!

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