Sunsets, sand and sponges!

After 4 fun filled days in Gatlinburg and two amazing weeks in Florida, the Howard's have returned home. It has taken 2 solid days of laundry, but I think we're finally caught up and everything is unpacked!

Time to finish out the highlights of the trip:

There was a wonderful little beach bar in Hudson just a few blocks over from our rental which I had to include. We visited it quite a bit - they always had really good drink specials and we could bring Pickles - it doesn't get much better!

Like I mentioned in the last post, we headed down to Tampa to meet up with my dad and stepmom for an evening in Ybor city (pronounced "E-Boar").  Ybor is known as "Tampa's Latin Quarters" and is filled with Cuban-style cigar factories, Spanish restaurants and latin charm.

Had to make sure baby E was dressed for the night!

Our first stop was to Tabanero Cigars for a little tour. It was really fascinating! They hand roll all of the cigars - each worker produces roughly 100 cigars a day. Since each is hand rolled, many steps are put into place to ensure quality control. A precise amount of tobacco is measured out each morning for each worker, and they have to produce exactly 100 from that bag. Not 99, not 101. Cigars come in various sizes and the rollers are allowed to only roll one size to build muscle memory so they know the exact feel and weight. I could go on and on about it - it really is impressive! If you're ever in the Tampa area, I definitely recommend stopping by.

Easton was way more into his grandparents than the cigar tour

Gramma shielding Easton's eyes from the sun :)

Happy Hour before dinner

We went to dinner at The Columbia, which is the oldest restaurant in Florida. We've eaten at the Sarasota location numerous times but this was the first time to the original location. It's enormous! Seriously, it covers two city blocks. Shortly after our order was taken, the Flamenco show started. We put headphones on baby E since the music was a little loud for his young ears :)

The dancers were absolutely amazing! My dad was telling me that each time they come, it's a different set of dancers and totally new routines. Definitely gives you a reason to keep coming back!

We also had our 4 year wedding anniversary on the trip. The grandparents gave us the greatest gift: free babysitting!!! so we could have a night to ourselves! Ooh la la! We went to my favorite restaurant, Salt Rock Grill on Indian Rocks Beach. It sits on a little inlet and not only is the food great, but the views are even better!

After a delicious meal, we headed just across the street to the beach to enjoy the sunset...

Not to fear, Easton was having a wonderful time at home getting in lots of snuggles with his Grandpa :)

The majority of the vacation could be summarized by this:

Eat. Sleep. Pool. Repeat.

The grandparents really outdid themselves and gave us not only one night off, but two! After dinner one evening they dropped us off at a nearby beach bar and told us to have a good time! No problem!

The sun was going down so we basically had the beach to ourselves...

Not sure how we go back to "normal life" after this!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, but not before one last hoorah! On the last day of our trip, we drove to Tarpon Springs, which is in between Hudson and Tampa. It's a little town known for their sponges, oh and their incredible Greek food! Many years ago, divers found a sponge bed just off the coast near Tarpon Springs and an industry was born. 

Did you know sponges like these were once living organisms on the bottom of the ocean??

It's always hard knowing that goodbyes are on their way :(

The drive home was pretty uneventful. We left around 6pm and didn't get back to Nashville until 4:30am. The goal was to keep Easton as on track with his schedule as possible and for the most part it worked. 

Goodbye Florida, until next time!

All three of us had such a great time, relaxing and spending quality time together. It was an awesome way to celebrate Branch's completion of law school, taking the Bar exam, and celebrating our anniversary. Not to mention, it's always wonderful getting to see my dad and stepmom!! We definitely made memories that we will never forget!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful [and safe] Labor Day weekend! Love y'all!


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