Reviewed by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96)
Kristen Hare describes her Peace Corps experience in Guyana as “sweaty, wonderful, sad and hard, and I’d do it again in a second.” Kristen married a Guyanese man and, in 2012, they moved to Tampa with their children.
Kristen has the soul of a reporter. Presently a reporter for The Poynter Institute, she previously worked as a staff writer with the St. Louis Beacon and as a features writer with the St. Joseph News-Press. Her stories have earned national honors, including the Darrell Sifford Memorial Prize in Journalism from the University of Missouri and first place wins from the Society for Features Journalism. I loved her blog, Hard Corps, a collection of hilarious, horrible Peace Corps stories. So, naturally, Kristen had to explore Florida beyond Disney and the beaches. She collected stories about “the kitchy, the kooky, and the can’t miss stops” of Tampa Bay the same way she collects sea shells. And she has buckets of those!
100 Things to Do in Tampa Bay is not your ordinary guide book, but describes the historic district of the cigar capital — Ybor City, Latin and European influences on cuisine, the awesome Salvador Dali Museum, the Ringling Museum with its circus model, professional football and soccer teams that date from the 1970s, and surrounding meccas of St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Sarasota. The book is divided into chapters on “Food and Drink,” “Music and Entertainment,” “Sports and Recreation,” Culture and History,” “Shopping and Fashion,” with suggested itineraries and seasonal activities. No tourist should leave home without it.
On the other hand, as a long-time resident of the Tampa Bay area, I thought I knew all the great places to see, like the Weeki Wachee Mermaids, and the Greek Spongerama at Tarpon Springs. But I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never been to Busch Gardens or Mahuffer’s Bar at Indian Shores, or the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, or Legoland. But you can bet I’m going to explore them, and all my Snowbird friends will be getting copies of Kristen’s book for Christmas.
I agree with Ernest Hooper, Tampa Bay Times East Hillsborough Bureau Chief, who writes in the Foreword, ” . . . longtime residents might just discover, doggone it, that we’re good enough to hold our own with any other city in America.”
Leita Kaldi Davis worked for the United Nations and UNESCO, for Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard University. She worked with Roma (Gypsies) for fifteen years, became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal at the age of 55, then went to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti for five years. She retired in Florida in 2002, and wrote a memoir of Senegal, Roller Skating in the Desert, and of Haiti, In the Valley of Atibon.