A Pirates Life for Me

Every city around the world has that one thing that they are famous for. For New York, its broadway. For Chicago, its their wind (or comedy shows). For Philadelphia its their cheesesteaks, and their direct attachment to America’s history.

But for Tampa, its Gasparilla.

It loosely looks like New Orleans Mardi Gras, but with swash buckling pirates invading the town.  The whole town shows up dressed as pirates towing their red wagons decorated as Pirate ships and have their hands ready to catch as many bead necklaces as humanly possible.

The parade is based off of the life of Spanish pirate Jose Gaspar, who as the legend says was a naval officer in Spain before he ran away to piracy in the late 1700s. As it goes, Jose Gaspar traveled along Florida’s coast and dropped his treasure around the peninsula before nearly being captured by the East India Trading company that was hunting pirates.

In every legend, Jose Gaspar is captured but takes his own life shouting:

Gasparilla dies by his own hand, not the enemy’s!


Now, there is a parade which honors his invasion into Tampa that is celebrated every year. This Gasparilla Parade is one of the biggest turn outs for the city of South Tampa. Everyone lines the streets of Bayshore and eagerly waits for parade floats of different pirate crews make their way downtown, as they have every year since 1901.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThis adorable tradition also includes a pirate crew taking their boat (float) downtown to kidnap the local mayor at the time until he gives them the key to the city. If you have never been to an invasion, it is absolutely a sight.

You will follow the pirate crew of Gaspar around downtown until they land in the center of a park (which has already been set up for the skit) and either side with the pirates, which is encouraged, or with the mayor.

Each year the skit is played out a little differently, but each year the Pirates ask for the key and the Mayor at the time (this year Bob Buckhorn) says no.

Then a battle is waged or the Mayor is kidnapped until the invasion a few days later.

The invasion is when anyone and everyone who has a boat will sail together into the bay following the Gasparilla ship through the water. This is Tampa’s big event and among the other events that take place with the Gasparilla season; the parade is the most attended.


This is Tampa’s big event and among the other events that take place with the Gasparilla season;

the Gasparilla parade is the most attended.

And, because I am allowed to give my biased opinion, its the most fun!


People will build crazy large and intense floats to throw out beads and coins, and anything that could be considered pirate treasure and the goal is to catch it. Because who doesn’t want treasure?img_6020

If you are ever in Tampa around Gasparilla time, make sure you dress up like a pirate and head to the parade. You’ll fit in immediately.

So, go to Tampa. Its an incredible little city that has sports teams galore, amazing restaurants that are home grown, but most important; you’re gonna find pirates. And you might even meet the Mayor.

Be prepared if you go to the Gasparilla parade (and not the childrens parade) it is adult. Basically its an excuse to get drunk with your friends and collect the most pirate booty you can. If you're not about that life, you've been warned.




An Island state of mind

There are tons of Islands on this planet we live on. Theoretically every place could be considered an island. However, when I think of islands I will usually think of the ones right off the coast of Florida. Its possible thats because I grew up in florida and Im conceited.

So, when we decided where to go next, the Bahamas were an easy choice. There are over 200 small islands that make up the country of the Bahamas and each island has its own pros and cons. If you have never been to the Bahamas, its a fantastic experience. I remember going when I was 20 to Nassau (the capital) to work at an aids camp called All Saints.


Making cement for the houses


Hanging out with a local,      Mr Jeorge. 

I didn’t know anything about the island when I went. I just wanted to help people. I knew something about a giant hotel that people went to, but other than that, I knew nothing. When we went I fell in love with the people and the fantastic culture. I had to come back.

So 7 years later, when an option to go back to the Bahamas came up, I jumped at the opportunity. I haven’t met a ton of impulsive people, but the girls who went with me were up for anything. And those are the type of people you should travel with.

The island that was our choice is called Man-O-War Cay (pronounced key) and was about 2 miles long and half a mile wide. So, if you’re looking for an island to feel like a private place this is the one for you.

We landed in the Abbaco islands and took a ferry to our island. Its these moments that I know I am created to be on a boat. You can feel the salty air and the cold water spraying and its hard to think this is just public transportation. But if you’re in paradise, even public transportation will feel like it. 

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Although the Bahamas are not the cheapest place to travel, there are easy ways to cut costs. For example, its very easy to become friends with the locals and see what they are up to. We were able to hop on someones boat and go Conching. THIS! This was my absolutely favorite. We were also able to catch conch and ate that for dinner. So there goes your $15 you would have spent on a dinner. IMG_4956.jpg


And you get to keep the shell that the Conch is in! Which is also saving you money that you would never see me spend at a tourist store.

*Pro Tip*

IF you’re looking to go Conching and you’re not a fisherman (hello me), you know you are getting the correct size if the flat part of the shell starts to get flatter like a fan.


I wholeheartedly believe in doing whatever the locals are doing. I will never fly to a new place to be the same person I am back home. So when Scott, the man who owned the boat, was teaching us how to take the conch out of the shell, I jumped in it. There is a part of the shell that the conch holds on to that you will hit with a knife, making a hole in the shell. Then you scrape the conch out using a butter knife and scraping against the hole you just cut. IMG_4917.jpg

Its a bit of a process to remove, but once the conch is out you can eat it right away. Im sure I have never had fresher seafood.

IMG_4928.jpg  If you have never seen Conch before (in our out of its shell) it is the weirdest thing I have ever seen. I have seen snails in their shells and I have had conch fritters, but watching the conch from the back of the boat FREAKED me out.

The conch has what the locals call a foot which basically looks like an awkwardly long nail of claw coming out of a slug type thing.

It will extend this part of its body to move across the ocean floor or the back of the boat, where ever it happens to be. No one eats the claw but the meat around it is completely edible, though not usually eaten in restaurants. If you catch it, its fair game. And feels like you’re eating a carrot because its so thick.


I think any time on the water is the best time, but if you get a chance to catch your own dinner then its incredible. And now that I know what I'm looking for, I cannot wait to get back into the water to catch more. Until then, I think Im having conch fritters for dinner tonight.

Soon I will post a recipe for making conch fritters. Stay tuned because I think the Bahamas has a lot more to offer than justIMG_5760.JPGconch. Conch just happens to be the thing the Bahamas are known for. That and goombay juice. Which will pair with conch very nicely.

Fun Fact: Goombay punch can only be bought in the Bahamas and doesn’t have a flavor. It tastes different to every person. For me, its a weird pineapple bubble gum. And its delicious.