Back to Tampa, Back to Chicago

DAY TWELVE - June 11
CHI --> Tampa 

Over the course of our travels I earned a reputation for being highly irritable and cranky on travel days. True, we only got about 4 hours of sleep each night before flying - but I don't think it justified my permanent scowl. Everything pissed me off. The lines, the check-in process, the overweight baggage fees. And towards the end, I realized that the crankiness may have had something to do with the fact that travel days were the only days where I wasn't starting the morning with a workout - meaning I was starting my day without any endorphins. 

Morning exercise people, it's magic, I swear! 

When we got back "home" to our hotel in Tampa, we all set out for some lunch at "our" diner down the street. The diner owner was from Long Island, go figure! There were more sweet potato fries with maple dipping sauce, don't you worry.

That night, a group of us went out and split a bunch of appetizers at a place called Taps, where the guys could watch the NBA Final. 

The beer selection was enormous (with a name like Taps, that might seem pretty obvious), and I was so excited to try Wells Banana Bread Beer! It was quite delicious. 

I didn't do a very good job documenting the appetizers that we all split, so I'll just write about what I can remember. 

There was some bruschetta. 

There was some specialty popcorn with asiago cheese and truffle oil that I took one whiff of and immediately wanted no part of.

Lettuce wraps. 

Fish tacos. 

Bean dip trio. 

Tuna Crudo (I think raw tuna in some form may have been a part of every single dinner this entire trip - we kind of like it). 

What I do remember clearly was the waiter coming over and making a comment about how quickly we had "destroyed" the food. 

Rude sir. We haven't eaten in days!! Er...

I also clearly remember the dessert, in typical Lauren fashion. 

Belgian Waffles with vanilla ice cream, Nutella and whipped cream. I don't think it's possible to mess that up. 

But what I have slowly been coming to appreciate is bread pudding, and Taps' was pretty damn good! Maybe that's because it was apricot flavored and came with caramel drizzle and vanilla ice cream and sliced almonds. 

Taps also made an attempt at one of my other favorite dessert delicacies - donuts. 

Tried, and fell very, very flat. Their vanilla and red velvet donuts had absolutely no flavor, and their chocolate ones just tasted bland. They were dry and disappointing. That's what she said? 


This was our one true "day off" and I was sure to take advantage of it! 

Despite not really feeling so hot about running, there was a little coffee shop/breakfast place that I was dying to try - and running is my preferred method of transportation. 

So I was up and out and running to Buddy Brew! I may have passed it and had to backtrack and run way more than planned, but I'm glad I didn't give up because this place was absolutely adorable. 

I would love to open a cute, artsy little shop like this some day. 

(Any place that specializes in breakfast foods is automatically on my good side. And a teal color scheme? YAS)

Living  in NYC, I would never had thought that my favorite avocado toast would be found in Tampa. But dear lord, this was amazing. 


At Buddy Brew, their avocado toast comes with chili and lime, and there was definitely sea salt on it as well. 

I customized mine to include an olive oil poached egg because EVERYTHING is better with an egg on top. Duh. I wanted everything on the menu, but I was more than happy with my choice.

I also got a delicious cold brew coffee before running back to my hotel with a full and slightly queasy stomach. Worth it. 

As soon as I got back, I changed in about 2 seconds flat and met a few coworkers in the lobby to head out for some stand up paddle boarding. 

When we got to the dock, a man informed us that there was no stand-up paddle boarding despite the sign. "Maybe today's their grand opening, but I haven't seen no stand up paddle boarding here." Thanks for your sarcasm, dude. 

So SUP didn't happen. But kayaking did! The guy who got us all ready to go out told us if we paddled in one direction we would come to a lighthouse (he also told us not to worry about the "1 hour" limit). When we got to the lighthouse, we were super disappointed. 

(In reality, this lighthouse was probably 10 feet tall)

I love kayaking, because it's active but it's also relaxing. 

When we got back to the dock, we got some cocktails before walking back and seeing SO MANY PRECIOUS DOLPHINS! Then we chilled at the pool for a little bit. Then, it was off for a manicure (that set me back $25 unknowingly - but lasted a good long while!) 

That night, we got dinner in the hotel restaurant that I wasn't a huge fan of, but c'est la vie. 


Game day! 

DAY FIFTEEN - June 14 
Tampa --> CHI 

Probably my least amount of sleep the night before a travel day. 

When we got to the hotel we couldn't check into our rooms yet, so we went out in search of brunch. I was dying to go to Little Goat (which everyone the entire trip referred to as "Goat Burger") but when we got there, the wait was super long (I have great taste, what can I say?)

But it was OK because we ended up eating at The Allis inside the lobby of the Soho House Hotel that was totalllllly my kinda place. Super trendy looking and the menu? One of each PUHLEASE?

Sadly, decisions had to be made. 

The first decision was easy. 

Bloody Mary. Boom. Definitely a let down. But I moved on. 

Americano. Yum. 

Did I dare try a new avocado toast after just discovering close to perfection at Buddy Brew?

Indeed, I did. 

Allis' avo toast was good, but not Buddy Brew. You can just tell by looking at it. Cubed avocado instead of slices. A poached egg with the yolk just a little too well done. 

But they made up for it with their super grain bowl with quinoa and goji berries. Flax seeds, blueberries, shredded coconut. It was heavenly. 

The meal, paired with the setting made for a great brunch experience. 

A bunch of people ordered the "Mean Sandwich" which came with egg, bacon, taleggio cheese, cheddar cheese, aioli, avocado and jalapeno. They were even asking the waitress for the aioli recipe and considered ordering seconds. 

I'm glad we were at Allis on a week day, because their breakfast menu is more extensive than their weekend brunch menu. I could have easily ordered anything on this menu. If you're in Chicago you should definitely check it out (Banana, almond butter and flax seeds on multigrain anyone?) 

After brunch, I STILL couldn't get into a room, so I left my bags with the front desk and wandered over to Marshall's, which was dangerously close to the hotel. Woops, ended up buying a few things that weren't necessary, but they were CUTE. 

Then, why not stop for a donut after a giant brunch? Tina had told me about a place called Stan's that had - wait for it - a Biscoff Banana stuffed donut. 

It was sickeningly sweet, with lots layers and textures inside, and distinct Biscoff and banana tastes. It was very fitting that Tina alerted me to this specific donut, because she's the one who introduced me to Biscoff in the first place by making me try THIS sorcery - fudge made with just Biscoff spread and vanilla icing. It was then I realized that Biscoff cookies are the ones they serve on Delta flights and everything clicked and I was like oh shit yeah wow I've loved this stuff forever. It's crack. And I don't mind being addicted. 

I ate it when I got back to the hotel and finally got a room. Immediately after eating it, I passed out in a sugar coma for a few hours, exhausted from yet another endorphin-less travel day. 

When I woke up, it was the moment I had been waiting for - to be reunited with my long lest BFF who used to live in the city and work with me. 

Tina and I headed to a cute bar with an outdoor area and met up with Staci. We proceeded to talk and laugh as if we had never been separated - the best kind of friendship there is. 

Saying goodbye so quickly sucked, but I'LL SEE YA IN NYC SOON, RIGHT STACI?! 

At this point in the night, coworkers will still putting together a plan for dinner, but I didn't have the patience so I stopped at Whole Foods, loaded up on the salad bar, and enjoyed it from the comfort of my hotel room. 

DAY SIXTEEN - June 15 


As such, I thought it was appropriate to wrap up the trip eating like the fat kids that we love to be while on the road. A dozen donuts from Glazed and Infused was in order, yes? Oh yes. 

I walked over and picked out a few drool-worthy sounded ones. 

Unfortunately, none of these really blew me out of the water. In fact, I can't recall one thing about them, specifically. I know there was a peanut butter and jelly one, a Cajeta fried ice cream one, a bacon maple one, and a red velvet one. 

(Why can't I be as photogenic as donuts are?)

That night before the game started, we had to evacuate our trailer because of a tornado watch! Good think we had these ponchos to protect us!

Jokes. My poncho blew off of my completely and I looked like a drowned rat. With very wet feet. 

(Dress I got on my trip to Marshall's!)

By the end of the night, a dynasty created when the Chicago Blackhawks hoisted the Stanley Cup yet again! It was really awesome to be there for my first Stanley Cup presentation! 

And that brought my longest-work-trip-ever to a close!

Thanks for reading along!

Spoiler Alert: I left on another work trip 4 days later. Coming up next!