Tampa Tour: Plenty for Canaries to smile about as Florida break begins
There was plenty of intrigue around Tampa International Airport as Norwich City arrived to a warm welcome, even by Floridan standards.
The touring Canaries party was welcomed by a large balloon arch spelling out the club’s name for any interested travellers walking by, with yellow and green either side and some footballs – or should I say soccer balls? – to make it very clear who was arriving.
After making slow progress through the thorough checks of the customs guards, the players, staff, supporters and commercial partners understandably looked keen to get to their hotel quickly, after a flight of more than nine hours.
That transatlantic tiredness was shaken off briefly as cheerleaders from local ice hockey team the Tampa Bay Lightning posed for photos, along with the Bolts’ energetic mascot, Thunderbug, much to the amusement of the bewildered new arrivals.
Yellow and green iced mini doughnuts and refreshments were shared as Daniel Farke and his team could enjoy a highlights package of their goals from this season playing on the big screen in front of them.
But, given it was pushing midnight UK time by that point, heading to the hotel for dinner and a chance to start shaking off the jet lag was the priority – so that they can start making the most of their time in the US.
They arrived on a day when temperatures were pushing 30C, which is above average for November in Tampa, and left me seeking shade as I took in some more of the area’s culture before City’s evening arrival.
The Tampa Museum of Art made for a fine way to spend a morning, before an authentic Cuban sandwich at the Columbia Cafe for lunch, introduced by cigar factory workers in the 20th century.
The weird and wonderful sights of the nearby Florida Aquarium also provided some solace from the heat, before taking the TECO Streetcar tram service back to my downtown hotel.
An opportunity to interview sporting director Stuart Webber ahead of dinner in the evening completed another enjoyable day, with plenty more football activities involved the Championship leaders to follow.
• We’ll be keeping you up to date with City’s tour of Tampa throughout the week, download the Pink Un app for exclusive insights from the other side of the Atlantic