Thursday, January 7, 2016

Good Times at Pensacola Beach

Dear George,
Katja and I are recently back from our holiday trip to visit our family in New Orleans.  We opted to drive the 800+ miles with an overnight stop near Birmingham, AL.  Celebrating Christmas with our 7-year-old grandchildren, V and L, was exciting, and Santa came through with a bonanza of gifts.  On the day after Christmas we drove to Pensacola Beach on the Florida Gulf coast where J and K had rented a condo for five days.  We haven’t been to Florida for some time, and it was a perfect holiday vacation.  Here are some Pensacola Beach scenes.

White sands.  I enjoy beach vacations the best of all, and the Pensacola area features some of the world’s best.  The water was chilly to all except the surfers in their wetsuits, but being on the beach in December in 70-degree weather was still a great treat for us wintry Cincinnatians.    

The resort.  J and K booked a condo for our group at the Beach Club in the heart of Pensacola Beach’s entertainment district.  The Gulf was right under our balcony window, and the children enjoyed the indoor pool as well. 

The town.  Pensacola Beach was largely undeveloped until its first tourist attraction, the Casino Resort, was built in 1931.  Now it’s one of the most popular vacation destinations on the Gulf Coast.  Visitors partake of swimming, sailing, snorkeling, fishing, parasailing, and surfing.  We enjoyed the seafood restaurants every evening.       

The pier.  The longest pier on the Florida Panhandle until a few years ago, the Pensacola Beach pier stretches 1471 feet out into the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s a popular fishing spot (red fish, Mahi Mahi, mackerel, flounder, etc.), and visitors can see dolphins and manatee.  The original wooden pier was built in the 1930’s and was reconstructed with concrete pilings after hurricane damage in the 1990’s. 

The bay.  Pensacola Bay, 13 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, lies between the city of Pensacola on the mainland to the north and Pensacola Beach on the island to the south.

The fort.  Fort Pickens on the western end of Santa Rosa Island was built between 1829 and 1834 to defend Pensacola Bay and the Pensacola Navy Yard.  It was occupied by Union forces during the Civil War and remained in use through World War II.  Today it’s operated by the National Park Service.  

Pensacola.  We spent an afternoon in downtown Pensacola, browsing in the art galleries and shops.  Pensacola (pop. 51,923) is the site of the first settlement in the United States, initially established in 1559 by Spanish explorer Tristan de Luna and 1400 inhabitants.  It’s nicknamed “The City of Five Flags” due to five governments having ruled it during its history (Spain, France, Great Britain, U.S.A., and the Confederate States of America).  

The fish market.  Joe Patti’s Seafood market began in the early 1930’s when Anne and Joe Patti sold fish from their front porch in Pensacola.  From the 1960’s to the early 1990’s the Patti market served all of the seafood restaurants on the Florida and Alabama gulf coast, though the family then decided to concentrate on their retail operation.  They have a huge selection of fresh fish, and TripAdvisor rates Patti’s #2 of 609 places to eat in Pensacola. 

The aviation museum.  The National Naval Aviation Museum, established in1962, is next door to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.  The largest museum of its kind in the world, it contains over 130 restored fighting planes from the early 1900’s through the Vietnam War and beyond, representing the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.  It includes an IMAX theater where we saw a documentary on space flight. 

The Gulf at twilight.  The seashore, of course, changes in the course of the day.  Twilight is one of the prettiest times.  

Postscript.  It’s always comforting to return home, but now we miss our sweet family.  

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