Travel Pensacola Beyond the Naval Base
|Ready to escape to Pensacola's
is much more than just a U.S. Naval base. It is a pristine paradise with glistening
white beaches, beautiful waterways and endless blue skies which provides an excellent
getaway from the hustle of the workplace, or a relaxing atmosphere for business
first explorer to land on the shores of Pensacola was Don Tristan de Luna, who
came in 1559. The Spaniard arrived with 1500 soldiers and settlers, four Dominican
priests and numerous Mexican Indians. His mission was to establish the first settlement
in America, to build a defensible fortress and to bring Christianity to the Native
Americans. He did not succeed in any of these endeavors as the settlement lasted
only three years before being destroyed in a hurricane.
recently the wreckage of Luna's 1559 ship was found in the shallow water just
off the shore from the Pensacola Convention and Visitors Center. Nearly 350 other
shipwrecks are believed to be in the waters close to shore. What fun it would
be to snorkel or dive near these wrecks!
order to get the flavor of the town and to learn some of its history, I took
a tour of the Historical Preservation district. My guide not only gave historical
facts and described the lovely architecture, but told haunting stories for
every block in the area. Blue lights on porches, little girls in windows and ballerinas
who forever practice in upstairs rooms are among the ghosts of Pensacola.
piece of history that I learned is Pensacola is known as "The City of Five
Flags" because it has been under control of French, Spanish, English,
United States and the Confederate States of America. Each year in early June,
the city puts on The Festival of Five Flags. This year, my friends and I were
included in the celebration at the Seville Quarter. Each restaurant in the Quarter
chose to represent a different country and provided ethnic foods and drinks.
We danced, ate and drank our way through the Quarter to the music of (surprise)
five distinctive bands. The celebration had a Mardi Gras flavor, though they also
throw parties to celebrate Mardi Gras, too. In fact, the Pensacolans take any
excuse to have a shindig. Rarely a month goes by without some sort of celebration.
the Pensacola residents aren't involved in a celebration, they fall back on traditional
activities. On Thursday nights throughout the summer in the Olde Seville
Square, people bring lawn chairs and coolers or small tables, linen table cloths,
candelabra and wine and sit under the huge oaks for a dinner and concert in the
park. Hundreds spend the warm summer night cooled by the breeze drifting in from
the Gulf of Mexico and lulled by the good music.
celebration of sorts is continual at Trader Jons, a downtown bar. Martin
Weismann, a native of Brooklyn, a born trader, and a Florida resident since the
early 1940s, came to Pensacola in 1946. He converted an old warehouse into a bar
and in order to attract business, he provided drinks in trade for something of
known as "Trader Jon", had trained during World War II for the parachute
corps, an ankle damaged during training left him with an obvious limp and permanently
bowlegged. He magnified his affliction by wearing socks of different colors and
by making one pant leg longer than the other. His love for flying and his friendship
with one of the original Blue Angels gave him the desire to collect souvenirs
the years the Blue Angels made Trader Jons their off-base headquarters.
Now under new owners, the walls and ceilings of Trader Jons still resemble
a museum. You can spend hours inspecting the collection of items from Blue Angels,
the Snowbirds and the Thunderbird aviators as well as from distinguished dignitaries
from around the world. If you visit Trader Jon's, make sure to sample the Bushwacker,
the house drink which looks like a milkshake but carries a wallop.
are a common sight along the shore in Pensacola.
Pensacola is noted for its seafood, I took a tour of Joe Pattis Seafood
House. Pelicans were perched on the nearby pilings, hoping that the shrimpers
unloading their boats would be distracted long enough for them to grab a bite.
the fish house, numerous workmen went about the business of cleaning the fish,
shrimp and shellfish. Visitors are allowed to watch the process of preparing the
fish from the boat to the sales table. Surprisingly, I found it clean and almost
odorless. As the fish house is retail as well as wholesale, I ordered fish to
be shipped to my friends and to myself back at home.
good food, economy, and camaraderie is your goal, go to Hopkins House at
900 North Spring Street. I arrived early and visited with the other folks on the
shady front porch while we waited. For $6.95, the cook (who has worked there for
40 years) prepares Southern home cooking and serves it family style.
dining rooms are the actual living area of a 1900 home. I entered the hallway,
found my way through the various rooms with their old-fashioned sash windows,
high ceilings and brick fireplaces to the room where I and other guests shared
a large table. We passed an endless supply of such home-cooked dishes as cornbread,
biscuits, squash casserole, carrot salad, potato salad and rice. After the meal,
which ended only when I was too full to eat more, I cleared my place at the table
and returned the dishes to the kitchen window.
more elegant dining, try Jacksons. This fine restaurant occupies the ground
floor of a revitalized 1860s era building. The decor is elegant, while not being
ostentatious. The wrought iron trees which hang upside down from the ceiling make
impressive chandeliers. Each of the various rooms is decorated in a different
style. Eleven-foot French doors with transoms provided us with a panoramic view
of the plaza. The walls are made of lumber from an 100-year old giant cypress,
giving the restaurant a 19th century look. A waiter in formal attire
greeted us at the door, and with the help of other waiters, spent the evening
was hard to hold back the tears at what I think is the most touching monument
in Pensacola, The Wall South Veterans Memorial Park. A half-scale replica
of the wall in Washington, D.C., the wall contains the names of the American men
and women who died in the Vietnam War. On site is a computer which allowed me
to type in the name of a loved one and find the exact location of the name on
is a sportsman's paradise. Fishing, swimming, boating, parasailing-all
are readily available. Canoeing and kayaking on beautiful Florida
rivers are only an hour away at Milton. Adventures Unlimited has canoes
and kayaks for rent and puts you on the rivers for a four or seven
hour journey downstream, or an overnight adventure. They also have
cabins for rent for those who want to spend more time on the river.
is just one of the many outdoor activities Pensacola has to offer.
lovely city of Pensacola keeps calling me back. It is one of
those places where I will never be bored. Something is always
left for the next time.
note that due to the devastation from the 2004 hurricane season, some
locations in this article are no longer in service.)