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by Wildcat Dianne
January 4, 2010
In between fixing the house, having a death grip on the remote control while watching numerous college football bowl games, and looking out for tornados, (and now that it has been in the 20's at night the last few nights, not sleeping all night worrying about the pipes freezing and bursting), Mom and I wanted to have at least one day to take His Lordship out for at least one recreational activity in Pensacola. It would be too cold for Mom and Dad to go to Fort Pickens, and the road was closed again due to storm damage and didn't open until New Year's. Dad has seen downtown Pensacola and Milton's downtown on several trips.
Before Dad came, I read in the newspaper and saw on the local news that the floating classrooms/replicas of Christopher Columbus's ships The Nina and The Pinta used on his first voyage to the New World in 1492 were going to be in Pensacola from December 23-January 3, and I thought that would be a good day trip for all of us.
Dad at first grumbled about touring a ship at Palafox Pier in the cold and how at this time last year we were all in shorts touring Navarre Beach and the pier, but what a difference a year makes! Mom, Dad, and I bundled up into our sweaters and winter coats and made our way down to Palafox Pier. I entered the Port of Pensacola via Zaragosa Street, the back way, in order to see if the ships were where the Spanish Tall Ship the Elcano was located last summer, but they weren't there. We drove around the Port a little bit before Dad saw the masts of the Nina and the Pinta in the marina at Palafox Pier. The ships were tinier than we expected, but we parked the car in the nearby parking lot and paid our $7 (adult) and $6 (old farts) admissions fees and made our way on board the first ship, the Nina.
The Nina was the tiniest ship of Columbus's fleet during that famous (or infamous) first voyage in 1492. Twenty-seven sailors were on board for the voyage and were crowded into cramped living quarters with their fellow man and several cows, pigs, and chickens who were to feed these men during the month-long voyage. Lack of showers and toilets I am sure made that trip a very long and smelly trip for all involved. One of the first things I saw on board the Nina from above was the living quarters. They are very tiny, but modern-day sailors that were aboard the Nina didn't have to contend with smelly livestock since they had refrigerators and some modern conveniences to get them through the long trip to Pensacola. "Man, I thought they were supposed to live like it was1492?" "Imagine if he ship tips a bit while one is sleeping and is suffocated by a pig or cow?" And you think my being chased by the neighbor's pigs was bad? I thought when I saw Rubbermaid containers and other comforts from home in the living quarters.
The trip aboard the Nina was short since the ship was so tiny and kind of disappointing. Dad wondered where the replica of the Santa Maria, the biggest ship on the 1492 fleet that ran aground off the coast of Haiti at Christmas 1492, and the lady at the ticket table said to someone else that there was a replica being built at the time. To top it off, there were some noisy kids on board the ship with their parents, and I wasn't about to be sharing space with them running around and asking dumb questions. I wanted to get on the Pinta and check that out without kids running around.
His Lordship, however, had other ideas. Nature called, and Dad said he had to go potty, and we told him we had to go and see the Pinta, too, but Dad saw enough on the Nina and "jumped ship." Oh well, Mom and I said as we got off the Nina and headed to the Pinta, Columbus's problem child ship during the whole 1492 voyage.
The Pinta replica is 50% bigger than the Nina and in 1492, it carried 36 sailors on board. I got this answer off of one of the young "sailors" on board who was sitting in a corner of the ship texting his friends and looking like he didn't want to be bothered with everyone's questions." GRRRR! Being the bigger ship didn't mean the ride to the New World was any better, and the sailors on the Pinta had to deal with overcrowding, smelly livestock, and a faulty rudder that made sailing very hard for the members of the Pinta.
The tour of both the Nina and the Pinta took a lot shorter of time and I didn't learn anything new about the ships that carried Columbus and his men to the New World. The trip was a bit of a disppointment, and I wanted people in 1492 period dress and maybe Spanish sailors like there were on the Elcano last summer. Both of these ships were used when the 1992 film 1492: The Conquest of Paradise with French actor Gerard Depardieu playing Christopher Columbus was filmed in Costa Rica, and I left the replicas/floating classrooms wishing that Gerard was here to entertain the masses. "Zee World eeesss ROUND!" "Where was Gerard Depardieu when you needed him?", I thought jokingly.
After Mom and I left the ships, we caught up with Dad up on Palafox Street where he was looking onto the marina after his potty break. He had walked around the Pier checking out the fancy cars around, and we went to see the new statue and plaque that were placed at Palafox Pier that we hadn't seen yet. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain came to Pensacola in February 2009 to celebrate Pensacola's 450th anniversary and dedicated a plaque and a statue of Pensacola's founder, Spanish Conquistador Tristan de la Luna, and we salvaged the disappointment of the Nina and Pinta by taking pictures and walking around. If the Nina and the Pinta were to come again to Pensacola, I would pass on it, and it wasn't worth the $7 admission fee I shelled out for it.
From journal Christmas In A Redneck Paradise
November 11, 2008
I had been interested in seeing Fort George, an old fort dating from the time of the Revolutionary War, but when Mom and I turned onto the street the fort is supposed to be located on, we could not find it at all. Mom remembered seeing Palafox Pier and Plaza de Luna during our previous travels to downtown Pensacola, so off we went.
Plaza de Luna is named after the Spanish explorer and Conquistador Don Tristan de Luna, who first set foot in what is today Pensacola in 1549. The plaza and Palafox Pier have been in existence since the late 1920's and was home to some of Pensacola's most notorious brothels and bars. If Guy Fieri hosted a program during that time, it would have been called Bars, Brothels, and Bums! Sailors on leave from the Navy would come to Palafox Pier at the end of Palafox Street and get drunk, fight, and fraternize with ladies of the evening who frequented Downtown Pensacola.
Today, Plaza de Luna and Palafox Pier are home to several high-end condos and their owners along with many yachts docked in the marina and several insurance companies and doctor's offices in the modern-day buildings overlooking the marina and Gulf of Mexico. Amateur fishermen of all ages come out to the little park on the Pier early in the morning and most afternoons to catch mullet and other fish indigenous to the Gulf of Mexico.
Mom and I got a parking spot near the Pier and made our way to the park benches in the little park and ate our turkey sub. There were several pigeons and seagulls on the patch of grass in the park, and I was fearing getting swarmed by the feathered creatures the instant I pulled my sandwich out. Since childhood, I have always been afraid of pigeons especially when they fly to close to me with their flapping wings. Maybe it was seeing Tippy Hedren getting attacked by a swarm of birds in Hitchcock's classic movie The Birds as a kid or something else, but I have not outgrown the fear. Mom had to remind me of it during our picnic, but luckily, no pigeons mooched from us since there were bigger fish to fry when other folks fed them seeds and other goodies on the other side of the park.
Bellies full and pigeons occupied elsewhere, Mom and I got up off our bench and walked around the pier watching the fishermen. We were curious to know what kind of fish they were catching, and I asked one of the guys if they were catching mullet, but he said he was trying for trout, redfin, and other fish. The mullet swarm the waters overlooking the pier in the early morning hours, and then the guy asked if Mom and I were sisters, and I thanked him for the nice compliment, and we were on our way to the other end of Palafox Pier.
Mom and I sat down on another bench on the other end of the Pier and watched a couple of guys getting a net ready for net fishing. One of the guys was practicing his throwing of the net, and his friend kept telling him if he kept throwing it upwards, the net would open before it got into the water, and he wouldn't catch any fish that way. The net has to be thrown like a frisbee, and I turned to Mom and said, "With all of the frisbee throwing I did with Loki, I might do well at net fishing!" The guy throwing the net was joking about catching some of the pigeons for Thanksgiving dinner along with a few pelicans, but his friend said he would be in serious trouble with the police for poaching pelicans.
After a few minutes more of relaxation, Mom and I left the bench and walked to the marina to watch a yacht come into the docks and a kayaker rowing along the Pier at a fast clip. There is a nice fountain near the marina, and Mom and I admired it for a minute and I cooled off my hot neck with some of the cool water gushing from it before we headed back to our car for the short trip home.
Palafox Pier and Plaza de Luna is worth a short time when visiting Pensacola. It's a nice place for a little picnic in the park or a day of fishing for trout and other fish. Parking is free near the pier, but it can be crowded during the day and on weekends, so be prepared to walk a distance if it's crowded. Still unsavory characters frequent the park at night, so night visits are still not advisable. Located at the end of South Palafox Street, Palafox Pier is good for a short break and picnic after a long day of shopping and sightseeing in Downtown Pensacola.
From journal Autumn In Pensacola II: More History, Food, and Politics