A February 2009 trip
to Pensacola by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: Winters in Pensacola are mild and one can wear shorts almost year-round. While residents of the Northern USA are shoveling snow from their cars, we can enjoy Mardi Gras and other fun activities.
On one of my trips to Downtown Pensacola, I tried to locate historic Fort George. The first time I couldn't find it, but another trip downtown, I found Fort George. It's a tiny fort located on the corner of Palafox and LaRua in a little park in a residential area full of historical Victorian homes. I decided to stop and check out Fort George before taking Loki to Palafox Pier for a nice walk before heading back to Erika's and dinner.
Traffic was very light on this Thanksgiving morning, and I had no problem parking my car on LaRua to see Fort George. Not wanting to struggle with Loki and taking him in and out of the car too many times, I left him in the backseat with the windows open while I made a quick exploration of Fort George.
Historic Fort George has a colorful and violent history dating from the Seven Years War of 1756-1763 and well into the American Revolution 12 years later. Before the Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years War, Pensacola had been a strategic Spanish port and trading post, but after 1763, the treaty turned Pensacola over to the British expanding British Territory in the south along the Gulf of Mexico to Spanish-controlled New Orleans.
Construction on Fort George began in 1779 under the supervision of General John Campbell and was built on the highest part of town, Gage Hill. Fort George was a star-shaped fortification consisiting of a parade ground, fenced wooden posts called pallisades, and cannons used to protect Pensacola from future enemy attacks.
But the Spanish weren't about to let Pensacola go from their control for long. Although Fort George and Pensacola's fortifications were strengthened in 1778 in anticipation of a possible Spanish attack, the Spanish fleet under the control of Bernardo de Galvez sailed past British fortifications at Santa Rosa Island and landed soldiers at Bayou Chico on March 9, 1781. On May 8, 1781, the Spaniard opened fire on the British at Pensacola killing many soldiers. After a short battle, the British surrendered Fort George and Pensacola was returned to Spanish control on May 10, 1781. After 34 years of decay and disuse, Fort George saw more action after Andrew Jackson invaded Pensacola and quickly overran the Spanish.
After the Americans took over Pensacola, parts of Fort George were destroyed for houses to be built and other developments. In 1974, an archeological team unearthed cannon balls and other artifacts from the old fort and plans were made to turn what remained of Fort George into a Historic Park. In 1976, restoration was finally completed and the Fort George Historic Park was dedicated to the city of Pensacola. Today, it is home to a little park with a couple of cannons and what remains of the wooden fortifications.
I spent a few minutes exploring the tiny park and fort. A couple of cannons overlook the park facing the First Baptist Church across the street. There is a park bench for one to enjoy a nice day in the shade and enjoy the view of the park. On the sidewalk leading to the fort, there is a sign depicting the Battle of Pensacola and stairs leading to the fort itself. There was a Victorian house next door with a tree house that I would have loved to have gone up to enjoy the view of the fort below, but not worth getting busted for trespassing. After a few minutes of looking and taking pictures, I went back Loki and the car and made my way to the promised walk at Palafox Pier for my old boy.
Fort George is located in a little park on the corner of Palafox and LaRua Streets about a 1/2 mile from Cervantes Street, one of Pensacola's main streets. It's free to tour and open from Sunrise to Sunset and worth a few minutes of your time to see a colonial sight that once was never thought to be found by archeologists and me.
Restaurant | "Wasabi House Curbs The Wildcat's Sushi Cravings"
The first time I went to the Wasabi House for lunch, I ordered the Shrimp Teriyaki Platter ($7.99). It came with soup and a salad along with the main course. I took it to go and ate it in the break room during my lunch hour. I wasn't impressed by the bland-tasting egg drop soup and salad with flavorless iceburg lettuce and horrible honey mustard dressing. Usually this experience would turn off a person from returning to a restaurant, but I felt that The Wasabi House deserved a second chance from me, and that came yesterday afternoon when I was really craving sushi and since I was working the closing shift, I had an hour for lunch to go and get me some sushi when lunchtime arrived for me.
I arrived in Wasabi House about 3 p.m. and it wasn't that busy. The nice girl behind the register greeted me and I looked at the menu posted on the counter to see what looked good for dinner. I settled on the Sushi Platter ($13.95), which consisted of 8 pieces of California roll and a half-dozen sushi of the chef's choosing. With my 10% Home Depot discount, my order came to $13.38 with tax, and I took a seat near the register to wait for my order.
A film crew was in the restaurant filming the place and a family eating. "What!? Anthony Bourdain is here filming in Pensacola? Darn! How come I didn't see that in the newspaper? Oh, Mr. Bourdain, how I love your show, but you shouldn't pick on the vegetarians and Rachael Ray so much!" To my disappointment, the camera crew wasn't from No Reservations, and I was resigned to seeing an ordinary family being filmed for a local TV show.
My order only took about 10-15 minutes to be completed, and I was on my way back to work to dig into it. My Sushi Platter came with more of the eggdrop soup and the blah salad. I couldn't eat the salad being so not of nutritional value, but the eggdrop soup was better than the last time and piping hot. Letting my soup cool, I dug into the sushi, which consisted of the 8 California rolls with cream cheese in the center and a half-dozen sushi with crab, salmon, or shrimp with rice. It was beautifully displayed on my take-out platter and with a little soy sauce/wasabi mix, I was a happy camper. Why didn't I get this the first time I visited the Wasabi House?The Wasabi House is located in the parking lot where the Pace Publix is located in a little strip mall with Ann's Hallmark to its right. It's open seven days a week from 11-10 and serves either inside the restaurant or take-out. The food is prepared with care by a Japanese chef and the service is great. I was right in returning to the Wasabi House after a disappointing first time, and I intend to go back there often.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 15, 2009
Navarre Beach is an unincorporated community in Santa Rosa County, Florida and is located on Santa Rosa Island in the Gulf of Mexico. With its beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters, Navarre Beach is a hot spot for locals looking for a quiet day at the beach and for surfers to catch the waves that crash ashore every day.
It was breezy and in the 70's when Mom, Dad, and I went to Navarre Beach. The Navarre Beach State Park is located as you get off the Navarre Beach Causeway Bridge, and we had no problem finding a parking spot in the huge parking lot since it was Monday and some people find 70-degree weather here in Florida a bit cold! But there were a few brave souls surfing in the waters that are about 69 degrees during the winter and other families sunning themselves on the beach. Mom, Dad, and I chose to walk a good stretch of the beach checking out the destroyed pier and collecting shells along the way.
Navarre Beach, Florida has a short, but colorful history. Navarre and Navarre Beach were founded by Colonel Gus Wyman and his French wife Noelle, who named the town after a Spanish province near the French border of the same name. Colonel Wyman met Noelle, who was a nurse, in France during World War I and in order to bring her to the USA and marry her, he had to adopt her first. After marrying and settling in Navarre, the Wymans had trouble making ends meet and eventually fell behind on the taxes to their town and had to sell off Navarre bit by bit in order to catch up on the bills and taxes. Noelle went to New York City to teach French in order to help pay the bills while Colonely Wyman stayed in Navarre, but he wasn't bored and eventually found another woman to keep him company during those romantic beach walks. This affair was the end of the Wymans' marriage, and after the divorce was final (it wasn't very amicable), Noelle was banned from the Wymans' property. Colonel Wyman made this clear when he shot his ex-wife when she came on their property to tend to a pet cemetery she had created, but Colonel Wyman was not convicted of any crime since the courts said he was defending his property.
Colonel Wyman's parents also settled in Navarre and lost a lot of money from the taxes and Depression, but some people thought the parents were loaded and had a lot of money stashed away, and two of these folks, the Roberts Brothers, murdered the elder Wymans when they tried to rob their home. After the Roberts brothers were captured, they were tried in nearby Crestview, Florida, convicted of murder, and hanged.
Did you also know that parts of the 1978 Jaws II were filmed on Navarre Beach? I didn't know either, but Mom, Dad, and I didn't see any Great White Sharks in the water while we were walking, so I guess it's safe to say "it was safe to go in the water!" with no sign of Jaws in the Gulf as people were enjoying the surf and sands of the beach. OK, there were some jellyfish sunning themselves on the beach at the end of our walk, and one had to be very careful to not step on the slimy creatures. Remember that episode from Friends when one character was stung by a jellyfish and another had to do #1 to help take the sting away?!
Dad has this thing when he is near a body of water. He needs to touch the water in order to say he has been there and proves it by touching the water. Dad has done this with the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and now the Gulf of Mexico is another famous body of water he has visited and touched. Mom and I found more shells for our collection and enjoyed the breeze and waters while His Lordship Speedy walked way ahead of us. When Mom and I finally caught up to Dad, he was sitting on one of the pier entries waiting for us, but he was calmly enjoying the sea air instead of tapping his fingers impatiently like he has been known to have done.
Navarre Beach is open to tourists and locals from dawn to dusk and is free of charge. No pets are allowed onto the beach and no alcohol or is allowed on the beach. There are several condos and houses for one to rent if you want to sleep over in Navarre along with the Regency Hotel. There aren't many restaurants on the strip of beach we visited, but you can dine across the bridge in Navarre itself or further down the beach.
To get to Navarre Beach from Pensacola, you can take I-110 South towards the beaches or go down Palafox Street to Cervantes Street. From either point of entry, take a right onto Route 98 (Beaches) and then a left onto Chase Street. From Chase, take a left onto Bayfront Parkway across the bridge to Gulf Breeze and bear left into Gulf Breeze and stay on 98 east for 23 miles until you get to Navarre. Once in Navarre, take a right onto the Navarre Beach Causeway Bridge and the State Beach is at the end of the bridge. A day in Navarre Beach is well-worth a day of sun and fun in Northwestern Florida, and I don't think it will be a secret much longer after this journal is read.
Attraction | "Flying Beads, Moon Pies, and Pirates Galore at Mardi Gras"
Mom and I were up early on February 21 and went grocery shopping before the parade. At Wal-Mart, there was an end cap of Mardi Gras beads and other accessories for one to buy for the day, and I grabbed a 12-pack of beads for Mom and I to wear to the parade not knowing the tons of beads that were going to be thrown from the parade floats during the festivities.
Mom and I left home about noon in order to get a decent parking place away from downtown Pensacola in order to get out of town after the parade quickly. I warned Mom ahead of time to be prepared for some walking to the parade, but we would be browsing and stopping at booths along the way. Mom and I parked on Baylen Street about a block from the Cervantes Street/Baylen Intersection. Mom and I were hoping to grab a bite to eat at a booth along the way, but there weren't many food or bead booths on Palafox as we walked around before the parade. So I settled for an order of Nachos and Mom got a hot dog.
Mom and I took a seat near the Nacho stand near St. Michael's Catholic Church and waited for 2:00 and the beginning of the parade. There was a good crowd for the parade on Palafox, but it wasn't so crowded that you couldn't move, and Mom and I were talking and enjoying the time before the parade. At 2 p.m., St. Michael's church bells rang twice as if to say "It's Showtime!", and Mom and I could only wait for the fun to begin, and it did promptly after the church bells rang.
We were totally unprepared for the fun of the Pensacola Mardi Gras Parade and the tons of beads and toys that were thrown from the hundreds of floats that passed us. I caught my first beads from the anchor of our local news station WEAR 3, and the fun began. Mom took a Moon Pie, the pastry of the Mardi Gras, off the chest and was caught totally unprepared for the bombardment of beads and goodies. One has to have the abilities of Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox in order to be able to catch beads, and I was soon yelling at the people in the floats and jumping all over the place to catch any beads that came towards Mom and me. Relax, Jacoby, your job as the Red Sox centerfielder is safe, but my two years of Little League were paying off during the whole parade! Some folks were a little more eager than Mom and I were, but they would apologize for bumping into you, and one gentleman gave Mom some beads that she should have caught but he intercepted. Mom and I caught about a half-dozen Moon Pies each, but we gave some of them to a young boy in front of us. "I hope I haven't been a corruptive influence on the youth of Pensacola by feeding them Moon Pies!", I quipped to Mom.
Three-quarters through the parade, Mom and I had tons of beads (it felt that way) of all colors, shapes, and styles around our necks and collecting on my jacket on the ground next to us. Now we knew why people had grocery bags or backpacks with them. Next year, we bring a couple of tote bags with us we vowed. With all of the beads on our necks, people looked like they were attending a Mr. T Convention, but it was all for a good time.
I couldn't find Jason on his Krewe's (the name for the groups who had floats in the parade) caveman float, and Beverly was too far away on her 1950's/biker float to hear my shouting at her, but both of their floats were awesome along with an Venetian Carnivale style float with the folks in black and gold masks and costume. I did see Steve from Garden on the Caveman Krewe float, and he later told me that Jason had quit the Krewe, and Bev said her sight is so bad she wouldn't have seen me from her location and the everyone was shouting for beads and she couldn't hear my yells! Pirates were the main theme this year for the floats, and the Krewe of Lafite, after the legendary pirate of Louisiana, Jean Lafite, was a big hit for all.
The parade through downtown Pensacola along Garden and Palafox Streets lasted about two hours, and after Mom and I bundled our beads into my coat or around our necks, we made our way to the car and were lucky to get out of Downtown Pensacola quickly. After a stop at Firehouse Subs, we got home and were tired, sore, and our voices were a little hoarse, but we would do this again in a heartbeat. Our beads are in a huge basket in our living room, and we gave our cats Zoe and Xena some broken beads to play with. The Pensacola Mardi Gras Parade is the weekend before Ash Wednesday and other parades happen in Milton, Pensacola Beach (Sunday, February 22), and throughout the Gulf States. Who said you had to go to New Orleans for the best Mardi Gras?! Come to Pensacola and experience this party for yourself!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 22, 2009
Restaurant | "Lunch Break at Cocodries"
After three hours of learning about new paint products from Behr flew by for the 25 people attending the clinic from several Home Depots along the Gulf Coast, we were hungry and ready for lunch. In between learning about tinted primers and interior paints with primers included, our hosts at the Navarre Convention Center had given us take out menus to make our choices for lunch at Cocodries in order to allow us to enjoy a full hour for lunch instead of scrambling for menues and ordering when we got to the restaurant. We were allowed to order just about anything from the menu between $7-12, which was pretty much sandwiches and salads. Josh, one of our store associates tried to order an entree but was told to order something less expensive, and he wound up ordering a burger. Our hosts even threw in dessert for us as a bonus which made everyone happy.
I wound up ordering an Oyster Po Boy ($10.25) while Tami, another co-worker ordered a nice pasta salad. Gloria got a Prime Rib au jus sandwich while Ray Ray got a club sandwich, and Kathie got a salad. Mario also got an Oyster Po Boy like I did.
Noon comes, and we are on our way to lunch in a caravan. I drove in with Tami while the others went with Ray Ray and Kathie in their cars. Cocodries is located at the end of the Navarre Beach Cosway Bridge that Mom, Dad, and I took to Navarre Beach in December, so I was familiar with the area and could ride shotgun for Tami if needed. But we got to the restaurant without any trouble and made our way inside. Tami and I sat together at one table while everyone else scattered around one section of the restaurant. We had two waitresses who immdiately took our drink orders (Diet Pepsi for both Tami and me and water or iced tea for others since we weren't allowed to drink).
Tami and I are big dog lovers (she has 13 dogs with another two puppies on the way while I am spoiling the fur nieces Mocha and Dakota for the time) and spent the time waiting for our food talking about our zoos and families. Within 15 minutes our food was on the way to us, and everything looked great. My Oyster Po Boy was on a long roll with a huge portion of shoestring french fries seasoned with seasoned salt. Tami's pasta salad looked divine with feta cheese, olives, artichokes and other goodies that had me wishing I ordered that instead of the Po Boy. But my Po Boy was very good but I was having a heck of a time picking it up and eating it because the oyster chunks kept falling out of the bun. The sandwich had lettuce, tomatoes, and red onions on it which had me wishing for gum afterwards (I had to suffer with onion breath for the last two hours of the clinic and limited my talking for the time)! With tartar sauce for the Po Boy and fries, I had a meal fit enough for a queen, and I was very full after eating everything on my plate.
But wait, there was dessert. Oh I guess I had to make room for that like a good Fernstrom, and our waitresses came out with pieces of decadent carrot cake for everyone. No raisins (Just the way I like it) and a heavenly cream cheese frosting and nuts on top. The cake itself was moist and full of carrots and spices. After that piece of goodness, I was stuffed for the day and only ate a salad at home that night for dinner. The waitresses kept our glasses full of our drinks of choice, and after two big glasses of Diet Pepsi, I stopped, but one of the ladies said there was dessert coming, and I asked for water. I got water and another Diet Pepsi, but I wasn't complaining.
Bellies full and everyone happy, we made our way out of the restaurant and to the parking lot. Some of the folks went to the beach to walk a little bit, but it was pretty windy out that day, and I passed on the walk not wanting to be shivering the final two hours of the clinic. "Another time I'll walk the beach again!", I said to Tami as we got back into her SUV for the ride back to the clinic. Luckily no one fell asleep during the last 90 minutes of the clinic from being so stuffed, and I vowed to return to Cocodries with the family next time we were in Navarre Beach.Cocodries is located on Navarre Beach on Gulf Parkway and is open from 10-10 daily. There is a good menu of entrees and sandwiches and desserts. The service is great, and the views of the beach are great. When the weather is good you can dine outside on the deck, and there is a bar inside and outside. When you are ever in Navarre on business or pleasure, check out Cocodries!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 7, 2009
8649 Gulf Boulevard
Navarre Beach, Florida 32566