Sunday, December 15, 2013

Exploring Pensacola

We arrived in Pensacola the Wednesday before graduation.  Tom was able to meet us fairly soon after we got there and then we all got together to eat dinner at one of Tom and Maddy's favorite restaurants in Pensacola Beach-Peg Leg Pete's.  So we got our fill of oysters and seafood for dinner that night.  We even bought some souvenirs--not something I usually do at a restaurant but they had quite the gift shop.  Bill really wanted to get the Pensacola Viagara t-shirt.  Tom and Maddy picked out t-shirts and beer glasses too since it was going to be their last time eating there as well.  They took us to several of their other favorites that week--Jaco's on the water in downtown Pensacola, a Mexican restaurant and a Brazilian grill which was quite interesting.  We have never been to a place like that before so it was fun to try it out.

On Thursday, Bill and I headed to the air museum.  It isn't as big as the Air Force museum in Dayton but it was certainly very impressive and well done.  We got tickets to go to the flight line and much to our surprise, we were told that the Blue Angels were getting ready to take off and practice so our docent rushed us to get there so we could catch it.  They actually were running a little behind so we kept doing our tour until it came time.  Unfortunately, the cloud ceiling was way too low for them to practice over the airfield so that we could watch.  They went to practice above the clouds.  But it was fun to see them taxi and take off anyway.  And we got to see a couple of the pilots when we were eating at the O Club.

After our tour, we got back and found Tom's class was in the middle of doing their graduation practice.  Since we had made arrangements to eat lunch with him, we hung out waiting (and waiting longer than we had anticipated) until he was done and we could go have lunch together.

After lunch, Bill and I went to the Pensacola Lighthouse which is on Pensacola NAS.  It was built in 1859 and is apparently haunted.  They have been on one of those ghost hunter shows so they make a big deal of that.  There are 177 steps to get to the top.  Since this girl isn't in the best of shape, getting up all those steps took me awhile but I finally made it up there.

The views from the top are pretty spectacular.  You can see the entrance to Pensacola Bay between Santa Rosa Island and Perdido Key, the Gulf of Mexico, the airfield, the museum, the forts, shipyards, and downtown. 

We tried to see Fort Barrancas but it is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  So we went there on Saturday with Tom.  As it turns out Tom had never been there so I was glad he got to see it with us before he moves.  It has quite a history.  There were many forts built on this site as early as 1698 by the Spanish.  It was destroyed by the French and the English also had built a fort there in 1763.  The current structures there are the water battery built by the Spanish in 1797 after they recaptured Pensacola from the British and up the hill from that is Fort Barrancas which was built in 1839 by the Americans.  We didn't go to the Redoubt that was built north of this location but it was also built in 1839.  It was held by the Confederates during the Civil War so Pensacola is known as the City of Five Flags for the five countries that have occupied it during its long history starting in 1559.

Across the way is Fort Pickens.  It was built in 1834 as part of a four fort system to protect Pensacola Bay--Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt on the mainland, Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island and Fort McRee on Perdido Key which no longer exists.  During the Civil War, the Union was forced to abandon Fort Barrancas and Fort McRee and evacuated to Fort Pickens.  At the turn of the century, many batteries were added to the area around Fort Pickens including Battery Pensacola which was built in the middle of the fort.  I enjoyed visiting both of these fort and taking photos there.  There is a certain rustic beauty to them.

On the way out to Fort Pickens, we saw the white sand and dunes of Pensacola Beach.  We didn't really spend any time on the beach.  It was a little too cold and windy to enjoy.  But we got a little bit of a peek at it when we were at the Officers Club and while driving on Santa Rosa Island.  Took a quick stop just to get a picture of us and the Gulf of Mexico.

On Sunday before returning home, Bill and I drove out to Mobile so I could see the USS Alabama Memorial Site.  There is the ship which is basically a big museum, an air museum and a submarine to tour.  Bill and Tom had been there together before and Tom had gone with friends as well.  Tom was pretty wiped out from everything that was going on in his life so Bill and I went on our own and let him rest.  Then we met him and Maddy for lunch on the way to the airport to say goodbye.

Since my only time spent in Florida was at Disney World in 1986, it was nice to be able to make a trip to Pensacola and take in the rich history of that area.  We had a great time there.

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