Friday, March 09, 2007

Tarpon Springs, Visit One

We now officially have a new target for the long-awaited move from Warner Robins: Tarpon Springs, Florida.

It's a small town, with a one-block downtown strip and, a few blocks away, a docks area choked with rusting boats that no longer serve any function except as a backdrop for tourism. The docks area is the Greek part of town. The handful of curling residential streets are peppered with a mix of nicely updated craftsman-style homes and white-washed Greek miniatures, complete with columns and statues and paved yards, all leading to the docks, where Greek residents and visiting tourists gather in many small Greek restaurants and bakeries, or shop for tacky souvenirs.

The downtown strip is dominated by antiques, but we also found an old department store with a real shoe-repair shop in the back, and there's an honest-to-goodness butcher's shop there, too. We stayed down the street at the Spring Bayou Inn bed & breakfast, and walked to the Greek restaurants for dinner each night. On our one full day between baseball games (Pirates vs. Jays in Dunedin, and then Jays vs. Phillies in Clearwater), we had lunch at a little place called Zante's. The decor is "flea market," with tiny tables almost hidden in the piles of kitchzy junk, and the stinky candles were a bit annoying, but the food was pretty much "to die for."

In the mornings before breakfast, we walked a half block to the bayou and small park, and watched the manatees play in the water. Yep, I saw real manatees for the first time! There must have been half a dozen at least. A couple of them were quite frisky, too. One lady standing nearby on the first morning cried, "oh look, they're hugging!" Yeah, that's right. Hugging.

We walked along the streets and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I discovered that Tarpon Springs is full of the tiny lizards I love so much --and by "full" I mean that you have to watch your step, as they dart across the sidewalks in front of your feet. We also saw one great blue heron standing a few feet from the doorways of a one-storey apartment building near the bayou, and later we saw a white blue heron "decorating" the lawn of a suburban home near the causeway to the beach. Don't they know they're not city birds?

The two beaches, which both look ridiculous by satellite, are quite lovely and quite easy to get to. When we have a house downtown, we can ride our bikes to the beach in a fairly short time, or drive to one in about ten minutes. We watched the sun set from Sunset Beach. Further down the coast a bit, we also visited Honeymoon Island, and saw pods of dolphins swimming by, and little brown bunnies playing together in the brush. Yeah, I know. It almost sounds ridiculous. Manatees, big old herons, little tiny lizards, dophins, and bunnies.

It is a really small town, but it is connected to all the bigger cities to the south by public transit. City buses cover the entire area. Tarpon Springs is also connected all the way to St. Petersburg by the Pinellas Trail, which is a paved bicycle/wheelchair/roller-blade/foot path that goes through towns and parkland for almost 35 miles.

It just... seems right for us. I'd still like to get Luther on a surf board, which means going across the state to the other coast where there is really some surf. And I'm hugely worried about money -even the smallest house is going to be a lot more than what we currently afford nicely in Warner Robins- but we knew that would happen in any case, when we finally move from here.

The long and the short? I loved it. The funny thing is that unlike some other places we've visited in Florida, to a certain extent we ran out of things to do as tourists in Tarpon Springs. Instead, I want to be painting my house there, or walking to the grocery store, working in my little office, and getting on my bike to ride out to the beach to see the sun set before riding home to start a late dinner. Doesn't that sound nice?


anne frasier said...

that sounds wonderful. another florida spot for me to check out.

bekbek said...

Anne, I thought of you as we passed the sign for Micanopy.

Actually, it was right about then that Luther said he saw a sign that read: Real fireworks left under the bridge.

It was probably meant to direct us to a store. But we hustled over the bridge and away, just in case.