There’s nothing quite like the reprieve of a girlfriend’s getaway and a weekend of letting go and having fun with a group of your besties. Last weekend Cindy, Emily and I were headed to our friend Cindy’s historic house on Seville Square for a weekend that included an evening with Barry Manilow ( yes we are “Fanilows”), lots of catching up , and possibly (okay, probably) too much wine.
After a grueling trip that involved being stuck in traffic for 2 1/2 hours because of that week’s bizarre ice storm, we arrived in time to change and grab a quick and very delicious burger at Hub Stacey’s, a fun little bar and restaurant on the square with a friendly neighborhood pub vibe. We were driven to the concert by Mike (thanks Mike!) to enjoy the enduring talent of Barry Manilow. The show was an absolute blast and he is ageless, even his hair is the same. Hmmm, however does he do it?
Back at Cindy’s house we all gathered in the kitchen to drink and talk into the wee hours. I was reminded of the many times that varied groups of us have gathered in this very spot or out on the porch looking over Seville Square. Those trips also seemed to include lots of laughing and playing, and typically involved at least one ridiculous adventure, such as building human pyramids in the side yard, sneaking into the historic village to pick a tomato for our salad, or climbing the oak trees in the square like a bunch of kids at a sleep over. The gift of friends that you can be totally goofy with one minute and achingly honest with the next is truly priceless.
Pensacola is a relatively small town with a population of only about 52,000, but it is an area rich in history, and natural beauty. It is one of the oldest towns in America, first discovered in 1528 and becoming the Spanish settlement of Pensacola in the 1600’s. The Pensacola Beach area is worth the trip alone,boasting some of the most beautiful white sand and emerald water beaches in the world. On this visit, though, we stayed in the downtown area and focused on places within walking distance. Pensacola is an easy town to walk and I strongly recommend that you do just that. There are so many little details that you only notice when you are out exploring on foot.
After a lazy start the next day the 4 of us, Cindy x3 (yep, there were 3 of us!) and Emily headed out to find lunch and practice a little retail therapy. We walked a couple of blocks south from the square to the Bayfront, home to some great restaurants and ended up at Jaco’s, known for their amazing flatbreads served overlooking the water where you can sit and sip a great cocktail and watch the boats coming in, or drool over the yachts docked in the harbor.
After a leisurely lunch we walked down Palafox Street, which is very reminiscent of New Orleans with it’s intricate wrought-iron work and balconies. The area is full of quirky shops, cafes, bars and a wide variety of music venues and theaters. We loved the Bodacious Olive with it’s gourmet infused olive oils and vinegars and unusual kitchen items. As we walked along we were charmed by the painted pelicans perched throughout the city. On the way back to Cindy’s we passed the Wentworth Museum of Florida History and the Historic Village, which is a grouping of 22 period-accurate buildings that offer tours to give visitors a taste of Pensacola’s past.
Though we opted to purchase seafood and make dinner at Cindy’s house there are many great dining options in the area.. A few of our favorites are Dharma Blue, located in a pink house on the square and offering a large and varied menu and great sushi. Another favorite is the Fish House, which serves up great seafood right on the water. We also love Jackson’s Steakhouse, and one of our all-time favs, although not within walking distance but just a short drive, is McGuire’s Irish Pub, a really fun place that serves great burgers and steaks and an amazing Sunday Brunch.
The next morning I rose early to wander the streets alone and take in the city. I love to wander a city early in the morning and watch it come to life. There’s a hush that is hovering and if there’s a little haziness or fog in the air, it can be like anticipating the raising of the curtain and showtime. As I walked along I saw shopkeepers sweeping in front of their stores and setting out their displays for the day, a homeless man was staking his claim on the sunniest bench in the park for the day, and joggers were speeding by seemingly oblivious to anything but the run and the beat from their i-pod.
Another great pleasure for me while traveling is to wander through local markets and Pensacola boasts a large and lively farmer’s market at the north end of Palafox Street every Saturday. You get a real sense of the community at places like an outdoor market, there is always great people-watching, and it’s easy to start a conversation, just ask a vendor about their wares.Sales pitches are usually low-key, and there is very often some entertainment, all for free. Pensacola farmer’s market did not disappoint. Vendors were selling everything from farm fresh eggs to African drums, the crowd was happy and amiable, and a group of guys were picking and strumming. It was a great Saturday morning.
I got back to the house in time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch and again think back on all the amazing women who have gathered here over the years. Cindy’s beautiful home has been the recurring scene of many girlfriend gatherings through the years, both because of the amazing location, and the warm and fun-loving spirit in the welcoming pink house on the square. Even the house’s resident ghost, Lilly, seems right and welcoming. Seville Square is home to most of the town’s local festivals including Jazzfest, Artsfest and a Seafood Festival, and we’ve enjoyed all of those events from the privilege of this porch . I was a little sad to be leaving, but I knew there would be more gatherings, and much more laughter and fun to come ,so I took a deep breath and whispered a word of gratitude for a perfect ending to a perfect weekend.
Lift your face, Cindy