Photo Friday – Sunset on Gulfport’s waterfront

Gulfport waterfront

The view from Gulfport’s downtown park and recreation center

Gulfport  is a small (12,000 people) city in Pinellas County.  It’s well-known for its artistic community and for its great, non-chain-restaurant dining scene.  There’s weekly farmers markets, seasonal art festivals and lots of little shops and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that are fun to stroll year round.  Check it out!

Fishing (not catching) at the Cedar Key pier

John Muir, a Scottish-born wilderness advocate and dynamic 19th century beard connoisseur, once went for a long walk.  He walked away from Kentucky (who could blame him?), wound his way through the South and into northern Florida.  He kept walking until he got to Cedar Key, a little fishing village on the Gulf Coast.  In his journal, he wrote:

For nineteen years my vision was bounded by forests, but today, emerging from a multitude of tropical plants, I beheld the Gulf of Mexico stretching away unbounded, except by the sky. What dreams and speculative matter for thought arose as I stood on the strand, gazing out on the burnished, treeless plain!

Needless to say, he stopped walking at Cedar Key.  He hopped a sail boat and took off to Cuba.

John Muir looking into the distance (thanks to PBS for the photo)

But if you go to Cedar Key today, you’ll have much the same experience as Muir.  Of course, it won’t be quite like walking through the woods for 19 years, but there’s no way to get to Cedar Key without driving for an hour and a half through nothing.  So when you finally get there, the Gulf looks all the more impressive.

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A small-town Independence Day in Micanopy, Fla.

Typically, I spend my Independence Days in the St. Petersburg area, which is a really unique place for a firework holiday.  St. Petersburg (and the rest of Pinellas County) is surrounded on 3 1/2 sides by beaches, all of which are lined with hotels, condos and restaurants – and all of which hope to attract tourists and residents with big fireworks displays.

So, every year on the Fourth of July, the whole county lights up with major, professional firework displays.  You can sit on any dock, or drive down any street, and enjoy a 360-degree light show.  It’s pretty cool.

Central Florida is different.  There’s no water from which to shoot off high explosives, cities are far more spread out and there’s always the danger of starting wildfires with an errant boom.

Fountain along NE 1st Street, the main road in Micanopy

But this year, I decided to celebrate the nation’s birthday in the little town of Micanopy, which is as charming to visit at as it is to say (me-CAN-opee).  It’s a town with about 700 people, four restaurants, seven antique shops, a church, a museum, a hair salon and a firehouse.  They appear pretty serious about their antiques.  Even places that aren’t antique shops, like the cafe and the bakery, are also antique shops.  That’s pretty much the contents of the whole town, but you get the feeling that the folks living there wouldn’t want it any other way.  I’ve been a few times, and it really is your quintessential sleepy Southern town – the time of place where you overhear kids talking about “Old Man Jackson,” as I did on Wednesday.

On Independence Day, the whole town turns out for their annual parade.  The parade was surprisingly large, given the population, so I’d guess that about 1/4 of the Micanopians were in the parade, while the other 3/4 looked on.

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