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The Weekend Get-Away
January passed. February ground away. March crept past us. Jeanette and I were bored.
“Outta here! Let’s get outta here.”
What to do, though?
Now from time to time I had talked about this fun quaint little town on the gulf called Cedar Key that I had been to about 10 years ago. It used to have forests of Cedar trees, hence its name. They are all gone now having been consumed in the production of lead pencils near the turn of the last century. Today it is a collection of little old houses and a few more modern condominiums set along the gulf shore. There are oyster flats which are exposed when the tide goes out and houses on stilts with rickety elevated plank walkways. Very picturesque and low-key. I remembered art galleries and little shops and fun restaurants.
The town has a small museum and nearby are mounds, small hills really, of oyster shells, left by ancient Indian Peoples. It is estimated it took 3000 years to create the mounds.
So we decided to go. From home it is about a five-hour drive.
Jeanette searched the internet and came up with a listing for Pirates Cove, a collection of small vacation cottages “right on the water“. She showed me a picture of the cottage and I asked if she had noticed the through-the-wall air conditioner. She had not but was not put off by it.
We arranged for a house-sitter to mind our two dogs, loaded the car and headed out for our weekend adventure. Cedar Key is about due west from Daytona Beach, Florida. And, it is pretty isolated. Nothing much close by.
We arrived at our vacation cottage about 5PM. The cabin was set to the side of the main road and it backed up to the wetlands. Seems the water view was not the gulf, but rather the swamp. The cabin was one large room off of which was a bath. Directly over the bed was the through-the-wall air conditioner . It provided a steady backdrop of white noise.
My guess is that Pirates Cove was originally a motel build in the 30’s. I could tell that is was not meeting Jeanette’s standard of opulence.
But, what the hey! We had prepaid two nights and we were set to go with it.
Down to town we went.
But where were the galleries I recalled? Or, the cute shops? The place seemed blighted.
To be fair there was an excellent restaurant in one of the condominium complexes and there were a number of casual bars attracting people, with live music and outdoor seating.
But in general the town seemed depressed. I think it has been a victim of the faltering economy and the oil spill. Cedar Key’s economy is totally dependent on tourism. People do not travel much when they don’t have money and when they hear oil in the Gulf of Mexico they don’t travel to Florida.
It is still a picturesque area and very laid back. In time it should get back to a semblance of its former self.
The next morning, having enjoyed the serenade of the air conditioner all night, we decided to donate our second night to Pirates Cove and headed down to Tampa to visit Ybor City.
Vincente Martinez Ybor bought 40 acres of land next to Tampa and founded an industrial city devoted to the manufacture of cigars in 1886. He built housing and imported workers from Italy, Spain and Cuba.
It was at Ybor City that Teddy Roosevelt assembled the Rough Riders during preparations for the invasion of Cuba in 1898. He is said to have frequented the Columbia Restaurant which still operates today.
The area has become an entertainment center with nightclubs, restaurants and shops. The shops tend to be funky one-of-kind stores with a heavy emphasis in antiques or art. Jeanette was particularly interested in a vintage clothing store. It was huge and stacked floor to ceiling with stuff.
Much of the town remains pretty much as it was in the past. It is reminiscent of New Orleans.
Near the center of the commercial district there is an outdoor market showing the wares of artists and artisans. In what was once a Bakery, across from Centennial Park, there is a state museum focused on the history of Ybor City and the importance of the Cigar industry. It may seem politically incorrect but this past November 19, 2011 the city held the 13th annual Ybor City Heritage and Cigar Festival. Fun for all.
Servicing the Cenntiniel Park and the commercial district is a network of street cars.
The entire area is interesting with lots of history and unusual shops. Jeanette and I spent half the day there and then headed home, our weekend get-away having run its course.
When you are bored, you might check it out.
More to come
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