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7 Hours in Pensacola

a beach with people on it

The amazing Jeanne was all over US Airways’ 30 Days for DC promotions and scored us tickets for Pensacola for $30 each way this Saturday.

Our flight was at 8:30 so we grabbed breakfast in the US Airways club lounge and then headed to our gate where we ran into New Girl in the Air who was flying into Destin and out of Pensacola on the same fare.

Our flight was late taking off as we waited for several people with freshly purchased breakfasts to make their way to our plane, but made up a lot of time in the air and landed on schedule at 10AM. The airport is delightfully small and the rental cars are located in the adjacent parking garage.

Avis was waiting for us and not only had a new Hyundai Genesis with only 350 miles on it, but a packet of mints as well.

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Local advice indicated that traffic could be bad getting to the beach so we decided to head there first, stopping at McGuire’s on the way to the airport. Enroute we passed cute little strip shopping centers and then a fateful fresh boiled peanuts sign. I LOVE boiled (pronounced “bolledâ€) peanuts. “Jeanne, do you mind if we stop?†I asked as I pulled into the parking lot?

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The shop wound up being a cute wine/beer/deli, but as it was only 10AM, I just picked up some Cajun and regular peanuts to go.

With no further distractions we made it to Pensacola Beach and headed to the far west end towards Fort Pickens State Park. I’d read that it was where the locals tend to go and had far fewer crowds. We got as far as the Fort Pickens Gate at the edge of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The gate was closed, and the road covered in sand from Hurricane Isaac’s winds.

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There’s basic restrooms, showers, and picnic areas at the gate, so we parked, changed, slathered on 70spf sun screen and made our way to the beach, which is a perfect example of how great Florida can be. 🙂 The only thing to mar the moment was that all but 5 of my boiled peanuts had irreparably spilled and had to be thrown away.

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It was hot, so after setting up Jeanne’s handy waterproof picnic blanket that we used in Jamaica we went out to play in the waves.

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 After drying off for a bit it was time to head back to Pensacola to get some food. We first stopped to shower and change. If you do stop at Fort Pickens Gate, note that the bathrooms are awkward for changing, they’re small with no hooks or benches to set things on. There’s also only one, very public, outside shower to rinse off, so there’s no chance to get all the sand out of your swimsuit.

Our next stop was the famous McGuire’s Irish bar which is only 10 minutes from the beach and easy to find. It’s a huge restaurant with an extensive parking lot.

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Very dark inside with fun irish kitch and money hanging off the walls and ceiling. That’s right! Jeanne and I were not prepared for the feeling of being in a tree house that a million stapled dollar bills hanging down give. Apparently the founder stapled her first dollar tip to the wall and a trend was born.

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They have an amazing selection of affordably priced drinks, including an extensive wine list, many bottles of which don’t even have a 100% mark up. Jeanne ordered a frozen irish coffee and I went with a $20 bottle of Spy Valley Sav Blanc (retails $14.99).

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We started with the boxty’s, fried, breaded garlic mash potatoes with avocado ranch, salsa, and horseradish sour cream dipping sauces.

I’d also ordered the $.18 bean soup just to try it. I mean it’s $.18, how can you not? (Well, Jeanne had plenty of reasons why not) it had a lot of flavor, but a little went a long way.

For the main course I opted for the Irish Lamb Stew (which the waitress advised was a generous portion) and Jeanne got the Irish Steak & Mushroom Pie. My stew arrived and I think my reaction could best be described as fear. It was enormous, very savory but lacking in flavor, and did I mention big?

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Jeanne’s Steak & Mushroom Pie was also huge, but a little less intimidating and with lots more of the delicious puff pastry.

After a stop through the overly-green gift shop we headed back to the airport. To wait. And wait. And wait. Last weekend, I’d had my connecting flight delayed by weather for an hour, only to have it reinstated to it’s original departure time 15 minutes later, so we were nervous about not getting there on time. Unfortunately that didn’t happen this time and 5:24 turned into 6 turned into 6:39.

We whiled away the time at the one airport bar inside security, which happened to close at 6. As Jeanne observed, you could tell it was the DC flight that was delayed since the 6PM closing time confused everyone. 🙂

We finally made it back to DC by 10PM, which made for a very full day. But how incredible to wake up in DC, splash in the gulf of Mexico and get a sun tan, and then be back in time to sleep in our own beds!


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  1. The only thing better than a few hours there is a week to fully enjoy the beach and seafood! It can be hot on the sand so it’s nice to have the condo to refresh before heading out to sightsee ( N.A.S. Pensacola Aviation Museum, for one) and shop Gulf Shores and Foley Outlet Mall. Instead of always dining out there are some excellent sources of fresh off of the boat shrimp and fish to cook yourself, eat/drink on the balcony or beach… I am going 11/2013… Family is invited!

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