Walking in the Greek fog.

I got up early and was headed to see some eagles north of Tarpon Springs. It was only barely foggy at my house with the sun peaking out but as I drove north the fog got so thick I could barely see. I was thinking the eagles would be tough to shoot in the fog so I decided to stop for a long walk (I was going to walk after the eagles anyway). I parked along the main strip in Tarpon Springs where the sponge docks were and was one of only a few out that early. It was weird to walk around in the fog here. I’m usually here at lunch on the weekends with all of the other tourists.

A few of the sights along the strip.

At the far end of the strip away from the restaurants and shops, I found some local fish markets. I made a note to get back up here for some seafood to take home.

The water was quiet and I could barely see some pelicans still sleeping in the mangrove bushes across the way.

I thought this was a cool old building, off the beaten path. I’m sure there’s some great history here.

After my walk I finally made it to the eagles nest.  There were two babies in the nest but I could only see one of them sitting up. They were fully grown at this point but hadn’t left the nest yet. An adult was sitting in a snag close by, looking all magestic even in the fog.

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The Epiphany in Tarpon Springs

After living in the Tampa Bay area for almost 20 years, I finally made it to an Epiphany in Tarpon Springs. The Epiphany, which is always celebrated on January 6, has 2 different meanings. One is the celebration of Three Kings Day, when the wise men visited Jesus. The other is the celebration of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river. Tarpon Springs celebrates the baptism of Jesus with young men diving into the bayou for a blessed cross. The one who retrieves the cross from the bottom is considered blessed for the year. This year was the 116th annual event. I got there an hour early and found a good spot along the wall to wait for the event.

Small boats were tied up together around the bayou. The guys will get in the boats before diving into the water for the cross.

There were several manatees in the bayou and it was funny to watch their snouts coming up for air as we waited for the event to start.

Coming from the nearby greek church, the guys all jumped in the water and then climbed into22 the boats. All of them are high school age. I had heard there were 65 guys diving for the cross this year.

Many prayers are said as they bless the cross. Then the Archbishop walks over to the water and casually throws the cross in the water.

Then all you see is splashing as the guys jump in the water.

More splashing.

Seconds later a hand goes up with the cross. He retrieved the cross and will be blessed for the year (it looks like there’s a trophy involved as well).

Some of the attendees were dressed in greek attire.

It was a sunny beautiful morning out and the crowds weren’t too crazy. I had to park pretty far away and had a 20 minute walk to the bayou but I was prepared. I will try and go again next year. And as always when you are near Tarpon Springs, you have to pick up some great greek food and baklava to take home (they even have chocolate covered baklava here!).

An interesting site to see

Since I now live fairly close to Tarpons Springs, I have been going there quite a bit to walk or get lunch. I’m always interested in sites around the area and had heard about a shrine that’s in Tarpon Springs. I found St. Michael’s shrine easily after my walk at a park close by.

The shrine was built over 80 years ago after a greek woman’s son was taken ill and then cured through praying to the Holy Icon of St. Michael (so the story goes which can be read here). It’s an interesting small chapel that was built in the woman’s backyard. It’s since had many visitors who claim they have been cured.

Walking in you can see all of these cool artifacts and artwork in such a small place. It’s a little overwhelming at first with so much stuff in here. You really have to sit down for a while and look at all of the different items.

So many little details and history. There’s no charge to come in and you can light a candle for a dollar.

There’s also an outside room that has more pictures and candles.

On the side of the chapel there’s a quite place to sit and reflect. Maybe admire the stained glass windows or take a break in the shade.

Another small shrine outside, the picture on the left is of the lady who built the shrine. Her daughter, who managed the shrine after her death, is pictured on the right.

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Old boats

Now that we live 20 minutes away from Tarpon Springs I have a feeling we’ll be heading up here much more often for meals. There’s so many places to get good Greek food. I noticed some different things on a recent trip up for lunch. I don’t ever remember seeing this sign. It really sums up this little town, north of Tampa.

Some of the sights you see walking down the sidewalk. I think that bike must have been submerged at one time.

All of the old boats and buildings are really the personality of the town, not the sponges. Those boats must have some great stories to tell. Most are still in use, either carrying the divers out to get the sponges (do they really still do that?) or taking tourists out to see the sights.

A mural on the wall heading out of town.

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Painted Wildlife

Spoonbills painted on a water tower in St. Pete.

On the side of a building in downtown Tampa during the Gasparilla Art Festival several years ago. I think there’s a new building blocking it now.

An exit ramp off I75 in central Florida.

My favorite water tower in St Pete.

Above are from Tarpon Springs. The pelican is on the wall at one of our favorite restaurants in Tarpons Springs, Hellas.

One of the many murals in Wynwood Walls, Miami.

I took this years ago on the side of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  I was there recently and with all of the renovations and construction that they went through, the mural is still there.

You can find painted turtles and dolphins all over the Tampa Bay area. Most are in heavy tourist traffic areas. The above were at the Clearwater Marina on Clearwater Beach.

The above was at Save Our Seabirds in Sarasota. They rescue and rehabilitate injured birds (all birds, not just seabirds).

A great restaurant in Miami that we ate at years ago.

At Brett’s aunt’s nursing home. The top one is painted on the outside of the building. The bottom is in the main lobby.

A great little take out place in downtown St. Pete.

I was going through some older pictures recently and realized I had a lot of pictures of  painted wildlife. Brett asked if I even remembered where I took them. Yes, every one of them. Although, I can’t remember which exit off I75 that the fish are painted underneath. We were on our way back from Atlanta years ago and had stopped for Blizzards from Dairy Queen. Somewhere between Ocala and Tampa.

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Road trip north of Tampa

I had a few days off in October and decided to road trip around the area. I wanted to visit some areas that I hadn’t been to before so I headed north with a start destination of Pine Island Beach. It’s a small beach about an hour north of Tampa and a little out of the way (more on that later). On the way back I took back roads and stopped in a small town called Aripeka. There’s an old historic post office and a really cool convenience store and that’s about it.

Aripeka sits on the water and it looks like there is a robust crab and fishing business.

Just past Aripeka is Anclote Key Park and the energy plant sits right next to the park. I stopped for a few minutes and walked around the park.

Traveling south I stopped at Fred Howard Park. It was quiet with the exception of a lot of cormorants and terns sleeping on the beach. It was nice to just be outside and going to some new places. I had not been to Fred Howard Park before. It’s a small beach in Tarpon Springs. I can image it quickly get crowded in the summer.

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Lunch in Tarpon Springs

Boats along the waterfront in Tarpon Springs. While my sisters were here for Thanksgiving weekend, we headed up to have lunch and walk around the docks. When I was little we use to come down to the Tampa bay area to visit my grandparents and my parents loved to make the drive up to Tarpon to walk around. Little has changed since the 70’s here with the exception of some new public restrooms. The tourist shops have the same stuff and we always leave Hellas with a lot of desserts. The bakery there is the best. They even have chocolate covered baklava.

A small sampling of the desserts and pastries.

Natural sponges are still being harvested today although most sponges you find today are synthetic. Tarpon Springs was built on sea sponges being harvested in the area.

Christmas decorations along the docks. It’s always fun to take a selfie in the big ornaments.