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  • Writer's pictureA Bloke and a Blue

Bye Bye Blackbird

The cloud of blackbirds moved as one wave from branch to ground and back again. Males proudly displaying crimson and gold chevrons on their epaulettes looking for a partner in life’s dance. I started humming the tune to Bye Bye Blackbird, fitting as we were about to leave Florida.

Camel Lake

Our week in the sunshine state had started with a marvelous stay at the rustic camel lake campground, deep within the piney woods of the Apalachicola National Forest.

We spent our days hiking trails through the dense forest with massive pines and sweet gum trees soaring above us.

Soaring pines and Saw Palmetto

The forest floor teeming with Saw Palmetto and Titi forming an impenetrable habitat perfect for prey animals. Further down the trail we could hear wild Turkey searching for elusive acorns dropped by the profligate Post Oak. Finley naturally trying to give chase, pulling hard on the leash with paws scrambling for purchase..

At night under an almost full moon, We ventured out for a hike around the lake with no lights required. The forest silent except for the tuneful vocals of a Barred Owl and a lonely howl of a coyote. Finley was quite a different dog, instead of nose down to the ground, his stance was erect and tense, ears constantly changing direction and nose in the air testing the wind for danger. It was exhilarating.

From the forest we segued to camp at the beach but not before a wonderful overnight stay at Southern Grace Lavender Farm. Our hosts Jason and Kerry had a terrific smallholding and a true labor of love, growing lavender to make a variety of soaps essential oils, teas and other artisanal products to sell in their darling little store.

'Free' Free range eggs

They also kept a number of free range chickens whose eggs were available each morning to anyone who wanted them. To Finley’s delight they also had a dog park where he could exercise with his frisbee rather than chasing the chickens! It was wonderful to see a young family, working together to provide a unique and valuable resource and experience to others, I truly wish them the best.

And so on to the beach for the last time for a while. We made our way to Fort Pickens by Pensacola. We were greeted by blindingly white sand beaches and some interesting history. However my main reason to visit Pensacola was to see my friend Alice Guy and visit her new restaurant, Alice’s Gulf Coast Cuisine. The restaurant has already been awarded best new eatery in town and knowing how hard Alice works, I’m sure there will be many more accolades to come. Alice introduced me to her beau Frank Patti, I loved the way she said “my Frank” the use of the possessive indictating the fierce love she has for this man. Frank is the owner of Joe Pattis seafood, a Pensacola, nay Florida landmark which was started by his father Joe in 1931.

The following day I visited Joe Pattis and Alice showed me around the operation, it was most impressive and I left with some of the freshest Grouper and shrimp that provided a handsome dinner. Naturally Frank was busy at his desk and we shared a few pleasantries.

Frank Patti

At a sprightly 91 years young, his incredibly strong handshake belied a man half his age. It came as no surprise that Frank still went to work everyday overseeing the operation his daddy built and that he grew. He also founded a ship building company that is run by his son today. He has lived through many ups and downs across the years and has a seemingly endless number of stories to tell. He was one of the most interesting people I have met in a long while. If you ever visit Pensacola, I highly recommend a visit to Joe Pattis, you won’t be sorry.

“Bye, bye blackbird

Where somebody waits for me

Sugar’s sweet, so is she

Bye, bye blackbird”

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