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Published: 10/23/2011

Beginning to end, trip to Pensacola was memorable

MARY ALICE POWELL

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Stand by for a visit to Pensacola, beginning with a salute to the Navy and including a Greek festival and 18-cent bean soup. Such a gamut of experiences in a four-day period only proves what a visitor can see and do in a city once you put your mind to exploring the territory.

I was invited by Capt. Gary Edwards to the change of command ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum, an experience I wish everyone could witness. The impressive display of military protocol and precision jarred the depths of my patriotic soul. That the event was held in the Blue Angels rotunda where the bright blue and yellow planes are suspended from the ceiling added to the excitement as Captain Edwards was relieved from his post as commander of Corry Station, Center for Information Dominance, and replaced by Capt. Susan Cerovsky, originally from Wyandotte, Mich.

Corry Station, near the Navy Air Station, is the headquarters in Pensacola for the Navy training program primarily in cryptologic technology and other technical information skills. An average of 25,000 Navy personnel study there annually and at several other training sites throughout the United States and Japan.

While the military ceremonies are by invitation only, there are many other things to do and see in Pensacola, beginning at the aviation museum, which is one of my favorite museums in the United States.

Four years ago I spent a good part of three days there surrounded by hundreds of aircraft. I didn't think there was room for one more exhibit, but sure enough, last month Marine One was added to the collection. It is the helicopter used to fly U.S. presidents. The helicopter has been restored and museum visitors can peek inside the windows and clearly see the seal of the President of the United States embroidered on the seats.

The historic Pensacola Village is well worth visiting. The 10 museum houses reflect the city's 450 years of history and the cost to tour each is $6.

What would any trip be without scouting for local food color? I lucked out last weekend when the Greek Festival of Pensacola was held at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. The church grounds were jam-packed as we stood in line a half hour in 90-degree heat for the buffet dinner in the Hellenic Center.

I tried an interesting twist on baklava. Annunciation's youth group sold ice cream with a baklava topping. The topping was not a square of baklava as we know and love it. The high butter pastry was melted in a Crock Pot to a point of being spoonable.

I have kept the best until last, though. The Senate Bean Soup at McGuire's Irish Pubs in Pensacola and Destin is 18 cents.

Honest.

It's a robust soup with plenty of beans and flavor. As if that isn't a big enough attraction, McGuire's walls and ceilings in both locations are covered with dollar bills; more than two million, they say, and it all began when Molly McGuire pinned her first dollar tip on the wall.

When McGuire's opened Flounder's, a 700-seat restaurant at Pensacola Beach, they introduced a similar gimmick. But to get the flounder chowder for 18 cents you have to order a meal. Otherwise it is $5.99 and it wasn't nearly as tasty as the bean soup.

Even the trip home was eventful.

Just before landing in Detroit, airline steward Arin Vega put on a bright pink apron. He announced that during our one hour and 28-minute flight from Atlanta, 7,392 people will have died from breast cancer based on the statistic that 84 people die from the disease each minute in the United States. Mr. Vega then carried a pink bag through the plane for donations in the fight against breast cancer. He is a breast cancer survivor.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.



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