I could punish you with a “look at all of my sunset photos and toes in the sand and long walks on the beach” post.
But you’ve seen those before, right?
Instead, I’m going to introduce you to a little town called Tarpon Springs.
It was one of the main reasons we chose Tampa as our anniversary destination – that and the fact that you can fly direct from Birmingham.
But Tarpon Springs is a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. I knew nearly nothing of it except for the fact that it was a Greek community, and Greek food would be found in every single storefront.
And that is something worth travelling to a different state to experience.
Greeks are not, however, the hotel-running-type (where is a Patel when you need one?), so we ended up staying very far away in the most randomly located resort in Florida.
Chris’ way of making this fun was by renting a convertible.
That scowl of concentration is caused by:
a. Nasty Tampa Traffic,
b. Jedi Focus to keep my hair out of my eyes, and
c. Irritation regarding Chris’ exuberance in capturing the moment.
So we stayed in the most random place on earth, and had to do quite the journey to get anywhere, and especially to find Tarpon Springs.
We even had to go by what has to be the worst-named, least preservation-inspiring State Park in the star system:
Needless to say we did not stop to experience the wildlife.
We finally arrived at Tarpon Springs, and it was much more bustling than I expected.
It didn’t take us long to pick up on the fact that they liked sponges in these parts…
Because you see, Greeks show no hesitation in having passionate excitement about the things that they love, no matter how weird or bizarre they are.
(Think Aunt Voula and her long-lost twin in the lump on the back of her neck.)
Greek Old Men are the type that will pull out their photo album and ask, “So. Have you seen the pictures of my bunion surgery? Eet was fanTAStic!!!”
And the next time you go to their house, they’ll do the exact same thing all over again.
(Ask me how I know.)
It turns out that Tarpon Springs was founded on the Sponge Industry, and many sponge divers from Greece immigrated to work the docks.
As such, sponges of every variety are still in abundance.
You can even still hear the Greek accent on some of the sponges.
And even if they don’t always look excited about their sponges, clearly, they very much are.
…I was reticent to disobey that Authoritarian Finger, but I did skip the movie.
I did, however, buy some sponges.
The Greeks aren’t just proud of their sponges, though. Greek heritage is everything.
If you don’t paint a Greek flag on your entire garage door, then who are you really?
And if you don’t exclusively outfit your home in Greek flag light switch covers and plug covers, then how will anyone understand your rich cultural heritage?
And if you don’t have a naked statue in your Foyer, then how will your children ever get their sex education?
Speaking of children, I loved the toy options they had. All the same toys that Noah already has, except with Beautiful Greek Flair.
And the movies. We had to buy the Cars movie, because we knew that we could not go on living if we didn’t get to hear Mater speak Greek with a redneck accent.
We finally settled down for lunch at Hellas.
Because the Greek characteristic of Excited Flair also governs the restaurant community, the best Greek Restaurant is often the kitschiest, most flamboyant restaurant in town.
Nobody else does it quite like us Greeks.
Nice French Restaurants see no need in painting an Eiffel Tower on their wall.
Chinese Restaurants don’t feel the pull to plaster their walls with a 360° Great Wall of China.
But if a Greek Restaurant doesn’t have a mural of the Aegean Sea flanked by glowing fountains and wine bottles atop Greek Columns, then you might not really be in a Greek Restaurant.
The food, as expected, was fantastic. We needed to try it all, so we got combination everything.
An extra plate of Lamb Riblets,
And, what Chris was waiting on, Dessert-Bigger-That-Your-Head,
enjoyed with heart-jolting cups of Greek Coffee.
Another thing that Greeks do well is everything.
So when we found this Jeweler/Grocer, we were not surprised.
Nor were we surprised to find that they were also a Gift Shop, Cosmetician,
And a keepsake magnet distributor.
Speaking of gifts, I recently reviewed everything that you needed to buy if you ever found yourself in an Alabama Beach Gift Shop.
The Greek Gift Shops added a whole new dimension to your shopping list.
They include such finds as statues of every character in Greek Mythology.
Diver Helmets – marked down!! That’s $200.01 worth of Diver Helmet for free, people!!
Jesus didn’t die on a cross inside of a shell behind a plastic embossed Florida logo, but that shouldn’t stop you from buying this souvenir.
But if your needs are more specialized, such as needing a baby gift, don’t forget the appropriately-colored praying child to go with.
Greek Belly Dancer sets were available in every window, which is a great outfit to buy for the kids, because two hundred and fifty-six metal coins say that you’ll never lose them again.
And snacks. Snacks are in abundance, such as boxes of Octopus – or Sardines, your choice.
The liveliness of the city was palpable. You could choose from Bouzouki Night,
Seeing Belly Dancers, or seeing “Belly Dancers,”
Or just enjoy a walk down the pier while taking dual-selfies.
(I especially love that you can see his selfie-taking arm reflected in both of our glasses.)
My favorite part of Tarpon Springs, though, were the murals.
This man captures the essence of the joy behind the phrase “Opa!!” so flawlessly:
And this mural sums up the entire Greek experience.
In fact, there was so much going on in this scene t that I nearly lost Chris in the crowd as I stood and stared.
You’ve got Gyro meat being shaved off,
Flaming Saganaki, a Bikinied Diner with very perplexing boob placement, and Mulleted Boyfriend being distracted by…what?
Oh yes. The bellydancer.Of course.
The day in Tarpon Springs was an important step of fulfillment in my Greek Heritage. And don’t worry – we didn’t leave without picking up my own bit of Greek Flair.
Yes, Flexi has now joined the Greek side.