Last week, I took a road trip down to Apalachicola, Florida, to visit one of my Sewanee peeps, Tracy. Since we have reunited twice in the last year, we were mostly past all the what have you been doing for the last 30+ years and all that, and were easily able to just pick up from the more recent encounters. Very comfortable, very easy.
I actually lived in Florida for roughly 6 years after Sewanee Academy, and 3 of those years were spent in Tallahassee, not too far from Apalach. My friends and I used to go over to St. George’s Island quite a lot and camp on the beach, but I never made the extra 20-minute drive over to Apalachicola. GO figure. I was pleasantly surprised to find a charming little fishing village with a kick-back vibe where most everybody knows everybody. Not at all the little tourist trap I envisioned–not by a longshot!
This is precisely why this stretch of coastline on Florida’s panhandle is referred to as “The Forgotten Coast”. While most of Florida’s northern coastline was being over-developed and commercialized, this sleepy stretch of sand located between Carrabelle and Mexico Beach remained unsullied, keeping it’s “old Florida” appeal and laid-back casualness, very much unlike the billboard strewn, neon-lighted, Spring-Break nirvana of Panama City Beach and beyond.
Apalach (as locals call it) is free of fast-food restaurants, opting for casual, seafood-oriented cafe’s housed inside the 100-year old wood and brick structures that line the few central streets. The food was fresh and relatively inexpensive– I was thrilled to find oysters on the halfshell for around $7.00/dozen. In fact, 90% of all Florida’s oysters, and 10% of the country’s oysters, come from Apalachicola bay. (Needless to say, in 3 days I consumed around 5 dozen.)
There is a CVS pharmacy and a Piggly-Wiggly, but that’s it for “chain” stores. The shops lining the streets are charming, funky, unusual and friendly. I helped out their economy a bit, too!
Tracy took me to Indian Pass- a beautiful beach not far away, and we went to the unpretentious hole in the wall Indian Pass Raw Bar and gorged on smoked ribs, sausage and of course, oysters–the coldest, freshest, juiciest oysters I’ve eaten in a lang while. It was a relief to know that the BP Oil spill last spring hadn’t affected the harvest, I know the fishermen in these parts were extremely concerned.
I met Tracy’s Mother, Jane, and Tracy’s host of friends in town, everybody was so warm and genuine. It was delightful to explore the many layers of my new/old friend’s life.
Tracy, thanks for sharing!