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Carl Wernicke: By Foot, Bike, Or Bus, Pensacola Is Home


  My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Spain and Morocco, and as always upon returning I was struck by the differences between there and here.

Back at home, we quickly returned to the dominant form of transportation: the personal automobile. In Tangier and Spain, we walked, took the incredibly ubiquitous cabs, or rode trains. If we had taken the time to study the schedules, we could also have used the frequent buses and trams, or rented the bikes available across Barcelona. For someone who drives a car almost every day,  it was liberating to go 13 days without taking the wheel of one. The crowded streets prove there is no shortage of cars and motorbikes, but you can reach stores, restaurants and offices without them.

Then there is the food. My wife and I follow a low-carb diet that minimizes bread, pastries, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. But when in Rome, we do the Roman thing, so in Spain especially we joyfully sampled the abundant croissants, fried potatoes, rice, pastries and, who knew that pizza was such a big thing in Spain? I was convinced that I gained 10 pounds during the trip, and was resigned to a rigorous penance upon my return. But in Spain and Tangier we easily walked 5 miles a day, and upon on our return I found I had actually lost weight. At first I suspected the scale was off, but in following days it insisted that I had packed on no pounds despite our dietary sins.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, in walking the streets in Spain or Tangier you recognize that the American obesity problem is not shared there. This despite the fact that restaurants in Tangier and Spain share the U.S. proclivity to serve more food than I can comfortably eat, even if so much of it is less processed than our mass-produced goods. A little storefront café near our hotel in a tourism district of Barcelona baked freshly made pastries each morning.

At the same time, returning to Pensacola reminded us of why so many people spend so much money to vacation here.

Once we got over jet lag, we walked the beach before sunrise one morning. Storm clouds hugged the horizon and lightning danced through the cloudtops. We could see dozens of people spread out along the shore awaiting the sunrise, which arrived in spectacular fashion. First the clouds lit up, moving from gray to red and then white. The sun burst from the horizon as an orange-red ball. The Gulf was warm and crystal clear, and seabirds rushed back and forth amid the gentle swells breaking on shore, working the sand for tiny morsels. We watched a pod of dolphins nosing along the sand bar. One broke from the pack and swam right up in front of us, closer than I have ever seen a dolphin to the shore; it must have been scraping its belly on the bottom. The water was so clear we could follow its every move.

It’s nice to enjoy traveling to other places and appreciate what they offer. It’s just as nice to return home with a renewed appreciation for what we have right here.

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.