While my kids were growing up, learning something new meant our family vacation was a success. In pursuit of education and fun, we traveled to lighthouses, museums, historic sites, big cities and large zoos.
Which is probably why I love Tarpon Springs, Florida. I first visited Tarpon Springs near Tampa on the Gulf of Mexico two years ago. (You can read posts about My Big Fat Greek Getaway beginning here.)
On the second day of my second vacation to this Greek fishing village, my friend Sarah and I boarded a small boat docked in one of the bayous that snake through Pinellas County and listened to a Greek fellow share facts about the sponge-diving industry. We watched as his cohort donned 172 pounds of equipment and ballast, then demonstrated how Greeks have been plunging the depths of the Gulf for the past 110 years to hook and harvest the skeletons of sea creatures.
Tarpon Springs lays claim to the title of Sponge Capital of the World, and the village boasts the largest Greek population in the United States.
Pretty heady stuff for a couple of history and trivia geeks and former newspaper reporters.
Plenty of tourist shops and wonderful Greek restaurants and bakeries line the sponge dock and the streets of Tarpon Springs. Two days of walking up and down the winding streets and around the nearby bayou have kept us busy, and an evening spent on the beach watching the sun set was the perfect ending to our first full day on the Gulf.
Tonight, we’re resting up because tomorrow it’s kayaking in the bayou, lunch with our Greek hostess, Annie, and a tour of the local Greek Orthodox Church. And more shopping and pastries.
(To learn more about Tarpon Springs and sponge-diving, check out the “Images of America” book titled “Tarpon Springs” and watch the 1953 movie “Beneath the 12-Mile Reef” starring Robert Wagner.)