Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Momma Mia, Tarpon Springs is like a visit to Greece!

As we left Orlando, we headed down to Tampa to check out the sights in the surrounding areas of Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and a tiny place called Tarpon Springs. I read about it in one of the brochures we picked up in the hotel, and Marc recalled that his mother, who lives in Florida, recommended visiting there. You won't be disappointed. It is a beautiful little area, a Greek fishing village, and home to the sponge industry.

If you didn't know any better, you'd swear you were in Greece. Many of the immigrants who settled here were of Greek descent, and the Greek restaurants that abound here will tempt you as you walk up and down the streets as the aromas waft outside their doors. The dilemma will be, which one to pick when it comes time to eat. I think the best answer to that question is to come back here often and try them all!

As early as 1896, when John Cocoris, moved to Tarpon Springs from New York, the Greeks were being recruited from their home villages in Kalymnos, Halki, Symi, Hydra, Spetse, Aegena and the Dodecanese Islands. In fact, the main street in Tarpon Springs is Dodecanese Boulevard. The Greeks were expert sponge divers, and quickly adjusted to life in Florida.

As the sponge industry grew, they becan to open other ventures to support the life and culture they left behind; restaurants, candystores, coffee houses, groceries, and more.

As you walk up and down both sides of the streets, the Greek music will be playing, the boats will be unloading the sponges of the day, the aroma of the food will tempt you, and you will be lured into all the little boutiques, because they all have something to offer.

Many of the shops sell sponges, homemade soaps, olive oil skin lotion that is so incredible, your skin will feel silk the second you apply it. There are stores with beachwear, stores with clothing, stores with Greek gift ware, spice shops, you name it, this is a fun place to spend the day.

I was almost expecting Meryl Streep to be singing in the streets as we
explored this beautiful hidden gem in Florida!

I think Rae and I made a point of hitting every store on both sides of the street.
Among our stops was The Fudge Factory,

as my son Steven loves fudge. The owner Geoff

and his wife Sheri were so nice to us. Geoff assured us that his fudge would not melt in the sun, it had a hard exterior and soft creamy interior. It was all he said it would be, it was so delicious. He told us that the recipe was an old Amish recipe. The Fudge Factory ships all over the country and you can order from them on line or by phone 1-800-257-4571. Among the flavors are

chocolate nut, chocolate, rocky road (it was fabulous), peanut butter,
maple nut, and several others. They also carry a selection of salt water taffy.

Of course, we could resist buying some of the wonderful olive oil hand cream and homemade goat's milk soap from The Spongerama's Sponge Factory.

The will also ship anywhere, check them out on the web at Spongerama's Sponge Factory or call them at 727-943-2164. The assortment of soaps with every different aroma was mindboggling. I bought several bars back for the girls, Lauren, JoAnna, and Laura. The goat's milk in the soap serves as a moisturizer, and makes a creamier lather.

You can also order from Lori's Soap and Sponges as well. Here is there website or call 727-938-4171. We shopped at both places and bought goat's milk soap, olive oil soap, and olive oil hand and foot creams.

The men were getting a little tired at this point, so we knew we had to feed them.

We happened to be very close to Hellas Bakery and Restaurant
and decided to have lunch here.

We were not disappointed!

Our waiter Taki was fabulous, explained the menu, made recommendations

and even snapped a picture for us!

Steve ordered the souvlaki

Marc had the Avgolemono Soup (lemon and egg) I tasted it, and it was to die for!
Creamy and just the right amount of lemon...

and the gyro snadwich which he said was so good,
made the way it is supposed to be with fine shavings of meat!

Rae and I opted to split an appetizer and combination platter.

We ordered the Feta cheese, olives and Greek peppers
(the Feta was so creamy, yum)

and the Spanakopita and Tiropita platter that was
served with a zucchini side and rice

Everything was delicious, I really loved the Tiropita because I don't get to have it very often

It was wonderful. I just wish I had eaten less, so I could have tried the incredible desserts from their bakery which is attached to the restaurant...next time

Check out the wonderful selection of pastries, breads, and cakes...mindboggling!

The entire staff was wonderful to us
and so very friendly...eat here, you won't be disappointed!

The wonderful cashier told me that when she moved to
Tarpon Springs years ago, there was not much
for her to do, so she applied for a job at the
restaurant just to meet people...she been there over 20 years!

We had a wonderful time in Tarpon Springs. If you are on the west coast of
Florida, take a day trip there, you won't be disappointed!

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  1. This looks like an ideal place to live when retired. Especially, if you love food and cooking. Thanks for your reports on the many adventures. I hope Marc bought that great hat in the picture!


  2. It was lovely and would be a great place to retire, and the food, yummmm

  3. Elise! Thanks for the trip to tarpon Springs, I have never been there... until now! :-) Wonderful. Great pics too. A nice little trip to be sure. I have been to Kalymnos and was aware that many of the Greeks in TS were Kalymniotes, and I now want to visit more than ever. Thank you for sharing your trip.

  4. Hi Sam,

    I thought that you might enjoy the post. Next, I'll have to come to Toronto and do some posts from there. I did get the Greek Spices and plan to try your Easter bread as it looked so delicious!

  5. Great! when you do come to Toronto, I'll show you around Greektown! :-)

  6. Thanks Sam, one of these days I'll take you up on that offer, want to get to the theater in Toronto this summer.