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Lovely Lake City, Florida

You might be tempted to just keep on traveling on I-10 or I-75, but I'd like to encourage you to make a short detour where those two interstates converge and find delightful downtown Lake City, Florida. While you're detouring, do yourself a favor and skip the chain hotels and eateries. Instead, enjoy some businesses owned by the locals and experience their remarkable friendliness.

Much of the action takes place on Marion Street or on streets running perpendicular and parallel to it. Find a parking spot on the street, at the courthouse, or the city hall, and stretch your legs. The area around the courthouse and city hall is very pedestrian-friendly, and you'll be able to see Lake DeSoto about a block away. It, too, has a walkable trail for getting in your steps for the day.

I spied an 86-foot-long outdoor mural that astounded me with its details. Public art adds so much to a town/city, don't you think?

Several shops caught my eye -- Furnishings on Marion, This and That, The Vintage Store, Southern Sister's Boutique, to name a few -- but I'm particularly glad I stopped in at Blue Goose Studio and met owner Janet Moses and two of her daughters. I was so impressed with Janet's passion for creating art on recycled objects (windows, doors, furniture), for reclaiming and refurbishing older homes, and for contributing to the revitalization of downtown Lake City. Janet is a skilled artist who was given her first art kit at the age of 13. Imagine having a mom who encouraged her to paint the walls of their home! Janet is inspired by vintage fabrics and a lifetime of living in Florida with its wonderful plants and wildlife. She paints murals, barn quilts, and even OYSTERS! The building where her shop/studio is housed was once the Blue Goose Restaurant, so she kept the name.

If it's mealtime when you visit, allow me to recommend Marion Street Bistro & Brewhouse, about 2 blocks from Blue Goose Studio. It is open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays. Steve and I had dinner there, and it was wonderful! The fresh seafood was prepared perfectly.

Normally, since I'm not a beer-drinker, I wouldn't visit a brewery. But, Halpatter Brewing Company in downtown Lake City, is as much a community gathering spot as it is a brewery. On the night we were in town, live music was scheduled. Families were coming in for a light supper, playing cornhole games, and getting a comfortable spot to listen. Steve and I shared a soda along with cinnamon and sugar rips (pieces of warm pretzels dipped in the sweet goodness and served with a yummy caramel sauce). It's a fun spot to people-watch.

The Halpatter Facebook page is a great place to find out about specials and upcoming entertainers. Bingo nights on Monday, Trivia nights on Tuesday, and monthly painting classes are particularly popular, and their charcuterie boards look amazing. The unusual name of the brewery is derived from Halpatter Tustenuggee, who was a Seminole Indian chief. He was born in 1795 and lived in the area before Lake City was established. The name means "Alligator Warrior," and that explains the brewery's logo.

Shirley's Restaurant on East Duval Street is obviously a favorite of the locals. It opens very early every day except Sunday and serves a wonderful breakfast. Meat-and-threes are offered for other meals. Steve and I had breakfast at Shirley's, and I spotted two items not normally found on menus in North Alabama -- corned beef hash and cane syrup. We also met a server who had worked at Shirley's for decades. She could easily tell we were "not from around there" and greeted us as if she hoped we'd stay for years to come. It's fun to be around people who love their jobs.

We spent the night at The Blanche, a historic building that was once a glittering hotel with the first elevator in the state of Florida. Now it has a number of apartments for long-term occupants, beautiful event spaces, several retail stores, and fourteen rooms available for short-term guests. We found our room to be tastefully decorated and comfortable. Entry was contactless, and security was reassuring. You can reserve a room by contacting the hotel directly or through Airbnb. It's a great place to stay that is within easy walking distance of all the businesses I've mentioned.

I hope I've enticed you to visit Lake City. Steve and I thoroughly enjoyed our time there and were so impressed with the residents we met.

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