I returned recently from my first trip to Europe and found myself enamored with the easy to use public transportation over there. I managed to go travel from Paris to Munich to the Alps, back to Munich, then to Rome and then to Naples all utilizing the train and bus systems they have in place. We even took night trains with sleeper compartments on two legs of the journey foregoing the expense of hotel rooms. And it was quite inexpensive. For instance, the tickets on a train with a private sleeper compartment from Munich to Rome were purchased for $129.00. That rate was for my daughter, my wife and I combined.
Recently my wife and daughter were traveling to see family, and I had to stay home for work and planned to meet up with them mid-way through their stay in Tampa, FL. And if you follow my travels you know I don’t like to do things normally. I like to make things an adventure. And this opportunity was perfect to try and travel like I did in Europe via public transportation. I researched to see if this could even be done as most people here in the U.S. do not think of public transportation. We either drive our own cars, rent a car or hire an Uber. We rarely think in terms of buses and trains. After looking I found some great options. So I made a plan and implemented it.
I left my home around 7:00 am with just a backpack for luggage and walked to downtown Pensacola and grabbed the public express bus to the airport. I did feel a little like Forest Gump sitting at the bus stop waiting. Several different people sat down next to me and started up conversations and then, oddly got and left. None of them were passengers like I was. Just passerbys. The bus showed up just a minute or so late and I was the only one on it. Since it was the express bus with no stops, I got dropped off right in front of my gate within 15 minutes.
My flight was taking me to Orlando because it was a lot cheaper to fly there instead of Tampa. I was not in a huge hurry so I decided to visit a friend for the night who lives just outside Orlando. Plus this made for more opportunities for transit adventures. Once I landed at Orlando I grabbed a city bus to a Sunrail train station where I hopped on the fairly new Sunrail train system.
The Sunrail trains reminded me a lot of the European trains. It was very clean and modern looking. The ticketing was very efficient. I was impressed. I rode it to downtown Orlando. The time was just after 1:00pm and I was starving. Orlando has public bikes, both standard and electric. I grabbed a standard pedal bike and ventured to find the brew pub, Orange County Brewery, I found good reviews for online. After a beer and a delicious gourmet personal pizza I went for a walk around Lake Eola Park. I honestly had no idea downtown Orlando was so nice! Whenever you hear Orlando, you think theme parks, no one ever talks about the great downtown area they have. Time to get a bus to my friends house.
The bus got me to within a short walk of his house where I got a great night sleep. The following morning I needed to pick up the Sunrail back to downtown, but instead of opting for a bus ride to the station I “bummed” a ride with him because he was headed past the Winter Park station on his way to dropping off his daughter at her school. I reasoned that by hitching a ride with him, I could keep my vagabond adventure still on track.
Winter Park was another pleasant surprise. The small upscale community was really nice and quaint, very new and very clean. I ate breakfast at a sidewalk cafe before boarding. The Sunrail took me right to the Amtrak station so I could get my train to Tampa. After the train arriving right on time and me hopping aboard we were off for the 2 hour ride to Tampa. My seat was large, and I had plenty of space. There were charging ports and free Wifi aboard. Everything a traveler needs. Before I knew it I was pulling into Tampa station and reunited with Sharon and Nora. The agenda for today was the Tampa Aquarium.
Originally I was going to hop on a bus once I arrived at Tampa and go to Clearwater Beach to pick up a free trolley to travel the final miles to the actual condo where Sharon was staying, However they wanted to go to the Aquarium and the Amtrak station was just around the corner from it.
Overall my public transportation experience in Florida was exceptional. Everything I rode on was on time, clean and comfortable. The ease of getting tickets was great. I highly recommend it.