Wednesday, April 16, 2014  
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Joe Lee
One More Time
A Comment by Joe Lee III

   If you are looking for a good stop over on your way to south Florida, you might try Mount Dora. It is described by some as the a quaint old Florida town that time passed by, and, to a very large extent that is true.
   We stayed the in the 130-year-old main building of the Lakeside Inn. The Grand Ole Lady -- billed as the oldest continually operating hotel in Florida -- is showing her age, but she still offers abundant hospitality with class and a smile.
   The original building has about 10 guest rooms, as a few have been converted to catering and management offices. Including the three subsequently constructed out buildings, each of them nearing the century mark, the hotel has about 80 rooms.
   Elisha Otis (of Otis elevator fame) apparently never stayed at the Lakeside Inn, so if steps are a problem, advise reservations in advance you need a first floor room. I don’t think there are any guest rooms higher than the second floor, so the extra exercise is really good for you!
   The hotel dining room food is good, and the bar is a happening place.
   There is good live music every evening, and if you are there on Sunday, check out the “Acoustic Jam.” You will not be sorry.
   The “Jam” is an open invitation group of local (and visiting) musicians who gather from 5 to 8 p.m. They go around the group as each player names his (or her) selection. The rest join in spontaneously. It is great. The numbers range from folk, to country, to blues, to Irish drinking songs. You will not leave until it is over. Arrive early and get a close seat, so you can not only hear the instruments, but the solos.
   We arrived at Mt. Dora on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and it was packed with pedestrians wandering in and out of the many shops. It has tons of shops -- not my cup of tea -- but the ladies were apparently devouring the activity by the hundreds.
   Monday the place was a lot quieter and, to my way of thinking, a lot more pleasant, but being a Republican, I realized the cash registers weren’t as happy as they had been over the weekend.
   The high season starts on Thanksgiving day, when the small, delightful full-windowed Victorian dining room at the Inn overflows to the porch, the lobby, the bar, and the entire first floor to accommodate 1,000 folks -- 1/12th of the town’s population.
   There are numerous restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, including the Garden Gate Tea Room, which serves delicious lunches. We tried the chicken salad plate with fruit and homemade muffins. Great place, but serves “fruity” tea, so go with the lemonade.
   A couple of evenings we tried a restaurant called Pisces Rising. You know an eatery is top-notch if the Boss of the House goes back two nights in a row!
   Mount Dora is a great place to visit. The Lakeside Inn has regulars who stay every year for three months or so, beginning in December. There are other places to stay, including several attractive bed and breakfast inns.
   As I mentioned, the town, which sits on the shore of a big beautiful lake, was described to the  BOH and me as a town that time forgot -- the Florida aura for which I search. Architecturally, this is largely true. It is genuine old “wood and glass” Florida, not the high rise “chrome and plastic” tourist congestions blighting much of the Sunshine State’s two coastlines.
   While Mt. Dora (elevation 144 feet) was largely left alone by the chrome and plastic developers, the local community has not stood still. Again, my Chamber of Commerce and Republican roots come out -- the city fathers have done wonders to make Mt. Dora a neat place -- using the assets of a sleepier time to keep a vibrant economy awake. They are to be commended.
   This is a town whose leaders appear to have done the most they can with what they’ve got.
Would that we could say that about Grenada.

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Grenada, MS
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