St. Augustine

March 30

Winds having abated, we enjoyed another lovely day cruising to St. Augustine. That afternoon we took a leisurely spin through town, venturing into art shops and poking down cobblestone lanes. We happened upon Kernel Poppers, boasting over 250 flavors of popcorn! After sampling Loaded Baked Potato and Wasabi, among others, we stuck with more traditional options that made our hearts sing and purchased small bags of salty Caramel Kettle Corn and Butter Rum. Dinner at Columbia was a treat, and we were scouting out the fish menu before we realized that this was a sister restaurant to the one we enjoyed so much at St. Armands in Sarasota. 

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Ummm….

The next day we got down to business seeing the sights! AAA suggested the jump-on-and-off trolley, so we booked it, not realizing how walkable the area is and how hokey the sights at farthest end are. We learned a lot of history at the Governor’s house, which also became the first United States Post Office. Those lessons were reinforced at the Castillo de San Marcos, swarming with costume-clad docents on a Saturday morning, regaling guests with stories about the 9 previous forts which had burned down; how 430,000 blocks of Coquina stone were quarried and used to construct this fort which protected 1700 people during a 51-day English bombardment; and a cannon demonstration. Tour guides expressed pique about school children being taught history through English eyes (Jamestown being the “first settlement” in 1607), as St. Augustine was incorporated a full 42 years prior. Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella’s mission being to convert the “savages” to Catholicism, all that was required for freed African slaves and Native Americans to be absorbed into the mainstream of society was to join the Catholic Church, and many did. With the influx of Spanish men vastly outnumbering that of Spanish women, racially mixed marriages were common and unremarkable, and the resulting culture was a rich amalgamation of traditions and 5768DA49-E417-484A-802E-4F789D69039Acuisines. We toured a small museum on pirate culture as it affected the city and learned a bit about the colorful life and draconian code of ethics aboard a pirate ship, and saw some pirate treasure. St. Augustine has multiple threads in its history, through the American Revolution (Spain assisted the colonists in this war), the Civil War (the Spanish had long before freed slaves), and the establishment of Florida as a tourist destination. Henry Flagler was big here, having established the first railway down the east coast of Florida, and two fantastic hotels to pamper the tourists who traveled this railway. While we would have enjoyed seeing more of the stellar Tiffany architecture and opulence and the many Tiffany windows at these hotels, we just ran out of time. But honestly, by this point we were a little annoyed with some of the touristy things we had gotten sucked into and felt done with St. Augustine. We enjoyed a Thai dinner with Dana and Doug Belknap, and we stumbled into an amicable political discussion after they learned we are Mennonite and made correct assumptions. They will be crossing their wake soon in Norfolk, but they will continue cruising the Down East Loop, up the northern seaboard and around Nova Scotia. We hope to see them again!

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Aviles Street, the oldest street in the United State.
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The mote around the Castillo de San Marcos was not filled with water; it was used for holding cows and pigs.
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The Castillo and courtyard protected 1500 townspeople and 200 soldiers during a 51-day English invasion.
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Volunteer docents added much to our visit to the Castillo. The tile-roofed building behind the soldier is Flagler College, originally a hotel. After a scuttlebutt with the town about the high profile of the tower, a law was passed in St. Augustine that no building shall exceed 35 feet, and even Hilton complies.
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A close-up of coquina, a porous limestone naturally created by pressed shells, which was quarried at nearby Anastasia Island. 430,000 blocks were cut by hand and transported by boat to build the Castillo.
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Grown men playing with fire….and demonstrating the efficiencies and inefficiencies of 17th century cannons.
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A bunk room in the Castillo
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The entrance hall to Henry Flagler’s opulent Alcazar Hotel which now houses the Lightner museum, an eclectic collection of Victorian treasures amassed by Chicago editor Otto Lightner during the Great Depression.
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The lobby of the Flagler Hotel, which now houses Flagler College. The architecture and decor, including many stained glass windows, were created by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Stunning.
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The courtyard entering Flagler College

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