About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

Florida: St. Augustine

Wednesday, October 19th

This morning I waved goodbye to my friend Asheev and Daytona Beach, and made my way to historic St. Augustine about an hour north, taking the one-lane scenic route, which for the most part follows the tranquil shoreline of the Atlantic directly east, occasionally departing from the sea at times through the little coastal towns that spontaneously crop up along the way, sprinkled with a broad range of vacation homes from mellow and modest to large and lavish; a lovely little journey indeed, thanks to Asheev's thoughtful recommendation =D

Entering the Old-World City of St. Augustine is Unmistakable as you 
Cross the Majestic "Bridge of Lions" and the Monumental 
Red-Roofed Towers of Coquina Begin to Appear 

"Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European and African-American origin in the United States. Forty-two years before the English colonized Jamestown and fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Spanish established at St. Augustine the nation's first settlement.

"From that day until today, the City of St. Augustine has continued to survive and thrive,  as it proudly proclaims over four centuries of history that includes Spanish and English, Greek and Minorcan, Native American and African American influences, making it the longest continually inhabited European founded city in the United States, or more commonly called the 'Nation’s Oldest City."

-----------------------------------------BRIEF HISTORY-----------------------------------------

Like countless cities across America, the story of HOW the city of St. Augustine was founded and established is not as enchanting as it's big, beautiful statues: 

In 1513 the King of Spain ordered Juan Ponce (aka Ponce De Leon, who stood 4'8") to give up his seat as the first Governor of Puerto Rico and take three ships with lots of sailors and soldiers and head north in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth.  Ponce found North America, came ashore and met the native Timucua Indians (who stood an AVERAGE of seven feet tall).  The King was happy with Ponce's discovery and sent his knight, don Pedro Menendez de Aviles (along with African slaves and a few priests) to kill the 250 French Protestants who had also discovered the area, and to build a fort. 

Pedro landed on September 8th, 1565, killed the 250 French Protestants and sat down for a lovely little your-land-is-now-ours thanksgiving meal with the Timucua, whose estimated population of 200,000 would dwindle to less than half by the end of the first Spanish period in 1763, decimated by European diseases like small pox, measles and syphilis.

African slaves who escaped the American plantations to the north were given sanctuary, arms, and supplies if they joined the Catholic Church and swore allegiance to the King of Spain, proving useful in preventing the British colonists from seizing the city.

British Rule - The 1763 Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War and gave Florida and St. Augustine to the British, and almost all of the population of 3,100 Spaniards departed from St. Augustine to Cuba; the remaining Timucua went with them, then the Spanish tried to enslave them, the Timucua refused, the Spanish killed some, the rest died by their own hand.  There are no more Timucua, an entire people, all 200,000 of them, are wiped from the face of the earth.

Second Spanish Rule - The 1783 Treaty of Paris ceded Florida back to Spain in recognition of Spanish efforts on behalf of the American colonies during the American Revolutionary War.

American Rule - Florida was ceded to the United States by Spain in the 1819 Adams–Onís Treaty, Florida gained statehood in 1845.


My First Stop: "The Honeestead, Where I'd Get to Spend the Next Three Days Showering Outside Next to the Chickens (That'll Wake Ya Up!) and Laughing Around the Family Dinner Table with Alanna, Bree, Evan, Liz and Kim, 5 Remarkable People I'd Get to Call Friends =D

Avoiding the Hefty $10 per Vehicle per Entry Charge of the Parking Garage, I Found Free Parking in the Residential Area About a 1/3-Mile Behind the Visitor Center and Just Walked There for my Maps and Discount Tickets for the Open-Air Sightseeing Train =)

The Sightseeing Trains are a Great Way to Get a General Lay of the Land and Overview of the Popular Points of Interest in a Reasonable Amount of Time, but Seeing as How I was in St. Augustine for 3 Days, I Should've Skipped the Sightseeing Train ($21) and Traveled on Foot at my Discretion and Leisure, Since it Travels Only One Route/One Direction, Which Gets Annoying Every Time you Want to Backtrack or Need to Wait to Catch the Next One.  I Did However Come Out with a Handy Dandy Little Train Whistle I'm Sure I'll Get a TON of Use Out of, haha

Nonna's Trattoria was the Perfect Place to Stop and Catch a Casual Lunch al Fresco, on Lovely Little Aviles Street, "The Oldest Street," Quaint and Colorful, Where Food 'n Art Abound.  I Got a Fresh Caprese Salad, Delicious House Salad and French Fries All for Only $8 +tip 'n tax, Hooray!

At Gaufres N Goods, also on Aviles Street, I Got my Key West-Style Sweet-tooth Fix with a Kermit's Chocolate-Dipped Key Lime Pie on-a-Stick ($4.19), YUM!

"Castillo de San Marcos (later renamed Fort Marion) is the Oldest Structure in the City, Officially Taken Off the Active List of Fortifications in 1900, Now Preserved as a National Monument by the National Park Service.  At Over 315 years Old, the Fort is a Lasting Landmark of Seventeenth Century St. Augustine," and with Admission at Only $6, it was Certainly Worth the Visit

Its Numerous rooms, Large Interior Courtyard, Gun Deck, Great View of the City, Re-enactments, Cannon Firings, Guided Tours and Weaponry Demonstrations Made it a Nifty Place to Check Out

Rhett Butler's last words to Scarlett O'Hara in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, Sums up this Restaurant's Laid Back Atmosphere (and Tagline on Their Sign) Quite Well: "Frankly I Don't Give a Damn" LOL

These 'Lil Guys May LOOK Like Chicken Fingers, but Pop One in Your Mouth and You'll be Chewin' on Slimy, Southern-Style 'Gator Tail, Deelish!

At Pizzalley's, Located on Popular Charlotte Street, My Dollars Danced the Night Away After Taking Advantage of the Amazing Happy Hour that Some Young, Fun Locals Recommended While I was at Scarlett O'Hara's: Order any Alcoholic Drink (My Gin & Tonic was $5 Including Tax) and you Get A Second One for Free PLUS a Big Slice of Pizza, AWESOME! =D

Thursday, October 20th

After a Fun Night of Getting Acquainted and Exchanging Stories with "The Honeybees", I Awoke Ready for Another Full Day of Exploring the City, this Time on Foot.  Walking Down San Marcos Street, My First Stop was Nombre de Dios (translation: Name of God), America's First Mission Located on "'America's Most Sacred Acre,' Where on September 8, 1565 (55 Years Before the Pilgrims Set Foot on Plymouth Rock) Pedro Menendez de Aviles Founded the Town, The Mission, and After the Country's First Mass, Celebrated a Meal of Thanksgiving with the Native Tumucuans."  In Other Words, in the Name of God, Spanish Settlers Claimed the Native Americans' Land as Their Own, and Stripped them of their Cultural Ways and Spiritual Beliefs, Converting them to Good, Fine Roman Catholics... Above is an 11 Foot Bronze Statue of Father Lopez (Chaplain of Pedro Menendez's Expedition and Founding Pastor of the Parish of St. Augustine) in Celebration, with a 208-Foot Stainless Steel Cross in the Background, Celebrating the Site

At the Center of the Mission is the Shrine which Houses a Replica of the Statue of Our Lady of La Leche, Translated as Our Lady of the Milk (Please Pass the Cookies).  Here, Mother Mary Nurses Baby Jesus (Gentle Please, I'm a Virgin)

Just Further Up the Road from the Mission and Hungry Howie's (the blandest pizza I've ever tasted, but what can you expect from a buffet, lol), The Statue of Ponce de Leon Stands Proud at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological ParkCommemorating his Arrival in Florida in 1513 and the Legend of the Fountain.  It's the Site of  Some Significant Excavations (Early Indian Burial Grounds, Artifacts, etc), but it's Cheapened by Hokey Commercial Gimmicks Found at Every Turn

Magic Water Down the Hatch, Filled up the Water Bottle Just in Case haha, We'll See, Fingers Crossed!

Oak-Tunneled Streets of Spanish Moss Just Outside the Archaeological Park, Takes me Back to Savannah...

Just Outside the Old St. John's County Jail, Now a Tourist Attraction Recreating Prisoner Life at the Turn of the Century; Oh How Cute! :P

Dogs Were Barkin', Red Train to the Rescue!

Just a Cinderella Kind of Day...Not for ME, but for Someone 
Who Can Afford it I Mean :P 

The Old City Gate Toward the North End of Busy St. George Street, Constructed of Coquina as a Line of Defense for the City in 1808, at One Time the Only Entrance into St. Augustine

Glass-Encased Shelves of Countless Tinctures, Tonics and Elixirs Line the Walls of "The Oldest Drug Store," Built in 1739, Which Once Sold Liquor, Tobacco, Indian Remedies and their own Medical Concoctions, Now Serves as a Free Museum and Gift Shop; the Antique Cash Registers and Old Wooden Floors Take You Back =)

Spanish Renaissance Revival with Moorish Elements Defines the Architecture of Grace United Methodist Church, whose Terra Cotta Spire and Moldings are a Continuing Reminder of the Impact of Spain on the Entire City

Did Grace UMC Steal this Gaudy Chandelier from Donald Trump's House?!

Henry Flagler, Co-Founder with John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil, Arrived in St. Augustine in the 1880s and was the Driving Force Behind Turning the City into a Winter Resort for the Wealthy Northern Elite.  He Built or Contributed to Several Churches, Including this Most Ornate Memorial Presbyterian Church, Designed in the Second Renaissance Revival Style and Inspired by St Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy; Dedicated in Honor of his Daughter who Died of Childbirth Complications.  He Ordered it be Erected in Time to Commemorate the First Anniversary of her Death, Leaving his 1,000 Workmen 361 Days on 12 Hour Shifts (on triple pay) to Complete it.  Upon Flagler's Death in 1913 he was Interred in a Marble Mausoleum within the Church Beside his Daughter, her Infant Marjorie, and his Wife - each of his Three Grandchildren Received an Allotted $1,070,000, Today's Equivalent of $24,000,000!

Inside, the Church Boasts the Fourth Largest Pipe Organ in the United States with Over FIVE THOUSAND Pipes! 

Built by Eccentric Boston Millionaire Franklin W. Smith in 1883, Villa Zorayda was Inspired by the 12th-Century Moorish Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, and Could be Considered the First Example of Fantasy Architecture in Florida, and in Some Ways the Progenitor of Disney World.  The "Sultans Den" Includes a 2,300 Year-Old Rug Made from Woven Cat Fur, and Each Window of the Building is a Different Shape and Size, Because According to Superstition, with such Windows the Spirits Could Leave the House and Have Trouble Finding Their Way Back in...WOW, LOL

Spanish Renaissance-Style Flagler College, formerly the Ponce de León Hotel (closed 1967),  the Nation’s First Major Poured-in-Place Concrete Structure and One of the First Buildings in the Nation to have Electricity, Thanks to Flagler's Famed Friend, Thomas Edison!

When Flagler Finished the Ponce de Leon Hotel in May 1887, his Workmen Broke Ground for the Alcazar Hotel to Keep his Guests Entertained - it Contained a Casino, Bowling Alley, Billiards Parlor, Ballroom, and One of the Country’s First Indoor Swimming Pools - and that's Just on the First Floor!  On the Second Floor was a Gymnasium, Steam Bath, Russian Bath, Turkish Bath and a Shower Stall with Sixteen Heads!  He Showed Silent Films and Rented Wheelies - the Bicycles with the Big Front Wheel and Small Rear Wheel

The Great Depression Hit, the Hotel Closed for 17 Years, then Otto Lightner Came and Opened it as a Museum to Show his Curious Collections Obtained on his World Travels, He Died only a Year Later, then it Became City Hall, which Re-opened Lightner’s Museum

Exploring the Grounds, I was Delighted to find a Center Garden Courtyard Featuring a Tranquil Pond of Colorful Koi, only 25 Cents to Feed 'Em - After a Lot of Walking it was the Perfect Surprise and Reason to Relax =D

I Popped into the Tradewinds Lounge for Happy Hour and was Pleased to Find some Live Music at only 5pm.  "The Oldest Lounge in the Oldest City" was Near Empty, but on Stage Sat a Couple of Longtime Locals who Didn't Seem to Care while they were Strummin' and Singin' Oldies Tunes as I took in the Festive Halloween Decor

Took a Lovely Little Evening Stroll Down Popular Pedestrian-Only St. George Street, the Heart of St. Augustine, where Charming Shops, Eateries, Museums and Historic Buildings Abound.  The City's Oldest Streets were Made Very Narrow to Make the Town Easier to Defend, Since it's would be Difficult to March Very Many Soldiers Down them All at One Time.  The Street Bears to the Left so that a Cannon Balls Could not be Fired Straight Through Town.  And When Sea Breezes Hit these Narrow Streets in the Summer Time, they Pick Up Speed and Cool the Town Faster. Today this is called the Bernoulli Effect!

The Original, Restored Rodriguez-Avero-Sanchez House (ca. 1762) 
is a Sterling Example of Colonial Architecture

Even After a Slice of Authentic New York Pizza from Pizza Time (I thought it was okay, but it's highly rated on urbanspoon) and a Cheap Drink at Laid-Back St. George Tavern, I Just HAD to Stop into the Quaint Prince of Wales Restaurant, where upon Entering the Cozy One-Room with Walls Covered in British Kitsch from Inch to Inch, I was Greeted by a Friendly Woman Behind the Warm, Amber-Lit Bar

Fried Mashed Potato Balls, Stuffed with Jalapenos & Pepper Jack Cheese
Cheese Sticks Dipped in Buffalo Sauce & Coated in Beer Batter
Onion Rings Battered w/ Black & Tan Stout, Served w/ Honey Mustard

Beer Battered Mushrooms Served w/ Chili Sauce

This Visit Marked the First Time I've Ever Been to a Non-Vegetarian Establishment and Could Order Anything Off the Appetizer Menu without Customizing!  Glad I wasn't Considering Health, lol.  Here's to Pub Food!

Friday, October 21st

After Last Night's Belly Laughter-Filled Dinner at the Honeybees Homestead and Sleeping Like a Rock, I Returned to the 11-Block Pedestrian Mall of Bustling St. George Street.  I  my $4 Tuition, Received my Green Wrist Band and Entered the Grounds for "The Oldest Wooden School House in the United States," (also the first co-ed school!), Made Completely by Hand of Red Cedar, Cypress and Wooden Pegs, Appearing on Tax Rolls for Year 1716, so it had No Electricity or Running Water.  In 1858 Students Paid 25 Cents a Week for Schooling, but the Schoolmaster was More Often Paid in Cord, Wool or Milk!

After Stepping Inside its One-Room filled with Copies of their Original Textbooks and School Artifacts, I Listened to the Animatronic Schoolmaster and Students in Period Attire Describe a Typical Day.  The Stairs Led Up to a Closed-Off Section used as the Schoolmaster's Living Quarters; Unruly Students were Placed in a Small Space Underneath the Stairs, the Dunce Hat was Not Placed on the Head of a Bad Child, but Rather on a Slow Learner (gee, that wouldn't be embarrassing!).  Outside in the Garden I Peeked Inside the Kitchen, Saw the Privy and the Well.

I Couldn't Help Feeling a Bit of Enchantment as I Wandered 
Old-World St. George Street

In a Historic Stone Kitchen at the Back of a Picnic Table-Strewn Courtyard Sits Humble Spanish Bakery, where for Only a Few Bucks (a bargain) I Walked out with a Fresh Baked Cinnamon Roll and Apple Turnover - I Wish They'd Been Warm, but Still Delicious!

Got to Wash Down the Rolls with an Amazing Cup of Frozen Hot Chocolate from Adjacent Whetstone Chocolates

Making my Way to the Plaza of St. Augustine, I Checked Out the Early 18th-Century Georgian-Style Government House Museum, which Originally Throughout the Colonial Period (1565-1821) Housed the Residence and Office of the Governors of Florida.  It Illustrates the City's 400 Plus Years of History through a Chronological Series of Archaeological and Historical Exhibits of Over 300 Artifacts, Including Treasure from Spanish Shipwrecks and American Indian, Military and Religious Items.  FREE of Charge!

The Oldest Public Park in the Country and Now a National Landmark, the
 Plaza de la Constitucion has been the Center of Life in St. Augustine Since its Construction by Spanish Royal Ordinances in 1573, 34 Years Before the English Settlers of Jamestown Waded Ashore in Virginia. It was Here that the Exchange of Flags took Place when Florida was Transferred from Spain to the United States, Meetings were Held on the Eve of the Civil War, and Union Navy Officers Crossed the Park in 1862 when they Reclaimed the City from the Confederates.  On the Plaza Itself can be Found a Public Well that Dates from the 1600s, the Historic Market Place Structure, a Monument to Confederate Veterans and 19th Century Monument to the Spanish Constitution of 1812.

Facing the Plaza is the Cathedral of St. Augustine, Completed in 1797

Wells Fargo Occupies the City's First, and Last Skyscraper, Located Next to the Cathedral, Constructed in 1928, a Year After the Bridge of Lions Opened.  The Six-Story Building Plus Mezzanine Originally Housed First National Bank and Offices of One-time Mayor Herbert E. Wolfe.

The Main Lobby Consists of Marble Floors and the Building's Original Vault

Trinity Episcopal Parish's Victorian Gothic Church of Hewn Stone

The Building Contains 28 Stained Glass Windows, Even a Tiffany!
Call me Crazy, but Wouldn't Tithes be Better Spent Helping the Poor?

At Casa de Horruytiner, The Bottom Half of the Wall is known as "Tabby," made of Whole Oyster Shells, Equivalent of Modern Poured Concrete.  Tabby Houses Comprised 39% of the Structures in St. Augustine at the End of the First Spanish Period (1763).  By 1788 only 5% remained.  Today, this is the Last Known Free-Standing Wall of this Type in the Entire City.  The Walls are Also 12" Thick and are Built Right up to the Street, Reflecting the Requirements of Royal Decrees for New World Towns Issued by the King of Spain in 1573.

I Want One!

Serious Curb Appeal!

After a Yummy Falafel Gyro at Gyro House, I Found Myself 
Back on Cheery Aviles Street...

If These Walls Could Talk They'd Never Shut Up =D

"A 1990 Excavation of this Coquina Block Well Revealed Furniture Fragments from the 1600s, a Rarity Among the City's Artifacts.  Most Likely, the Well was Built in the Early 1600s and Filled Quickly about 1670 with Household Items from a Catastrophe, Perhaps a Fire or Enemy Raid.  Archaeologists Found Earthen Building Material, Probably from a House Destroyed by a Tragedy

Tovar House, Built Sometime Between 1702-1763

At 14 St. Francis Street Right Next Door to the Tovar House, Sits the González-Alvarez House, aka "The Oldest House," Built Soon After the English Burned St. Augustine in 1702.  It was Originally a One-Story Rectangle with Two Rooms; a Wooden Second Story, Off-Street Porch and Other Features were Added as Times Changed During the Spanish, British and American Occupations.  Admission is only $4 with a Student ID, and Gets you a (very quick) Guided Tour to Learn How Residents back then Lived.  I wish the Guide had Pointed Out the Cannon Ball Lodged in one of the Exterior Walls!

* No Indoor Photography Permitted *

View from the Backyard

The Outdoor Kitchen

The Outdoor Kitchen, Interior

This Crude, Early Water Purification System using Lavastone was 
Quite Novel for Homes in the 17th Century - and it can Stay that Way! =)

Wondered what this Guy's Story is as I walked Along the Seawall

Bridge of Lions


Engraving: "The Discoverer of Florida, Juan Ponce de Leon, 
Landed Near this Spot in 1513"

Inside Cathedral of St. Augustine
(it was closed for a private function at the time I took the earlier exterior shots)

After a Quick Visit to St. Photios National Shrine, I Drove Over to the Lighthouse on Anastasia Island, Built in 1874,
Before the Old Tower Toppled into the Sea

Climbing up the Tower's 217 Stairs Gives you an Appreciation for its Keepers, Whose Job Entailed Lugging a 30-Pound Can of Lard Oil up to Clean the Lens

The View was Worth it!

The Museum Inside the Restored Keeper's House

I'd Already Been to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Los Angeles, but Since this one's the Original Housed in Moorish Revival-Style Castle Warden (1887) with 800 Exhibits, (with a Discount from the Red Train) I Thought What the Heck

The Crazy Exhibits, Unusual Art, and Artifacts from Around the Globe Included Real Shrunken Human Heads, Pirates (above), and the World's Largest Operational Erector Set Ferris Wheel!

Upon Returning to the Honeybee's Homestead, I Followed the Sounds of Laughter and Conversation through the House to the Backyard where a Crackling Bonfire Entertained Evan and his Friends, Who Invited me to a Cold Beer and a Place at their Circle for a Night of Jokes and Storytelling =D

The Next Morning I said my Heartfelt Goodbyes and Shared a Good Hug or Two, and Spent a Little Time at the Ocean Before Leaving "The Old City" with a Load of Wonderful New Memories to Take Back Home.  
Yes, HOME home...Minnesota.


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