2008 Keys 2 Canada travel blog

our campsite at Anastasia S.P.

an evening walk on the state park beach

terns and gulls

view north at sunset

entering St. Augustine from the Bridge of Lions

the proud Castillo de San Marcos

old town patio

our first trolley stop

many of the buildings in Old Town date to the mid 18th...

coquina block construction

buildings here are so old some of them have chains to keep...

classroom

another chain to keep the chimney from falling down

visiting school kids check out the well

schoolyard statue

tribute to the Minorcan heritage

church

another church

there were so many it was impossible to get all the names

the architecture is so beautiful here you can't stop taking pictures

Moorish building

pot in a garden

home of the woman who took in Dr. Martin Luther King when...

typical wall

wagon

a collection of restored homes

local

typical statuary

well

another statue

garden gate

museum and office

restored home

kitchen

parlor

window

dining room

early resident

everyone was related in those days

Murat's parlor

and ghosts in the mirror

another statue - minus a foot

Flagler College

conquistador

you have to love this roof line

college tower

National Guard cannon

Ponce de Lion's Fountain of Youth

so they say

a stone cross they unearthed to prove it

Ponce (larger than life in this diorama) meets the Indian chief (smaller...

this was Florida in 1560 - and in Jeb Bush's imagination today

their old planetarium

Juan de Ponce de Lion - all 4'-11" of him

me and badass Sheriff Peters

Madolyn and the Sheriff

the old jail gallows


From Ponce de Lion to Henry Flagler - Tuesday, April 22

The oldest continuously occupied settlement in America

While Columbus is credited with discovering America, what he mainly discovered were the Virgin Islands. Credit for being the first European to set foot on the American mainland goes to Juan Ponce de Lion. (It should probably go to the anonymous Spanish sailor who pulled the dinghy ashore so the great Ponce could step out without getting his armor wet, but Ponce was captain of the ship and RHIP. This historic event took place in the year 1513, on the beaches of what is now St. Augustine.

Fortunately for Juan, the seven foot natives that greeted him were friendly. Not speaking Spanish they hadn’t figured out yet that this 4’-11” pygmy was claiming them for Spain. For the sake of the paperwork Ponce needed a name for what he was claiming, and it would never have occurred to him to ask the natives what they called it, (a fortunate blunder that gave him time to get away, and probably prolonged his life for a few more months!)

The place was pretty enough, and Spain was having it’s annual Festival of Flowers that month, so Ponce decided to name his conquest ‘Florida’. Since he was claiming everything from Labrador to the Rio Grande, the whole continent of North America was to be known as Florida - and so it was on the maps of the day. Fortunately for the Democrats, the Florida of today is considerably smaller.

Ponce was eager to explore his discovery, but on the other side of the peninsula he ran into natives who were not quite so friendly. This tribe had the good sense to put an arrow in him, and he died without ever seeing Spain again. One of those historical facts that reminds us there is indeed a GOD!

Settlement did not begin until the 1560’s, when the Spanish king feared that the French and English might want to get in on his looting of the new continent. To stop them he dispatched a general named Melendez to come here and build a fort. The settlement that grew up around the fort became St. Augustine, recognized today as the oldest city in the United States.

The Saint Augustine of today is a city of considerable beauty. A rich mix of cultures that have all contributed to it’s heritage. Spanish, French, English, Italians and Greeks blended together with the Indians, Africans, Asians and South Americans, and from the architecture to the food, the result is colorful and inviting.

There’s a relaxed atmosphere in the town. Trams loaded with tourists slow the traffic some, but the locals take it in stride and don't seem to mind. On the pedestrian streets of Old Town you see Flagler College students mixed in with geezer groups like Elderhostel - and sooner or later every school kid in Florida comes here on a field trip to learn about their history.

We spent three happy days in St. Augustine, camped at Anastasia State Park across the Bridge of Lions and south of the black and white striped lighthouse. The park is cool and relaxing, with the campsites buried in the shade of the forest, and long stretches of clean white beaches if you want to venture into the sun. From the park it’s a short drive into town, where there is plenty of parking and trams available for a reasonably priced ticket that is good for three days.

We rode and walked all over Old Town, visiting shops and historic sites like the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse and the Old Jail. One very special place is a block of old homes that have been restored, and you can wander through them and imagine how life might have been here over the years. If you like history and architecture it’s a photographer’s paradise, with comfortable old homes, stone statuary, profuse gardens and rusty old fences.

Other highlights included a visit to the spring Ponce hoped might be his ‘Fountain of Youth’, and brunch at a Mayan restaurant we found quite by accident. Fresh squeezed orange juice to die for, and an Apocalypto Sandwich to take you the rest of the way to heaven. Chorizo, egg, beans, avocado, cheese and tomato, on a fresh roll they bake themselves, with habanero salsa for the brave (or foolish). The owner waited on us at a sidewalk table, and it was absolutely the best experience of the day.

We saved the fort, Castillo de San Marcos for another day, and we’ll visit it tomorrow before we leave town.



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