February 10, 2017 (by Angela)
When traveling for fun, deciding where we’ll go must always be a consensus of minds for harmony to prevail. Upon leaving Arkansas, we agreed to make our first stop in Texarkana, Texas. It was not certain which direction we would go until we had to decide whether we would drive east or west from there. Jim wanted to go to San Antonio, and I wanted to go to Florida. I’m not exactly sure why, but St. Augustine, Florida, has been on my “bucket list” for some time. I think the idea that it is the oldest, continuously occupied European city in the continental U. S. may be a large part of why I have wanted to visit the city. The other part is probably because I’ve heard and read that it is a beautiful city (and it is). Pushing my case for Florida, I had no qualms in weighting my argument by referencing long-range forecasts that pointed to a warmer February in Florida than in Texas. Jim acquiesced to my request (though every now and then “someone” mentions San Antonio), and we made our way to I-10 and headed east.
If you read 24 Hours to Siteless, you already know why we didn’t get to camp near St. Augustine, but we had a plan B that was implemented this week. As it turns out, it was much more affordable for us to camp at Suwannee River Rendezvous and do what we did. We used hotel points for our nice hotel room (with hot breakfast) and booked Chewie into a local Dogvacay. He had dog friends with which to play in a home environment, and we didn’t have to be concerned about him being alone while we did things he couldn’t do with us.
To say we had a blast is not an exaggeration!
Jim and I have had amazing experiences using Hop On, Hop Off city tours in both the U. S. and Europe, so this is the way we went. Initially, we only expected to use this tour service to “get the lay of the land,” but it turned out to be an awesome choice for our time in St. Augustine. We now know that we would have spent the cost of just one of our tickets in paying to park in the historic area over the course of two days, but the big win was that both of us could look at the sights and learn about the history shared without worrying about traffic or directions. After the first 90-minute trip around historic St. Augustine, Jim and I knew the places we wanted to hop off and explore more. Upon recommendation of one of the tour guides, we found a great place for lunch our first day. Later in the day, we stumbled upon real Italian gelato; this made my hubby’s heart sing.
Tired and hungry, we made our way to our cozy, comfortable hotel room. Jim had wanted seafood for supper, and lucky us – there was a nice and highly-rated seafood restaurant next door to the hotel.
Unfortunately, Jim did not rest well, so he was not 100% our second day out, but we still got to visit and do almost everything we had hoped to do on Thursday. If I shared all we learned, it would take a week of posts. Here are a few tidbits.
- Ponce de Leon was 4’11” tall, 5’5” in full uniform dress.
- Pedro Menendez, sent by Spain to rid Florida of the French, had mass upon landing and then proceeded to massacre 250+ Frenchmen as soon as possible thereafter.
- After four wooden forts burnt, the Queen of Spain sent word to build a fort of anything but wood. It took 23 years to build the fort, Castillo de San Marcos, out of coquina. The fort remains and has never fallen (but standing water is a problem to the integrity of the fort; hence, the moat was drained).
- When the British took over the city, they cut doors that opened to the street into the houses; the Spanish houses only had entrances through the courtyards.
- Henry Flagler, who was a partner with Rockefeller in Standard Oil, bought the railroads north to south along the east coast, combining them to get guests to his hotels in St. Augustine in a timely and convenient manner.
- In one way or the other, Flagler helped build three churches in St. Augustine; all are beautiful.
- After the Treasury building was built, law was passed to restrict buildings in St. Augustine to 35 feet tall.
- Flagler’s first hotel, the Ponce de Leon, is now Flagler College.
Below is a collage of some of the beautiful things we saw and experienced; click on or hover the cursor over a picture to see captions. If you can’t tell, we like architecture.
The picture below is “the Senator.” It is a live oak that is 645 years old and so named because it is crooked and shady. Growing inside the tree is a palm tree; the palm’s roots do not reach the ground. Jim asked the tour guide if anyone had tried to “grease the Senator’s palm”. The guide loved it! He asked to use Jim’s line in the future. Haha!
I had a great time checking this off my bucket list, and I appreciate Jim not only agreeing to my request but sharing the experience with me. Who knows? If opportunity presents itself in the next couple of weeks, we may meander over that way again with Chewie in tow. A dog trainer, who also matches dogs with veterans, told us that it and Jacksonville are the most dog-friendly cities in the state of Florida.