St. Augustine, Fl

        

                                                               St. Augustine, Florida

 

      Welcome to St. Augustine – the oldest European settled city in North America!  Ponce de Leon landed here in 1513.  Menendez de Aviles landed here in 1565  with soldiers and priests, and the city has been occupied ever since.   St. Augustine has old world charm with 21st century conveniences, shopping, ethnically diverse restaurants, family fun, and romance.   We love this city!  http://www.oldcity.com/  Start your visit with a stop at the Visitor Center on San Marco Avenue.  Then walk through the old city gates and stroll down St. George Street to partake of what St. Augustine has to offer.  Typical Spanish style homes, with second floor balconies overlook the narrow street.  Walled patios hide lovely gardens.  Imagine the 16th century Spaniards walking the same streets!   Visit the Spanish Quarter Museum which shows through living history, how the city unfolded through the centuries and changes in ownership.  The Spanish were the first Europeans, but not the first people to live here.  The Timucuans met them!  The French, English, Confederacy, and United States have all laid claim to St. Augustine.   The self-guided tour is $12.95 for adults, and $5.95 for children, and entitles you entrance to the Government House and the de Mesa-Sanchez Home, too.   The de Mesa-Sanchez home is from the mid 18th century, fairly modern by comparison.   http://www.staugustinegovernment.com/visitors/spanish_quarter.cfm  Then, stop at the Spanish Bakery between 9 and 3 for a delicious empanada, a meat pie, one of our favorite rest stops.  Lunch specials there are $5.00, and a single empanada is $3.00.  You can eat under the oaks.  Very nice!   http://www.thespanishbakery.com/  The Castillo de San Marcos is across the street, on Matanzas Bay.  It's the fort which once guarded St. Augustine, and definitely worth some time.   It’s a coquina fort.  Coquina is a soft rock made of limestone and shells.  The advantage was to allow the cannon balls to sink into the walls, not break them down!  During pirate attacks,  people gathered here for protection. Sir Francis Drake attacked St. Augustine.  Rumors of ghosts, too!  http://www.nps.gov/casa/index.htm  Also worth a look are the grounds of Nombre di Dios, just north of the fort, on San Marcos Avenue.  A 208 foot stainless steel cross marks the site of the Spanish Thanksgiving (the real first Thanksgiving) when they landed.   http://www.missionandshrine.org/  Look for the book at the Visitor's Center.   There is an old cemetery and a tiny Roman Catholic Church once used by the Spanish settlers.   If you'd like to see the town by water, cruises are offered.  For $15.75 for adults, 12.75 for seniors, 9.25 for teens, and $5.00 for children 4 – 12 you can enjoy a guided tour for approximately 1 ¼ hours.  

      There is no shortage of cuisines in St. Augustine.  Spanish, Mayan, Colombian, British, Asian, and American are included.   We sampled many.  Scarlett O'Hara's is an example of Florida fare.  We had gator tale, soup, and potato skins with a Blue Martini each (a house specialty), for a total of $40.  Very good!  Choose the front porch, the inside first floor, or go up to the Ghost Room for more atmosphere.  http://www.scarlettoharas.net/  At the Prince of Wales Pub on Hypolita Street, we sat on the porch people watching while we enjoyed our Scotch eggs and fried pickle (it really is tasty) and a beer, for $25. It's on the corner of Cuna and Spanish Streets.     For something a little different, visit the San Sebastian Winery on King Street.  Taste the wine and then go up to the rooftop for lunch.  The fruit and cheese platter is ample for 2 and costs $22.  Add two glasses of wine, $6 each and it's a delightful treat.   http://www.sansebastianwinery.com/ If it's breakfast you're looking for, the Bunnery on St. George Street is classic American.  Two delicious espressos and two savory feta and spinach croissants totaled $14.    We loved Casa Maya, a Mayan restaurant on Hypolita Street.   We enjoyed a breakfast of sweet potato pancakes, pablano eggs and excellent, strong coffee for $21.  One of our favorite stops is The Rendezvous in the St. George Mall.    There are beers from around the world and the bartenders are knowledgeable and helpful in selecting a beer.    Late in the afternoon, (or earlier if you want, because it's always 5:00 somewhere) stop by the Tini Martini Bar on Avineda Mendez, sit on the porch or out on the patio and sip while you enjoy the scenery.  http://www.casablancainn.com/martini.html  If you're celebrating a special occasion, The Tasting Room is just the place.  Dinner for two, with a $30 bottle of wine, two appetizers, the main course, AND desert is $95.  And the food is exquisite.  http://www.tastetapas.com/  It's on Hypolita Street. Of course, if you want pizza, ice cream, or fast food, there are plenty of choices there, too.

          So what about the romance?  A horse drawn carriage ride around the old city is $75, and you'll get history, too, if you want it.   Go to the water on Avenida Mendez.  Maybe a martini at the Tini Martini afterwards?   Or something at The Tasting Room?   Or a quiet stroll down by the water?  If you like lighthouses, there's one for you a short drive away on Anastasia Island, along with a beautiful, quiet beach.  More romance.  http://www.staugustinelighthouse.com/  The lighthouse tour is $18 for two, and entitles you to spectacular views of the ocean and the island, and a look at the house the lighthouse keeper and his family lived in.   There are 219 stairs, so be ready to exercise.  A small museum is on the grounds.     We were there on a Saturday, and were happily surprised to find a greenmarket with live entertainment.  It was a bonus to an already wonderful day.                                                                                                       http://www.st-augustine-travel-guide.com/anastasia-island.html

     There are so many other sights:  the Old Drug store, National Greek Orthodox Shrine,

 Old Jail, Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, Flagler College, and more.

     There are lots of boutiques and specialty stores in the old city and beyond.  You can find Irish goods, garden statuary, clothes, nautical memorabilia, toys, spices, and more.  There are photography studios that specialize in "old time "photographs.  At the I-95 exit, there are two outlet malls.

    There are a variety of ghost tours and pub crawls.   If you find you need an ATM, there is a 24 hour one behind the St. George Inn on Avenida Mendez.

     We love visiting St. Augustine!  It offers entertainment for everybody, and is a true Florida treasure.  There’s history, food, sports, scenery, romance, fun, arts, shopping, sun, sea, and sand.  As we wander, people say “Hello.”  If you're looking for a vacation destination in Florida, this is a great choice!

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