St Augustine Tourist

20130301-174701.jpg On the little map to the left the large green area is Anastasia State Park and the red dot is downtown St Augustine. We’ve spent the last 3 1/2 days being typical tourists here trying out new restaurants and seeing the sights. No drama, no excitement so this will be another first we did this, then we did that post. Sorry.

It started raining again Monday night and continued sporadically until lunch time Tuesday so after a lazy morning we drove into downtown St Augustine to have a look around and find a nice (indoors, warm, veg food) place for lunch. We had decided we would visit the Lightner Museum if it kept raining. This is right in the middle of downtown in what was once a huge old Spanish Renaissance hotel built in 1887. We thought lunch first, and had a delightful meal in the former swimming pool of the hotel, the Cafe Alcazar. At the time this was the world’s largest indoor pool. Why nineteenth century robber barons would want an indoor pool in sunny Florida is beyond me but there you go.

20130301-180309.jpg The grey floor is sloped down to the deep end where all the tables are. The table area had a flat floor, the water was 12′ deep there when it was a pool.

It finally stopped raining so we skipped the museum and strolled around town, visited a couple of old churches, did some window shopping and found the most wonderful handmade Popsicle store. I got avocado/coconut and Sue had strawberry/basil. Both were yummy and those are all fruits and vegetables, right?

By late afternoon the sun came out so we went for a walk on the beach. There were still big waves from Monday’s stormy weather and lots (dozens) of surfers in wet suits enjoying the waves. No surfers but a picture of the huge, deserted, endless beach.

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Wednesday started out slow, a little Internet surfing and a bike ride around the park and a little detour down to the beach. We had been told about a couple of excellent veg friendly restaurants so drove back to St A (only a couple of miles from the park) to try the The Floridian which advertised all the foodie buzz words: omnivore, herbivore, locavore. The facade was not too grand but the food was great.

20130301-182309.jpg Fun fact: The Floridian is right across the street from a Methodist Church and Florida (at least this county) forbids alcohol sales within 150′ of a church so they have a small bar room just past the 150′ mark. If you want a drink you have to get it in the bar and carry it yourself back to the table. When you check out you get a separate tab for the alcohol. Now that’s following the letter of the law!

After lunch we toured Castillo de San Marcos, a fort the Spaniards built in 1672 to defend the approach to St A on the Matanzas River.

20130301-183237.jpg The fort is the grey building to the right, the red roofs are the start of the downtown area. Here’s another picture from the top gun level:

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St A is the oldest (continuously occupied by Europeans) city in the United States. Ponce de Leon landed here in 1513 looking for the fountain of youth and another Spaniard started a settlement here in 1565.

This plaza
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is thought to be the oldest public square in America. That white monument was built because of an order that all Spanish cities celebrate Spain’s move to a constitutional government in 1813. In 1814 the the Spanish king returned to power and ordered all those spiffy new monuments destroyed but the people in St A never got around to it. It’s the only surviving monument from the 1813 order left in the world.

St A and all of Florida were part of Spain until 1763 when Spain gave Florida to Britain in exchange for Cuba. Spain got Florida back in 1783 because they were on the winning side (with us) in our war of independence against England. Florida finally became part of the US in 1821 and was granted statehood in 1845. Class dismissed.

Here’s a couple more photos of downtown. This is the main building of Flagler college, a collection of beautifully landscaped Spanish Renaissance buildings

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The cathedral of St Augustine, built in 1793, is just across the square.

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Thursday morning we toured the St Augustine Lighthouse and grounds.

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It’s 165′ high, 219 steps to the top. Here’s a picture looking up the tower from the ground level

20130301-205647.jpgand here’s a panorama photo from the top

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The lighthouse volunteer organization includes a group of wooden boat builders who work on the grounds three mornings a week.

20130301-211115.jpgThey had been working on this carvel planked (the most difficult type of traditional construction) 14′ ship’s boat for two years and still have a ways to go.

After spending a couple of hours at the lighthouse we continued into town to try the other veg friendly restaurant recommended to us, Casa Maya, specializing in Mayan food from Mexico. Here’s the requisite shot of Sue at the table, in this case on the second floor balcony.

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Friday morning we got packed up and parked the car+Snoozy at the lighthouse then walked the rest of the way into town to have another great lunch at the Floridian. Walked back mid-afternoon and drove an hour south to Tomoka Stare Park in Daytona Beach where your humble correspondent is finishing this post then hitting the sack.

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2 thoughts on “St Augustine Tourist

  1. St A looks great I’ve never seen a pool converted into anything, pretty neat. For a 14′ boat, that thing looks pretty beefy. I’m betting the two of us couldn’t throw that up on the roof-rack.

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