Saturday, November 19, 2011

2011-36 St Augustine Florida

St Augustine

Campground:  St Johns RV park.  $12.50 Passport America Rate.  Water/Electric.  They also have full hookup sites w/cable tv.  ($15 PA rate)  Flea market next door but nicely separated by buffer of trees.  All sites are pull-thru’s.

Shout-Out:  Thanks to all the readers on for reading my Blog.  I’m so glad to have you along on my travels.  Hitchitch is a great resource to connect with other Rv’ers Blogs and learn about this most wonderful lifestyle.  Keep on traveling down those back roads to the next adventure.

An hour and a half on down the road and I was in St Augustine.  My campground is right off of hwy 95, but I was able to take some great back roads the entire way here.  Passing through places like Elkton, Spuds, Hastings and Palatka.  If I didn’t get off the main highways imagine what I would have missed.

Here’s a quick rundown on the history of St Augustine, one of my favorite places in Florida to visit.
  • Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain, 1513.
  • 1565 Pedro Menendez with 700 soldiers and colonists founded St Augustine
  • Menendez kicked out the French who recently established a garrison and were trying to worm their way into Florida
  • Life was treacherous with pirates roaming the coast, Indians and the isolation of the area.
  • Englishman Francis Drake burned down the town and fort in 1586
  • The town was sacked again in 1668
  • Spain realized they needed fortification to defend Florida so they built the Casillo de San Marcos in 1672 (yup, it’s still standing, guarding the city)
  • The darn English came back in 1702 and 1740 to take St Augustine but failed
  • But alas in 1763 England defeated Spain in the 7 years war and Florida was transferred to the English
  • Florida was returned to Spain as part of the American Revolution in 1783
  • 1821 the Americans took over Florida from Spain (Spain really wasn’t doing much with it)
  • 1883, Henry Flagler co-founder of Standard Oil Co visited the city, eventually building The Hotel Ponce de Leon and Hotel Alcazar along with bringing the railroad to Florida so all the wealthy folks along the east coast could come to Florida for winter vacations…. And that’s how Florida became a winter vacation paradise. The end.  

Making St Augustine the OLDEST city in the United States… so there… all you Pilgrims from Massachusetts and the New England States.  

Had a great day with the guys as we toured the area.  Lighthouses, a quick visit to Anastasia State Park, a tour of the historic downtown of St Augustine via carriage ride and lunch at the Columbia Restaurant.  A Cuban restaurant with a 100 year history in Florida.  The food was mixed in that some of the dishes were great and others were just so-so.  They served plantain chips instead of fresh plantains.  The chips were tasteless and shouldn’t have been served.  Drinks and deserts were top notch.

I took a tour of the Lightner Museum on my own as the guys were a bit slow in getting around this morning.  It’s in the original Alcazar Hotel.  Part of which housed the largest indoor swimming pool of it’s day, exercise and health spa for the wealthy of the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.  They’ve opened the top floor ballroom and the main hotel entrance has been restored to perfection since I was last here.  Near the end of my wonderings, they had a demonstration of vintage music players.  Some really unusual ones including one that played a piano and violin and another that contained pretty much a full band.  All the art objects would have been found during the height of the Golden age of travel.

In the evening, Walt, Ben, Scott and I went into St Augustine for dinner and music.  Tim is still going through recovery from a stoke and thought he might get too tired to really enjoy the adventure.  It was hard to leave him behind, but we went into the night for a bit of fun.  After crossing the Bridge of Lions, we drove along the harbor and found a parking spot.  Without any planning we walked along the narrow back streets in the heart of Old Town where there are dozens and dozens of restaurants and bars.  We found an outdoor dining patio, surrounded by palm trees and yucca’s.  Later we would find out it was attached to an English Pub for a completely different atmosphere inside.   The outdoor dining was perfect for a long leisurely dinner along with wine and good conversations.

Then it was into the night, walking along narrow brick lined  roads to the Stogie.  A Cigar smoking coffee house with live Jazz music every night.  A small intimate coffee house in one of those old houses that was probably from the early 1800’s.  Classy burgundy drapes on the narrow windows, a small bar serving coffee drinks, beer and wine.  A few small cushy couches, stuffed chairs and tall ladder back chairs against the wall between diminutive tables with small lamps on each one.

Two guitar players came in and set up in a corner.  The first singing and playing in a soulful silky smooth voice, later accompanied by another player with equal playing and singing creds.  Not quite Jazz, but more Joan Baize type music.  Next we wandered down more side alleys and found ourselves drawn to a small outdoor patio attached to Marie’s Crepe Restaurant.  A pair of gals were playing classical Russian, Greek and Spanish music on various guitars and violins.  Pure magic and so accomplished one got the feeling they were at a classy recital instead of sitting above the crowd on an outdoor tile lined patio.

More excitement came as three, more than inebriated, women came tumbling onto the patio.  Minutes later a police man came scurrying through looking for them.  They’d skipped out on paying their tab at the last place they were at.  After “escorting” them back to the previous establishment to make good on their tab, they returned to pay their bill at Marie’s.    Finally it was time for our group to head on back.  White rope lights and twinkling lights illuminating the dark night as we retreated from a night out on the town.

More photos on Picasa.

This is my last major posting of the 2011 season as I will be heading to Inverness and 1,000 Palms Rv Park for my winter stay.  Thanks for being a part of the journey.

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