Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Who Came First?

The National Park Service established the Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve, in part, to memorialize the human histories of the area. We visited on  a whim, following a sign on the road, not knowing a thing about it.  I'm glad we did.  The visitor center holds artifacts unearthed and a display that details the activities that took place here.

Fort Caroline, on the banks of the St. Johns River near Jacksonville, Florida was established by the French in June 1564, predating St. Augustine's September 1565 by a few months. That same year, the Spanish traveled up the river, sacked the French and built their own fort on the same site.  They held the fort until 1568 when the French returned in revenge for the 1565 massacre, slaughtering all the Spaniards.  The Spanish rebuilt the fort, but permanently abandoned the site the following year.  So, while St. Augustine is, in fact, the oldest surviving city, I was surprised to discover that it was not settled first.

Fort Caroline
The fort has been recreated by the Park Service

Entrance to the fort

St. Johns river
This is the view from the fort.

The Timucua were American Indians that were instrumental in the survival of both the French and the Spanish who occupied Fort Caroline and its surrounding village.  Not generally unified, the tribes were varied and connected only through their use of a common language.

Owl totem
This extremely rare and unusual totem was enormous and its discovery, intact, seems amazing to me.
Typical Timucuan structure

 A little off the beaten path, this is the kind of treasure I love to find when traveling.  I'm once again reminded how lucky I am to live in a country that honors its past and preserves it for generations to come.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Oldest City

Although Santa Fe begs to differ, St. Augustine claims to be the oldest continuously occupied city in North America.  Only 40 miles or so from Jacksonville, where were staying, it was, we thought, an easy day trip to go see the sights.  Well, the single day turned into two days and we still didn't get to see everything that St. Augustine has to offer!

With a population of only around 13,000, the city was easy to navigate.  However, since there is so much history in the area, we opted to take another Hop On, Hop Off trolley.  This let us get an early overview of things to see, then decide where we wanted to spend time.

The architecture in the city is beautiful.  The brick and stone work is amazing - they sure don't build like this anymore.

Grace United Methodist Church

Terracotta detail around the doors

Flagler College. 
Henry Flagler was a big wheeler and dealer in St. Augustine in the late 1800s.  He built what is now the college as a luxury hotel and the Methodist Church (above) was built in exchange for a piece of property he wanted. 

St. Augustine's only skyscraper
Built before the city could approve the plans, the city later enacted a law prohibiting any building over 35 feet.

Reconstructed gates to the city
St. Augustine was once completely walled in.

Coquina walls
Made from fragments of shells, when first quarried this material is extremely soft.  After drying for 1 to 3  years, it can be used in building.

Magnolia Street
The street is lined with 80 - 100 year old live oak trees.  I'm not sure why they call it Magnolia Street!

Old Senator
A live oak tree, it is 600 years old and has a palm tree growing out of its center.

This fort is the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S.

Originally covered in plaster and painted the Spanish colors of red and white, you can still see traces of the original plaster.

One of the watch towers

Cannon firing
These reenactors performed the cannon firing ceremony, which is very detailed and regimented, in Spanish.  At least, it sounded like Spanish to me, but I was standing next to a Spanish-speaking woman who told me they were definitely winging it!

St. George Street
Our tour guide called it "Credit Card Street" because it is lined with every kind of store you can imagine.  Needless to say, we spent a couple of hours here.

Sid, the pirate
This was in front of a store that advertised "manly" souvenirs.

Me at the Fountain of Youth
You cannot go to St Augustine and skip the Fountain of Youth!  It is located in an archaeological park that sits on the site of the original colony established 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

Plastic cups are provided so that you can drink from the spring.  Yes, we did!

Sid, before drinking from the Fountain of Youth

Sid, after 
He said it's all in the attitude!  Don't you think he looks younger?

The peacocks on the grounds of the archaeological park were fun to watch.  They seemed very calm around people.

Female peacock

Male peacock in his full glory

White peacock
I'd never seen one like this before.

Crane (I think)
You know I have to get pictures of birds wherever I go!

Of course, there's a lot more to see in St. Augustine than I've shown here.  I'm glad we went, but I was a little disappointed that almost everything we saw was so touristy and, for the most part, reproductions. I did learn a lot of history, though, and that's always worth the time, in my opinion.  Just a word of caution - if you do go, go in the fall or winter, NOT the dead of summer!
Until next time...

Monday, August 24, 2015

It's Beach Time!

We wrapped up Virginia and, having checked off a good portion of our bucket lists, we decided to head straight to Florida and some major relaxation.  We powered through North Carolina...

Welcome to NC

This was in front of the North Carolina Welcome Center, but I have no idea what is represents!

Saw lots of tobacco fields along the way...

Tobacco fields
Much prettier in person than in a picture.

  The weather began getting hotter in South Carolina...

Welcome to South Carolina

And finally drove into Florida on the second day...

Welcome to Florida

We got to our RV park on Naval Station Mayport and hit the beach...

Believe it or not, this is the beach on an average attendance day!!
The beach is on Naval Station Mayport and, since you have to have a military ID to get access, it's generally never crowded.  About 2 or 3 miles long, it's like having my own private beach!  And I've been walking on it about 7 miles a day since we've been here.

Sid's caught some fish...

We've seen some storms roll in and out...

Watched a guy land a small shark...

Enjoyed the sights and sounds of the shore...

Wondered about the many, many ships that come in and out...

Spent time photographing shore birds...

And, just in general, did a lot of relaxing!

Beach in the morning, beach in the evening, beach all day long - it never gets boring! Along with a little sightseeing, which I'll post about later, and some driving around just looking, we've been here about two weeks and are ready to move on.  We're headed further south, to what's called Florida's Space Coast. and will have more adventures along the way.  Hope you'll join me!

Until next time...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Got Him to an Art Musuem!

One of the museums I really wanted to see in Williamsburg was the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and, surprisingly, Sid also wanted to go along.  It is one of the largest collections of American folk art.  Since folk art is defined as art by untrained artists and that's what I consider myself to be, I was looking forward to visiting.

The museum
The building itself is a historic structure and looks like a courthouse or something.

Cat carousal figure
I've never seen a cat on a carousal, let along one holding a fish!

Dollhouse made in a cigar box
There was a large collection of doll houses in a special display. One of the docents told us they are very rarely displayed, so I feel fortunate to have been able to see them.  Difficult to take pictures of, some of the houses were huge.

Gourd banjo
Made from gourds and animal skins, early banjos were introduced and used by blacks.

The quilt displays were fantastic.  Many patterns that I recognized and some of the tiniest stitches I've ever seen.

Yellow leg shore bird
You know how I love the shore birds!

Tobacconist figures
I've only ever seen Indians, but apparently other figures were used to advertise specific types of tobacco.

Weather vane
You can't imagine the variety of weather vanes there are.  I think the most unusual one, besides the Statue of Liberty shown here, was a train with 3 cars!

Portrait of a baby in a red chair
There were rooms of portraits, some better than others.  This one is one of my favorites.

Along with the portraits were some very interesting facts about portraiture in the 1600 and 1700s.  We had been told at another place that artists pre-painted the bodies, then added the heads when he had a specific commission.  Not true. Artists generally worked up the head first before going on to the bodies and backgrounds.  Unfinished portraits that survive are frequently with heads and nothing else; conversely, no oil painted headless bodies have ever been found!

Also, do you know why so many subjects of portraits are unsmiling?  People back then, not unlike today, wanted to  be shown with a pleasant expression on their faces, but to have displayed a broad grin or smile would have been associated with an unbecoming lack of self-control.  And some expressions in portraits of elderly people may reflect the fact that false teeth were far rarer that they are today, giving the person a surly or ill-tempered expression.

Sid spent quite a lot of time in the other side of the museum which is home to the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.  Primarily southern furniture from the 17th, 18th and 19th century, he enjoyed looking at the construction of the pieces, as well as the huge firearms collection they were displaying.

We easily spent a half a day going through this museum and I could have stayed longer.  I was a little disappointed by the lack of paintings other than portraits and there were less carvings than I expected, but it was still worth seeing.

Until next time...