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...

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