Tag Archives: travel

A Visit to Historic St. Augustine

Since many of us are confined in quarantine these days, I thought a post about someplace beautiful and interesting would be in order. And, of all the places in this crazy world I’ve seen, there isn’t any more beautiful and interesting than St. Augustine, Florida.

Founded in 1565 by a Spanish conquistador, St. Augustine is “the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the contiguous United States.”  Located on the Atlantic, near the Northeast corner of the State, it is a wonderful place to visit.

Source: Google Maps

What makes St. Augustine fascinating to me is the multiple layers of history. After 200 years of Spanish rule, the town was ceded to the British in 1763, and became a haven for loyalists to the British Crown during the American Revolution. In 1783, ownership passed back to Spain, but only until 1821, when Florida was acquired as a territory by the United States. In the 19th century, residents of the town survived the Seminole Wars and then the US Civil War.

Flagler College and the Lightner Museum

Starting in the 1880s, St. Augustine became a winter haven for wealthy northerners as the Florida East Coast Railway, built by industrialist Henry Flagler, opened the state to tourism. Flagler’s Ponce De Leion Hotel (now Flagler College) is one of several grand buildings from the Gilded Age that you can still visit.

Except where noted, all photos by the author.

Flagler College, formerly the Ponce De Leon Hotel
Flagler College, formerly the Ponce De Leon Hotel

Across the street from Flagler College is another hotel of the era, also built by Flagler and now housing the Lightner Museum of Art.

Lightner Museum
Lightner Museum

The interor courtyard of the Lightner is especially lovely, with its papyrus pond, arcades and gold fish.

Papyrus Courtyard

Arcade

Papyrus Pool Bridge

At the back end of the museum is the reportedly oldest indoor swimming pool in the United States. Now, as you can see, it is a dining room.

Lightner Museum indoor pool

On my visit, I asked an employee “Where’s the water?” She replied: “Wait for the next hurricane.”

The Bridge of Lions and Historic District

Down the street from these fabulous buildings is the Bridge of Lions, which crosses the bay to nearby Anastasia Island. On the docks by the bridge, you can dine at restaurants or take a harbor cruise (in which case you might see dolphins).

Bridge of Lions
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lion_on_SA_Bridge_of_Lions.jpg

North of the bridge is the historic Spanish fort, the Castillo de San Marcos.

Castillo de San Marcos
Source: Castillo_De_San_Marcos_from_the_west,_February_2012.png By Mainstreetmark – I took a picture with my iphonePreviously published: nowhere, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24953822
The north wall of the Castillo de San Marcos. Taken By Victor Patel Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castillo_de_San_Marcos#/media/File:Castillo_de_San_Marcos.jpg

Across from the fort is part of the historic district dating back to the 1500s. There are narrow brick streets and numerous shops, houses, and courtyards.

Driftwood Horse in yard

 

Courtyard

Bordering the historic district on the North is the site of the original defensive gates. The history of the gates’ preservation and renovations makes an intriguing and amusing story, which we will save for a future post.

Old City Gates

The South side of the historic district is also worth a walking tour, featuring buildings from Victorian times including some that are now inns and B&Bs.

Victorian House

Courtyard

 

View from Balcony

At the southwest edge of the historic district is this lovely inlet:

Inlet

Anastasia Island and the Lighthouse

Finally, if you venture across the Bridge of Lions to the island, you can visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

St. Augustine Lighthouse

And if you’re fit enough to climb the spiral stairs to the top, you can enjoy quite a view:

View from the LIghthouse

View from the Lighthouse

More on St. Augustine

Official St. Augustine website: https://citystaug.com/

Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Augustine,_Florida

Vacation and Travel Guide: https://www.oldcity.com/

Till next month, friends, stay safe in there.

*******

Old Florida: The Grounds of the Ringling Museum

One of my favorite “Old Florida” spots is the Ringling Museum of Art complex in Sarasota. You can read about how this wonderful place came to be on their official website.

On a nice Saturday in January, I had the chance to tour the gardens…

This pond and statue are near the gate house.

 

A Rainbow Eucalyptus tree showing off its beautiful colored bark.

This is a Bo Tree, under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. Well, not this particular one:

This Banyan grove overlooks Sarasota Bay.

The Gardens are not without their dangers. The Banyan trees, for example, have been known to eat the statues.

…and the Bunya Bunya trees can drop 20 pound “pine cones” on your head.

There are even naked zombie statues lurking in the foliage.

But for the most part, the denizens of the garden are friendly.

…And Mabel Ringling’s Rose Garden is lovely beyond belief:

The Ringlings are buried at the edge of the property. Here, a butterfly is paying her respects.

This lion and sphinx apparently had an argument. I think they are stuck with each other, so hopefully they will make it up.

The courtyard of the art museum. The reproduction of Michelangelo’s David  is used on the logo of Sarasota County.