What a great place! We hadn't stopped here on our way south in 2009 and knew we wanted to make the time now to visit. We spent 2 weeks on a mooring at the municipal marina and had to drag ourselves away - this is definitely a place we could homestead in for months. Why? This place has natural beauty, incredible history and architecture, cultural activities, easy access to the necessities, and great weather (well, not sure about winter...). In the two weeks, we barely scratched the surface of what St Augustine has to offer.
First, we explored on foot. We started with the tourist sites like the Castillo de San Marcos, the Bridge of Lions, the cathedral, churches, synagogue, and the old Spanish town. Flagler College, a former 'Flagler' resort from the 1880s, was astonishing. We just couldn't imagine being students in a place this beautiful.
Then we went further afield, walking across the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island where we climbed the lighthouse. (Yup, the water outside the inlet is the choppiest water for miles around... so it hadn't been our imagination.)
Next big hike was across the Vilano bridge, north of the city. Vilano Beach looks like a place trying to make a comeback. The town renovated the old bridge as a fishing pier, there is a new Publix in town, several new motels, and old ones being renovated. The beach is pretty interesting as people just drive onto the sand, park, and play. Simple, right?
Remember we attended IndiaFest in West Palm Beach? Well, there was another Indian festival in St. Augustine one day while we were there - the Festival of the Chariots - complete with a procession, music, and traditional dancing.
Of course we spent hours in the kayak over several days exploring the marshes and discovering how the tides change the character of the coastline. It was great to be able to get behind clumps of grasses when boat wakes threatened or the winds and currents made it just a little too hard to keep paddling in the open. One day we kayaked Salt Run, which borders state parkland, saw a baby sea turtle (lost?) and zillions of birds. Coming up on a sea of grass, about a half dozen great blue herons heard us and all rose into the sky at once. So rare to see many together. But the best part of the day was when 3 dolphins came to see us. They actually swam over and surfaced and looked at us several times. Wow! More about dolphins later...
We heard about the Lincolnville Farmers Market, so we set out for that last Sunday. Of course we got some beautiful vegetables and bread, but the best part was learning about the neighborhood on the walk over. Some wonderful Victorian era homes have been preserved, but better still, the Freedom Trail markers throughout the area outlined St. Augustine's role in the Civil Rights era. These markers tell the story so well, and are sad reminders that this really is very recent history.
We had a special day when two of John's West Point classmates and spouses came to meet us for lunch and a boat visit. It had been a long time and it was good to see everyone and catch up on what we'd been doing for the last 40 years. We won't wait decades to do this again.