We are visiting St Augustine with WBCCI’s Florida Unit for their Easter Rally. Some of you may recall reading last year’s journal entry (March 20, 2008) on this. Each of the past two years we spent a week or more in this area and welcomed the opportunity to return. Mother Nature and St Augustine have worked together almost perfectly to make this one of our best visits.
Yesterday we had a wonderful morning on a cruise on Matanzas Bay. We had moderate temperatures, bright sunshine, and light breezes, and were very comfortable sitting on the upper deck in the open air. The crew treated us to an interesting narrative about the coastal sites and some history behind some of the sites.
Today we toured the St Augustine lighthouse and museum, Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth, and Flagler College (formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel). Again the weather was just right, high sixties, and we were comfortable spending the entire day outside. We did a lot of walking throughout the day.
Some things we are visiting for the second or third time because they have enough dimension to warrant it. We continue to notice things we missed on earlier visits around Flagler College, on St George St and Hypolita Street. The lighthouse tour is a new attraction for us, and perhaps the first east coast one we visited. They have done an excellent job restoring it and operating it, and the lighthouse was an informative and very enjoyable visit.
After the lighthouse visit we drove to a nearby restaurant we tried last year with Doug & Darlene Knecht, O’Steens. This local restaurant serves the best shrimp we’ve had anywhere. We arranged to arrive before 11:30 a.m., so had no waiting for a table. Our order was prompt and the shrimp was flawless.
Henry M. Flagler built the incredible Ponce de Leon Hotel in 1887 and it operated until the 1960s. The most striking thing, for us, is the phenomenal level of detail in the finish work. This hotel was one of the very earliest poured concrete structures in the United States and has beautiful terra cotta and brick detailing on the exterior.
The interior is brimming with hand-carved woodwork, beautiful frescoes and murals, and other wonderful details. Flagler College is doing a great job preserving the buildings and interior, and this represents a fine opportunity to view accommodations for the rich and famous in the nineteenth century.
The Fountain of Youth seemed a bit obligatory, just one of the things you gotta do. Okay, check this one off. We visited the fountain, planetarium, live cannon-firing, and displays of history. The breech-loading cannon demonstration was interesting. The young resident pirate did a very good job explaining how this six-pounder worked, and demonstrating it. He shot six ounces of powder and used spanish moss for wadding (no ball or shot).
We probably should have sampled the Fountain of Youth each of the past two years — we drank the youth-giving waters today and look forward to great results. What if we started two years ago?
You can see all our Easter Rally 2009 pictures here.