So Much History, So Little Time
~Sunday, April 9, 2023~
Happy Easter everyone!! 🐣Hope you are enjoying this special day with your loved ones or anyone near and dear to you. We are hoping this is the last Easter we have to spend without family, especially our grandchildren who are at the perfect age for those anticipated egg hunts and fun-filled Easter baskets. So for one last time, we celebrate with them virtually. Instead of Mr. Rabbit paying us a visit this morning, we had a curious feral cat come wandering into our campsite. Believe me, it crossed my mind of adopting him as I’m such a succor for that stuff. You don’t think Sadie would mind adding another 4-legged creature to our traveling family do you?
It was not the best weather day in St. Augustine….very windy and much cooler than those 80-degree temps we’ve gotten used to in Florida. So today did not warrant a bike ride into town. Instead, we opted for the 4-wheel mode of transportation that found us looking for an off-the- beaten path parking spot to avoid the $20 parking lot fees. I don’t know who would fall for that anyway since street parking is free on Sundays and major holidays. Boy, were we wrong about the crowds being lighter on a holiday. It was completely the opposite. Aside from a few nicely dressed families leaving church with basket-carrying kids in tow, you would have thought it was just any old day.
We wanted to concentrate our time in the touristy hub that is the Old St. Augustine Village (close to Fort Castillo), filled with well-preserved buildings dating back to the early 1700’s. Getting around this 20-block historic district can be quite the challenge with its maze of local shops, restaurants, museums, pubs, quaint B&B’s and churches. And are there churches. We must have passed at least four in two square blocks. The most beautiful in my book was the Memorial Presbyterian Church.
It was the first Presbyterian congregation in Florida, organized in June of 1824 with only 14 members (you have to start somewhere, right?) The present sanctuary was given to the church by Henry Morrison Flagler, an American industrialist and founder of the Florida East Coast Railway. The copper dome underwent a major reconstruction following Hurricane Irma in 2017 followed by additional renovations up until 2019. Other notable churches that we saw were the United Methodist Church and the Ancient City Baptist Church.
The Old Time Trolley was a tempting alternative to walking with the light rain and heavy winds we were having. Certainly from a historical perspective we probably would have learned quite a bit, but we always see so much more on foot. Aside from all the typical shops and attractions, the Colonial Oak Music Park stood out to us, with its old live oak as the centerpiece to this hidden gem. It looked like the perfect, intimate outdoor setting to bring music loving people together. Unfortunately, there are no live music concerts scheduled before we leave, but there is a comedy improv night this Wednesday that we’ll try to catch.
Walking to the end of St. George Street, we came upon the Old City Gates built in 1808. This became the only
entrance into St. Augustine and just like Fort Castillo, it too, was made from quarried coquina. The Cubo Line was also constructed at this time, where very little of it remains today.
What is it about cemeteries that is so calming and peaceful? The Tolomato Cemetery offered a nice separation from the craziness of downtown. Even though the gates were locked, we could at least get a shallow glimpse of Florida’s oldest cemetery. Once a native Guale village, the land was
designated as a cemetery in the 1700’s for local Catholics when St. Augustine was under British rule. In later years it would become the final resting place for over 1,000 St. Augustinians. The last burial took place here in 1884 when all cemeteries within the city limits were closed by the city government due to fears that they spread yellow fever. It wasn’t until 1905, thanks to a Dr. Reed, that they realized it was the mosquito that was the culprit.
Chilled to the bone only wearing shorts and a t-shirt, Jeff thought a nice, hot beverage would help him warm up a bit. So we made a stop at the St. Augustine Coffee House for a Chai Tea Latte for Jeff and a Mocha for me. It was nice that it satisfied the goal of warmth, but since when did a cup of coffee cost $7.50?
While savoring our nice, hot EXPENSIVE drinks, our last stop of the day was at the Plaza de la Constitución. The Plaza was originally built in 1598 as a public market place. In March of 1812, before Florida was accepted into the Union, the Spanish Parliament decreed that all Spanish towns throughout the empire were to build monuments in commemoration of their new constitutional government. However, after Spain was overthrown by the British, another royal decree was issued to destroy all constitution monuments. Gosh, the British really were scum bags weren’t they? But good for those St. Augustine officials who stood up to this order, refusing to tear down anything they sacrificed so much to build. And it is thought that this monument in St. Augustine is the only surviving, unaltered monument from this campaign.
With the weather worsening, we called it a day downtown, basically scurrying back to the car to get Jeff out of the cold. Having to make a pit stop at a nearby Publix, we were reminded that it was Easter and that all those Publix employees are deservedly with their families on this special holiday. Getting caught up in playing “tourist” today made us forget it was a holiday. But lucky us, we did manage to find another grocery store open just around the corner.
After getting back to the campground and putting on warmer attire, we couldn’t resist the temptation of filming some insane weather at the beach.
I think we were the only crazies out there, but at least we captured the 45 mph winds, turbulent surf and whimsical sand whipping by us. I think I just received the most natural exfoliation known to mankind. 😳
A nice hot bowl of homemade French Onion Soup warmed our bodies and satisfied our appetites. Always his own worst critic, Jeff didn’t give it a high score, but he’s always got a #1 fan in me. It was absolutely delicious.