Wednesday, 19 June 2013

More St Augustine

St Augustine historic district is great for walking around, in fact we specifically chose our hotel for that reason and our car didn’t move off the hotel car park until the day we left.
Our exploring almost always started with a walk through the old city gates
from there we enjoyed meandering around the narrow, mostly pedestrianized streets.
This English Pub is part of the Colonial Quarter and while you don’t have to pay to use the pub, there is a charge to visit the quarter itself.   We thought the Colonial Quarter was more for kids and wouldn’t bother to go again.

The Spanish Military Hospital was an entirely different story and we found it really interesting.  Our guide explained how the hospital used infection control techniques far ahead of its time and how different herbs were used to prevent and control illness.

Just opposite the Father Miguel O’Reilly House Museum, which at one time was run as a school for freed slaves, we discovered the Cofradia Site Coquina Well.
The well, thought to have been built in the early 1600’s, was, as the name suggests, constructed of coquina.   In about 1670 it was quickly filled with household items including rare, for the St Augustine area, furniture fragments, it isn’t known why the well was filled in, but it’s thought to be due to a fire or an enemy raid.
 One building I really fell in love with was the gorgeous Ximenez-Fatio house.

Built in around 1798 for a Spanish merchant Andres Ximenez, it was first used as a general store, tavern and family residence.  After Florida became a US Territory it was run as a boarding house by Eliza Whitehurst.   It was a very select establishment you couldn’t just turn up and ask for a room, a letter of introduction was required.   At that time running a boarding house was one of the few respectable occupations available for a woman.   Photographs of the inside of the house are not allowed.   I’ve always liked this style of house, but somehow I don’t think it’d look quite right in deepest Cheshire!

Tucked away in a quiet part of historic St Augustine we found the Prince of Wales English pub.   The pub serves real English beer and food we found a seat outside on the wrap around porch while we read the menu.   I can’t remember what we had to drink, but do remember that DB indulged in bangers and mash, while I had fish and chips, (real chips, not french fries) both of which were really rather scrumptious.    

Have fun, we are!

Monday, 17 June 2013

St Augustine - part 2

Later that day we decided to take a river cruise,

We thought it might be a quiet time of day to take the cruise, just after we boarded a school party got on, and we thought oh no screaming kids, but how wrong can you be? The children were very well behaved and a credit to their school in Georgia. 
This is as we went under the Bridge of Lions,

looking across the bay as we cruised by Ponce de Leon’s landing site

before moving out into the bay,

we also got a good look at the lighthouse on Anastasia Island.

It was a lovely evening for a cruise and we saw quite a few dolphins both in the river and the bay.   We’d definitely take that cruise again. 

More on St Augustine later. 

Have fun, we are!

St Augustine, Florida

Founded by the arrival of the Spanish in 1565 St Augustine is the oldest city in America.   Pedro Menedez de Aviles proclaimed the site that is now the Mission Nombre de Dios for Spain and the church and it is where on 8 September 1565 Father Lopez performed the first mass.
A 200 ft steel cross was erected in 1965 to celebrate St Augustine’s quadricentennial.
I believe the cross is illuminated at night, but we never got to see it. 

From there we walked along to the oldest jail and general store.   What we didn’t realise when we arrived is that you can’t just visit as and when you please, you have to go on a tour and tickets for both attractions are obtained from a central ticket booth.   Surprisingly I don’t actually have any photographs of the old jail, although it’s not somewhere you’d ever want a judge to send you to.   What really surprised me was that the Sherriff’s house was actually attached to the jail I can’t imagine how the Sherriff’s wife must’ve felt about that. 

I do have some photographs of the general store,

from there you would collect your mail, do your shopping and you could also get the latest thing in home entertainment.

While we were outside Gator Bobs enjoying an ice-cream, we noticed this strange creature disappearing into a wooden beam,

scary looking thing isn’t it?   When we enquired we were told it was a carpenter beetle, they can cause lots of damage so property is sprayed against them.
Our next stop was The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park which commemorates the 1513 arrival of Juan Ponce de Leon and the legend of the Fountain of Youth.   The site has been inhabited for over 3,000 years and excavations have revealed archaic shell mounds, parts of the Timicua town of Chief Seloy and the remains of a Spanish colony.
This is the ‘Fountain of Youth’, it’s pure spring water from deep within the earth and is filtered through limestone, yes we did try it, you can taste the minerals in it, sadly it didn’t knock a few years off either of us, ah well we tried!
We really enjoyed the Planetarium programme it shows the night sky as it would’ve been in Ponce De Leon’s time and how the sailors used the stars to navigate. 

There was also a demonstration of old weaponry,

and a demonstration of firing
and reloading a canon

it was very interesting and very loud.
Near the weaponry demonstration area, there is a replica watch tower that would’ve been used by the colonists.
The statue represents Ponce de Leon and informational boards give information about the history of the area.

While we enjoyed the old jail and general store, the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is, if you like history, a much more interesting place to visit.

Have fun, we are!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Castillo San Marcos, St Augustine

It was simply gorgeous when we arrived in St Augustine, as it was too early to check into our hotel, we were given a parking permit, then we headed off to visit the Castillo a short walk away.
We didn’t need our parks pass as it was National Parks week so entry was free (yes, I am still a long way behind I will catch up, eventually!).
We crossed both entrance drawbridges
into the Castillo

Construction of the castillo started in 1672, it’s built of an unusual and semi-rare form or limestone called ‘coquina’ and is the oldest masonry and only existing 17th century fort in North America. 

Coquina was a great thing with which to build the Castillo, it contains millions of microscopic air pockets so cannon balls fired at the walls simply disappeared into it as though it were styrofoam.   It must’ve been very disconcerting to attackers when their cannon balls seemed to have absolutely no effect whatsoever.  

Inside the Castillo 

The walls of the Castillo were originally covered in a lime, sand and water mix called Argamasa which formed a bright white plaster.   Red plaster, made by adding brick dust, covered the trim and sentry towers, these were the royal colours of Spain.  

Originating in 15th century Italy, the Castillo is built in a star shape, which came about as a result of architecture adapting to technology brought about by weapons using black powder.   The bastion system, named for the projecting diamond shaped formations added onto fort walls was the most commonly and effectively used. 

The day we visited was pretty busy, probably because it was National Parks week and we coincided with several school tours.   It’s a fascinating place and we spent a couple of hours looking round.   It’s definitely worth a visit.

Afterwards we checked into our hotel and then headed out for dinner at the A1A micro-brewery.   The ‘happy hour’ margaritas were fabulous, DB said the beer was good, and the food was lovely.   I really wanted to try the key lime cheesecake, so I had a starter (crab sliders), for my main course.   They were absolutely huge, (so was DB’s) I couldn’t eat it all, so the cheesecake was a ‘to go’ that we shared a couple of hours later.    

Have fun, we are!

On the way to St Augustine

Leaving Fort Caroline, we followed the coast road, passing some fabulous multi-million dollar homes backing onto the ocean.    We were looking for a nice beach we could pull into, it took us a while but eventually we found somewhere.
How gorgeous is this?
We had some lunch, enjoyed the view then continued on to St Augustine.

Have fun, we are!

Leaving Jacksonville

Our first stop on our way out of Jacksonville was Fort Caroline.   In June 1564 Captain Rene Laudonniere arrived in New France (Jacksonville) at the mouth of the River May (St John’s River) with about 200 French noblemen and artisans.
There is nothing left of the original fort and archaeologists and historians aren’t sure exactly where it was.   All they know is that it was fertile land with plenty of fruits, drinkable water, fish and was well supplied with building materials.
What the entrance to the Fort might’ve looked like.
Built in a triangular shape the Fort that we saw was built by the National Park Service based on an ‘educated guess’.   However, it is known that it was built of earth and wood with the baking ovens outside the Fort so they couldn’t set fire to the powder magazine and blow the place up. 

What the inside might’ve been like.

In September 1565 when Jean Ribault arrived with supply ships they were discovered by the Spanish.   Deciding to launch a pre-emptive strike, Ribault and 500 soldiers sailed to St Augustine to confront the Spanish.   Unfortunately a hurricane wrecked at least two ships, driving the remaining ships further south and wrecking another two near Cape Canaveral. 

A view from the river.

The Spanish, realising that Fort Caroline was practically defenceless, quickly marched north and attacked.   Afterwards they tracked down the shipwreck survivors and with the exception of 30 Catholics slaughtered them all.   The inlet where the slaughter took place became known as Matanzas which is Spanish for ‘slaughter’. 

Replica bread oven, just outside the Fort.

Three years later the French took their revenge when Dominque De Gourges, with the help of the Timicuan Indians, defeated the Spanish hanging 200 Spanish who survived the battle, and then, having accomplished their mission set sail back to France. 

Imagine this view, without the present day port of Jacksonville in the background.
Despite historic maps and engravings providing clues about the size, location and shape of the Fort, mysteries abound.   For instance, who were the African colonists mentioned briefly by the French?   Where did the Spanish camp before attacking the Fort?   Why didn’t the French supply ships fire their cannons at the Spanish?  

As we followed the path through the trees we imagined what it must’ve been like for the settlers when they arrived, nowhere to live, no nipping down to the store for supplies, no running water or air conditioning.  I’m not sure I’d’ve done very well as a settler back then.

Have fun, we are!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Amelia Island, Florida

On a warmer, sunnier day we left Jacksonville behind and headed for Amelia Island, which is named after Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II. 
Timucuan Indians inhabited the island when Frenchman Jean Ribault visited in 1562.   Since then flags from England, Mexico (the Mexican Rebel Flag), The Green Cross (raised by a self-proclaimed ruler), The Patriots of Amelia Island, France, Spain, The Confederate States of America have all flown over the island until 1821 when it became part of the United States of America.
A fort has existed at the mouth of the St Mary’s river and Cumberland Sound since 1736.   Building on Fort Clinch began in 1847 the fort was one of a series of masonry forts built between 1816 and 1867.   It was built at the mouth of St Mary’s River to protect the natural deep water port of Fernandina.
The entrance to the fort
over which flies the flag of 1865 showing 35 States and, I believe that at that time 13 states wanted to secede.

The fort is well preserved and you can enter and look around the buildings

In the Quartermasters Stores barrels of ‘Medical Dept’ Whiskey were stored ready for use.   I don’t think you’d find that in any Medical Departments now.   Although as most people I know who drink whiskey are always quick to assure me that it’s ‘strictly for medicinal purposes’ I can’t imagine why not? 

A re-enactor played different songs on his pipe as we walked around, one of which was the British Grenadiers.

No battles were ever fought at Fort Clinch, so the huge cannons mounted on the bastions and walls were never fired.

After leaving the fort we had planned to take a walk on the beach, but it clouded over becoming cool and windy so we just walked out to the end of a concrete fishing pier
took a few photographs

and then headed into Fernandina Beach for coffee.
Fernandina Beach is a lovely town and was home to Florida’s first Atlantic to Gulf railroad, which was completed when it arrived in Cedar Key in 1861.
There are lots of interesting old buildings

William Bartram, famed Colonial Naturalist, visited Amelia Island in 1774 to record the flora and fauna of the area.

This classy looking building is the Post Office

We didn’t get to see everything on Amelia Island, but it’s definitely on our ‘to return to’ list. 

Have fun, we are!