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St. Augustine, FL


May 15, 2012       Our next stop south is a city we have visited countless times through the years.  St. Augustine is not only a city with great historical significance, it also happens to be the home to one of our favorite eating haunts, The Columbian Restaurant.   The restaurant actually started in Ybor City (near Tampa, FL) in 1905.  The family owned business has since expanded to 7 Florida locations.   Authentic Spanish cuisine, freshly baked Cuban bread and wonderful sangrias and mojitos are provided in a beautiful setting.  The St. Augustine restaurant was built in 1983—so it has no historical significance, but we always enjoy the food and the ambience. 
Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos, finished in 1695, is probably one of the most famous historical landmarks in the city.  Built to protect the city and its residents through the years, the masonry fort was never taken by force. The City Walls were started in 1704 to provide additional protection for the citizens of St. Augustine following repeated attacks.  The wall (or Cubo Line as it is called) was constructed of earth and palm logs, part of the wall can still be seen.  The City Gate, which is still standing, was built in 1808 as part of the reconstruction of the City Wall.  The Gate is located at the north end of St. George Street.  This is the beginning of a pedestrian area for historical buildings, shops and restaurants.

City Gate
Near the City Gates, you find the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the U.S., built in the early 1700’s.  As a child in the 1920’s, my mother lived in an apartment building directly behind the school.  During her childhood residency, prior to the Depression, St. Augustine was primarily a vacation city for the wealthy. 

Plaza de la Constitucion
At the end of St. George St. lies the Plaza de la Constitucion, the oldest public park in the US, which was laid out in 1573.  The Cathedral-Basilica of St Augustine, completed in 1797, faces the Park.

Lightner Museum
 
Down the street from the Plaza, there are two building originally constructed by Henry Flagler, the Standard Oil co-founder, who also built the Overseas Highway to Key West in the 1930’s.  The Hotel Alcazar was built in 1887, as a luxury hotel.  Three floors of the former hotel now house the Lightner Museum.   Publisher, Otto Lightner purchased the building in 1946, to house his collection of antiquities.  Musical instruments, furnishings, paintings, sculptures and other decorative pieces from the 19th century fill the museum.  If you have time, this museum is definitely worth a visit.


Hotel Ponce de Leon/ Flagler College
Across the street from the Hotel Alcazar, Flagler built the Ponce de Leon Hotel in 1888.   It was one of the first buildings in the country to have electricity.  Generators supplied by Thomas Edison provided the service.  The former hotel is now part of Flagler College, a private four-year liberal arts school.

Sand Dunes
Of course, we couldn’t visit St. Augustine without driving over to visit the Beach.  While there we did some reconnaissance of the campground for future trips.  The park was full this time, and in fact we were told it is normally filled months in advance, but maybe sometime we will be able to stay there.  Time to journey home and take a pit stop for a couple of weeks before heading off again. 

St Augustine Lighthouse built in 1874

Beach Daisies
Old Schoolhouse
Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine





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