Saturday, May 07, 2016

St. Augustine, Florida

For our first USA adventure Drew and I decided to head up to St. Augustine. Funny thing, St. Augustine is only 2 hr and 45 minutes away from where our families live...and we've never been there! My brother was wonderful enough to give us one of his free nights from an IHG hotel, there is a Holiday Inn in the Historic District of St. Augustine, we took it as a sign and decided to go to St. Augustine. The first time I ever stayed at a Holiday Inn was in Europe, so this was my first experience with a stateside one...but the Holiday Inn hotels in Europe, are much better than the one we stayed at in St. Augustine.

But I'm jumping ahead of myself. We decided to visit St. Augustine because of it's history, St. Augustine is the oldest city in America! Who could pass up the opportunity to see that?!

Our first stop of the day was to Fort Matanzas National Monument, it is about 15 minutes outside of St. Augustine. The monument consists of a 1740 Spanish fort called Fort Matanzas. Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1742 to guard Matanzas Inlet, the southern mouth of the Matanzas River.

Our next stop was to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. The Lighthouse is St. Augustine's oldest surviving brick structure, and today the site is restored to colors and materials used the year 1888. The St. Augustine Lighthouse rises 165 feet above sea level and contains 219 steps that are climbed by visitors.

For our first meal in St. Augustine we decided to eat at A1A Ale House. It is a seaside brewery that offers seasonal beers plus sandwiches & steaks and seafood. We opted to eat outside since it was so nice out. For dinner, Drew got the Mahi Burger, and I got shrimp tacos.

Can you tell he loves it when I take pics of him?
The next morning, we headed to Ponce De Leon's Fountain of Youth. Contrary to belief, you can't just walk in and see the fountain of youth. The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is a 15-acre, waterfront historical attraction, where visitors can learn about the first Spanish settlers who came here in the 1600s. 

The Fountain of Youth offers a variety of shows and living history reenactments designed to entertain and educate visitors. Free parking is available, and the park is pet-friendly. The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park is the site of the first Spanish settlement in the new world.

Apparently it's a rare site to see a female open it's wings!
Male Albino Peacock!
Drew and I went straight for the Fountain. It wasn't what I thought it would be. I was expecting an actual fountain! But of course, we had to try some of the tasted like hose water (and that's the nicest thing to say).

We explored the Park for a bit, we even got to see a cannon demonstration! I think that was Drew's favorite part of the day.

From the Fountain of Youth, we headed off to see the Castillo de San Marcos. It is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. It costs $10 pp to enter, but because the Castillo is a part of the National Park Service, they offer free Military annual passes to Active Duty service men/women, and up to 3 adults, or the car that they are in. I thought that was pretty cool.

I can't take him anywhere!
We explored the Fort, we climbed to the top and got some great shots. The only thing that sucks is that you can't sit on the Fort. It's made of Coquina, a limestone consisting almost entirely of shelly fossils. Apparently it's very fragile. Which sucks because, there isn't enough benches to sit on and take pictures.

After visiting the Fort we decided to head into town to grab some food and wander around. It's my favorite part about going to a new city! I think I'm Europeanized, because I didn't want to sit down and eat lunch, I wanted to keep exploring. There was NOTHING to grab an go.
After searching for half an hour we found a place that served loaded fries. We even met a family who was stationed in Germany a couple years ago! It's really a small world.
 The Teacher in me had to stop off to get a peak at the oldest wooden school house in the USA!

From there we walked around the city checking out the major landmarks before finally calling it a day and heading home.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed visiting St. Augustine and am still amazed that we've never visited before! I think our time in Europe has expanded my desire to travel. I never thought of Florida as anything special. But it goes to show you that something new is always right around the corner!