Friday, March 15, 2013

St. Augustine, Florida

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Our motel at Jekyll Island, the Days Inn, is right on the beach, and has about 300 rooms.  It also has a really great circular room at the top of the center where breakfast was served this morning.  It used to be a restaurant up there, apparently.  As we ate our motel breakfast we saw a magazine advertisement
in a frame on the wall.  It was dated 1969, and it showed the Corvair Motel on Jekyll Island, with photos of this very motel and guests in 1969 swim suits.  So, if you were at Jekyll Island in the 60's, this could be where you stayed!  It has been well-maintained and updated.  Who knew?

Before we could leave Jekyll Island, we had to take one more stroll on the beach. A herd of sea birds was having a meeting down there, apparently planning their day. They were all facing the same direction, and were not bothered when humans approached. They were too engrossed in whatever it is that sea birds do at that hour of the day.

 Interestingly, there were two kinds of birds.  One was the regular, old sea gull. The other turned out to be a Black Skimmer, after we looked in our ever-present Audubon's Bird Book which we carry in the glove box of my car.  (I feel so proud.....) They are related to a similar bird called an Oyster Catcher.

Our drive today was slow and totally rambling.  We stopped at the Welcome Center when we crossed into Florida.  They gave us a free glass of orange juice! There were some other welcome centers on our route, and we almost stopped at all of them, just to get more OJ!  It was fresh and delicious.  Don't skip the Florida Welcome Center.................

We ate lunch in a parking lot today. We had stopped at a grocery store for roast beef and a bottle of mustard to go with our bread, then couldn't find a park or a picnic table anywhere, it seemed.  Hungry, we pulled into a shady area of a large shopping plaza, sat on a curb, and had a picnic.  True to form, no sooner were we back on I95 than a rest area with beaucoup de picnic tables appeared!

Since we have a reservation for a motel in Florida tonight (for 3 days in a row, actually).....(....don't faint,)  we could take all afternoon to be tourists, which is what we did.  We decided to make another visit to St. Augustine.

We were in St. Augustine in whatever year we went to Flagler Beach.  I had also been there with my children in 1989 when we went to Disney World.  We both have seen all of the "main events" there, so today we just had a good time without any sightseeing pressure.  In other words, we shopped.

The Old Town was full of tourists today, in part due to the motorcycle rally in Daytona which is wrapping up this weekend, and also due to spring break.  We shopped up and down the streets in Old Town,  sizing up the stores and merchandise, buying frugally.

We did investigate the Basilica de Saint Augustine which was lovely and very old.  St. Augustine was founded in 1565.  The whole place is old!  European cities are all that old, but we don't have many in this country that can claim that deep a history.

Street musicians entertained us as we strolled. We saw our first didgeridoo, played by a man with a dog that was dressed in a suit.  Occasionally a stray pirate wandered by on his way to work.  A wench or two lingered outside their places of employment.
 We revisited the Oldest Schoolhouse in America, the site of the slave market, a statue of Ponce de Leon discovering Florida, and then wandered down Avile Street, which is the oldest street in the United States, dating back to 1572.

Avile Street has undergone a renovation in recent years. We spent some time in a delightful art gallery, peeked into the old Spanish Medical Center, and caught the scents of  Italian and Cuban gourmet food.

 Wisely, the proprietors of these eating establishments had placed their menus outside on the tables for al fresco customers to peruse.  I love competition.  We read the menus and then selected the Cuban place, La Harencia Cafe, where we shared a plate of Cuban slow-cooked brisket called Rojas Viejas which translates to "old clothes," a bowl of black bean soup with rice, and grilled, sweetened plantains.  That was a first.  When I get home, I shall be grilling plantains..............

We had parked on a street, avoiding the $10 flat fee for parking at St. Augustine's Welcome Center. Instead we poked a credit card into a parking meter, another first.  We were on our way back to I95 by 5 PM, and drove south to Rt. 4 and into our hotel in Orlando before 8:00.  We are in a Quality Inn on Entry Point Boulevard, anticipating an early wake-up call.  Tomorrow's adventures will be exhausting but happy stuff!

The photos below are the ones I just couldn't quite get to fit in.  They are the old slave market, Ponce de Leon's statue, the motorcycles lined up and parked in Old Town, the sign over the entrance to Avile Street, Avile Street itself,  and our parting shot from the beach this morning.


Copyright: Photos and article,  KP Gillenwater 2013