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9 St. Augustine, Florida

Updated: May 30, 2022

Dates: February 12-20, 2022

Move over Fairhope, Alabama. You have competition for my heart.

St. Augustine, established 1565, is full of so much history and activity. The excitement everywhere was electric. I wish I’d had more time to spend here. Not saying forever, but at least a month or two at some point.

Things you need to know:

There are shells in all the concrete. Makes sense since we're so close to the ocean. And then I learn about...

Coquina Stone

In case you’re thinking coquina stone is some new brew of beer you’ve never heard of you would be wrong. Coquina stone is actually a strange rock made out of seashells and is kind of a big deal here. It’s native to Florida, unlike most of its residents (ba-da-bing!) The combination of oyster shell, sand, and another material I couldn’t quite pinpoint compacts together into some impenetrable type fortress rock. The queries are on nearby Anastasia Island I'm told and it’s the best stone to use for building. They say it can even deflect cannonballs. A necessity back in the day. Hopefully, I never get to see it tested in my lifetime!

Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the continental US and has been under 6 different flags.

Even the cannons are covered in artistic detail!

I made friends with some shady characters.

Fast forward in history to the man who's vision (and money) made this city a destination: Henry Flagler. He made this place the winter playground for the wealthy back in the late 1800's to early 1900's. It seemed that ever big fancy building had his hands all over it.

This grand building started as the Alcazar Hotel built by Flagler as a place for activities for the wealthy. It had a hotel, casino, salons, steam rooms, a bowling alley and the largest indoor pool of the time. "Hobbies Magazine Founder Otto Lightner purchased the building in 1947 to house antiques and collectibles, gathered from Chicago estates after the crash of 1929." (Sourced from a historical sign so I don't screw up the details.) It's now the city hall and a museum.

It's now The Lightner Museum for us commoners to enjoy envisioning another lifestyle.

This picture is specifically for Ali (my editor). She LOVES typewriters. And I found a collection of them throughout history. Ali, thanks for all you do! (Side note: I added more to this blog after she did her magic so if there's typos... it's on me!)

This used to be an indoor pool! And now it’s a restaurant.

I used to think cut glass was... old and boring. Totally new appreciation for it after seeing there's a process only a true artisan could follow.

One of the showers outside the steam room. I don't think the plumbing held up.

A wine cabinet. A bit bulky but I could get down with this.

Back in the 1880s a millionaire loved a 12th century palace in Spain so much he replicated it at 1/10th the size in St Augustine. It’s a must see full of antiques with stories that give us a glimpse into a different time.

The Alligator Farm

If you can believe it, I had yet to visit a gator farm! I had a goal of seeing one in Louisiana and comparing it with one in Florida. But it was cold and I don’t do cold.

As with the majority of St. Augustine, it was established a really, REALLY long time ago.

My favorite part of this trip was Facetiming my nieces and nephews while I was here. The big question we had was: do alligators have tongues?

Answer: Yes. Up to 2 feet long!

Where I take work meetings…

And another meeting on the water front.

The Oldest Store Museum

The sub-title "Experience" did not disappoint! The docent was dressed in early 1900's garb and told enchanting stories of what it would've been like to shop there in it's heyday.

This was the first milkshake maker!

A goat-run washing machine! For reals. You can't make this up. The goat is on a treadmill which is connected to all the gadgets that scrub clothes clean. (My oldest sister Jenny has goats. Sis, you need one of these!)

The cradle churn. Why churn butter by hand with a baby crying in the background. You CAN have it all, ladies! Churn your butter and rock your baby.

As you know I'm not a camper. This portable convict car would be more than enough motivation to stay out of trouble!

The Fountain of Youth

Full on snake oil. As of this writing, I do not feel any younger.

There were so many amazing museums and historical experiences. I can't capture them all in a blog. I couldn't even make it to all of them in a week! We'll have to experience nearly 500 years of history over more visits to this town.

The Church

Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine

The oldest parish in the US! They had daily mass AND adoration. It was my most frequented building as you can imagine.

And guess what it's built from. Coquina!

Story time…

It was Friday evening at Meehan’s Irish Pub right on the Bayfront. I found a seat on the patio with a view and started the process of catching up on some blogging. It was raining. A beautiful gentle rain. The kind that smells good. I sipped on a Guinness and could see a blue sky peeking out from behind the gray clouds. Sailboats chilled in the bay. Horse carriages lined up across the street while soaked patrons unloaded.

This serene moment was difficult for me. I debated opening my heart and sharing this with you, but if you’re reading this, you know me, you like me, and you’re ok with my oversharing. In such a beautiful setting I wished I’d had someone to share it with. To share all of these once in a lifetime moments with. Most people only see the benefits to being single. For example, like the ability to sell your house, pick up and move around the country.

What’s a little less glamorous is the difficult moments of loneliness that creep up more often than I’d like. When you’re surrounded by people and have no one to talk to it’s weird. But there is something that never gets me down and that’s the confidence behind knowing I never settled. Being alone beats fighting with someone just to avoid being by myself. Being here is so much better than sitting in my townhouse in Fort Worth binging trashy Netflix and eating Dominos. Mmm, I could go for some Domino's right about now. Squirrel.

For now, those of you that take the time to read my blogs and follow along on my journey are the dates I get to share all the best details with!

As the evening progressed, Friday night bar hopping as a lone blogger with my tablet is how I kept the night "going".

I tried a new restaurant called River & Fort. It was a swanky new place and I was glad they let me in despite me looking like I was headed to the gym. I made my way to the 4th floor. There were lots of patios, which I love! But apparently it was opening night. Who knew? The freshly hired service staff was still figuring things out. As I looked around things didn’t feel right for me. Everyone had someone or a group of someones with them and I quickly realized it was time to find a different place.

I decided to walk down the street to my old friend (as of 5 days ago): No Name Bar. It reminds me of Amarillo except there’s no smoke. It has a patio that overlooks the historic fort and given its name I could instantly tell it was a bar that doesn’t judge. The music was great, it wasn’t packed, and they had beer on tap. I grabbed one and a tall table on the patio to myself where I once again set up my tablet to continue on blogging. The surroundings were beautifully lit, leaving me with the curious question: “Do these people even understand what they are surrounded by?” Probably not. We never seem to appreciate the beauty we see daily.

You know what’s cool about St. Augustine? Besides all the history of course. The fact that I never got a pretentious vibe from anyone. The city claims and boasts they have the oldest everything, yet no one seemed pretentious about it.

My "night out" ended at 9:30 when a young mom on vacation with her husband came over curious about why someone would bring a computer to a bar. We had a nice chat but her group was quickly on to the next place. I went "home" and was in bed at a decent time.

Favorable Mention: Growers Alliance Cafe & Gift Shop

Growers Alliance Cafe & Gift Shop is a unique one of a kind coffee shop situated in an old Texaco. When you walk in you instantly notice its small town feel. The owner is from Kenya so the coffee shop is African themed.

I tried the traditional Kenyan latte and beef samosa. Samosas are like latin empanadas or German bierocks. The one I tried had beef, onions and curry wrapped in what I assume was homemade dough. I’m sad I didn’t find this place until my last full day here. I’d have come all week had I known all I had to do was cross the bridge!

Here’s to all the history,

Megan “Not A Historian” Giles

Placeholder for a future fun shirt I have yet to design. 😉

Edited by: Ali Garbero, Write Brand Marketing

Then added to without her knowledge by yours truly.


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