“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
– Saint Augustine
What better way to start a post about St. Augustine, FL then with a quote from Saint Augustine? I’m a stable genius. I know. So diving right in, we spent four days last week exploring the US’s oldest city. Settled in 1565, it was around 55 years before pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. So, not thousands of years old, but still old. Could you imagine if Spain was more ambitious and conquered the land instead of England? Spanish wouldn’t just be our second popular language (for all of those who wonder why there’s usually two options when calling in to customer service), it would probably be our official language. Neat thought, right? (Also, the US does not have an official language. Just for clarification.)
We stayed at an Airbnb, and we loved this one. It was a house built in the 1800s that had been renovated to be turned into apartments. The location was perfect, we walked back from St. George Street a few times. Saint George Street is the historical districts main strip basically and it’s only for pedestrians. One of the reasons we picked this Airbnb was because it allowed cats. Yes, we traveled with our children for the FIRST TIME. It honestly wasn’t a horrible experience and we’d definitely travel with them again, but that’s a post for a different time.
Day One: It was a six hour drive down, but we left pretty early in the morning so we could experience some of what St. Augustine had to offer. We stopped for dinner at O.C. White’s. Check out my last post on all the food we ate during our museums and historical site stops. After dinner, we headed to the mini golf across the street. It was a fun way to end our first night there. It was also right by Bridge of Lions and we got to watch a freighter go under it while the drawbridge was up.
Day Two: We started over at the St. Augustine visitors center. I would HIGHLY recommend stopping there before exploring. The staff is super knowledgeable and will get you in the right direction. Plus they’ll get you a map of the historic district. It really came in handy as we explored. After the visitors center, we headed over to Castillo de San Marcos. It is owned by the National Parks System and they do a wonderful job of keeping it up. It is the oldest and largest masonry fort in the continental US; it is also only one of two forts in the world made out of coquina. Construction began in 1672, 107 years AFTER the settlement was founded.
After the fort, we headed down St. George Street to check out the different shops and grab some lunch. There is a shop we stopped in that deserves a mention because Alex and I were able to find both our family’s coat of arms. I also got a kick out of my maiden name’s meaning of “wild and loud.” It fits perfectly. The shop has hundreds of names to pull up a coat of arms for so if you’re down there check out Coat of Arms Shoppe.
Now while I am atheist, I do love architecture. Including churchy architecture. Which means, we stopped at the basilica. The current basilica was built in 1888, however, St. Augustine marks the spot for the oldest Catholic parish in the US. Being raised in the Catholic church and not wanting to go to hell with my Methodist husband, I blessed myself with holy water as I walked in. Alex snorted.
Day Three: We had a bit of a late start, but it was well worth it. We headed over to the Lightner Museum which houses a collection of artifacts, art, and even a mummy. I’m not kidding. There’s a real mummy in this museum. There’s also a sassy English lady manning the front desk. She alone was worth going. Ask her about the map of the museum. Trust me.
Fun fact: Alex and I both had quite the scare here at the Lightner Museum. Imagine turning the corner and seeing this:
We both jumped and yelled. I’m sure there’s a security guard who enjoys watching people’s reactions to this damn bear statue.
That afternoon we went to the Medieval Torture Museum. Place is CREEEEEPY. It is also not for the easily squeamish. I’m not going to show too many photos from there, if you’re brave enough you’ll just have to go discover its creepiness for yourself.
We ended our third day with a ghost tour. Now, after all the walking we did, we were not up for much more of it. Thankfully Ghosts and Graveyards offers a trolley tour with stops at two haunted locations. If you’re just wanting to enjoy some jokes, a trolley ride, and some haunted history I’d recommend this tour. If you want something more serious, look elsewhere. We enjoyed ourselves though.
All in all, we really REALLY enjoyed St. Augustine. When it’s cooler, we definitely plan to go back. It also marked off one of my US bucket list places. The next US bucket list item will be Boston, but I don’t know when we’ll hit that. So as usual, travel well and travel often.