Amidst the coldest weekend of the winter, we woke last Sunday to 10o temperatures and decided to get on the road as early as possible … our first trip in our new motor home. As it was a Sunday we were able to get through Philadelphia and around Baltimore and Washington DC with minimal traffic, but the temperature never came close to reaching the freezing point.
The following morning, we again awoke to sub-freezing temperatures in our campground just north of Richmond, VA. Continuing south, we spent our third night in central South Carolina and finally arrived in St. Augustine this afternoon, where the mercury hit the mid-60os.
While we are generally prone to traveling secondary or back roads, I-95 was the best and quickest route to the warmer weather. Unfortunately, the Interstates, particularly in the East, are notoriously uninteresting. The exceptions were the literally hundreds of in-your-face billboards hawking JBs, which bills itself as the World’s largest cigarette store as well as peddling cigars, exotic perfumes, T-shirts, jeans, and Pedro’s South of the Border, where you can buy almost anything, grab a bite or spend the night.
After checking in at or campground, we drove into St. Augustine’s Old City, the oldest permanent European settlement in the continental United States. It was established in 1565, forty-two years before the English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, and fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, when Don Pedro Menéndez landed on its sandy shores with 600 soldiers.
Castillo de San Marcos is the city’s most recognized and famous landmark. Once Spain’s most northern outpost in the New World, its construction began in 1672, was fought over and controlled by Spanish, British and American forces and yet is still amazingly well-preserved.
Exterior Wall Overlooking Moat
Lights Along San Marcos Avenue
Statute of Ponce de Leon
(who I discovered was an officer on Columbus’ second voyage to the New World in 1493)
Today we awoke to a cool but clear morning, great weather for exploring St. Augustine. We started with a tour of the Old Jail, built in 1891 and privately funded with the caveat it not look like a jail. Thus the combination of Queen Anne stucco and (with the exception of the bars), looking more like a hotel from the outside.
was actively employed for both legal and suspect hangings over the early part of the 20th century.
and having a great lunch at Harry’s, we headed for the Lightner Museum which houses one of the most incredible collection of relics of America’s Gilded Age, elegantly exhibited on the museum’s three floors and includes statuary, furniture, unique and spectacular examples of cut glass, Victorian art glass and the stained glass work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, furnishings, mechanical musical instruments and other artifacts provide a glimpse into 19th century daily life.
Grande Escroitoire 200-Drawer Desk
We could have spent several more hours at the museum but the day was passing and there were some other places we wanted to see before they closed. The first of these was the “Oldest” house (the González-Alverez House) in St. Augustine. Although it does not date from the city’s founding period in the mid-16th century, it is the oldest home which can be documented since the British burning the city to the ground in 1702.
In the middle of a Howard Johnson Motor Inn parking lot, we saw “The Old Senator” a majestic Oak tree which is estimated to be well over 600 years old.From there we visited and climbed (219 steps) the St. Augustine Lighthouse, built between 1871 and 1874, on the city’s barrier island, Anastasia Island. The view from the top was spectacular and included the sun gleaming off the 208’ cross marking the location that Menéndez and St. Augustine landed on 1565. as well as a glorious sunset.