St. Augustine, Florida — A Neat Historic Spot

                                         (Castillo de San Marcos, photo courtesy of www.visitstaugustine.com)

 

    They say the time to go and visit Florida is September or January, when hotel prices (and probably gas prices at this unbusy time of year) are lower and the crowds a lot less.

But NOW, with COVIF-19 here, is not a good time to visit. Dr. Mallika Marshall says Florida is one of the top states for virus infection. If you did visit, you’d have to quarantine yourself for 14 days afterward. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find out more about this neat historic place to visit in the future.

A VARIED HISTORY

    Saint Augustine, Florida is not your typical historic town. St. Augustine, historically, has changed many hands over the centuries, from the native Indians to Spanish conquistadors to (almost, for a short time) French Huguenot Protestants; then the English came in, only to be pushed out when American colonists gained independence and Spain fled, in  1784.  And in between, British privateer-explorer Sir Francis Drake came ashore with 2,000 men and burned and plundered the town and fort.

Then someone got the bright idea for St. Augustine that whoever visits would encounter a much stronger fort structure. They rebuilt the fort, not with wood but with a shell called coquina, which has limestone in it and is abundant near a quarry near what is now Anastasia State Park. The fort is now called Castillo de San  Marcos, and actually held Western Plains Indians on and off  over a 30 year period when it was called Fort Marion.

During one of THOSE TIMES IN ST. AUGUSTINE, in the 1870s, the officer in charge at the fort, Capt. Richard Henry Pratt, had the bright idea to not do the usual thing, constantly keeping these men in their dark, dank cells. He gave them uniforms, military training and routines, and also colored pencils and watercolors to create historic art on old ledgers and bookkeeping books. They were Cheyenne, Kiowa, other tribes, and their “ledger art” (I learned about this in a class on Native American literature) showed them in battles on their horses (which the Spanish brought to the Americas), charging against their enemies. And they were colorful. (The tribesmen, sometimes with their wives and children, were all eventually released from fort confinement.)

I actually got “lost” visiting St. Augustine’s famous Castillo de San Marcos. I had my fill of the dark cells and saw a bit of the cannons up on the ramparts and crossed the drawbridge, thinking my sons and spouse had already left the place. So I strolled over to the so-called Spanish Quarter, thirsty and hunger but afraid if I went into a restaurant like the fancy, historic Columbia, that I’d miss my family. But we finally met each other on this overly warm summer day (maybe 100 degrees).

INTERESTING ODDITIES

    St. Augustine is a neat historic town with much to see and do. My spouse and I first visited it beautiful white sand, city beach a number of years ago. And we took our sons to see the oddities of Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” Museum. The museum has a tilting walkway that makes you feel drunk, and two headed calf skull, among other things.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, with maritime artifacts, are worth a visit near the water. And a red train can take you to other historic sites in this oldest city in America, established by Spain in 1585, like the city park’s archaeological dig, the Old Jail, Flagler College, once the ornate Ponce de Leon Hotel.

Even if you are on your way to southern Florida or Disney World, this place is worth a visit, a short stopover for historic sites, a beach visit, or a place to eat. In the new year, a visit to this historic town in northern Florida on the East coast would be worth your time. See more on various attractions at : www.visitstaugustine.com   or https://travel.usnews.com/St_Augustine_FL/Things_To_Do/

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