Saturday, November 17, 2012

St. Og

This week I had a business conference that was up in St. Augustine, which is 5 hours away from Miami. That sounds like a really far way, and it is. And it's a pretty uneventful drive, although you do drive by Merritt Island, home to NASA's Cape Canaveral. We didn't stop there, but we could have, in theory.

I brought Jan and the kids along since they've never been there. I was afraid it was going to be a "Circus Circus," which is what I call things now that are far cooler in my memory than they are in real life. But they wound up really liking it, which was great. To me, it's always been very historic and interesting and has always had a fun atmosphere. It's a 550 year-old town-the oldest in America that's been continuously lived in. It's right on the sea, about 30 miles south of Jacksonville and about 50 miles north of Daytona Beach.

I stayed at the Renaissance Golf something or other. It's a hotel there in St. Augustine, and is home to the world golf hall of fame or something like that. It's on a golf course that looks very nice. I assume it may even be famous since it looks expensive. For you golf buffs out there, the course is called 'Slammer and Squire,' which sounds like a time travel Bill & Ted-esque movie.

The interior of the hotel had this sort of fun artrium thing. It's hard to tell in this picture but there's a little water river thing down there.

 Way to go, Renaissance hotels!

A very cloudy and (for Florida) cold day (65 degrees)

I went to my conference on the first day and the girls went shopping and did some brief driving around.  I met up with everyone after I was done and we went into town and walked around in the dark in the historic downtown area. Those pictures are all very low light, but here are a few.

The Castillo de San Marcos, a 500 year-old Spanish fort. They light it up at night and it's fairly spooky.

This building used to be the town morgue, and they would display the bodies in the front window. Now it's a gift shop.

The, well, oldest wooden school house in the US. They put a manequin in the upstairs window. For fun? Apparently?
The entire town's been taken over by ghost tours and there are multiple options competing for your attention. There was a pirate tour, a sheriff tour, a few walking tours, and a tour by trolley. In the past I've taken the trolley tour-this time we took one of the walking tours.

It was just us with the kids and one other couple. The tour was led by a girl who was attending nearby Flagler college, probably as a drama major. She told some normal stories but presented them in a 'dramatic' manner, so it was 'interesting.' We had fun, though.

The Protestant cemetery. 
OK this brings us to our first 'ghost' photo. See if you can spot it here.

If you guessed 'the ghost monkey thing over on the left hand side in the window,' you are correct.
No idea what this is. There was nothing in this window that Jan or I remember seeing at all, much less a 20 inch-tall little ghost monkey thing holding a book or something. I guess it could be a reflection of some kind, but it's pretty odd. And you can tell that I don't have the flash on, or Jan's shirt would be illuminated.

Our second ghost picture is this one. It's extremely hard to see. You have to view it at maximum size and in a pitch black room, and then the light will show up a little bit. See if you can see the odd figure in here:

It's over on the left
I ran this through some image software I have, however, and the ghost game into blurry focus.

Dang it, Jan.
The next day we woke up and had some breakfast at a local cafe. Mads helped me craft this guy.

She did the nose.

After that, we headed over to Ripley's Believe it or Not museum to see how things were going there. They were going.

We didn't go in because this is a building with many stairs and it wouldn't lend itself to a stroller visit very well.

After this we went to the St. Augustine lighthouse, which is purported to be very haunted. Which is not saying much in St. Augustine. I think even the Dennys there claims to be very haunted. Still...

Very cool trees.

The gift shop/ticket place. There's probably something historic upstairs.

The back yard is very pretty. The lighthouse is about 10 feet to our right, here, and back about 200 feet.

More very cool trees and atmosphere.

Thar she blows

It looks haunted, yes?

It's hard to take a picture of something 300 feet tall and something 3 feet tall simultaneously.
We didn't go on the tour because, again, stairs. About 292, if memory serves. Plus it was very expensive. Plus, if you're going to go, then the ghost tour would be the way to do it. We'll have to return in 10 years when the kids won't prohibit stair travel.

After that it was over to the Castillo de San Marcos, which is this very very old Spanish fort that is right downtown. Again, stairs. So we stayed on the outside.

A 'blast furnace' for munitions.

We think this was a flagpole stone. The precision of the cut indicates it's a newer feature.

Kids bundled up warm

This is the 'moat' although it was never intended to be a moat. They instead let their livestock graze here. When the city recently allowed water to be let in to create a moat, it caused the fort to settle and start to crack. So they nixed that one.

The orange fence thing is where they were doing some work on one of the retaining walls.

Very cool. As seen from above, it looks like a Chinese throwing star. There are 4 of these cool battlements.

Walking around the side.

Yes, we had to climb stairs anyway.

Finally, we headed into the historic district in the daylight to check things out. It was a lot of fun. Lots of touristy restaurants and gift shops but certainly a lot of fun things to see. Kind of interesting that the city lets modern businesses operate out of 500 year-old buildings, but OK.

Pretty little area in the middle of town.

Olllld buildings and walls.

St. George street is the main street in the historic district.

Biiiig statue at a church.

Most all the rock is really seashells bound in a kind of cement.

Happy kid at a water wheel thing that is powering a bakery.

Nice little interesting touches everywhere.

Very Spanish-looking fountain.

We had to bribe her with cotton candy to get her to smile.

More of the same.

The things you can buy are...eclectic.

Yes they are real alligator heads.

Very old, very cool trees, most of which are covered in Spanish moss.
We had a really fun time, even though it was a 5-hour drive, and we weren't mentally ready for that much car travel again considering the trip we just had 7 weeks ago. But it was nice to see more of the state (we've seen more of Florida in 1.5 months than we ever saw of Texas in 2.5 years) and the northern part of the state is gorgeous. Tons of very very tall pine trees, and a dramatically different feel than bombed out hooker-ville down in Miami. We'll have to return soon!

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