Lots of stuff to see in St. Augustine, which probably explains the swarms of grammar school kids on field trips. Arguably the top attraction is the Castillo de San Marcos. No doubt this is the most fort-like of the forts we’ve seen. Nobody using obsolete weaponry is gonna take down this place. Not even “so-called Arthur King” and all his “silly English kniggits.”
The Castillo has been around in some form since 1672, which makes it really old. And really popular with the tourists.
About that. We’ve been on the boat for over a year now and have noticed a common theme. Every time we try to tour a touristy spot, herds of annoying tourists get in the way. They move way too slowly. While in line ahead of us they can’t bother making the decisions they know full-well they’ll have to disclose when they finally reach the window. Their kids are back-talking booger-eating menaces. Often they even have the temerity to stop right in front of us to take pictures at the exact spot where we want to stop in front of people to take pictures. That’s just plain rude.
But hey, the cannon works! And the penis-shaped towers might scare away any overly-prudish attackers. (Somewhere in here is a Trojan horse joke waiting to be developed.)
If Jody Marcil Interior Design or any of the other businesses on the far side of the Matanzas River ever line up trebuchets and begin a siege, the National Park Service guys will be ready, although we’d suggest that breathable clothing and ball caps might make the cannoneers more comfortable in battle.
St. Augie claims to be the oldest city in the country, dating itself back to 1585. Apparently the Spaniards just pulled in and set up shop without any resistance from the weenie Floridians.** That’s over 400 years of opportunity to build old Spanish buildings and to think up ways to separate visitors from their cash. The former are really cool. The latter are less impressive.
For example, there’s a gravestone tour.
Okay, we’ll concede that old graveyards generally are interesting. But Cochise County has Tombstone and the original Boot Hill Cemetery.*** Advantage Arizona.
There’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not “museum.”
Gatlinburg has one of those as well, but also has Smoky Mountain salt-water taffy made fresh in the store on Highway 441. Yum. Advantage Tennessee.
Doug figured the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche was some sort of breastfeeding gimmick, but upon further inspection it turned out to be a pretty solemn and sincere tribute to Mother Mary. Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
Upon even further further inspection, however, it turned out to be just another commercial enterprise.
The gift shop was full of religious trinkets for sale. Doug would’ve purchased some Indulgences—just to have around for an emergency of course—but unfortunately they seemed to be out.
Speaking of religion, saints are a big deal around here. Heck, in our little blog alone we’ve covered a few. There’s St. Augustine, of course, but also St. George, St. Mark (San Marcos), and St. Sebastian (San Sebastián). However, Mallory and Shannon attended All Saints Episcopal Day School. By definition, “all saints” encompasses the entire universe of ‘em. Advantage Belknaps.
Although Pedro Menendez**** founded St. Augustine, as we’ve previously noted Ponce de Leon gets credit for finding and naming Florida. The myth is that he was searching for a “fountain of youth” but failed to find it. We know that’s a myth, because the fountain is right here in town, just past Ace Hardware and across from the defunct Subway. The sign is huge and has an arrow pointing the way. Anyone who missed it hardly could claim to be an “explorer.”
We’ve also previously addressed Florida’s infatuation with all things Flagler. Well Henry Flagler himself recognized the true father of Florida when he built St. Augustine’s grand Ponce de Leon Hotel.
“The Ponce”—as the patrons called it—was a beautiful hotel. The ornate edifice indeed was a fitting tribute to “The Ponce”—as de Leon’s more hip friends may have called him. But of course, being Florida, they turned it into Flagler College.***** Big surprise there.
Anyway, lots of cool things around every St. Augustine corner. Here’s one more. After living out West for thirty years, we thought the Old Spanish Trail was a trade route between Santa Fe and Los Angeles. It was, but this is a different one. Apparently at about the time Henry Ford was cranking out Model Ts someone decided to hack out an automobile route from St. Augustine to San Diego. In 1920 there couldn’t have been much traffic to support necessary infrastructure. Like gas stations and McDonald’s restrooms.******
Now about our marina. Rivers Edge looks to have been built at about the same time as the fort.
The docks are really nice, however, and the grounds are relatively clean. Paul the Dockmaster is quite responsive and attentive. Hurricane Patty’s is just across the parking lot. All in all it’s a quite comfortable place to stop. Plus a manatee came right up within a few feet of where we sat on the dock, and performed about as much s a 1,000-pound aquatic slug can perform.
That’s real-time, people, not slow motion. These are about the goofiest-looking animals we’ve seen, although we’ve not yet encountered a platypus. Except on TV.*******
Yesterday? Cold and rainy.
Today? Cold and rainy.
Tomorrow? Off to Jacksonville. Unless it’s cold and rainy.
* “Our chief weapon is surprise.”
** Compare that history with the history of other Spanish forts, like say, The Alamo. Travis and Crockett and the rest at least mounted the best defense possible before succumbing, and then Houston quickly trounced the Mexican invaders at San Jacinto. Advantage Texas.
*** “Here lies Lester Moore. Four slugs from a .44. No Les, No more.”
**** Pedro likely had no connection to Lyle and Erik, but we don’t know for certain.
***** The Del is still The Del. Advantage California.
****** The route covered 2,750 miles. That’s a really long way to push a car while needing to pee.
******* “Curse you Perry the Platypus.”