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Thursday, May 2, 2019

St. Augustine - Day 2 and Day 3

We knew that Friday was going to be a little rainy.  Based on the hourly forecasts it seemed that the early morning might have a few light showers and then it would be cloudy for the rest of the day.

So we slept in a little later than we normally do on vacation and headed out to the old city.  Our plan was to just walk around the old part to get a feel for the city and then visit anything that we wanted to visit.  I was worried about Sarah's knee and had wished that we had decided to get tickets to the hop on hop off tour bus but we had our plan and we were forging onward.

We parked at the visitor's center and checked it out.  While we were there we booked tickets for a ghost tour the next night and then we headed outside to start our tour of the city.

And that's when it started to drizzle.  We headed down St. George Street and were a little disappointed.  This was the main street of the old city but honestly it looked and felt like Dollywood according to Sarah.  The street was stone and was pedestrian-only.  All the buildings were very small because they were built in the 1700s and now were home to restaurants and gift shops.  I can't explain it but this street looked extremely touristy and not very historic at all.  It reminded Dan of the renaissance festival - where buildings are built to look old but are not and there's a vendor hawking something out of every door.

We trudged on and the rain kept coming down harder.  At this point we decided to pick a spot for lunch to take cover from the rain.  But apparently that was everyone else's plan as well.  We were going to eat at the Bull and Crown Publick House but it was small and full.  Then we decided to go to the Columbia House but it was white table clothes and very fancy.  Since we were all pretty drenched and not wanting to spend an arm and a leg on lunch we left there and finally settled on Pizzalley's Chianti Room.  We had a delicious lunch and by the time we were done the rain had passed, we had dried off and the sun was coming out!

We got off of St. George Street and into the rest of St. Augustine and it was much more like what we were expecting! There was gorgeous spanish architecture everywhere.  You felt like you were in Spain.

We visited Flagler College which was founded in 1968 but on eof their main buildings was built in 1888 as the Ponce de Leon Hotel which was you can see was considered a luxury hotel at that time.

We walked around the city some more and then ended up at Whetstone Chocolate for a tasting tour.  Our tour guide was wonderful - goofy and sweet and funny.  Tour guides can honestly make or break a tour.  Joe was his name and he was an old retiree and I just knew he was going to be horrible.  BUT y'all - when will I learn to stop judging people.  He was really good!

We toured the factory and learned that the owners started making chocolate out of their home kitchen in 1967 and then expanded in the early 70s.  We learned all about chocolate and what it's made from and how they do it.  And we got to sample lots of chocolate. It was a fun tour and something that we don't really normally do. 
You've got to wear hair nets in a chocolate factory!

Definitely not a good look for me!

Afterthe tour we walked around the city some more and were just taking it all in.

Don't you feel like you are in Spain??

Here's the Casitllo de San Marcos fort.  We've seen a bunch of forts as a family but we didn't make it into this one.  We felt like we have seen enough forts although Peter pointed out that this is a Spanish fort and would have had different features than the other forts we'd seen previously.  But we ran out of time and didn't get to explore this.
But we did have time for another quick visit to the beach:
And a horrible selfie before we changed for dinner.

We had dinner at Sunset Grill - which I would highly recommend and this was our view from our seat:

There were other places to eat that were right on the water but they were seafood places and oddly enough, my Boston husband hates seafood.  The kids aren't big fans of it either and I can take it or leave it.

We got an early start on Saturday morning and were some of the first people to arrive at the Fountain of Youth Park.  We were greeted by this proud peacock in the parking lot:

There was a lot to see and do in this park.  We got some history on Ponce de Leon and the fountain from a guide and drank from the spring.  It was not as good as you would think.

We also learned about Pedro Menendez de Aviles who landed here in 1565 (about 50 years after Ponce de Leon) and actually started the settlement of St. Augustine.  The park which houses the fount of you is based on archaelogical digs wehre Pedro started the first settlement.

There were a lot of outdoor exhibits at the park that were based on how things were in the 1500s at the early settlement. We visited - a gun demonstration, a cannon demonstration, a blacksmith demonstration, and we climbed the watch tower where we got lots of great views.

The cross behind us is on the grounds of the Shrine of Our Lady of Le Leche.

The Watch Tower

And then there were all the peacocks:

This park was a great place to visit for some history, some great views, some demonstrations and lots of peacocks.  They were beautiful but they are loud!

And then we spent some more time on the beach.  This was Saturday and there were way more people out than before.  Here you can drive on the beach and previously on our trip there were only a couple of cars parked on the beach.  But on Saturday it was packed!

More football on the beach.

More wave jumping.

Tons of cars and trucks!

After the beach, we headed back to town for Mass and dinner.  We went to Mass at the Cathedral Basilica.  It was gorgeous inside but Mass was happening so I didn't take any pictures.

After dinner,  we walked around old town more and it had such a fun and festive vibe on Saturday night as compared to Friday morning in the rain.  We were killing time before the ghost tour but I really didn't want to leave.  Dan and the kids got milkshakes while we walked around.  And then we headed off to the ghost tour.

This was a trolley ghost tour which was good because of Sarah's bum knee.  Our tour guide was pretty cheesy so that was bummer. The stories weren't very spooky and the only thing that redeemed this pricey tour was the fact that we stopped at the Potter's Museum and walked through it and got a glimpse of some of the wax statues but ost were covered though.  And then we stopped at the Old Jail which was really spooky.  The best part of this ghost tour was getting to go inside this jail which was used form 1891-1953 and the guide there was a great actor.  So much better than the cheesy girl at the beginning.

I think this was our last ghost tour.  We also ways do them and as the kids get older they seem to get worse.  The best ghost tour we took as a family was the first one.  It was in 2010. For his birthday, we took Peter and  Colton to visit Dan's sister in Alexandria, VA. We did all the DC stuff but one evening we did a ghost tour through Alexandria.  It was a walking tour - those are always better - and the guide told some really good stories.  The guide wasn't cheesy and neither were the stories.  The kids listened so intently to them all and seemed scared by some of them.  I don't have a picture of that evening but I can clearly see them in my mind sitting around the guide at one of the stops looking up and her and listening so closely.  Anyway - if you are in St. Augustine skip the ghost tour and just do a tour of the jail.  (And if you want to see my sweet 8-year old and his sweet friend Colton on this trip click this link.)

We got home late from the ghost tour, started packing and then went to bed.  We got up early on Sunday morning and I snapped these pictures as the sun was rising:

And just like that our vacation was over.

Bring on summer!


Ernie said...

So much to do in St. Augustine! I was there when I was like 6 maybe when we drove to Disney, I think. I vividly remember begging to be done looking at stuff. And I remember a fort or some building made entirely of little tiny rock/stones. Great pics! Your rainy walk looking for a resteraunt in New Orleans. A place we do not care to go back to. I guess I got ahead of myself yesterday when I thought that was the end of your vacation.

Madeline said...

Chocolate, peacocks, walking, beaches and beautiful architecture? That's a vacation! Bummer the ghost tour wasn't any good. How wonderful for you all to spend that time together!

charlene said...

I was down there starting on Friday and left on Tuesday. As I said I left a little piece of my heart there. I agree St. George was a tad touristy but everything else was really cool. We toured Fort Mantanza and the Big Fort both great info. We saw the cannons being shot off at San Marcos. We visited the old jail and did the tram tour. Which got into the history.

We also did a ghost tour that was a walking one that was geared for adults. It gave us a lot of information.

Glad your vacation was good.

Jane Morrison said...
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Busy Bee Suz said...

It looks like you had a great time-the beach is beautiful!
Lolo was recruited to Flagler (softball) and we did a tour there, very interesting history. We toured the dorms and I'm 100% sure they must be haunted...SO old. :)
How is Sarah's knee doing?

Lucky as Sunshine said...

How fun !! Looks like a great time!