Wednesday, May 19, 2010

St. Augustine

Yesterday we drove south along the Atlantic Coast through some really nice areas, especially Ponte Vedra. The dunes line the road, so we couldn't see the ocean most of the way, but we did see some impressive houses. Our destination was St. Augustine, a city I had heard about for years. From the city's web site, it looked like we might need more than one day to explore. There are museums galore, for instance. The surrounding area first explored in 1513 by Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon, who was then the governor of nearby Puerto Rico. He claimed the region for the Spanish crown. The city itself was established in 1565 and has been ruled by the Spanish, the French, the British, the Spanish again, and in 1821 it finally became part of the United States.

This is one of the early gates that guarded the city.

Today the most obvious sight is trains like this,

which take tourists around the old town. They drop people off at each museum and other locations. I think buying a ticket on the train gets you into most of the museums. Since we wanted to walk around ourselves, we didn't get free admission. This is the "oldest school house museum" in the country, they say.

We didn't pay to go inside. We also didn't pay to go into a living history exhibit. We did explore the Saint Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine and Saint Photios Chapel. A Scottish physician, Andrew Turnbull, received a grant from the government of Great Britain to settle land in its newly acquired property in Florida. His wife was the daughter of a Greek merchant in Smyrna, Asia Minor, and he believed people of the Mediterranean area were suited to the warm Florida climate.

On March 23, 1768, 1403 colonists sailed for Florida, to a settlement called New Smyrna. Only 1255 survived. They were not prepared for the harsh conditions as indentured servants or for clearing the swampland filled with alligators, poisonous snakes and mosquitoes. In just over two months, they revolted. The revolt did not bring about improvement and by the end of the first year, 450 men, women and children were reported dead. By March 1777 many of the settlers began leaving for St. Augustine, about 75 miles to the north. There the Greek settlers established the first permanent Greek settlement on this continent. The shrine and chapel celebrate that settlement. Isn't the chapel beautiful?

This is one of the numerous narrow lanes in the old town area of St. Augustine.

Some of the older (not oldest) buildings in town are really interesting, especially the tile work on the roofs. This is the Methodist Church. Click the photo to enlarge and look at the roof.

The Catholic cathedral looks much the same. Another old building has been converted to use as Flagler College. The tile on the tower here looks the same.

After leaving the city, we checked out the St. Augustine Lighthouse. That would cost $7 to go inside, so we didn't. We did take this photo. It is a great lighthouse.

Then we drove on 14 miles south to Fort Matanzas National Monument, built in 1740--42 by the Spanish to protect Matanzas Inlet, the "back door" of St. Augustine. Admission is free (even if you don't have a US senior pass). A free ferry takes tour participants across the inlet to the fort.

This is a view of the small fort from the water.

These are some of the guns that protected the fort and access to St. Augustine.

They were only fired once at British ships, in 1742. They drove the British ships away and no major attack was attempted on the facility after that.

This is kind of a cute guard house. But would it protect the soldier inside?

Here is where the soldiers slept.

We biked to the beach again last evening, then walked in the surf. Here are some of the gulls that kept us company. And note the large ship in the distance. We don't know what kind it is.

This morning we ran along the beach. I haven't been able to run for 10 days because of problems with my foot. I only made it about 1 1/2 miles this morning, but it sure was fun. There is no better place to run.

1 comment:

  1. Great job as a tour guide. ;-) That's a particularly good shot of the lighthouse.