When I was a child living in Tampa, Florida, my first family trip was to St. Augustine. My grandmother was born there in the late 1880's, and was descended from Minorcans who had traveled to the new world in 1768 as indentured servants.
Lunch on this visit included Cuban Sandwiches and Spanish Bean Soup.
Guarding the bay across from old town is the Castillo de San Marcos which was built beginning in 1672. It is constructed out of coquina shell fragments and sand which is bound tightly together with calcite.
Lovely photos. I visited Saint Augustine probably about 15 years ago and it looks much as I recall, but the main thing that struck me at the time was that the minimum age for visitors seemed to be about 70. I think it is the place in the world that I have visited that had by far the oldest tourists that I have ever seen.
What a rush of nostalgia! I remember visiting there as a little girl. Oddly, in all the times I've been to Florida, I've never made it back there. Your great pictures make me want to remedy that. The information about the Minorcan heritage is fascinating.
I may be totally wrong about this, but I believe St. Augustine might have a claim on being the oldest continuously settled (post "discovery" of America) place in the US.
I really enjoyed reading this and looking at your photos htmb. Like many others from England ( maybe) much of my ( very enjoyable) experience of Florida has been limited to theme parks, gulf beaches and Cape Canaveral.
Thank you all for your encouragement. I have more photos to post as soon as my family leaves. Their visit is, unfortunately, coming to an end. The toursit department in St Augustine does claim to have the oldest continuous settlement in the United States, though a few others may disagree.
The average age of visitors varies during the year. Since we are all on summer break and there are hundreds of families staying on St. Augustine Beach, we saw mostly family groups the day we went into town. Fourth grade students study Florida History. Those from my area culminate the school year with a trip to St. Augustine so the city is inundated with ten year old students each April and May. If you visited during spring break in early April you'd miss those oldsters as the city would be overrun with hormonal teenagers. Late fall and winter bring the "snowbirds," retirees from the north.
When I took Florida History classes at the University of Florida my professor was one of the curators of Spanish history in St. Augustine and he really made the stories of the city come alive. He brought to class many artifacts from Spanish explorers and gave us all the "inside scoop." I remember one of the items he shared was a carving from the tomb of Pedro Menendes de Aviles, a Spanish explorer from the 16th century.
Lugg, back when my parents took us on this trip in the late 1950's there were no major attractions in the state of Florida except for spots like St. Augustine, Cypress Gardens, Weeki Wachee, and the beach. My parents drove north from Tampa and took us first to visit the state capital in Tallahassee, then east to St. Augustine, and south to Cape Canaveral where we stayed at the beach. We then went west to the Lake Okechobee area where we visited a very isolated Seminole Indian village. It was a big trip and especially notable because my father finally felt he could not only afford to take us on a trip, but could also miss about four days of work.
As late as at least 1972, I can remember driving from Tampa to Daytona Beach and St. Augustine on Interstate 4 and barely noticing the Orlando area and it's theme parks. The whole corridor was mostly orange groves.
They still have horse drawn carriages for visitors to St. Augustine, though the horses look a lot healthier than those I remember from my childhood trip.
Modern trams are also available for tours, but old town is very walkable and many streets are for pedestrians only. There is a large, shaded parking garage located next to the visitors center and the $10 charge ($12 in 2016) to park was almost worth it on a steamy hot day. At least our car was kept fairly cool.
The Bridge of Lions crosses Matanzas Bay to connect St. Augustine to Anastasia Island where St. Augustine Beach is located.
St. Augustine Beach, and Crescent Beach to the south, are very popular destinations for North Floridians, as well as visitors from outside the area. The beaches are beautiful and are conveniently located.
This guy looks like he's fishing too close to the swimmers. I wonder if these surf fishermen ever catch anything.
And, yes, there are plenty of tourist shops, too!
One thing I don't like, besides the fact there are no trees, is that vehicles are allowed on the beach.
My recent trip to St. Augustine was for the sole purpose of eating lunch and, due to the short attention span of the group, I was unable to take many photos. I hope to return this fall to gather more. In the meantime, here are some oldie goldies.
In approximately 1950, my parents took my grandmother back to her St. Augustine birthplace. Here are my beautiful young parents sitting outside the Castillo de San Marcos.
and my father and grandmother inside the castle.
I'm going to have to do more research to figure out the location of this fountain where my grandmother is sitting, but I assume it is/was located somewhere near the Fountain of Youth. I wonder if the children represent the young Minorcans.
My mother posing at the old city gates with one of the horse drawn carriages. I can't believe I stood in the same spot just the other day (see earlier photo of the gates and wall)
Dad had several operations to remove shrapnel from his lower back (injured during WWII on a US Navy destroyer), so I assume he is leaning to prop himself up while also trying to look debonair.
The photo on the left is one of me with my brother at the Fountain of Youth. It was taken during our 1962 trip, which turned out to be later than I had remembered. My mother is in the 1950 picture on the right, taken near the same spot.
Here's an embarrassing photo of me, my brother (who wished to remain anonymous) and my father posing in front of the old school house, 1962. I debated whether or not to post this one. Note the lacey socks and fancy pinafore dress. I guess we still dressed up back then when traveling. I'm surprised I wasn't wearing little white gloves and guess it was because it was July and probably hot as could be!
Oh, this is a real treat, Htmb ~~ thanks so much for showing us these, including that blast-from-the-past way of dressing girls. We have come a long way, baby!
Your parents are indeed beautiful. Love that picture of your grandmother sitting on the fountain. Her dress was sort of a uniform for Women of a Certain Age of that era -- that could be my grandmother or my godmother sitting there. I'll bet you're right about the children statues.
I think our big Florida trip was @1955. I remember St. Augustine, Weeki Wachee -- real mermaids!, don't remember Cypress Gardens very well. We must have gone to some archeological site, because I remember looking down into a lighted cavernous space with two corpses on display. They must have been skeletons, though. I imagine that now, with more respect toward the original inhabitants of N. America, that they're no longer on display. One abiding memory is of a little box of candy we bought along the way. It was a tiny wooden crate with "oranges" inside. I thought that was so cool.
This is totally off topic, but fits in with the old Florida theme. The mermaids are still performing and Weeki Wachee is as tacky as ever, though now it's a state park. We were there a few weeks ago and my granddaughters, who still believe in mermaids, absolutely loved the show.
Bixa, didn't they have "corpses" in the old St. Augustine jail? I can't imagine where else that would be.
They now have ghost tours in St. Augustine, and I find that a bit odd and rather offensive. I'd much rather learn about the Spanish, French, and English history of the place, or hear how the east coast of Florida was developed through the efforts of Henry Flagler and his East Coast Railroad from north Florida to Key West.
What do you mean, "still believe in mermaids"??! Doesn't everyone?
No, I remember they were excavations of indigenous tombs. I'll call my mother & ask her & let you know.
on ghost tours & the like. However, at least people probably don't swallow the spiel whole. I used to give tours in New Orleans & really did my homework. It's appalling the kinds of lying bs that tour guides will spout.
Re: surf fishing ~~ in the Gulf, you usually catch hard-head cats, which most people throw back. I think surf fisherman just like casting into the surf.
In all of the years that my parents lived in Spring Hill, I am the only family member who was never taken to Weeki Wachee for some reason. My grandmother went, my brother and his ex-wife went, the grandchildren went... I guess my parents were all Weeki Wacheed out -- but I did go with them to Disneyworld, Busch Gardens and Crystal River, where none of the others went.
Kerouac, I'm not sure if your parents did you a favor, or not. To my little girls it was absolute magic. They loved the shows (we watched two). I was glad they enjoyed it so much and it made for a low key day of entertainment for the rest of the family. While I will go to some of the large theme parks, I wouldn't make that choice unless the rest of the family really wanted to visit Disney, Universal, etc. I just don't like massive crowds, and abhor standing around in hot theme parks.
At Weeki Wachee I could see evidence of years of drought and the toll ground water pumping is taking on the state of Florida. The water level in the Weeki Wachee theater was several feet lower than normal, and the "jungle ride" was closed due to the low level of the river. Our springs are not pumping out water at normal levels and many springs have dried up completely. We've also seen more sink hole activity than usual.
Fortunately, little girls aged three and five do not notice these things. They'd love to go back, so let me know if you are ever in the area and we will be happy to introduce you to real live mermaids.
I really need to get back to St. Augustine to take more photographs, but while going through some old pictures from my great-grandparents' home I found these two gems taken in late summer, 1934.
My eight year old mother is pictured with her maternal grandparents, with whom she was very close. The photo on the left was taken with my great-grandmother at the Castilio de San Marcos in St. Augustine. On the right, Mom is pictured on the beach with my great-grandfather and his spiffy car.
After more than a year, I finally found the time to return to St. Augustine. I especially wanted to visit the Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos. I picked a day when hoards of college football fans would be descending on my town. It's always nice to get away from that mess if you don't plan to participate.
Living almost in the middle of the northern part of Florida puts me equidistant from the Gulf and the Atlantic. One would think the 1 1/2 hour drive to St. Augustine would be pleasant, but yesterday the two lane roads were filled with people who aimed to drive 75 in a 60 MPH zone, meaning there was lots of tailgating and idiots passing cars during the short segments between hills.
And hills there were. For the first hour of the drive the terrain is very rolling and includes many spring-fed lakes. Once I crossed the St. John's River at Palatka the hills turned into flat, farmland and the road took me through Florida's potato chip capital of Hastings and the "grand metropolis" of Spuds.
I parked at the St. Augustine visitor's center; a bit pricey at $10 per day, but besides providing a save, convenient place to park my car, the covered garage means my car will be relatively cool when I return. That's a good thing on a day when the high is expected to reach 90 degrees F and there's not much of a cloud cover in the sky.
I picked up a map from the visitor's center, placed it in my bag and completely forgot about it.
Outside the VC was this monument I'd never noticed before. It marks the beginning of the Old Spanish Trail to San Diego, and was dedicated in 1928.
I don't care much for wandering cemeteries, but the tiny Huguenot cemetery next to the visitor's center was open, a rare event, so I went in to take a look.
The cemetery, set just outside the main gates to the old town, was first opened during a yellow fever epidemic in 1821 and, supposedly, many important people of the day are buried here.
Since my father's ancestors hailed from St. Augustine I also looked to see if I could find any of the non-Catholic, Scottish side of the family.
The cemetery was used until 1884, and is now maintained by the local Presbyterian church.
Leaving the cemetary I head through the old gates of the city.
Straight from the U.S. Park Service guide to St. Augustine:
Thanks to the travels of Ponce de León in 1513, Spanish navigators knew the best return route from Spain's rich Caribbean possessions was along the Gulf Stream, through the Bahamas Channel, and past the shores of Florida...In 1513 Spain claimed Florida through the expedition of Ponce de León, but France gained the first foothold there by establishing Fort Caroline on the St. John's River in 1564.
Next, Spain's King Phillip II sent Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to eliminate the French threat. After unsuccessful attempts, Menéndez sailed farther south to the mouth of the Matanzas River and began to establish St. Augustine as a Spanish base of operations. Meanwhile, the French did not fare well. Ships from a fleet sent from Ft. Caroline to attack the Spanish were wrecked in a storm and not only did the Spanish kill survivors, they also attacked Fort Caroline and executed most of the inhabitants.
The current Castillo, completed in 1695, replaced nine successive wooden buildings built on this site. It was built to help protect against England, Spain's next contender for Florida.
Looking across the bay towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Ships from a fleet sent from Ft. Caroline to attack the Spanish were wrecked in a storm and not only did the Spanish kill survivors, they also attacked Fort Caroline and executed most of the inhabitants.
When you read about all of the nasty things that Europeans did to each other for hundreds of years, I can't imagine anyone being against the idea of the European Union -- and yet some people still are.