After spending the weekend in Daytona watching cars race around the track at Daytona International Speedway and the SpaceX rocket launch from the beach, Mitch and I decided to take another mini vacation by stopping in Saint Augustine on the way home to Charlotte. It was Mitch’s idea (he’s a history guy) but I won’t say no to a convenient opportunity to go somewhere new. We arrived mid-afternoon with no plans other than to visit the Castillo San Marcos National Monument before we left at lunch the next day.
The first thing we did was get the lay of the land of the historic district – which I didn’t realize was as touristy as it is. Remember, I did no research prior except to find an affordable hotel relatively close to the old fort, so this trip was spent truly winging it. All that to say that I was really surprised but blown away by the atmosphere and character of the historical streets we aimlessly wandered.
Saint Augustine is the nation’s oldest city. It was settled in 1565 (I will always remember by the “Party like it’s 1565” t-shirt I found in a window) by Spain and served as the capital of the place Juan Ponce de Leon named La Florida (“land of flowers”) for more than 200 years. I’m not wonderful at history, but I did gather that it was taken by the British, then by Spain again before it was given up to the United States. The fort, which was built in 1695, held up through all the fighting and it was really interesting to learn that the changes in power only ever resulted from negotiations, not by taking the castillo by force.
We were also lucky enough to tour the monument on the morning of President’s Day which meant we could visit for free since it’s within the National Park Service. (Budget hack!)
We hopped from patios to pubs the first night, getting a drink and an appetizer at each to make the most of our dining experience in the short amount of time we had there. Before we left on Monday, we got a table at the Columbia Restaurant for a really great Spanish cuisine experience. So much food, but so good and the inside of the restaurant was spectacular.
It was a whirlwind trip but well worth making the stop. I’m sure we’ll be back because we really only scratched the surface on the history of this place. Plus, I always like an excuse to go to the beach!