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Monday, December 10, 2007

St. Augustine Report: Historic Downtown...

This would probably be a lot better if I could write well enough to weave our little trip to St. Augustine into some sort of historical context, showing a trail of sorts of the places we visited and attaching them to significant events in the history of Florida and the oldest city in the United States, but the best I can do is just tell you what we saw and add in a few links and pictures to give you an idea of how cool St. Augustine is, and an understanding of why we must go there again.

And I'll try to avoid long-winded, run-on sentences.

First, a little background about why we went. Having spent most of my adult life in San Antonio, I consider myself a Texan - you know the kind that has the bumper sticker that reads,
"I wasn't born in Texas but got here as quick as I could" - just without defacing my vehicle with the actual bumper sticker.

Anyway, my parents and most of my brothers and sisters live in Florida, near Tampa (Go Bucs!), but my maternal grandmother's family is from St Augustine. Besides being rich in family history, it is a city that my parents simply love to visit. So, this past weekend most of my family converged on the small, haunted town and though we had very little time to really explore the place, we had a great time seeing family and learning about my great-grandmother's family.

St. Augustine has an
historic downtown area that is pretty much blocked off to all vehicle traffic. The older homes in the area have been converted into shops selling the usual touristy things, all sorts of arts and crafts, and loads of great restaurants, pubs and places to spend hours browsing.

In the same way that you might be able to see all of San Antonio's River Walk in a single day, but not actually visit each store and restaurant; there is no way you could fully appreciate St. Augustine's historic area in a weekend.
My wife likened the area to our La Villita, full of shops that lend themselves to unexpectedly large Visa bills and luggage full of souvenirs you had no idea you needed.During our first night in St. Augustine, we met up with family in front of a small cemetery containing the crypts of some relatives of ours. Between one of my brothers and another sister, we heard the details of who it was who died, how we were related and what sightings of ghosts had been seen over the years.It was exciting and all, but when my oldest brother and his wife suggested a slice of pizza and a beer at a place called Kozmic Bluz on Spanish Street, I was in.For me, this little shop had the feel of English Pubs I visited when I lived in the UK. We found a table in a room that was so small, it only had one table! Great pizza and a friendly waiter and atmosphere. I can see how people would enjoy walking through the St. Georges area at night. The weather was great and people everywhere we went were friendly. But if you want to appreciate the architecture of the old homes and shops, you really need to see it during the daylight hours. And we did. I hope you will enjoy a few pictures of our visit to the downtown area.One of our family names is Oliveros, and along St George was Oliveros House.
My wife and I posed by it just in case any passersby wanted an autograph.  None did.

Up and down St. Georges Street, There were interesting shops including a place that really creeped me out. This artist will take your picture and then transfer the image onto a weaved carpet of some sort. I don't know, is it just me or does it look like either this carpet didn't work out as planned, or was the original picture of a freaky looking kid? No offense if this is your picture or your carpet.
I happened to see two different pirates walking about. The first one I saw, I whipped out my camera and took a picture, then felt stupid just as quick. A couple walking behind us, obvious locals said, "Hey look, that guy took a picture of the pirate; that's something you don't see every day." Then, after the appropriate comedic pause, the guy added, "...Unless you live here."
While we did not see a single panhandler during our stay (Are you listening San Antonio Chamber of Commerce?), there was an abundance of street performers. This guy was playing the harmonica so we walked up to him and listened for a minute then tossed a buck in his coconut. Just then, he paused in his song and said "Thanks. I'm Coconut Bob as seen on Mad-TV!" then popped himself on his head to make a weird coconut sound and went on playing. Too funny. Yea, I looked on Google and did not find any such character.
In some factions, calling someone a Cracker is considered offensive. In St Augustine, it is a restaurant.
If you are thinking about checking out St. Augustine but worried about the long walks around, they do have several trolley systems where you pay a fee (like $20.00 or so) and you can ride around the town on the trolley, then jump off wherever you choose to shop, then get back on later. We didn't partake of it, but it does seem like a good idea. By the way, we found parking to be plentiful, though not free. On Saturday, we paid $7.00 to park all day which is very reasonable.If you want to try another way to get around, you can do what my brother and his wife did and bring along bikes. They really could get around and there were plenty of places to lock up the bikes when they felt the urge to walk.
Like when we stopped at the Rendezvous, home of the largest selection of imported beer in the city.
Again with the feel of a small pub, the waitress was very nice and beer-knowledgeable.Whereas my brother was prepared to try lots of exotic things, I went with a known entity, the Boddigntons Pub Ale - which by the way was outstanding.

Suffice it to say, if you like San Antonio, you will love St. Augustine. Plus, there is a beach. I could write more and more on this (and may), but my wife has cautioned me that I am entirely too long winded. Therefore, I'll leave it here for a bit.


Anonymous said...

Glad you guys enjoyed the historic downtown st augustine. You guys should have spend some time on the beaches area as well while visiting St.Augustine.

M2 said...


I just stumbled acorss your blog on St A. I grew up in Jacksonville and spent many a day in that town as a teenager, either surfing or just biking around. It is still one of my favorite places in the States, and I can see how you can compare it with San Antonio. My mother still lives in Jax, and when we go visit we usually go down to St A for the day. It is a great place to just walk around, shop and eat. Glad you enjoyed it.

Cheers! M2

p.s. Did you go to the Fountain of Youth? I dunked my head in when I was younger. It' just sulpher water, and stinks to high heaven; but I think it works as I look pretty dang good for someone who is 45!

Dave said...

We loved St. Augustine and will probably make it a yearly or at least every other year type of thing.

We drove into the park where the FOY is located, but to be honest, we had limited time and I wasn't prepared to pay whatever they were charging to get in.

No doubt my photos are proof that I should have spent the money!

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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