We lasso a mooring ball for our week’s stay in St. Augustine. As we check in, the harbormaster at the Municipal Marina tells us not to drink the water. We wonder if it’s because of the recent hurricane Matthew, but he laughs and says it makes people want to stay (think Fountain of Youth — because it’s here).
After only a week exploring America’s first city, we did want to stay. Our old cruising friends Denise and Rob pick us up at the docks the day after we arrive. We met these two back in 2005 when we were snorkeling off the island of Culebrita in Puerto Rico. And we’ve kept in touch over the years.
First on our agenda is a tour of the Castillo de San Marcos. It looms at the entrance to the harbor as it’s done since its completion in 1695 — though construction started in 1672. Walking around this old bastion-style fort made out of coquina limestone gives us a new take on colonial America. We’re used to Jamestown up in Virginia. This is the Spanish version and way different. Big guns, cannons, grape shot, glass shot, lots of other shot, a moat and many volunteers in flashy period uniforms keep us busy and entertained for hours. Plus we get to see the cannons fire from the rooftop.
Lucky for us, when we’re finished at the fort we realize it’s also the first Friday of the month. This means all the art galleries in town are open with snacks and drinks for visitors. We meet Phillip who paints amazing lightening scenes over the water and we see a glass blower who captures the beauty of waves in mid-motion sculptures. We find Bodin at the back of one of the galleries reclining in a comfortable armchair admiring a Salvador Dali of 3 dancing nude women with one holding an apple.
The city’s architecture is beautiful—Spanish Renaissance with Moorish designs that include beautiful geometric entryways and fountains. Bright flowers are still in bloom everywhere as we head into winter in Florida. Flagler College, Hotel Alcazar and The Casa Monica Hotel are stunning. The impressive lions at the head of the Bride of Lions are apparently copies of the Medici lions found in Florence, Italy. Details like this are everywhere if you look.
There’s an enormous playground for the kids nearby on Orange Street. And with half a dozen other boat kids from Counting Stars and Alkemi, the kids battle and barter with acorns for hours.
Funny thing is … there are pirates walking around everywhere on these city’s streets. Apparently this weekend is the annual pirate festival. Even USA today rates it as one of the best pirate festivals in the USA. It’s a huge event and brings in thousands of people who seriously dress the part. All the costumes and revelry remind us of the city’s history. It gives us insight on how it might have felt a few hundred years ago to walk around some of the oldest streets in this country.