A Slice of Europe in the United States

St. Augustine gave us an impressive view of this European-like city as we drove over the Bridge of Lions on A1A. In fact, St. Augustine, which was established by the Spanish in 1565, is the first permanent settlement in the United States and it has been continually occupied since then.

We stayed near the Old City which is very walkable, touristy, but also very interesting. Oldcity.com gave us insight into the area and possibilities to explore. Our first stop was the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument that strategically overlooks the water to intimidate and stop marauding pirates and Englishmen.

And pirates, who played an important part in the history of St. Augustine, live on at the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum. We entered this museum expecting a cheesy display of television-like pirates, but we were pleased to learn the history of many of the pirates who had pillaged the area. We also visited the Colonial Quarters. Our guide showed us how to load and fire a musket and cannon, just in case we ever need these skills! You can buy a ticket for the tours together and get a discount.

We also visited Flagler College that houses the largest private collection of Tiffany windows still in use. The main structure was built as the Ponce de Leon Hotel. College students give the tours but make certain to get tickets, only available in person, the day before.  Henry Flagler built both Ponce de Leon Hotel and Alcazar Hotel across the street. The Alcazar is now the Lightner Museum which houses 19th century art. We skipped the art and opted for lunch in the museum’s café instead. The café lies in the deep end of what was once the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. Thankfully, it has been drained!

St. Augustine is a foodie city. We didn’t hit the top-rated restaurants because reservations are needed several days in advance, but the restaurants we visited were excellent. Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill had wonderful Cajun food that we enjoyed while seated on their patio. We also ate at Raintree Restaurant, which seemed appropriate because it did rain quite a bit while we were in St. Augustine. This restaurant, located next to our hotel, featured traditional favorites such as Beef Wellington, but it also served very good seafood.

While we were visiting the Old City, we toured the St. Augustine Distillery located in the historic icehouse.  Another favorite pastime was drinking many cups of excellent coffee since the city seems to have more coffee, chocolate, and ice creams shops that any place we’ve visited.

Things we didn’t do but would do on our next trip…ghost tours in many forms, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, and a guided trolley tour.

Have you been to St. Augustine? If so, what did you visit? Do you have other favorite sites in Florida that you would like to share? Please share in the comment section below!

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