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January, 2010:

St. Augustine, FL

Touring the old historic district of St. Augustine, Florida comprised most of our day. Walking the narrow cobblestone streets, crowded with numerous tourists, fulfilled any needs we might have had to commune with other humans. The serenity White Swan has to offer is an oasis.

Cannon shoot from fortress Castillo de San Marcos

We viewed the fort, Castillo De San Marcos, as we walked around it. Construction on this fortress began in 1672 and it was completed many years later. We listened as a colonial garbed docent recited the history of the fortress and then other museum volunteers shot a cannon from the top of the fort. They periodically shoot the cannon throughout the day as they give tours of the old fortress, and the shots can be heard throughout the whole downtown area.

After our walking tour of the fort, we went to the Colonial Spanish Quarter which is a living history museum (similar to Conner Prairie, only much smaller) and experienced a view on life in Spanish St. Augustine in the 1740’s. It was interesting that their porches were always built on the south side of the houses, because it was cooler there, and they had no windows on the north side of their houses, thereby giving their neighbors privacy for their porches. In my opinion, that was pretty clever architecture for houses in close proximity to each other.

Flagler College, formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel

We went to the former Ponce de Leon Hotel, which is now Flagler College. Built in 1888, this beautifully restored hotel building of Spanish Renaissance architecture now serves as the college offices, cafeteria, and girls dormitory. We watched a video of the history of this building and of Mr. Henry Flagler who built it and other hotels, as well as the railroads needed to get guests to these hotels in the state of Florida. Mr. Flagler was born in poverty and through his own ingenuity and ambitions, he became a very wealthy man. After his first wife died at an early age, he humbly testified that wealth is not the most important thing in this life when “the Higher Power calls“. It was then that he realized his work was also benefiting others with jobs and a source of income, and that was important to him. As he built his own empire, he helped others along the way. And now the college is named after him to pay him the honor and respect he deserves. As you can tell, I was moved by the life story of this man. I love it when people see beyond themselves and “get it” that each person’s life encompasses “everyone”.

Sculpture, chandaliers and mosaic tile floor in lobby of Lightner Museum, formerly the Alcazar Hotel

We also went into the lobbies of the Lightner Museum, formerly the Alcazar Hotel which was also built by Henry Flagler, and the Casa Monica Hotel just to see their ornate lobbies with crystal chandeliers, sculptures, glistening mosaic tiled floors and courtyards with fountains and palm trees.

In our conversations with some of the locals, we found out which chocolatier made the best chocolates in town. We had to make a stop at “Claudes” for “the best” chocolates, and we were not disappointed.

Before leaving the historic district, we visited the National Greek Orthodox Shrine.  We enjoyed this historic city very much, and will probably revisit it.

New Year’s Eve on White Swan

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!!!

New Year's Eve dinner on White Swan 12-31-09

Gary and I had a lovely New Year’s Eve on White Swan. We had a gourmet meal consisting of grilled South African lobster; baked potatoes; salad with grilled pear spiced with cinnamon, sliced almonds, feta cheese and raspberry balsamic dressing; pumpernickel bread; and, a strawberry/blueberry tart for dessert.  This is one of the reasons why Captain Glenn doesn’t pitch the galley slave overboard.

After dinner, we watched a DVD movie on our laptop while wearing our New Year’s Eve hats.  Yeah, we’re dorks…  After the movie was over, we still had an hour to go until midnight.  We read for a while and when our books started hitting us in the face, we gave into fatigue and set our alarm for 11:59 so we could usher in the new year.  By 12:01 we were back to sleep.

Last night we anchored up a creek just off the ICW, approximately 10 miles north of St. Augustine, FL.   It was too late in the evening to continue on to St. Augustine when we reached this anchorage.  So far, we have avoided being out on the ICW navigating in the dark, and that will continue to be a goal of ours.

Rain accompanied the daylight this morning, so we stayed  in our secure anchorage until it lessened. You might wonder if we just sit around the boat during times like these. Sometimes we read, but we usually save that hobby until we get in our berth for the night. There is always something that needs to be done on the boat. Much like living in a house, there is cleaning and upkeep. I am amazed at how dirty the boat can get even though we are not going from shore to boat a lot. This is one of my secrets… we don’t have a dog because Gary sheds like a dog (there’s hair everywhere that needs cleaned up continually); AND,  he will eat anything I put in front of him; he is the protector of our boat; I don’t have to take him to shore a lot, but he does like to go to shore occasionally for a good walk; he doesn’t bark a lot; and indeed, he is my best friend. (Yes, I have his permission to say all these things.)

At 2:00 today we checked our Sirius weather station and saw that the rain was clearing out from this area.  Sirius weather station is just like what the meteorologists use on TV.  It’s a comprehensive weather radar system that boaters use a lot, especially if they are navigating off shore, i.e., ocean.  We had this system added to our GPS/Chart Plotter.  Today it paid for itself, in that it was right on target with the weather pattern.  We watched the weather move out of the area on Sirius and then we left our anchorage and motored to St. Augustine.

We set our anchor in the harbor at  St. Augustine and plan on staying here tonight and tomorrow night.  After we were sure the boat was secure, we got in the dingy and went to shore.  We walked through the touristy part of town that was beautifully lit with Christmas lights.  The narrow cobblestone streets and quaint shops reminded us of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Island, only St. Augustine has a distinct Spanish flair. 

We had dinner at the A1A Ale Works Restaurant.  Shrimp and grits were on the menu, and I was curious as to how they would compare to the first time we had them, so I ordered them.  If this had been the first time I’d tried them, I would not have ordered them the second time.  They were not to our liking.  I think the key ingredient missing this time was the cream.  Now I know to ask if they are “creamy” grits, when I see them on a menu.  Also, there was no brown gravy on the top.  Both of those ingredients make a huge difference in the taste of this dish.

Tomorrow we are going to tour the town some more.  Until then…Adios amigos.