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Day 134 - St. Augustine Fort & Trolley Tour (Photo's Added)

We visited Castillo de San Marcos and took the Trolley tour around Saint Augustine.

storm 65 °F

I was planning to combine all of Saint Augustine in a single blog entry, but it would just be too long. So I'll write a separate entry for each day instead, as has been my usual practice.

When we got up this morning, it was partly overcast and we had a beautiful sunrise over the beach. We live on the west coast, so this is what I expect to see for a sunset - not a sunrise, so it was a little different for us.

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How does that ditty go? "Red sky in the morning, Sailors take warning." Yes, the cloud cover thickened as the morning progressed and soon the rain and lightening started in earnest. Being from the Seattle area, we never leave home without a raincoat, so we donned ours and got on with our sightseeing. However due to the lightning, a couple of things shut down pretty quickly - such as the lighthouse. We stopped by, but when we found out it was closed due to the lighting, decided to try again later.

The campground where we stayed last night as well as the lighthouse were both on Anastasia Island. An old, historic bridge called the Lion Bridge used to connect Anastasia Island to the mainland. A somewhat newer draw bridge replaced it, but also blocked the view of the historic bridge. The town has decided to rebuild the Lion Bridge, then remove the newer bridge when they are done. For now, you can still see both bridges. A little to the north of the old downtown area you can see the inlet between Anastasia Island and Vilano Beach on the north side.

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After crossing the bridge, we moved on to historic Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest surviving masonry fort in the United States. This was started by the Spanish in 1672 and completed in 1695. St. Augustine was primarily settled by the Spanish as a military fortification to protect their treasure fleets from pirates as well as to protect Spain's claim to the new world against British and French incursion. The British actually lay seige to St. Augustine twice, in 1702 and again in 1740, but were not able to take the fort (they did burn the town however). (If it looks a little too sunny, that's because the best picture I had of the overall fort was from Tuesday rather then Sunday, I'm cheating a bit on the dates here. Even so, it's still not a very good picture - just the best I can offer without violating someone elses copyright.)

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Here is a 'You were here' picture on the day we actually visited the castillo. The walls were originally covered in white plaster, but very little is left of course (it's 300+ years old).

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In truth however, I think you need a helicopter to get a decent shot of the entire fort so will just post this photo of the National Park Service brochure - it gives a much better idea of the overall layout.

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There is only one way in and out of the fort. It is protected by something called a Ravelin, a small fortified structure directly in front of the entrance.

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The main entrance is also called the "Sally Port", since it's were the soldiers would "Sally Forth" to go into battle. There is a drawbridge on the path to the Ravelin and a second one between the Ravelin and the Sally Port. There is also a moat around the walls, which was filled with water when the fort was actively used by the Spanish for defense.

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Inside the fort is a main parade field, called the "Plaza de Armas". (Thumbnail alert - if you're new to the blog, when you see smaller pictures you can click to enlarge.)

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Surrounding the Plaza de Armas are the Casemates, including guard rooms, storage rooms, and a chapel. The barracks room pictured is from the period the British occupied the fort. They put in extra floors so they could house more troops in the same space. Today, several of these are used to house museum exhibits and of course a gift shop. Note: the British never captured the Castillo, but obtained it by treaty for a brief period, after which it passed back into Spanish hands by means of another treaty.

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Several of the park rangers were dressed in period costume as 1700's Spanish soldiers. They didn't try to be fully 'in character', as some other re-enacters we've encountered, but were quite knowledgeable about the time period and history of the castillo and Saint Augustine.

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They pointed out that the replica coins on the table are not representative. There was very little money in St. Augustine in the 1700's, the soldiers weren't paid much to begin with and then paid only once a year. The average private received about 200 Peso's a year. Church tithes and other items were also deducted from their pay and part of their pay was in rations, so very little coin actually was paid the soldiers. Then if the ship carrying the payroll was captured by pirates or lost in a storm, their pay might be delayed for two or three years. If Spain were in dire straits financially (busy with war's, etc.) or just not paying too much attention to their oversea's outposts, they might never catch up on missed payrolls.

By this time the lightening had stopped so the park rangers started allowing people to go up to the 'gun deck' (the roof of the fort). I took several pictures of the four Bastion's, the diamond shapes on the corners. I also took some pictures of the various cannon and mortors - I was a little surprised how little the weapons had changed between this fort and those we'd seen for the Revolutionary War, almost two hundred years later.

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The Gift Shop had a good selection of books on the early history of Spanish colonization so I spent far more then I should have to learn more about this period (someday - when I have lots of free time and actually read them?)

St. Augustine has a lot of interesting things to see besides Castillo de San Marcos. We weren't familiar with any of them of course, so decided to take one of the trolley tours. The trolley takes 80 minutes to go through the old part of town and has 21 stops (the ticket includes unlimited on/off privileges) and is good for three days, so it worked out quite well for us. We had some great drivers, including Roy and April, but I'd have to say that Vince takes the cake. He especially took care of Mom and when I tried to thank him with a tip, absolutely refused to accept it - even though tips are normally recommended for trolley drivers.

However, it is also quite difficult to get decent pictures while bouncing along in a trolley at 20 or so mph, so these are the best I can offer...

This is the old city gate. St. Augustine was a walled city, the Spanish established it for military defense and it was attacked several times by pirates and burned by the British. Even though the townsfolk took refuge in the Castillo when attacked, it makes sense that they'd also try to protect their town with gates and walls.

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We also drove down a nice street covered with tree's. The tour guide said this is the most photographed street in St. Augustine, it is called Magnolia Blvd. However the Magnolia tree's were killed by a deep frost about a hundred years ago and was replanted with live oaks. It is still quite lovely however and of course these trees are all about a hundred years old.

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Here are a couple of the street scenes fairly typical in the old historic district.

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There are a couple of notable statues. The first one is of Pedro Menendes de Aviles, who founded St. Augustine on September 8, 1565. The second is Juan Ponce de Leon who first landed in Florida on April 2, 1513 and named it "La Florida", meaning flowery.

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(Sorry about the poor light, it's not possible to choose your shots when passing by on a trolley.)

There are a number of historic churches in St. Augustine, not surprisingly. The first is the Grace Methodist Church. The second is the Memorial Presbyterian Church built by Henry Flagler.

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Henry Flagler was a much larger figure in St. Augustine history (20th century at least) then just the church. He built an unusually elegant hotel (the Ponce de Leon) that was turned into a liberal arts college in 1988, Flagler College. Louis C. Tiffany was retained for the interior decorating and personally supervised the installation of the curved stained glass dining room windows.

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We saw much more than this on the trolley tour, but the rest of my pictures just weren't good enough to post. However, there is a lot of information about St. Augustine available on the internet, including virtual tours and maps - if you've got fast enough internet connections to try them out!

One thing we decided, it would be worth another day here - so will stay over in St. Augustine Monday and take in a few more things.

(It's amazing how much damage I can do with a camera even while being rained out...)

Logistics:

Miles Driven: 14
Camped at St. Augustine Walmart

Posted by jl98584 20:45 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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