Wednesday, September 30, 2009

St. Augustine, FL- Castillo

St. Augustine, Florida is the nation's oldest (continuously settled) city. It is a great place for touristy stuff and beaches. On our last visit, we stuck to the old town section.

The shopping area is only a few blocks from the Visitors' Center, which is next to the main parking garage. There are numerous trolley tours you can take, many with ghostly themes, and most include discounts to various attractions with your ticket. However, a party of nine gets costly, so we stuck with walking.

Among the first things we visited was the Military Hospital Museum, which is well worth the admission cost. The kids learned at lot about medicine of the past - mainly that they are very lucky to live in modern times. You should have seen Patrick and Sam's eyes as the woman described amputation procedures. Sam was especially disturbed by the tidbit that surgeries were performed out in the streets when and where the light was the best, and that it was considered to be local entertainment. Here he is with the tour guide.

The city's famous Castillo de San Marcos:

To get inside you have to pay admission, but if you bring along some old people, they can buy a $10 National Park Pass that's good for life and every park in the country. Then you can hitch in for free as their guests. I knew Mike's parents would come in handy...

Above is a view from the top of the wall looking down on the outer battlements (no admission required down there). Just as a fair warning, the upper walls are low but wide. They don't want you to climb on them because they are made of oyster cement, which has a habit of crumbling. You can see numerous modern cement patches.

As the fort was occupied for so long and by so many nations, there are several different types of re-enactors about to give info on their time period. There are actually only a few places you can't go in the Castillo, and each section contains a variety of artifacts and information. There are some live cannon demos, but if you miss one, there's a video theater that shows the process.

Since it's right up on the water with a near-constant breeze even on the hottest days, it's probably the most pleasant place in the city.
We did lunch at Pizzalley's, which was pricey as expected in a tourist town, but yummy. Service was a bit slow and bathrooms were right next to the main room of tables. People next to the door got treated to full views of the row of stalls every time someone went in or out.
Watch that finger, bub.
Scattered through the old town are many, many shops- none of which we ventured in with our gaggle of geese. Probably saved us some money. Just beware that cars can actually drive down many of the cross-streets, so if you have little ones keep your eyes peeled and a tight grip on them. Also common are the ice cream/sweets/fudge shops. Pick any one for a calorie-laden finish to your day:
The Visitors' Center on the east side of the parking garage closes every day at 5pm, but the bathrooms can be accessed from the outside until much later. They are also very clean. Lastly there is a great enclosed playground on the west side of the parking garage. Cold drinking fountains, too! We'll be back soon for the Greek Festival that's held in the field right next to it.
Honestly, I've barely touched on the stuff they have to do and see in St Augustine. Luckily we live pretty close so we can do hit and run visits as we please. Despite really not seeing that much, we were all pretty worn out from the day.

1 comment:

  1. Seeing pics of the kids with the cannons brought back childhood memories...