Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Florida at Last

After nearly three weeks of travelling, we are in St. Augustine, Florida. We arrived here on Tuesday afternoon after a leisurely drive from Savannah. We headed to the beach area looking for a campsite and were introduced to Florida tourist prices: $63.00 per night (plus 6% tax) for a campsite on the beach. We opted for a $50.00 per night KOA campground one mile from the beach.

Once we were settled, we headed into the historic part of town for supper. On the way to town, we stopped at the beach to watch the surfers ride the waves and do a little wading ourselves. The joy of travelling in your house means that when you misjudge the force of the incoming water, you can easily change your clothes before you reach your dinner destination!

St. Augustine has had a permanent settlement since 1565 when Ponce de Leon arrived from Spain. Old fort walls and rusted cannons still remain. We were delighted to discover that Old Towne Trolleys operates a narrated tour here as well as in Savannah.

This morning (Wednesday) we went into town and booked a trolley tour. The nice thing about these tours is that they offer free parking at their boarding site and you can get on and off the trolley as often as you want throughout the day. And in St. Augustine, your ticket is good for three days.

We got off the trolley around noon on St. George’s street, a pedestrian walkway in the heart of the historic district, and headed into St. Augustine’s Cathedral. The cathedral is a magnificent building dating from the 16th century and has been built and rebuilt as fire and early wars took their toll. The current building has been built as close to the original as possible and is a very beautiful sacred space.

We then headed to Pizzalley for lunch. We had their “garbage can pizza” which had been recommended to us by a fellow Saint Johner – and it didn’t let us down! It was easily the best pizza I eaten in many a year. Fortified by beer, pizza and a deadly chocolate confection for dessert, we headed back to shopping.

Mid-afternoon we reboarded the trolley and got off at Our Lady of Le Leche shrine. This shrine honours Mary as a nursing mother. The shrine and grounds cover over an acre of beautifully manicured grounds on the water. On part of the site is the Mission of Nombre de Dios which has a 200 foot steel cross!

We then picked up the van and headed back to our campsite where I am sitting at the picnic table writing this.

We had planned to only stay in St. Augustine for a day and then go down the coast to Daytona Beach but St. Augustine is so charming with its narrow streets and small shops that we will go back into town tomorrow to tour a couple additional historic sites. It is wonderful to be able to change your plans on a whim.

Later tomorrow we expect to reach Daytona Beach – then again, maybe not!

By the way, Ryan, we are going to explore a rumour that there is a Hollister store in Daytona Beach.

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