Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

A rare tourist day for us

Sunday December 1, 2013
Anastasia State Park
St. Augustine, Florida


We almost never go to cities.


We had done a fair amount of traveling and being tourists in  our previous life so as full timers, we don’t do a lot of it and almost never go to cities.

But everyone has to see St. Augustine right?   And so with the weather iffy, chilly and breezy, our normal habits of beaching, hiking or biking were for various reasons not appealing.


First stop, St Augustine Light house.

We set off to be tourists for a day.  First stop was right outside the park at the St. Augustine Lighthouse.   We were surprised to find out that you could not even enter the grounds without paying the $10 fee for adults, $8 for seniors.  That fee will entitle you to see everything in the grounds  including the beautiful keeper’s house and to climb the 219 steps up the light house itself.

We decide that given how cloudy it is, we will  spend  our $8 on another clearer day so that the climb is worth it.   But I do find a decent vantage point for a picture of the really great looking lighthouse and of the keeper’s house all decorated for Christmas.  December 1st doncha know.   Notice the two front doors for the keeper and his assistant.


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On the way over to  the Old City we get held up.

Because the question of rain is iffy, we decide not to bike up the island and  over the beautiful Lion Bridge to the Old Town  of St Augustine.
Driving, we are just in time to see the draw bridge go up  for three sailboats.   I am told  the bridge goes up on the hour and half hour.  I wonder if it is automated or if there is a bridge keeper.   Can’t tell  when we finally get to drive by.   Somehow it is fun to get held up by a draw bridge.


As you can see from this blue sky puffy clouds picture, I borrowed this picture from the internet.

Bridge of Lions


This one of us waiting in line is mine.

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The Old Town Trolley Tour seems like a good way to go.


Our last tourist venture was in Newport Rhode Island where we put up the money to take the guided tour.  It turned  out to be a great way to get a first look at the town.  We decide to do the same thing here and I purchase a pass for the Old Town Trolley off of the internet in  order to save $2 on the $23 per person cost.   The ticket is good for 3 days and you can get on and off at any of the 22 stops as much as you like.   We won’t be here 3 days to make it the very best value but we think 2 days makes it worthwhile.  Besides, they provide free parking in their lot for riders.  And that’s no small benefit.

We hop off and on all  day but I forget to take even one picture of the trolley and  have to take this one off the internet too.  Folks were not wearing short sleeves and T shirts on our trolleys today.


Old Town Trolley Tours of St_ Augustine



We ride the trolley to the old city gates where we disembark to walk  over to Castillo San Marcos.   We are told by the driver that these original coquina gates were going to be torn down in the early 1900’s to put up something more modern as the gates to the city.  But the daughters of the American Revolution objected and formed a line all  around the gates between them and the demolition group.  The DAR served tea all  day and the city fathers decided to change their minds.   At that point women didn’t even  have the right to vote.   Wonder if those ladies were early suffragettes?


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Castillo de San Marcos is right on the water nearly adjacent to the Bridge of Lions which held us up this morning. 

The picture below, also taken from the internet, shows the fort’s very clever design.  No matter the direction the enemy would approach, the 60 cannons on the roof could have them covered from multiple angles.





I’m not normally a fort or war battlefield visitor.   War makes me unhappy and I have a very hard time seeing the necessity for being such bullies to each other.  But, I do think the National  Park Service does an excellent job in every one of their installations where I have been so I don’t want to pass this one up because of my pre conceived ideas.  AND I can get my passport stamped.

Castillo San  Marcos is North America’s oldest Masonry fortification.  Spanish Floridians began the fortress in 1672 more than 100 years before America became a country.  Several wooden forts preceded this one but of course they all  burned  to the ground.


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The fortifications here are amazing. 


Two draw bridges.  16’ thick coquina walls.  Dry moats.  Redoubts.  The Castillo was so well  protected that it was never taken despite weeks long sieges.


You can see both of the bridges here.  The one David is standing in  front of and the one behind  him and to the right.


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This is the second draw bridge.

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In both pictures notice the large white gate just inside the door.

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The gate is huge and heavy. 

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Inside the fort  is the courtyard where the townspeople would come to take refuge until all of the city walls and redoubts were built.  At that point the Castillo could protect them in their homes.


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The rooms surrounding the courtyard were for supplies but they now tell the story.


In one of the rooms under the fortress formerly used for storage by the militaries, they now have a short film about the history of the fort, its  occupation by 3 different countries, all  by treaty, and  its various uses by those  countries.  The other rooms have exhibits specific to the use of that room. 

Among the exhibits are several  related to the use of the fort as a prison particularly for Native Americans.  The United States Army jailed Seminoles, Kiowas, Cheyennes, Apaches and others in order to break their wills and force them to accept treaties and reservations.  In 1886, 500 Chiricahua Apaches were brought here and  imprisoned in these walls for over a year.  Most of those prisoners were women and children.

Osceola was held here before being moved to Fort Moultrie in Charleston. Osceola fiercely resisted the United States policy of forced Indian Removal. He urged Florida’s Seminoles to fight for their lands.  He was taken captive while under a flag of truce during the Second Seminole War.  He died 3 months after the move locked up in Fort Moultrie.

In one room information boards explain that an Apache had drawn the outline of an Apache Fire Spirit  on the Coquina walls. The Fire Dance ceremony was often performed as a blessing to ward off or cure disease or to protect people.  I was not able  to get a decent picture of what remains of the drawing.


Back outside in the courtyard, I see these two practicing.  I’m not sure if soldiers were trained up this early at the time but clearly these two reenactors are getting an early start.

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The soldiers are readying the big gun.


After seeing most of the rooms off the courtyard, we climb the stairs to see the canon firing which they do hourly Friday through Sunday.



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This is the only actual park ranger soldiering today.  All the others are reenactors.  He gives us a run down on all  the many steps involved in firing the canon.   Seems  to me it would take 5 or 6 minutes at the least to shoot one of these off.  Good thing they have ranges from 1.5 to over 3 miles so you can keep the enemy pretty far off.



They clean it, tamp it, powder it, and put in the ball, before moving the canon into place.

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After that, they light it and fire it and cover their ears.  It is LOUD!!   You can see the smoke just to the far right although it is hard to tell it from the fog which has begun to roll in.  Glad they didn’t blow the tops off of  those palm  trees.  More likely vegetation at the time would have been spanish bayonet, a plant with sword like spikes on which you could become impaled.


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After every firing the canon must be moved back and reloaded then moved  forward to fire again.


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Only one firing today so I guess these guys are all off duty.

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We walk all  the way around the top of the fort looking out each cannon cut away.  Some very nice views from here.

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Lots of display canons.  Some are really works of art.  I was amazed at this.


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After the fort, we head over to the center of Old Town and walk down St. George street. 


It is an example of an original  narrow street created  that size to make it impossible for the enemy to move equipment  into the town.

Now the houses have all become shops and restaurants.  We aren’t shoppers  so a casual stroll  down the street was enough for us.


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Many of the buildings are original  or restored coquina or tabby construction.

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Lucky for us, December 1st is the beginning  of the Nights of Lights month long Old Town illumination.

  Since the sun sets at about 5:20 we are able to stay and walk around town to see it.

But no sunset unfortunately.  At the fort, you can see how thickly the fog has moved in by now.  I can feel  the water  in the air.


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Everyone seems to like lights and the Old  Town Trolley has a Holly Jolly Tour where  they will  take you around town and as during the day,  you can get off and on.  While we were walking around we saw them packed full with people singing Christmas Carols and laughing at the top of their voices, yelling Merry Christmas.   They seemed to be having a great time and  I almost wished we’d gotten another ticket to do that too.

I’m not sure if I would return to St.  Augustine in early December given the weather but if I do, I will for sure do the Holly Jolly Trolley.  $10 a head for riding 6-9pm.   I’ll let the lights speak for themselves.


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The town square and bandstand.

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The town square and city market on the left.

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Horse drawn carriages are also a common site.  Eerie in the fog!

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My favorite, the Lightner Museum across from Flagler College.


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Just before we leave I realize I have not taken a picture of the National park sign which I always do.  So we cross the street so I can.  I wonder what it would look like with the flash and discover that the fog is showing up as rain drops and almost looks like snow in the flash.   The fog is really Thick.  It’s not raining, it’s just fog.  Really amazing.


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Looks  sort of Christmassy doesn’t it?
And it feels like Christmas weather too.

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Tomorrow is our last day here so whether we will spend it at the ocean or in town will depend completely on the weather.  Today was very cool, bordering on cold and very windy.  Even in a hoodie I was cold on the tram.  No sunshine at all.  Seems like winter.  I’m not hopeful.


  1. Well? that is Christmassy and touristy but pretty. I'm trying to get in the mood. I usually bah humbug because of all the obligatory gift giving nonsense.... cut that out. I do like Christmas lights... maybe I'll give everyone a Christmas light ... ha!

    I like the last shot of the flash and raindrops ... pretty AND Christmassy

  2. Oooh, I want to go ride the Holly Trolley! What a cool thing to do. We may have to take a ride there and spend the day. Thanks for the tour!

  3. Wishing you a better day tomorrow. Believe it or not, it is to be low 60's tomorrow, but Friday, the 30's. Sat and Sun in twenties. We may leave earlier. YOU need warm weather.!

  4. I wish there had been reenactments when I visited the Castillo. Always brings the history to life. The shops, eh, who needs it. The trolley seems like a good way to get around without quite so much sidewalk walking. I like the lights even though I don't like to think about the waste of energy.
    (BTW, I am impressed. You are only one day behind. Or am I? ;)

  5. I loved St Augustine when I visited with Bel several years ago. Yes, it was warm and sunny, and I have great photos of the lighthouse we climbed. Your photos of the lights are wonderful, and the eerie foggy thing is impressive. Hopefully it will warm up soon.

  6. Good tour. We have friends there, so we have been in the area a number of times. Good history, but a bit touristy.

  7. Well if you can't be on the beach, that looks like a good way to get in the Christmas Spirit!! Nice tour and love the lights!! Especially the snowy one...that is my kind of snow;o))

  8. It seems like we brought the cold weather back with us from Georgia because it's been cold ever since we've been back. I'm looking out the window now and see some blue skies.....here's hoping!

  9. I bet those suffragettes may not be around anymore or they have incredible longevity :) Too bad about the weather, but still a good tour. Trolley was a good idea. The place has a Williamsburg feel to it. So festive for December- that Holly Trolley sounds like a hoot! Oh and the cannon decorations - seems like people made more time for art before the internet, fast everything age.

  10. Didn't know about the night Trolley tours. That would be fun if you could handle the crowds. Safe travels today - can't wait to see where you end up next! Better days here...things are looking up for the time being!

  11. even with the weather, you still had a wonderful day. . .and I agree, the St Augustine Trolley is the way to go.

    we've been there twice, and still haven't been to the Flagler College. . .I was hoping you would do the tour of the grounds, and show me what I missed. . .LOL!

  12. if you go back into town step inside the main building at Flagler College... pretty neat looking inside...

  13. I agree that if it's your first time in any city, a bus or trolley tour is really the way to go. You see all the highlights that way and can get a feel for the area. I kind of agree with the previous commenter who remarked about the energy used for all the lighting. Even though they are small lights, added up it is a great expense, but more than that, what a waste of energy!

    Too bad about not getting to see the lighthouse and grounds. I felt that way on my recent cross-country when I found out you can only go up into the lighthouse on weekends.

  14. We've taken trollies in many places, we find it's a great way to get an overall feel for the area and then we pick and choose the sights we want to go back to and explore on foot. Somewhat expensive, but in the overall scheme of things, we feel it's worth the money.

    Nice recap of the fort's history, great pictures. And I loved the Christmas lights, so nice to enjoy when you don't have to put them up and take them down... ;c)

  15. St Augustine will always have special spot in my heart because that was the first rv trip out side of NC for us. That was about 6 years ago. We took the trolley and enjoyed the Castillo and the reenactments. The bridge was being remodeled so we couldn't go across it. Thanks for bringing back such good memories.

  16. The Holly Jolly Trolley (love that name!) sounds like a blast. Great way to get into the Christmas spirit and see the holiday lights. But Christmassy weather in Florida? Better keep heading further south.

  17. It is sad to me that the old charm that was St. Augustine a hundred years ago or more has totally been replaced by tourism. Everything is for show and pretty much everything has an admission fee. Restaurants, shops, tours and tickets. I would have liked it better when it was just a nice place to be without all the hoopla and hype.


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