Friday, February 17, 2017

Long Weekend in Saint Augustine, Florida

Due to some health issues, Daniel's dad Wesley, along with his wife Esther, have been spending their winters on the warm shores of the Atlantic Ocean on Anastasia Island in Florida over the last several years. Anastasia Island is a barrier island just east of Saint Augustine, the oldest city in the United States.

Unfortunately, Daniel's previous work schedule made it next to impossible for us to make a trip down for a visit in the past, but with his new job, we were finally able to arrange to drive down for a visit last weekend. Thankfully we were able to stay at a dog friendly condo just a couple of miles north of their condo.

We probably could have stayed another day or two (or more, who doesn't love extra time at the beach?), but three nights was just about perfect for us to spend some time exploring, playing on the beach, and visiting.

In February the ocean was cold but with outside temperatures reaching 80 during the day. Jack was perfectly fine running into the ocean to wade and jump in the waves. I, on the other hand, was content to sit on the shore, basking in the sun. Isaac was not a fan of the sand getting on his feet.

We were staying on Crescent Beach – the southern most beach on Anastasia Island. It was a perfect spot for us and probably comes in number one on our list as far as beaches go. The beaches are dog friendly AND you can drive 4x4 vehicles on the beach. Our Landcruiser, with its off road tires, had no problem navigating the sand.

It was fun to drive down the beach, at sunset, from our condo past Daniel's dad's place for dinner. We had to drive about a mile past it before we could exit the beach at the access point. Jack thought we should just park on the beach and walk up to the condo! Which I suppose we could have done, but we didn't want to leave our vehicle on the beach after dark.

During our time in Saint Augustine we were able to visit the Saint Augustine Lighthouse on Saturday, and tour the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest US masonry fort, on Sunday. For the lighthouse you have to be 44" tall to climb to the top. We had recently measured Jack's height at home and knew he would be close (at home he was 43.5"). According to the measuring stick at the lighthouse, Jack passed the 44" mark (probably thanks to his hair sticking up) and they allowed him to go up!

We discovered a ship play structure on the lighthouse grounds as well as a few trails and the original light keeper's home that was open for touring. This worked to our advantage since Isaac was too small to go up the stairs in the lighthouse – Daniel and Jack climbed to the top while I stayed with Isaac at the playground. When they reached the top we shouted a bit back and forth. When they came back down, I left Isaac with them to play and I went up to the top of the lighthouse.

On my way up I followed a woman carrying a violin case. When she reached the top she realized it was too windy to play on the catwalk. She returned to the highest platform inside and played. I was walking back down when I realized she was playing for a proposal. I went back up so I wouldn't intrude on the couple's private moment. The violin music echoing through the lighthouse tower was beautiful. The Saint Augustine Lighthouse is still in use today and it was neat to see it's light shining at night.

After the lighthouse tour we went to Wesley and Esther's condo where Isaac and Daniel napped while Jack swam in the condo pool and I read. We spent a little time down at the ocean, but Jack preferred the pool. That night the boys hung out with their Grandpa and Abuela Moore so that Daniel and I could go into town for a date night.

Saturday night in downtown Saint Augustine was very busy, even though it was February. The local university keeps the place hopping, I guess. The wait time at the restaurant we wanted to eat at was two hours. We didn't think we had that kind of time, so we put our name on the list and kept walking. Saint Augustine is very walkable with an inner section of the city that has narrow roads and very few cars. We went to a second restaurant that also had a long wait time.

Then we stumbled across a restaurant that Daniel had visited as a teenager. It didn't have a wait, so for nostalgia' sake we decided to eat there. If a busy, touristy city has a restaurant with no wait, there is probably a reason for it. The food was not that great. And the restaurant with the two hour wait called us after 40 minutes. We were bummed because we would have definitely waited 40 minutes. C'est la vie.

To make up for our mediocre dinner, we walked some more and decided to take a carriage ride around the city. We opted out of the historic talk from the driver, but he was a talker and answered our questions anyway. I think he might have spun some yarns about what he did for a living, but he was entertaining nonetheless. We had never taken a carriage ride before and it was a nice way to end our evening.

Sunday Wesley and Esther joined us for brunch and then the tour of the fort. We arrived at Castillo de San Marcos just in time for a little exploring and then the firing of the cannons. The whole demonstration was done in Spanish, except for when they told us to cover our ears as it was quite loud. 

Isaac loved roaming around the fort, but didn't care to sit still. Jack enjoyed watching the demonstration of the muskets and cannon being fired.

After the tour, we walked into town thinking we would take the trolley tour. It was more expensive and time consuming than we had expected so instead we had lunch at Columbia, one of the restaurants Daniel and I had tried to dine at the night before. Recommended by a friend, it did not disappoint. Daniel and I had tapas and Wesley and Esther both had amazing sandwiches. The best part is that each of us got our own hunk of freshly made bread. It was divine.

That afternoon Isaac napped at our condo while Daniel and Jack played on the beach. Isaac and I joined them before supper but Isaac still had no desire to get wet or sandy.

Before we left for Wesley and Esther's, Daniel walked Sophie. Then we drove down the beach (see above). Dog friendly beaches are definitely a plus for our family! Sophie didn't mind it either.

Monday morning we took a family stroll on the beach and took some photos and even saw a dolphin. Then Daniel and his dad loaded the car while Esther and I sat on the beach with the boys.

Our last stop before heading out was brunch at Cafe 11 in St. Augustine beach. It did not disappoint. We said our goodbyes in the parking lot and then headed home. It was a lovely way to spend a weekend.

During the rest of the year Wesley and Esther live in a suburb of Chattanooga, but unfortunately we don't always make/have time to go visit and even then it is only for a couple of hours. It was nice to be able to spend a weekend visiting with them with no real distractions.

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