My daughter and I decided to spend the weekend before Christmas in Saint Augustine, about a two-hour drive from her apartment in Orlando. Saint Augustine, founded in 1565, is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States. It was owned by Spain for over 200 years and then the British. It has seen missions, battles, slave traders, mariners, teachers, politicians, entrepreneurs and now, tourists. There is plenty of fascinating history behind the storefront facades and brick-covered streets.
Many of the period houses have been lovingly restored and turned into elegant B & Bs. Ours was called “The Peace & Plenty Inn.” Like all the houses on the street, it was brightly decorated for the season!
Our room had a gorgeous antique four-poster bed, a private entrance through the back-garden and a jacuzzi tub!
The house was beautiful, with crown moldings, lots of dark woodwork, a fireplace in the living room. And every night, they had sherry and port wine and an assortment of gourmet cakes laid out.
That first night, we walked around the city, which was brightly lit up with lights. The tour trolleys were lit up as well, and would pass us full of people singing carols and in general good spirits.
Saint Augustine has many interesting and unusual shops…including a store called “The Ancient Olive” which sold infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars…and had a tasting bar, where you could sample all the different flavored, along with some nibbles on the side.
The city was once home to the Flagler Hotel, which had what was then the world’s largest indoor pool. The pool has been drained, and now you can have a delicious lunch in what used to be the deep end! Very cool!
The rest of the the hotel is turned into a museum, which houses an eclectic collection of items from the past few centuries…and most interesting to me, an entire room full of mechanical musical instruments. Huge music boxes, which played music from giant metal discs, a antique Wurlitzer, an automatic organ suitable for use in homes (and sold by Sears!) and a giant German-made contraption which could sound like a full orchestra! We were lucky enough to get there just as the demonstration was starting!
On Saturday evening, we walked along the water past the fort to the mission, which was having a special Christmas program of 16th century Spanish music, drama, food and traditions. The whole place was lit up by candlelight and the little chapel where they sang the old Spanish carols was all aglow.
It was a wonderful weekend…and now, I am ready for Christmas!