Yesterday we took the day off at “It Is What It Is“. We had a wonderful day planned in celebration of the Christmas days and this holiday season. A “road trip” was planned with very special friends. We were headed to the oldest city of the USA …. St. Augustine, Florida.
This is about 1 1/2 hours away by car. St. Augustine is very well known for setting their city alight with millions of lights. Many locals and tourist frequently make St. Augustine their destination but even more so during the holidays.
The main event planned was a 60 minutes boat trip through the waterways of the city to see the lights from the water. A sight to behold …. here are some facts about the city and some of the antics we got into during the day!
St. Augustine (Spanish: San Agustín) is a city in Northeast Florida and the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States. The county seat of St. Johns County, it is part of Florida’s First Coast region and the Jacksonville metropolitan area. According to the 2010 census, the city population was 12,975. The St. Augustine urban area has a population of 69,173.
San Agustín was founded in September of 1565 by Spanish admiral and Florida’s first governor, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. It served as the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years.
St. Augustine remained the capital of East Florida when the territory briefly changed hands between the Spain and Britain, and it remained the capital of the Florida Territory until it was moved to Tallahassee in 1824. Since the late 19th century, its distinct historical character has made the city a major tourist attraction. It is also the headquarters for the Florida National Guard.
St. Augustine’s popular holiday season city-wide event – the famed Nights of Lights celebration – will glow with more than three million brilliant white lights again this year attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the oldest city in the Nation.
“Nights of Lights runs November 22, 2014, through January 31, 2015, in St. Augustine, Fla. The festival starts with a countdown November 22, 6:30 p.m. in the Plaza de la Constitucion when the lights are officially lit. Holiday music and the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree add to the splendor of the lighting of one of the world’s greatest holiday light displays.
Many historic landmarks and locations are beautifully illuminated during Nights of Lights. The waters of Matanzas bay glow from the nightly reflections of lights strewn along the bay walk and displayed on the Bridge of Lions. The Plaza de la Constitucion shines from the top of trees and throughout the famous center of St. Augustine’s historic district. The 125-year-old Hotel Ponce de Leon, now the campus of Flagler College, is outlined in lights. And the Lightner Museum, once a resort hotel also built by Flagler, is lit so brilliantly it is a favorite among visitors.
Nights of Lights is inspired by the tradition of marking the holiday season with a single white candle burning in a window at each home during the nearly 250 years when St. Augustine served as the capital of Spanish La Florida. Today, Nights of Lights continues that tradition in a grand style reflecting the city’s 449 years of history.
Nights of Lights continues to garner accolades. In 2014, Rachel Ray magazine named St. Augustine one of the Nation’s “Twinkliest Towns.” National Geographic declared St. Augustine one of the Top 10 Places in the World to view holiday lights in 2012 and 2013. The American Bus Association named Nights of Lights a Top 100 Event in North America.”
Began the journey starting on I-4, headed to I-95 and made it to St. Augustine right on schedule.
~The Old City Gates~
These pillars were once the only entrance into the “Walled City” along the Cugo Line, a wall running from the fort to the Sebastian River. The coquina pillars were completed in 1808 and are now part of the Castillo de San Marco National Monument.
~Castillo de San Marco~
The weather couldn’t have been better. It was a beautiful day. The place was packed with tourists and we blended along with them quite well. We walked along St. George’s Street … the main street for sightseeing.
~~One of the main things we saw the oldest wooden schoolhouse~~
Located near the City Gates, The Old School House is a surviving expression of another time. Built over 200 years ago, while Florida was under the rule of Imperial Spain, it was constructed of red cedar and cypress and put together with wooden pegs and handmade nails.
The schoolmaster and his wife lived upstairs, above the small classroom. Their kitchen was separated from the main building, because of the threat of fire and to spare the house of any excess heat during the long summers.
Several of the cooking utensils used in those days are displayed here for the visitor. In the schoolhouse, related artifacts and copies of the books the pupils studied from are exhibited.
After our road trip, walking around a bit and the combination of festivity and good weather, we were hungry. Started looking for a place to eat. c is one of my favorites.
Founded in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., the Columbia Restaurant is Florida’s oldest restaurant, and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world.
It began in Tampa’s Ybor City, as a small 60-seat corner café known for its Cuban coffee and authentic Cuban sandwiches, frequented by the local cigar workers. Casimiro Sr. took over the restaurant next door in 1919 and converted it into an additional dining room. His son, Casimiro Jr. also joined the business. Following the death of Casimiro Sr. in 1930, Casimiro Jr. took over ownership and operation of the restaurant.
With our bellies full, we continued our easy stroll along St. George’s Street. It was starting to cool off … remember, for Floridians “cold” can be in the low 60’s. Yep, we are whimps!
There were so many shops. They were very quaint, inviting and very interesting. There was one of them which we particularly favored. Take a look!
…. and it was time for the long awaited boat trip! We were waiting for the Captain. It was getting even colder near the water …. we needed to warm up with “spirits” for the journey. The lights were an awesome spectacle.
You be the judge!
We made it back home safely. It was an unforgettable day, spent with special friends. A first for Mel (who is originally from Wales, across the pond) …. and we left with lots of wonderful moments and memories for our collection!
~~Nights of Lights, St. Augustine, FL~~
Uploaded on Feb 1, 2010
Saint Augustine, FL puts up over 2 million lights during the holiday season. Music by Natalie Walker – Waking Dream.