Gateway to St. Augustine

Finally I am getting back to sharing details of my trip to Amelia Island that I took in February to be a Featured Author at the Amelia Island Book Festival. In a previous post, I left off when I was on my way to St. Augustine to spend a night there before heading to Savannah.

If you’ve never been to St. Augustine, put it on your bucket list! What a great city to visit if you enjoy history – and shopping! Hard to imagine, but “The Nation’s Oldest City” celebrated its 400th birthday back in 1965!

For a little background, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain arrived off the coast of Florida, on August 28, 1565, the Feast Day of St. Augustine. Eleven days later, he and his 600 soldiers and settlers came ashore at the site of the Timucuan Indian village of Seloy with banners flying and trumpets sounding. He hastily fortified the fledgling village and named it St. Augustine. (This was 50 years before the English landed at Jamestown and 55 years before the Pilgrams landed at Plymouth).

Being from the Civil War town of Gettysburg, I tend to think of our buildings as “old” when they date back to the 1800s. In St. Augustine, there are structures that are more than 200 years older!

I had set my GPS to the address of a bookstore (Lion and Mermaid Bookstore) in St. Augustine where I was delivering an order of my historical fiction novels, when I found myself on a narrow cobblestone street (VERY narrow). I decided it would be better to find my hotel, park my Jeep, and carry the box to the bookstore.

View from balcony of Mantazas Bay.

My room at the Hilton was beautiful, and had a balcony that overlooked the Mantazas Bay and “the Fort,” the Castillo de San Marcos — which I will write about and post in a couple of days. (By the way, Mantazas means “slaughter” in Spanish. The bay was so named after the Spanish killed hundreds of French Huguenots who would not convert from Protestant to Catholic, and then threw their bodies into the bay).

After getting settled in my room, I set out on foot to explore and ended up walking more than five miles that first day. Toward the end of the afternoon, I decided there was too much to see in such a short time so I bought a ticket for a trolley tour and got a 70 minute ride to the top historic spots. The next day, I walked to the places that I wanted to get a closeer look at, which included the Fort and a 600-year-old live oak.

I’ll talk about them more in a future post.

Jessica James


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