St. Augustine: Day 26

Today was a day of many excursions within a relatively small area, so we didn’t travel far.  Still, each site held it’s own interest for us.  We left the community of Palm Coast and traveled north following the coastline and viewing the beauty of the surf wherever there was space between the dwellings.

2015-07-11 11.51.28First, we stopped at Fort Matanzas, along the Matanzas River, where the Spanish had a fort in 1742 to defend the community of St. Augustine from encroaching British forces. The name Matanzas means “massacre” because on this same spot in 1565 Spanish colonials massacred French soldiers while attempting to establish a Spanish colony in the area.

2015-07-11 12.06.12The fort is really a small battlement that holds 4-6 cannon and housed 4 enlisted men and one officer.  It’s main purpose was to fire on anyone approaching the encampment of St. Augustine.  The walls of the fort were constructed of mud and sea shells and other materials that made incredibly strong walls. To view the fort and experience it we had to cross the channel to Rattlesnake Island by National Park’s ferry.  While there, we witnessed soldiers in period costumes (which had to be HOT) cleaning, loading, and firing their cannon just for our amusement.

When we got back into the car we said a prayer of thanks for the modern comforts of air conditioning and each drank a bottle of water.  I’m sure it only partially hydrated all we had lost during the excursion!

2015-07-11 15.00.21Then we drove into the city of St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the continental United States.  Randy dropped me off at Castillo de San Marcos, the Spanish defense of the city built in 1672.  I strolled around and took some pictures among the throng of tourists (yes, I’m one, too!) and waited and waited and waited for Randy.  I was afraid he had to drive back to Orlando to find parking and I would be forced to find a bed in the fort on one of the wooden bunks where 4 men slept to a bunk.  There was another display of cannon fire and a little pirate gun battle in the seas just north of the fort – all to the delight of the on lookers.

2015-07-11 15.08.59It was, however, extremely HOT, and the “heat index” was posted as 115 degrees.  I think we felt every one of them.  We escaped to our car and the blessed air conditioning again as we moved on to our next point of interest.

2015-07-11 13.40.33We turned our noses north and along the way saw a sign that took us by surprise: “The Mellow Mushroom.”  We pulled the car into the parking lot and stopped for a late lunch.  We had been introduced to the Mellow Mushroom Pizza by our son, Ben, who went to school in Savannah, GA.  And here was another Mellow Mushroom right here in St. Augustine for us to stop and refuel.  It was delicious!

From St. Augustine we drove north to Fort Caroline along the River of May where French soldiers had been encamped since 1562.  Here also is where the French met some of the indigenous peoples of the area, the Timucuans, and there is note of them from the French perspective in their journals and diaries.

2015-07-11 16.25.31The obligatory afternoon thunder storm was beginning to boom and flash in the short distance and we made short work of our walk around Fort Caroline.  By this time, too, we were completely depleted from the heat and sought the heaven of an air conditioned hotel in Jacksonville.

It was a beautiful day of learning about some of the hardships and difficulties the first European settlers experienced on the shores of the New World.  And, here we were whining because it was so hot!  We probably wouldn’t have made very good 16th century explorers.