Thursday, May 31, 2012

#902 Bluegrass and Midriffs.

We met some of the nicest people in the world today. Let's review from the beginning:

 First we rode our bikes to a creperie on St. George street for breakfast.

Then we met nice person #1, the lady at Second Read Books. I've loved this shop since our first visit when I was 11, and I love it even more now. The owner was so excited that we were there from Mississippi, asking us questions about where we live, wanting to see the pictures of our new house, recommending great books for us. She and I even have the same favorite author—Elizabeth Berg. Isn't that something? We bought 5 new (used) books. As we were leaving she told us, "Be careful if you get in the ocean at the beach! The riptides are tricky today!"

Then we stopped by a historical map and ephemera shop on Aviles Street out of curiosity, knowing we couldn't afford anything. But I asked Mr. Bouvier, the sweet owner and nice person #2, if he had any reproduction maps. And he did. Tons of them! He went in his back room and pulled out this huge portfolio of them just for us. For $35 total, he gave us gorgeous antique (reproduction) maps of Florida, St. Augustine, Boston, New York City, and a few others I can't remember at the moment. Jim bought some super cool ones of New Orleans and Savannah for Mallorie, because we're all missing her going into these cool shops.

 35 bucks!

Then we stopped by Memorial Presbyterian, the church Henry Flagler built to entomb his daughter who died in childbirth. The day after she died, he ordered that construction begin on this cathedral and be completed in less than a year. It was finished in 355 days and he had his daughter's temporary grave exhumed and moved her here.

Isn't it astounding? The rotunda in the center of the cathedral is 100 feet high.

He is also entombed here, in a marble mausoleum along with his wife, daughter and granddaughter.

Then we were hungry again and had fish and chips (the guys) and a ham sandwich (me) at the Prince of Wales, a restaurant that only serves English food. Except real English food is horrible and this food is delicious.

A girl was playing guitar and singing songs by Ani DiFranco and Norah Jones who for the world reminded us of Christy Bush

And then we went to the beach to lie in the sun and swim. The water was just as warm as the gulf, which I found odd. 

Here, we met nice person #3, a man running with his dog on a leash who came to our beach blanket and asked if that was our black Tahoe behind us. He told us a beach patrol deputy was riding along giving people tickets if they weren't parked behind the orange cones at the edge of the dunes. We were just barely past them and he didn't want us to get a ticket. So Ben walks over to the truck and the deputy pulls up. He is nice person #4, who tells him, "No problem, man! Just back your truck up a couple feet and you're good!"

Then we went back to the motel to take showers before our last night out in St. Augustine. There was a bluegrass band playing in the town square and a crowd was gathering. It's a strange thing to hear bluegrass music normally reserved for the Smoky Mountains mingling with centuries old Spanish influenced architecture. It was a very cheerful sound, and people were having the best time listening, drinking wine and eating picnic dinners they brought.

We had Italian at Pizzalley's Chianti Room, Ben's favorite spot to eat in St. Augustine. 

Then we drove to the south end of the city to visit Jason and Laura, our friends who own 2 ice cream shops in SA. Jason had gone home to take care of their kids when we arrived at 9:30, but Laura was there and treading water to keep up with all the customers that kept coming in. We offered to help at one point, but she declined because she is nice person #5.

By closing time at 10 pm, there was no where to sit inside. I guess that's why they've won 'best ice cream shop' in the St. Augustine awards every year since they've opened. That, and the fact that they make a lot of their 200-something flavors in-house. I don't care for ice cream, but this is some of the best stuff I've ever tasted. Ben got carrot cake ice cream and I took a bite. It was very fluffy and... well, creamy and tasted exactly like a mouthful of actual cake.

Then I was tired with the beginnings of a sinus infection and ready for bed, but Ben wanted to take my Canon camera out to the Bridge of Lions to try and get just a couple photos of the city at night. He LOVES taking pictures of cities at night when it's easy to stand in the middle of the street and use walls and statues for tripods.

I'm sad to be leaving my favorite city on earth, but I know we'll be back next year or the next. See you later, St. Augustine.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

#901 The Uninformed Tour Guide.

Today was full of adventure. And touring. And I'll tell you more about that in a minute. For now, here's the day in pictures because I am too tired to say much tonight:
Breakfast at Denoel's French pastry shop around the corner from our motel then lots of sightseeing.

We toured Flagler College, the former Ponce de Leon hotel, which was my would've been alma mater. I got wait listed when I applied as a high school junior, and I'm still not over it.

Can you spot the intentional mistake in the floor mosaic of Flagler's grand rotunda? Flagler believed that only God could be perfect and he removed one tiny tile and replaced it with a black one to forever symbolize that humanity is flawed. I've been fascinated by this tile since I was 11 years old.

Then lunch at Flavors Eatery, a favorite of mine and Ben's since 2005 when Ben's friends Jason and Laura opened it. They've since sold the restaurant but the creamy house garlic sauce recipe is the same and is still to die for. The food is Greek/Mexican I guess? It's hard to pinpoint.

And then... We hopped on the Old Town Trolley sightseeing tour. Our driver was Bear, the drunk and uninformed tour guide. He slurred and mumbled his way through the first 20 minutes of our tour before a new driver took over (thankfully). Ole Bear was describing the nation's oldest house to us as we passed by, "Thisis the oldest house. Built in eighteen for—no, I mean 1710. It was hit with cannons. No, I think it burned. I'm not sure. Anyway. Over there is the Cordova, I mean the Casa Monica Hotel. Oh hey! Looks like it's raining. Come up front and get a poncho everbody, come on! Ponchos!"
We were SO cracked up we couldn't get over it. Ben spent the rest of the day playing "The Drunken Uninformed Tour Guide" for Jim and I. "And over here is the house where Flagson's hotel guests' horses would be stabled and slaughtered. Did you know St. Augustine was originally in Michigan, but they moved it because the French, I mean Spanish, wanted a more direct line to the Carolinas? I believe the hotel was actually built by Ponce duPont."

Then we went back to the motel for a swim before dinner at the Santa Maria, a restaurant that sits on pilings over the water where you can feed the fish while you eat. 

The view of our motel from the restaurant:

Examining the tongueless lions at the Bridge of Lion made from solid marble. Looks like Baker to me.

Then we explored downtown in search of dessert:

Ray Charles was playing from one of the stores. Which equals fun.

And at bedtime we ended up at an old fisherman's watering hole called O.C. White's that's been there since 1790 because there was a man playing guitar and singing who sounded JUST like James Taylor. He was awesome. He played only songs we loved.

Ben making fun of the hipsters his youth so wish he would be, but I think he's a cutie even then.

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