Friday, October 1, 2010

Florida Field Trips #1: Historic St. Augustine

Dear friends,

I'm starting a new monthly series on this blog of field trips in the state of Florida.  Most of them will be near Orlando and low or no cost.   For example, next month I'll photoblog about Big Tree Park, and I foresee other posts about Leu Gardens, the Orlando Science Center, and maybe even the Orange County Regional History Center.  Even if you don't live in this area, this might give you an idea of what to look for in your own town.

For this first post, we're venturing about two hours northeast to St. Augustine, the oldest continually inhabited city in the United States.  Come along!

There are so many other things to see in this beautiful city with a rich history, though, such as the Oldest Schoolhouse, the Lightner Museum, the St. Augustine lighthouse, Ponce de Leon's "Fountain of Youth" exhibit, or if you are in a bizarre mood, the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.  Thad and I honeymooned in St. Augustine 25 years ago, splurging on one night in a romantic bed & breakfast before moving over to a more affordable motel for the remainder of the week.  We've enjoyed going back as a couple and strolling through the quaint gift shops, eating at the Columbia restaurant, and browsing in the art galleries.  So whether you're going as a family or "just the two of us" there is something for everyone in St. Augustine.

For this trip, since my husband wasn't feeling well and we still have young children, we had only two destinations for  the day: Castillo de San Marcos (a massive fort built by the Spanish in the 1700's) and the Colonial Spanish Quarter.  This fits in well with our current unit study on early colonial history.  We had just studied St. Augustine the week before!

Admission at Castillo de San Marcos is $6 for adults and free for kids age 15 and under. Our visit lasted just under two hours, which is how long the parking meters will let you go on one feeding of four quarters, and which is just about right for our family.

We arrived just as this guide was finishing up describing how the Spanish defended their fort from the Englsh. It's one of my favorite stories about the Castillo, and I wish my kids had heard the whole thing. But you can read about it here: Covering Your Coqina: How to Withstand Enemy Book.

We watched a short film about cannons and muskets,
including a segment on how they drilled to train for using it.
These next several pictures were taken on the top level of the fort,
which overlooks Matanzas Bay and the distant lighthouse.

Is this cannon making a face at me?
Naomi is not in the cannon -- she's behind it!

I search out beauty and art wherever they can be found, even if on the barrel of a cannon!

A tower at one corner -- they could shoot out of the gun holes.
Our kids all had on their red American flag T-shirts which makes them easy to spot. 
I like to have them wear these whenever we take a family field trip.
I couldn't find Melody's though, so she just wore a red T-shirt.  She's not in the picture below.

Thad had quite a time keeping track of 5 year old Melody.
She didn't quite "get" this fort stuff, but she did like to run and climb!

St. Augustine and Castillo de San Marcos have been under Spanish, British and American control during their long and colorful history...

Our helpful guide took us on a tour of the lower level.

Native American culture is also featured...

 Steps to the upper level from the inner courtyard...

Picnic lunch under a palm tree, and then time to run around.

Our next stop -- the Colonial Spanish Quarter -- is just a couple of blocks away from Castillo de San Marcos, so we left our van there and fed more quarters into the meter.

There is an entrance fee of about $7 for adults, $4.25 for kids or $20 per family. Hours are 9 AM - 4:45 PM. We were here for two hours.  You can find more information (rates may be obsolete) here:

The carpentry shop...

A typical home, simple and charming.
I love the shelf hanging over the table -- more handy storage!

At the leather shop, this crafter was drinking lemonade from a leather tankard he had made.
It is waterproofed with a coating of beeswax, so he can't use it for hot drinks.
We were very impressed with this man's presentation because he was really trying to draw the kids in to the conversation.
The man at the blacksmith shop also explained his job well.

No matter where we are, we can't resist taking nature photos!


Crowing rooster on the fence

Spider on a web

Well, that's about it for the field trip we took last month, but I wanted to give you a taste of the Lightner Museum, too.   I visited there with my daughter Rachel and her friend Cassidy in January.  I think I paid $5 admission (which is half price) with my Florida Parent Educators Association membership card.  This museum may be of less interest to elementary age children, but I loved all of the Victorian era curiosities.  These pictures are just a sample of the sumptuous feast for the eyes!

Giant clam shells?

Automated musical instruments -- a whole room of them!
The guide demonstrated most of them for us.

Vintage dolls, clothes, cut crystal, furniture, vases and other pretty and/or funky things

OH, I can't write about St. Augustine without mentioning Don Oja Dunaway.  He's been singing folk music (much of it original) at the second story Milltop Cafe for decades.  Thad and I met him on our honeymoon, and Rachel and I saw him again in January.  When we were passing by a few weeks ago, we could hear him warming up.  Sweet memories!

Take a trip to St. Augustine!

P.S. If you are my Facebook friend, you can see more photos of St. Augustine on-line!

Virginia Knowles

1 comment:

  1. Adults (Age 16 and above) entrance is $10.00 - valid for 7 consecutive days. Children (age 15 and under) are admitted free of charge but must be accompanied by an adult. If you want to learn more you can go to the site.


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