Part of knowing I’ll be living outside the country in less than a year is realizing how little of the US – even Florida – I’ve actually seen. I’ve never been to the Keys, only spent a night in a hotel in Miami (without really seeing any of it), and, until Friday, had never been to St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the United States. Sure, people from New England brag about how long their families have been there, and yes, I am one of those people. But then you think about when the Spanish landed here – 1513 – and the landing at Jamestown seems modern by comparison.
Aside from being a tremendous historical landmark, St. Augustine is a bit of a tourist town. The Fountain of Youth is a $12 park that would look tacky at Disney World and everything is slightly overpriced. Still, it’s interesting to see how they’ve taken the older part of “downtown” St. Augustine with it’s Spanish-style buildings and spruced them up for tourists. A lot of the stores are in old homes, with creaky wood floors and Persian rugs. Despite being reminded at every turn that you’re a tourist, you can get a sense of what it might have been like for someone to walk the brick streets years ago.
St. Augustine would make a great stop on a longer trip, especially for a history buff. Just be prepared to pay (the Castillo de San Marcos, for instance, is considered a national park) and be wary of fly-by-night pseudo-museums. It’s a good place to walk around and take in the history.
And now, because I’m sure you’re anxious, I’ve selected a few pictures to share… prepare to be underwhelmed (by my lackluster photography skills).