Monday, March 21, 2011

St Augustine And Home

I had a hankering to see St Augustine by day but first we drove through the town to check out the beaches.The Bridge of Lions which seemed rather less massive and impressive in real life than as depicted in pictures. In all directions radiating from the core old town section of the city we saw normal humdrum everyday neon America. You could be two blocks from the ancient homes of the city's past and you wouldn't know it. Here on the beach on Anastasia Island, the sandy barrier island that separates St Augustine from the Atlantic Ocean: A1A is a wide coastal highway that drives straight south: In the midst of all our preoccupations with a "recovering" economy, nuclear meltdown and the Middle East going up in smoke and taking the world's oil supply with it, there are a bunch of kooks worrying about the burqa coming to the US. And they have the money to waste on billboards. Anything to distract the sheeple.Beach access was rather problematic around here too. Technically in Florida the beach up to the high tide mark is public. In fact all you have to do is develop the shit out of the landward side and most people are cut out.We did find a small county park where some Spring Break volunteer planting was underway.And some strange dude was walking his dog by driving in circles. I have no doubt this dog would envy Cheyenne her freedom to roam and sniff and check things out properly.Ah! Beach access...and dogs were allowed on the beach on a leash. I figured Cheyenne wanted to spend her time street walking as she isn't much of a beach dog. Me neither.
We went back to the mainland, enjoying a brief view of the marshy hinterland:Recently we have seen lots of debate in Key West about private property tows and what to do about them. They generate lots of money for tow companies and lots of ill feeling. St Augustine has a brilliantly simple and innovative solution to this vexing problem:St Augustine in sunlight is quite ravishing.
Narrow streets brought out stupid in his truck, here as in many other cities. The gas truck left plenty of room for vehicles to pass but the driver of the pick up truck was shouting and making a meal of the problem. He eventually backed up and let the cars by and when i walked past he had a foot of room on each side of his truck to squeeze past the gas truck making it's delivery. I figure if you can't cope with a large vehicle drive something smaller- penis size be damned!
One reason I keep trundling along with my blog is because taking pictures forces me to look, really look at stuff that comes into view in my life day after day. Then I have to, by my nature, add words and opinions. Too often when one lives in a remarkable place familiarity as they say breeds contempt. I wonder if locals walk past this house and barely notice it on their way to work.The main drag is full of tourist shops, all in good taste I might add, no bongs or titty t-shirts, and it made for quite a pleasant stroll in the late morning sun.
Many of the streets are closed to cars and skateboards and the like. I don't think skateboards are very compatible with cobblestoned streets.
No pets, no food, no ice cream (which isn't food in some people's minds, apparently), no strollers blah blah blah.
For people who fear the heat it's worth noting this town at the top of Florida was sensibly cooler than the Florida Keys, particularly after the sun went down. By day it still got up close to 80 degrees but I found the weather to be perfect. So did lots of others judging by these pictures.
And of course the pirate nonsense is promulgated here as it is in Key west. However St Augustine did actually get ravaged by pirates unlike the Southernmost City. In 1688 Robert Searle, a British privateer (a chartered pirate essentially) did a number on the city raping and pillaging all he could see.And then Cheyenne and I crossed the street and took in the beauty of St Mark's Fort. The British occupied St Augustine from 1763 to 1783, a period when Caribbean colonies were swapping hands at a dizzying rate between France, Britain, the Netherlands and Spain, and the Spanish San Marcos was renamed by the new occupiers, who also left their mark by building a bakery in town. Such was the measure of progress in the 18th century.Pets are not allowed inside the Castillo de San Marcos but we took our ease together outside. This is a good spot for contemplation.The city provides lots of moorings for boat visitors.And of course what would a city be without a pretty waterfront? I suppose it might be an inland city...Cheyenne was ready to do some people watching in the shade of the outer wall of the fort.Not everyone found the view of the old fort completely absorbing. The fort is built to a Spanish design that is familiar to anyone that has travelled the former colonies of Spain in the new world. I have a print photo somewhere of me standing with my previous dog in a sentry turret just like the one shown below. Except it was in the former colonial harbor of Portobello on Panama's Caribbean coast.Estuarine views.
And there goes one of those trolleys so beloved in Key West. We thought about taking a tour but time was short. The key West tours last 90 minutes cost $22 as I recall and are extremely informative. That they drive residents nuts is an unfortunate by-product.
"And this is the end the used hay comes out from..." City kids meeting their grandparent's wheels.And then it was time to go home, but this time we zipped straight down the East Coast on I-95. I love the little white Sunpass box on my windshield which gives easy access to Florida's Turnpike, which is the direct route to Homestead and the start of the Florida Keys.But before we got to Homestead we stopped at Flakowitz's Jewish Deli in Boynton Beach so my wife could reconnect with her people through liver and pastrami and potato pancakes and pickles while I had a monumental grilled meatloaf and cheese sandwich with some really crispy fries.It looked for a while like summer might be coming to south Florida but the cloudy skies prodcued no torrential downpours and we arrived home with no drama to round out our brief jaunt Up North.
Homestead always looks lovely, small town America is the fading sunlight.

And from there home to our little stilt house on the canal, where Cheyenne jumped out of the car wagging her tail madly.