St Augustine – Florida

Although I have seen many iconic and instantly recognisable landmarks across the United States I have discovered some really interesting gems by going along the ‘road less travelled’.

History would have us believe in the UK, that Jamestown in Virginia was the first English colony established in the new country and Colonial Williamsburg the first town. We are all reminded of the Pilgrims landing in Plymouth being the forefathers of modern America who are remembered every fourth Thursday in November with the only true holiday observed by Americans. Thanksgiving of course ruined completely by the modern day phenomenon of Black Friday. Rejoice with your families, rest and then hit the stores!!

I digress  somewhat. Away from the 42 square mile radius of Disneyworld and Universal Studios of Central Florida and approximately 127 miles north of Orlando along the Interstate 4 is St Augustine. This is the oldest European colony in America not Jamestown. The Spanish arrived here in 1565 and Jamestown was settled in 1607.

It lies on the Matanzas Bay protected by the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in America a national monument and the focal history of the city.

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The Spanish Architecture and narrow pedestrian roads are simply stunning. Horse drawn carriages take tourists around or the trolley bus allows you to hop and hop off at your leisure. The oldest wooden schoolhouse in America is situated along a narrow pedestrianised area.

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You must see what was the largest indoor swimming pool in America. This is located at the top of the main street in what is now the city hall. It once was the Hotel Alcazar built by railroad and oil tycoon Henry M. Flagler. Today it is a charming restaurant and the courtyard and gardens of the city hall and Lightner Museum are fascinatingly Spanish.

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The Flagler College, voted the most attractive college in America is well worth a stroll around. It is like wandering into a Spanish Castle from a bye gone era.

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There are plenty of little cafes and interesting craft shops to wander around. The city is so not like the America around it and is a really worth the effort in leaving the theme parks behind for the day.

We stopped to pick up a Dunkin and coffee on the way back and the man in the line behind us was so surprised to hear an English accent and so proud of the fact we were visiting central Florida he bought ours for us. It was amazing to us that he had never spoken to other English people in that area.