Nov 1-2: Checking out St Augustine!
St Augustine seems to be a beautiful place to stay and tour. Since the weather is not good we won't be able to go anywhere for a while so this is ideal. We can actually take our time and be real tourists for a change, while still having time to do more prep and regular maintenance!
The marina facilities are clean, with spacious showers, so although we have showers on board we will use the facilities as an opportunity to test out our tender (small inflatable boat or dingy). We will also fill gas tanks and transport several loads of supplies towards the end of the week which should help us feel more comfortable with its capacity.
Wednesday morning greeted us with a stunning sunrise as we prepared for a bit of tourism. No matter which way you turned the skies glowed bright orange on a backdrop of blue hues.
We hopped into our dingy and tied up at the marina tender slip which was already crowded. Since it was low tide, were able to glimpse nature's architecture. Mussels had built up along shore in twisted Gothic high rises of spitting, popping mussels, awaiting their dinner once the tide returned.
Our first stop on the list was the '#1 tourist attraction', St. Augustine Distillery. This distillery is the oldest, legal facility in Florida and much of the US. Although their processes have been updated over the years, they still hand mix ingredients and use some older machinery. This should be fun!
The facility was not large but their production was quite amazing, packaging over 700 bottles daily. Our tour guide gave an insightful tour with some interesting drink ideas, and afterwards we enjoyed an amazing lunch in their restaurant. Rustic, antique interiors complimented the distillery style and added a lovely ambiance. Their menu also played on the craft theme with savory dishes that put the finishing touches on our tour.
We stopped in a nearby farmers market briefly and then headed off to St. Augustine's George Street tourist area. Here local artisan's sold specialty items, including Whetstone Chocolates made locally. Other interesting sights and retreats were scattered throughout, like the claimed 'oldest wood schoolhouse in the USA', relaxing fountain squares, tea shops, restaurants and captivating architecture. It was similar to the fun shops you find in a theme park or fair but without the entry fee. Fabulous!
Next we were off to Ripley's museum, the first to be established in the US. It was not quite as touristy as many of the new ones are, instead it was a collection of very interesting artifacts and exhibits. Some of our favorites were the the Lord's Prayer engraved on the head of a pin (too small to photograph), exhibits that made us look fatter (lol), one that made Andrew look VERY short beside the tallest man, lots of interesting art made from everyday objects (keyboard keys, computer parts, toothpicks and BBQ sauce to name a few), glow in the dark scorpions, and one that provided us with the opportunity to capture our shadow (Awwe!).
The most bizarre was vortex where you simply walked straight on a walkway while stars spun around you. It literally made you feel like you were spinning through space. I couldn't walk through without holding onto the railing!
After over 14,000 steps the previous day, we decided to take it a little easier on Thursday, opting for the Red Train Ripley's tour through the city.
Some of the highlights were seeing an old oak tree well over 600 years old, the location of the fountain of youth, the original city gates, grand churches and the oldest house in the US among other things. (We couldn't help but wonder how many of the claims have become wild fish tales over the years.)
We happened upon what seemed like a secret garden restaurant for lunch. Vines covered the entrance to the terrace made romantic by outdoor garden lights draped through the trees, tropical plants and above us. It was a captivating getaway with outstanding food, a perfect respite before doing a bit more site-seeing.
Back on George Street we found the Men's Toy Store where Andrew became a pirate briefly, a music garden that hosts school trips for lunch, and remnants of historic homes. It was also eye opening to find plaques in the town showing water levels from previous hurricanes.
This town has suffered a lot over the years. The marina we are at has not yet recovered from the last storm. The only marina buildings that survived were the main ones on land and the main office which were made out of cement. A restaurant and many of the floating docks were destroyed, and it left several mooring balls out of commission. Although they have been rebuilding as fast as they can, they were still not fully functional and could not provide boats with fuel.
We headed back to our boat very thankful. Dinner was made perfect by a stunning sunset and moonlight dancing on the water rippling below. Incredible!
Tomorrow we will get back to work. There is still lots to do but we may just fit in a bit more sightseeing before the week is out.