St. Augustine

St Augustine bannerI could not be in NE Florida without at least stopping at our oldest city, St. Augustine. This city dates back to the 1500s when folks like Christopher Columbus and Ponce de Leon (of fountain of youth fame) claimed this land for Spain. They were not the only ones, the French and English were here too, before the good ole USA either bought or fought their way to claiming all east coast lands from Maine to Florida.

Castle-like turret, St Augustine, Florida

Back to the Spanish —

Pedro Menendez, the founder of the first European colony in what is now the US, landed here in 1565 (40 years before Plymouth Rock), met up with the Timucua people, indigenous to the area, and set about creating a thriving society that at once enriched the coffers of Spain and inadvertently decimated the native peoples (by giving them European diseases to which they had no immunity.) The city’s architecture still maintains a very Old World, Spanish feel, with tabby (a cement made with oyster shells) walls and tile roofs, at least in the historic downtown area. If you like history, you will find it in St. Augustine, in all its fascinating and commercialized glory.

Dominating the downtown is the old Hotel Ponce de Leon (now the home of Flagler College). Built in the Spanish Renaissance style and covering an entire city block, it was one of America’s most impressive resorts when it opened in 1888, and is no less impressive today with its beautiful courtyard and stained glass designed by Tiffany.

Across the street is another Flagler hotel, the Alcazar (now the city hall and home of the Lightner Museum), also in the Spanish Renaissance style, and a few steps away is Villa Zoyada, a 1/10th scale of a section of the Alhambra Palace in Spain.

If you tire of opulence and Spanish Renaissance architecture, the parklike square offers glimpses of life in the old city — the old market and well, along with tall ships in the harbor, the historic bridge of lions, not one but two historic forts, the city’s lighthouse, and numerous “attractions” that interpret the city’s history.

I was going to take a picture of the fountain of youth for y’all but since everything came with a price, this is as close as you get unless you come yourself.

Fountain of Youth, St Augustine, Florida

 

Sunrise – St. Augustine Beach

Sunrise, St. Augustine Beach, FloridaEver since I left Cocoa Beach on Thursday, I have been dodging storms. There is a massive storm system that spans northern Florida and reaches up beyond Charleston, South Carolina, and west, past Asheville, North Carolina (exactly the path I had hoped to take.)

I have been getting up to greet the sunrise at the beach only to find that the sun is obscured. Usually, it will make an attempt to peak through the clouds 20, 30 or even 60 minutes late, like this morning (pictured above.)

These storms are too big to go around, so I am just staying put, more or less, moving at a snail’s pace.Since the weather report calls for more rain tonight and tomorrow morning, I hope you will forgive me for sleeping in tomorrow.

Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain

Stormy sunrise, Cocoa Beach, Florida Stormy surf at sunrise, Cocoa Beach, Florida Some people think that sunny Florida is just that — sunny, all the time. But that is not the case, the water cycle is in full gear here of late. The pattern seems to be that the temperature and humidity rise, day after day, for about a week until either the sky cannot hold any more or a cool front comes in and the rains fall and fall hard.

Cloud bank, St. Augustine Beach pier, Florida Stormy sunrise, St. Augustine Beach, FloridaYou have not experienced rain unless you have been in Florida (or some land of monsoons.) Sometimes there is  lightening or thunder warning you to take cover. It is more common for the clouds to just open up and dump on you, sort of like someone unzipped them and all the water inside just poured out.

Storm surf mist, St. Augustine Beach, FloridaSometimes, like today, the sky scuds up and stays that way all day, with clouds dumping their contents and moving out over the Atlantic on what the weather folks call an “occasional” or “intermittent” basis. Translation: It could be raining one minute and not the next, or on this side of the street but not that; it could rain twenty times in one hour!

Don’t get me wrong, I do not mind the rain, especially if I am sitting on the lanai, watching the clouds roll in across the water. I love the sound of the water falling and washing the earth clean. I love the reflections of the lights in the puddles. I love the hazy mist that obscures the view marking where the rain is heavy. Most of all I love the clean, fresh smell.

As in life, some days are sunny and some are stormy, but any day that starts at the beach is a good one.

 

Sunset – Sunrise

There is a big storm system that has been cloudy the skies and whipping up the surf. Here is the scene at sunset last night, and sunrise this morning.

Sunset, Seminole Rest, Florida

Sunset, Seminole Rest, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge/Canaveral National Seashore

 

Sunrise New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Sunrise New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Sunrise, New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Eventually, a hint of sunlight

“Take me home, country road…”

Circumstances are such for my hostess that she has asked me to depart today rather than Monday as planned. So I guess I will be spending the holiday weekend and all of next week meandering. I am not exactly sure where I am going or where I will spend each night but as long as I travel in the general direction toward where I need to be on April 26, does it really matter?

Cocoa Beach, stormy surf

I am reluctant to leave the beach behind, as I have expressed many times this past month — sunny, cloudy, rainy, or cold, there is no better way to start the day than sunrise on the beach. So I will travel up the East Coast toward Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina, be a Southern belle for awhile, and then decide when and where I will cross the mountains. I have a hankering to return to the Smokies (my first sojourn away from home) and I’ve heard great things about Asheville, North Carolina.

Not sure if I will make it all the way to West Virginia’s “mountain mama;”  you will just have to follow along to see where this meander leads.

I walked Cocoa Beach one last time today; all the way to the pier and back (5 + miles). It wasn’t pretty — heavy cloud cover, but it sure was therapeutic. Eventually the sun’s rays came shining through — at least a little bit. Here are a few photos for you:

So long Cocoa. Another adventure awaits.

Give a hoot

Unfortunately, not all people who go to the beach understand how their actions affect the people and environment around them. Trash is a huge issue.

Though there are trash cans at all the entrances to the beach, not everyone sees fit to use them, and on weekends there is just too much trash for the cans. (There appears to be little or no concept of carry in-carry out.) Some nights, people party at the beach and just leave their trash or worse, see if they can throw their empty beer cans as far as the ocean.

img_7880-qpr img_7878-qpr img_7885-qprThis is Marcel. He and his wife come from Canada and stay in a hotel on the beach for a month each spring.

When he is here, he walks the beach, all the way to the pier and back (about 2 miles) with his 5-gallon bucket and his reacher (picker-upper) picking up the trash others leave behind.

I applaud his efforts, since he does not live here, yet he feels it is his obligation to clean up the beach and make it a better place for others.

Give him a hand — literally; the next time you see trash where it shouldn’t be, pick it up and dispose of it properly.

A straw, bottle cap, or a shiny piece of cellophane is not just unsightly, it can be deadly to wildlife. If you have any doubt about the impact of trash in our environment, watch this video shot on Midway Island, thousands of miles from civilization.

Give a hoot, don’t pollute.

Moonset

Moonset, Cocoa Beach, FloridaA storm rolled through last night ushering in a cool front. It was a bit brisk at the beach this morning, where a giant bank of clouds hid the sun. So I thought I would give you a picture of the moon instead. (Speaking of which did you see the eclipse and the “blood moon” the other night?)

Finally about an hour late, the sun finally managed to do this.

Sunrise, Cocoa Beach, FloridaIn the end, it was a beautiful, sunny, if cool and windy day.

Sunset, Cocoa Beach, Florida

 

High Tide

img_7806-qprHigh and low tides occur twice a day, but unlike the sun which, in the spring, rises a little earlier each day, tides seem to come in and go out on a schedule all their own. (It has something to do with the moon.)

img_7805-qprThe last few days, the tide has been quite high at sunrise. Birds on Cocoa BeachThis means that there is very little beach (at least the firmer wet part) that is easier to walk on.

Although my sandals are waterproof and perfectly capable of wading through the waves, wet feet collect a shoe full of sand walking back across the loose sand toward home.

Thus I find myself weaving along the shoreline like this flock of sandpipers who watch the waves come in, dart out to search for something special left by the receding waves, only to, a moment later, dart back to dry sand as the waves come rushing in again.

Pardon the blur, it is early morning, sandpipers are fast., and they simply refuse to stand still to have their picture taken.