Back when we used to live in Palm Coast, we would go to old St. Augustine every winter and spend time touring the streets, and admiring the Christmas light displays. We would usually eat at a pizza restaurant, and then finish off with ice cream before loading up to head home. It was a fun tradition that was eagerly anticipated and enjoyed every year, until we moved from Palm Coast out to the country. That was twelve years ago, and we didn't make it over to St. Augustine again...
That is, until this year.
This year, we decided to do something special every Friday of December, and it was unanimously agreed (by those of us who remembered our previous trips), that a visit to St. Augustine should be on the list. We had hoped to keep it as a surprise for the younger ones, but it leaked out pretty quickly. That was okay though, as it gave us plenty of time for reminiscing about previous trips, and looking up information.
|This sign foretold of good things to come...|
Our first stop was probably my favorite: the old fort, Castillo San Marcos.
I had looked up the history of the fort, and really enjoyed examining it, and explaining certain features to the younger boys. (Maybe I've read too many boy's historical novels... They seem to have given me a taste for forts!)
My lovely mother, and little Frank. He was very happy through the whole trip, and seemed to enjoy being carried and pushed in the stroller.
On the long drive from our home to the city, I had read an article giving a brief history of the fort. I learned that Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman to sail around the world, and a noted- what shall I call him- licensed pirate? against the Spanish, had actually attacked St. Augustine, and burned the city. Later, Robert Searle also attacked the city, and the Spanish government finally built to fort to protect it. We had read a book or two (most notably Under Drake's Flag) about Sir Francis Drake, the Spaniards' worst nightmare; so it was interesting to visit a place where he once landed.
We also discussed the comparatively little-known history of the Hugenots in Florida; how they fled France because of persecution, and tried to establish a settlement down the river, and were wiped out by the Spaniards shortly afterward.
An interesting point to note in history, is that at the time the Spaniards established St. Augustine, they were the major world power. They had the richest colonies, the biggest ships, the most powerful armies. But they were bigoted Catholics, and cruelly oppressed and tortured all whom they deemed heretics. The Inquisition was founded at the beginning of their power, and they rapidly declined from their temporary pinnacle of power, to a comparatively weak nation, torn by civil war, distrusted by other nations, and (for the most part) locked in the darkness of widespread ignorance. Their empire, built upon military might and oppression, fell to pieces, and little remains of it now except a few forts, and their language, spoken in most South American countries.
Truly, a nation that is not founded on godly principles will not be blessed.
Evan, Farrah, Anna-Frances, and I examining and speculating upon the probable origin of these holes in the coquina wall. (Bullet marks from when U.S. troops attacked the fort.)
Speculating how much the cannon balls weighed that were shot from each of these cannons...
And we're off to walk over the famous Bridge of Lions!
While we were on it, the drawbridge was raised to allow a tall sailboat to pass.
Inspecting the ice cream shop through the windows... This is the same shop we used to visit when we came to St. Augustine before.
We had some delicious pizza, and then returned to stroll through the streets, which were now lighted by shop windows, street lamps, and thousands of white Christmas lights.
And of course, we had to keep up our family tradition, and have ice cream!
We explored the old streets some more, but kept returning to the town square. It was absolutely beautiful!
But all things must have an end; even exploring the oldest continuously inhabited town in America. We all sat down at the base of Ponce de Leon's statue, and waited for Daddy to bring the van, for us all to return home.