St. Augustine, FL

Jon and I realized we’d be in Florida where my sister lives for Thanksgiving. We talked with my parents and soon had a beach condo rented in Crescent Beach outside of St. Augustine where the family would meet for the holiday.

Days 116 – 120
November 26 – November 30, 2014
Mileage 14770 – 15170

Jon and I were going to take our time driving to St. Augustine, but realizing there wasn’t much we wanted see along the way, we drove straight to St. Augustine arriving Wednesday night. When we arrived, my parents were already there and armed with a list of restaurant suggestions from the condo owner. For dinner, we went to Salt Water Cowboys. Salt Water Cowboys had a real bayou feel to the interior that we really liked. We also enjoyed our meal and especially the house salads with homemade dressing.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. It was a chilly but sunny day, so we decided to visit the town of St. Augustine. Driving into the city from across the inter-coastal waterway, Flagler College and then Castillo de San Marcos were visible on the skyline. We went to Castillo de San Marcos, which is an old Spanish fort and a National Monument. Our national park passes let us in the Castillo for free. The fort is maintained very well and is intact. We walked around the roof to enjoy the view and then joined a ranger led talk, which discussed the history of the fort. We also found out that on weekends, the original cannons are fired hourly. Wanting to see that, and to show the fort to Marisa when she joined us for the weekend, we went back the next day and watched the cannons being fired by costumed volunteers.

The town of St. Augustine was very cute with interlacing pedestrian streets lined with small shops. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the town and it reminded me of York, England. For lunch on Wednesday, we wandered through St. George’s Street. Due to the holiday, a number of stores and restaurants were closed, forcing the large crowds into the few that were open. We eventually found Athena, a Greek restaurant, that was able to seat us right away.

On the way back, we drove around a bit and wandered south of Crescent Beach. We found a vehicle access to the beach and learned that St. Augustine opens its beaches to vehicle traffic. We drove half way back to the condo along the beach.

For us, Thanksgiving dinner was at Le Pavillon, a French cuisine. Le Pavillon was recommended to us by the condo owner and met our two big criteria 1) It was able to seat us before 9pm and 2) It was reasonably priced. We started our meal with an appetizer of escargot which Jon had never tried before. The menu for Thanksgiving offered a standard turkey dinner with all of the fixings, as well as several others select entrees served with salad and vegetables. The dinner was alright, but the dessert we split, chocolate fudge pecan caramel torte, was delicious.

On Friday, Marisa was able to join us for the remainder of the weekend. (She was on call at work in the hospital for Thanksgiving). The morning started out slow with us taking the cars for oil changes. Once everyone was together, we headed back into St. Augustine. Lunch was at The Floridian, an eclectic place offering many veterinarian options. I think everyone enjoyed their meals, which ranged from tofu and salads to bahn mi sandwiches and spicy fish melts. While strolling around town, we took Marisa to the Castillo and we got popsicles from Hyppo.

For dinner on Friday, we ate at the South Beach Grill. The South Beach Grill might be the closest restaurant to the condo we were staying at and is the condo owners favorite place. The food was mostly standard beach town food. I enjoyed my fish sandwich and Jon his Thai fish tacos. Back at the condo, we played games like Pictionary, charades, and heads up.

Saturday was our last full day in St. Augustine. We started the day at Fort Matanzas, another Spanish fort and National Monument. Fort Matanzas is completely free to enter. Every hour, a shuttle boat takes visitors from the parking area to the fort for a 30 minute tour. The fort was small, and the park service has done a lot to restore and preserve this fortification that housed 7 soldiers originally. A large wooden ladder through a small access hatch let visitors climb to the top of the fort. The view was nice, but once we climbed up, there was little opportunity to climb back down as more and more people were coming up the ladder. By the time we forced our way down, we had to catch the boat back and didn’t get to see much of the rest of the fort.

That afternoon, the weather finally warmed up a little and we we spent some time on the beach. Marisa, Jon, and I played with paddle boards. When everyone started to get hungry, we went to Mango Mangos for lunch. Mango Mango’s was a Caribbean grill where we had salads, burgers, tacos, and wraps. On the way back to the condo, we stopped for ice cream at Coneheads.

On Saturday evening, we went back to St. Augustine to see their ‘Nights of Lights‘, which is a popular winter attraction. The town square had one Christmas tree in many colors and white lights decorating the park structures, gazebos, and trees. The street lights and bridges all had white lights outlining them and city buildings were decorated in varying degrees by their owners. The town was very crowded. I’d say that each time we visited St. Augustine city, it was more crowded than the time before. We wandered around the lit park and city streets while we waited for a dinner table. We ate at Casa Maya, a very nice Mexican restaurant. This may have been my favorite meal in St. Augustine. The menu wasn’t tacos, quesadillas, and enchiladas but instead was nicer dishes like carne asade and ropa vieja (beef brisket). Although I wanted beef and ordered it, Jon’s pork was my favorite part of the meal. Sadly, it was time to say good bye to everyone Sunday morning.

ALSO TRY

  • Columbia – This insanely popular Cuban/ Spanish restaurant we recommended to us by everyone; friends, coworkers and even a stranger in a bar. We walked by several times, but the long lines kept us away.
  • Fountain of Youth – One of the biggests tourist attractions in St. Augustine which we never made it to. (hint: we were told one picture from the parking lot is all you need, don’t bother paying the entrance fee to go in).
  • Lighthouse and Museum – Driving along route A1A the light house is easy to see. For a $10 entrance fee you can climb to the top of the lighthouse and explore the 3-story museum.

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