Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Visiting America's oldest city

Nov. 8-15,  St. Augustine Beach
I had read about the Atlantic beaches in St. Augustine and decided we should try to find a campground close to the beach. Well, we did—North Beach Camp Resort. The campground really felt like an old Florida setting as our site was on sand and crushed shells in the midst of palm trees and other tropical vegetation. The other big bonus (for me) was the discovery that the predominant pastime in this park was fishing as it is located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the North River. Shortly after getting settled in the park, I headed out to the river front area where there was a pier with two women fishing on it. They both had purple fishing rods and reels and they encouraged me to join their group by going to the local bait and tackle store and getting a purple rig like theirs. Within an hour, Vic took me to the Avid Angler on Ponce de Leon Blvd. where I purchased a one year saltwater license and gear for my first fishing adventure of the trip. Over the next three days, I caught mostly silver trout which I cleaned, filleted, and fried for lunch. I did have several “tugs” from the local flounder, but never was able to land one
Our tropical new home in Florida

This is what the sites look like empty--very private.

Campsite road leading to the North River
A second highlight of this locale was the discovery of two good bars within walking distance of the campground: one on the ocean called the Reef Restaurant and the other called the Victory Bar inside Aunt Kate’s restaurant on the river. We went to the Reef for happy hour and discovered one of their house wines was Firesteed Pinot Noirwhich is a Willamette Valley winery about twenty minutes from where we used to live in Corvallis, Oregon. Pretty surprising as Firesteed used to be a fairly small winery. Aunt Kate’s was a charming old-fashioned riverfront cafe with a colorful history dating back over 100 years involving Henry Flagler, a Standard Oil and railroad magnate who seems to have owned much of Florida back in the early 1900s.

Day two also included exploring the historic downtown area of this country’s oldest city.  We enjoyed the colonial Spanish architecture, restored Missions and the reenactments of life dating as far back as the discovery of the fountain of youth by Ponce de Leon in 1565. I also like all the pirate history and displays of treasures discovered off this coastline (sends my imagination reeling). Another fun discovery was a colonial style Spanish tavern called Taberna del Gallo, a small candlelit bar where you are served beer or sangrias by pirates singing sea shanties. 

We enjoyed our time here as it was relatively quiet in terms of tourists and had much to offer in terms of charm. We also liked having the North River access on one side of the campground and the dog firendly ocean beaches right across the street. The bright Florida sunshine and loud surf of the Atlantic felt just right.

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