This Christmas we traveled to St. Augustine, Florida to spend time with my grandfather. He and my grandmother moved here more than 20 years ago from Talahassee after he retired. He is originally from Miami, and my mom grew up there, too. So this side of the family is Florida-bred, through and through. As it turns out, it was a great opportunity to both spend time with extended family we rarely see, and explore St. Augustine.
I’ve visited here every few years since they moved here some time in the 80s, and even lived here for four months in 5th grade (proud RB Hunt Elementary School alumni, holla!) (If one semester qualifies me as an alumni.) At that time, my grandparents had a mobile home over on Anastasia Island. When we visited, my sister and I shared the guest room while my parents slept in the Florida room (aka screened in porch, for you non-Floridians). For my 5th grade year, my parents rented an apartment around the corner from my grandparents. I remember that the apartment smelled like smoke, that I got a bicycle that year, that we made Christmas ornaments that we tried to sell to the neighbors, and that I rode the school bus to school. I was scared of the driver, because he would yell at the kids.
I loved living near the beach, and would cycle my bike to my grandparent’s house, to the beach and to my friend’s house. The other distinct memory I have from that time is that a dead whale washed up on the beach that year. Authorities had to figure out how to dispose of the thing; meanwhile it filled the air with pungent dead flesh aroma. It was pink.
About 14 years ago, my grandparents built a small, Victorian-style home on the mainland, just steps from the Matanzas River waterway. Though my grandmother passed away in 2004, my grandfather has stayed here in this cute little house, which we invaded this year with two kids, plus my parents.
As it turns out, winter in Florida is an excellent time to explore America’s oldest inhabited city. To kick off our visit, we headed to the famous Spanish-built fort, Castillo de San Marcos.
It’s practically a requirement if you visit the city.
Views from the top of the fort of the waterway, the ocean and the city are expansive.
The kids, and grandpa, enjoyed exploring and climbing on things.
Certain people were stuffed into canons, making some happy and others grouchy.
Grouchiness continued for one tired little boy as we went on to explore the nearby St. George Street.