Monday, February 10, 2014

St. Augustine

We went to a home show in a nearby town, and I saw a big poster advertising St. Augustine at one of the booths.  Well it lured me over there because we had been wanting to go to St. Augustine.  Two of my good friends, Chris and Pat, have both visited there and recommended it highly.  Another one of our Florida friends recommended it too.   It turned out we had to listen to a 90 min. presentation about vacations which actually turned out to be more like 2 hours.  But we ended up saying, "No... No... No..."  But for our time they gave us $100 worth of tours in St. Augustine so that was the good part.  We rode the trolley around the town to get a nice overview and narration of the history and of the sites to see.

We spent two days there.  The first day it was in the 70's, but we did have a down pour while there.  It didn't dampen our spirits though.  The second day our friends, John and Jane, joined us.  It was in the 50's and we were quite chilly, but it did not rain as predicted.  If it had, it probably would have been unbearable.  It started to rain as soon as we left, but that was OK.

On the first day, our first stop was at this diner to eat lunch.  It reminded us of eating at diners in Poughkeepsie with my friend, Mary Bea, who took us to eat at several of them while visiting her last Sept. 

Where there's chocolate, you'll find me.  This was our first tour.  They gave a guided tour of their factory, and they gave six samples during the tour so you could taste what they were talking about.  I've always been a hands on person so this was a very meaningful tour.  They also gave us coupons for $2 off any purchase of $4 or more so, of course, we took advantage of that.

We had to wear head covering for sanitary reasons.

This is the trolley that we rode around town.

The tour guide explaining the chocolate process.  He's a former teacher.  He did a great job.

This was the first sample, milk chocolate.  We also got dark chocolate samples.  We got a nice variety.

This guy is using a machine to help him wrap up some chocolates.  He could do it really fast.  Then we got to eat some of them. MMMmmm.

This is supposed to be Lucy of the I Love Lucy show.  Remember the candy conveyer belt scene?  Here's Lucy eyeing the candy that Lucy is holding.  

From the candy factory, we went to the Lightner Museum.  This used to be a luxury hotel with spas, the largest indoor pool in the US, bowling alley, ball room, etc.  The pool is no longer in use, but you can see where it was.  There's a restaurant on the floor of the pool now.  The architecture is magnificent with all the columns, etc.  Lightner was a collector of many things, and he bought the building to display all of his many collections.  It was amazing.  

This is the location of the swimming pool.

This is half of the ballroom.  It wrapped around the swimming pool.  Wow.

This is a view of the restaurant on the floor of where the pool once was.

One of the beautiful chairs on display.

Beautiful crystal collection.

The courtyard.

The entry way.

There was a section with animals and plant life.  This lion was a gift to Churchill.

Lightner is buried here.

The Lightner Museum used to be the Alcazar Hotel.

Across the street was  Flagler College.  We took a tour of it too.  Flagler was the co owner of Standard Oil with Rockefeller.  He also built the railroad in Florida so he was a very powerful and rich man.  This college also used to be a luxury hotel, the Ponce De Leon.  Flagler owned the other luxury hotel too.  

We couldn't see St. Augustine in one day so we went back a second day with our friends, Jane and John.  We decided to eat on the floor of the swimming pool especially since John and I are lap swimmers.  Jane and Bob do water exercises.  It just seemed like the appropriate place to eat for us.

Then we toured Flagler College.  Pictures say it all.

The murals on the ceilings were magnificent.  Notice the swans.

This is the college's cafeteria.  Doesn't look anything like a college cafeteria to me, but it it.

All of the windows in the cafeteria are Tiffany glass.  Amazing.

The hotel, in its day, was so luxurious that it had a separate area for women.  Men were not allowed.  It was a very nice area and very nicely decorated. 

The clock over the mantel is called an Edison clock.  Notice the numeral for 4 which is not IV, but IIII.  I guess this was Edison's trademark on his clocks, thus it's called an Edison clock.

This is the oldest live oak tree in St. Augustine, and there is a  palm tree growing in the middle of it.

We drove by the Fountain of Youth, but we never actually went.  So we still have all our wrinkles and age spots, etc.  Maybe we need another visit to St. Augustine.

This is probably Ponce De Leon who "founded" the Fountain of Youth.

Blue Springs State Park and De Leon State Park

One of Florida's protected animals are the manatees.  They come to Blue Springs during the winter when it's colder.  The water is a constant 72 degrees because of the spring water.  They like that.  It's too cold for me though.  At peak times there might be as many as 350 manatees at this spring.  The park rangers do morning counts.  We have visited in the past, but we saw the most manatees on this trip.  This time, we visited with some of our Florida friends, John and Jane.

Here's a manatee eating the bark off of a fallen palm tree.  They took turns most of the time we were there.  It must be a great eating spot for them.  They are herbivores.

They spend most of their time under the water, but they come up every once in a while to take a breath.

Here's one taking a breath.  I think only a mom could love this creature.  If you ever read Island of the Blue Dolphins,  they talk about elephant cows, and I never knew what they were.  Now I know they're manatees.  Yes, it is an education being in Florida.

There is a nice boardwalk path that leads to several look-outs to see the manatees.  Here are Jane, John, and Bob walking.  The path also goes to the spring.

This is the spring that feeds the area.  The water is very clear and "warm" for manatees.  There were several manatees at the spring's beginning because the water was probably the warmest there.

The dark spot over which the manatees are swimming, is the location of the spring.  Scuba divers frequent this spring to explore during the warm season when the manatees are not here.  Early Dec. when it was still warm and the manatees hadn't arrived and it was OK for the scuba divers to enter, a diver panicked, and his buddy  tried to get him to share his oxygen, but he wouldn't so he drowned.  Sad.

From the Blue Springs Park, we went to De Leon Park just to have the "all you can eat" pancakes.  Our friend, John decided to be the main cook.  You  make your own pancakes on a grill that is built in the middle of your table.  They were pretty good.  They gave us regular batter and buckwheat and grain batter.  We all liked the multi grain batter better.

We also got to cook our own eggs on the grill.  They cooked the bacon in the kitchen.

It was a fun, unique dining experience with good company.