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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Be a Tourist in St. Augustine Florida – America’s Oldest City

I felt very fortunate to be able to visit St. Augustine, Florida. This is a city rich in history and culture. The locals here are proud of their status as the Oldest Established City in United States and are welcoming of tourist. Before we made the trip to St. Augustine, we searched the internet for things to do and “Pet Friendly”. We read on several sites that St. Augustine was an extremely dog friendly city, so we took our beloved dog along for the trip. However, we found that this was not necessarily true!

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We drove into the heart of downtown St. Augustine and parked in a public parking garage for the day. We walked through many streets of the downtown area on a self guided tour of our own making. There are many historic signs along the way and even more photo opportunities. The most notable historic part of our travels was Juan Ponce De Leon. His statue is in the heart of St. Augustine. It is a copy of the original statue located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Legend says it was originally cast in bronze from English cannons seized after the English reigned down on San Juan in 1792.

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Architecture

The architecture of the buildings are magnificent and the building materials I found fascinating. Much of the original town was built from Coquina. We saw many of these huge rocks along side the beaches in Central Florida but didn’t understand their significance. We discovered that this coquina is highly sought after in modern day as landscaping displays. But back in 1565 when the Spanish landed and began their occupation, this building materials was plentiful. Coquina (Coe-Queen-a) made great material for forts, especially for heavy cannon use. Due to Coquina’s softness, cannonballs were said to sink into it instead of shatter it or make holes in the walls.  The walls of the Castillo de San Marcos are made of Coquina and the first Saint Augustine Lighthouse was also built of it. It’s truly a cool looking rock comprised of millions of pieces of shell and invertebrates from the sea; all compresses together to create a type of concrete.

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History

St. Augustine received it’s name after a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church. It is said that the land was first sighted on August 28th and also played a part in naming. The Timucuan Indians where inhabiting this land when the Spanish arrived.  They were a people of many chiefs and several tribes spanning across central Florida and stretching upward into Georgia. The Timucuan Indians were politically savvy in that they got along with the Spaniards in many ways and were peaceful. But within a few short years of meeting, their population was reduced from roughly 200,000 to 50,000. The Spaniards brought with them a multitude of European diseases to which the Timucuan Indians had no immunity or resistance. By the 1700’s the tribe had been reduced to less than 1000 and within the first of the 19th century, they were gone all together.

St. Augustine is hailed as the oldest permanently occupied European City in the Americas and this city is so worth a visit. There is a plethora of history here and the landscapes are breathe-taking. We went to spend the day and take in as much as could – but due to having our precious pooch with us, we were only able to stay for about 4-5 hours before we left.

Not Truly Pet Friendly

I believe this city could be family friendly, but I wouldn’t recommend it as pet friendly. We couldn’t take our fur baby into the stores or other establishments on our visit. She wasn’t welcome at public restrooms, visitor centers, shows or museums we may have been interested in. We did find 1 pet friendly public park that she was welcomed to, but there were so many dogs there, it was not the best environment. We had a good time with her, but we could have explored so much more had we left her with a sitter.

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We ate lunch at a quaint cafe downtown that actually brought our dog a bowl of water and was welcoming. (See photos above)

The people passing by on the sidewalk were not as nice though. Rude is a better word…they were not pet friendly. We were asked to “Hold your dog so I can pass” and asked several times if she would bite. All I could assume was that there have been some seriously aggressive dogs brought into this town at some point. As in other historic downtown areas, there was much of the downtown area turned residential and the rudeness we encountered was from these residents.

I would give St Augustine a 2 out of 5 for pet friendly, but I would rate it 4 out of 5 for family friendly and accessibility. Most of the streets are easily walkable and there are ramps at every corner for strollers, wheel chairs and motorized scooters. (Had the residents we encountered been a bit more amicable, I would be inclined to rate 5 out of 5 for family friendly. Having raised 5 kiddos myself, I can tell you that these folks won’t be as nice to your toddlers or pre-teens either.)

Until next time, hang tight…

Chrissy

Exploring Tomoka State Park, FL

Tomoka State Park is located in central Florida on the east coast side. It’s only about a 30 minute drive north from Daytona Beach, 20 minute drive east from Destination Daytona (in Ormond Beach), about an hour and half drive from Orlando, 15 minute drive from Flagler Beach and is located just on the mainland across the Halifax River from Ormond By The Sea.

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Family oriented and pet friendly, this state park’s admission was $5 per vehicle or $2 per bicyclist or pedestrian for an all day stay. There are camping sites within the park and several great fishing holes. We didn’t enter into the camping area, so I can’t tell you much about it, but we saw a great many folks fishing all over the park.

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Gorgeous greenery, seasonal flowers and filled with palm trees of various sorts, this park is inviting and beautiful.  Large turnarounds are situated along the main gravelled (crushed shell) roadways. Well laid trails to hike are scattered about and there’s some wildlife to see. Large turtles call this park home as well as a stray alligator from time to time also. The turtles were particularly intriguing to our dog. They were digging into the soft sandy soil to conceal their eggs, so we didn’t get to see them up close.

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At the far end of the main trail there is a large tribute statue to the Tomoka Indians. It is weathered terribly and large sections of the statue have fallen off. The state of decay was sad to see, but it seems any money spent on the park has gone into the upkeep of the grounds – which were very nice. A restroom facility is located in the same alcove as the statue and there are several camping or cookout sections there as well.

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Visiting the Tomoka State Park was a delight for the day and gets a 5 out of 5 for family friendly and pet friendly. I highly recommend it! Click here to learn more about the park.

Adventuring onward….

Chrissy

No matter where you go, there you are.

No matter where you go, there you are.

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Drinking a giant mug of joy juice (coffee) I hear birds singing this morning in a happy way. It’s obvious that change is coming. Life is changing.

Yesterday I enjoyed my back yard in Knoxville, TN. This morning I woke up in Plainfield, IN. In a few short hours we will trek to Danville. A sleepy little town west of the big city. A comforting place where life seems slower and nostalgic. There’s love waiting for us there. A cute dollhouse cottage with a small front porch and a swing. Always a welcoming smile and hug at the entrance, it’s a small home full of character and memories.

The drive from here to there is beautiful in its own right. Narrow curvy roads hug corn fields most of the way. Occasionally we will spot a deer gracefully wading through what’s left of last year’s corn stalks. A replica of Sheriff Andy Taylor’s police car is parked in front of the Mayberry Cafe in the quaint downtown area. A true Americana style town, it’s pricey to live here. The old gas stations boast of the available fuel with rather hefty price tags & public parks aren’t exactly free. I was told once, “they’d tax the air if they could figure out how to.” I still see it as a happy place though.

Away from the city, the dirt in Indiana is sweet. Not candy sweet, but mossy sweet from a wet winter, like new fallen rain. It’s a musty smell like my beloved grandmother’s cellar that makes my heart happy. As we drive, I’ll catch a sweet whiff of it if I’m lucky. The air here is different, it doesn’t squeeze my chest like east TN. It’s a little easier to breathe & a little easier to walk.

It’s another day, another adventure and another opportunity to love each other.

A new love 💘

 

I have a confession to make. I fell in love several months ago. Keeping it to myself until just recently when I shared it with my husband was difficult to do. He has been understanding and very accepting of my new love. He’s definitely my best friend and understands.

You see until recently, I enjoyed travel as long as it was recreational, short lived and I knew we were coming back home soon enough.  But lately, so many things have changed in our lives. All the kids are “grown” or at least they think they are. They have all moved away from home now and declared their independence.  We are now Empty-Nesters and have grown into a new class of people. One that I always assumed would never affect me much because I just knew that all the boys would still be around. I assumed that they would be around regularly and that the house they would always come home to- the house they grew up in, the house they matured in and had so many developmental memories and such- would somehow mean the world to them. Why I thought this way, I’ll never know.

I moved away from home at 18 and struck off on a life of my own too. I never looked back or even considered going back home. Actually, I saw going back home as a failure in life. If I couldn’t make it on my own, I would have been devastated!  There was one point when I went back though, in 2001 for about a year and half when both my parents were in a terrible car accident. Mom begged me to come help her and I did. That was short lived as God gave her Grace and she was walking again when I left. Alas, I digress…. so back to my new love…

So delusional thoughts aside, reality is often not was we expect it to be. In an adventurous ever changing world that we cannot control, we are but passengers on this  ride through life. A passenger doesn’t control the direction – and in my life God is the driver. So in recent years, I have just sat back and watched he scenery as I’ve been passing through. God is still my greatest love of all, number 1 in my life…my husband is number 2. But as for this new love I referred to, well it surprises me just as much as it has surprised my husband.

I love to travel! Not just leisure travel, but packing up and moving away travel. This travel is one that I had always denied before, absolutely refusing to leave East Tennessee.  Now, I’m excited by the thought and look forward to many new adventures along the way!

 

The Scent of the Ocean

Each morning I awake and visit my old friend the coffee pot. After creating the juice of joy, I venture outside to smell the day. Immediately my senses are activated as I take that first deep breath of the outdoors. For the last 5 months, that deep breath has been a salty sort.

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The air breathed at the Oceanside is sweet when you come to love it. It grows on you. It is mixed with salt, natural musk, sand, and a hint of marine life. The breeze is constant from the sea. There’s peace, tranquility, and grace.

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To visit a beach is an experience, but to live here is different. There’s a unique oneness that develops as you give your senses over to something larger than yourself. Being no stranger to beach side vacations, I used to think I understood the Sea. Only recently have I truly tuned in though.

Almost everyone I’ve ever known who’s been to the ocean declares, “I want to live here!” Some people even begin to look at real-estate as they dream of one day moving. They have in there minds that living here would be full of relaxation and everyday spent on the beach. Smiling, watching kids play & bury each other in sand, and applying sunscreen over & over again while chilling with a sangria.

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Reality of living here though is much different. We seek out the places few tourist go and avoid the downtown tourist traps like the plaque. It’s not possible to go to the beach everyday. Some days the beaches are closed due to the massive rip currents that tear away at the beach line, other days it is too cold. (Yes, even Florida is somewhat affected by the weather.) On extremely windy days, which come often, it’s painful to walk on the beach as there’s sand in that wind. If you ever get beach side sand blasted, it goes a few degrees beyond exfoliation. But, even with these things being considered, I love it here.

The sun is different here (compared to the Smoky Mountains where I’m from). It hugs your skin from every angle even when you’re fully clothed. It penetrates your bones and brings back life. Sunscreen is a definite must as this sun is unforgiving on the skin. The elevation is very low, so there’s very little pressure bearing down against your joints. The low pressure also helps hearing as it is gentle on the ears. The air is always salty and every breathe is healing and savory sea flavored. The sweet smell of the sea life is present in every breathe. Vision changes here as well. It’s bright most days, but the eyes adjust acutely and vision improves.

Homeownership is a bit more expensive here with the local, county, and state fees/taxes. Home maintenance is a regular neccessity. The salty air eats away at all things man-made. So setting aside a maintenance fund (at least 1\2 your home’s value) will be an absolute requirement unless you are filty rich. In that case, enjoy yourself freely!

I don’t know if they really can, but it seems as though the island birds begin to know and recognise you. We have a dove that feels very at home with us and receive frequent visits from various cranes looking to eat our endless millions of earthworms. They come regularly, with no fear, perching atop cars and freely walk our neighborhood streets.

Time slows to a crawl. Each palm waves in the wind in slow motion and the locals move in the same rhythm. Annuals become perennials, fruit is harvested in the winter, and palmetto bushes bring medicinally juicy berries.

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The sounds of the ocean are loud & ever present. The waves crash in and out creating their own unique song. It is the sole sound of the night. There are no crickets. The toads & frogs are silent. For they cannot compete with the mighty ocean. There are no morning song birds with their gentle morning wake up call. They live on the main land or bayside possibly, but definitely not seaside. The ocean is jealous of all other sounds and pushes them away with its mighty strength & winds.

Life on the Oceanside is beautiful, peaceful, and calming when you understand the Sea – its power, jealousy, and fickleness. It’s unpredictablely majestic and magical…and it smell grows on you over time.

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