Monday, July 1, 2019

Here's to St. Augustine



                              

Are you looking for a destination that combines scenery, beach, history, shopping and food all in one package? Well, look no further than the oldest city in America, St. Augustine, Florida. This quaint old port city with brick paved streets and Spanish architecture is drenched in history, beauty and culture. My friends, Merri, Julie, Allison, Susan and I recently returned from a trip to the Ancient City. Here are our suggestions for where to stay, what to do and what to eat.

Lodging

                             

If you have enough people to justify renting a house, we have just the place for you. At the corner of Saragossa and Sevilla streets in the historic downtown district of old St. Augustine sits a beautiful home, built in 1910, and listed on VRBO as Casa Antigua. The two-story home has 3 large bedrooms, 2 bathrooms with showers, a large living room, formal dining room and completely renovated kitchen. The house is in a quiet neighborhood that is only a five minute walk from all downtown destinations such as the bay front, fort, restaurants, art galleries and shopping. The grapefruit tree growing in the front yard is an unexpected bonus! We had a blast at Casa Antigua.

If you have a smaller group, or if you would prefer to be on the beach instead of in the historic district, St. Augustine has tons of options. From hotels to condominiums to B&B, you are sure to find accommodations to suit your needs. 



Casa Antigua
                             

    



                                                   

Living Room
                                     

Kitchen
                                     
     
Dining Room

The Grapefruits in the Front Yard were delicious!
                           

History and Architecture

As the oldest city in the country, St. Augustine is brimming with history and beautiful old buildings. You can't miss St. Augustine's iconic fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest and largest masonry fort in the continental United States, which dominates the coastline and beautiful Flaglar College, built by rail mogul Henry Flaglar. Other sites which might not be so obvious but are also worth checking out, are the beautiful Lightner Museum, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in the country, St. Augustine Lighthouse, the Old Jail Museum, the Oldest House in the country, the Bridge of Lions, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine and the Grace United Methodist Church, just to name a few. 

You will find the name Flaglar all over the city. Henry Flaglar, the founder of Standard Oil, developed Florida's east coast. He was responsible for building the Florida East Coast Railway from Daytona to Key West. In 1885, he began construction on the 540 room Hotel Ponce de Leon hotel, which is now part of Flaglar College.  


Flaglar College



                         
We had so much fun exploring St. Augustine.

                                   
You know a bunch of teachers just had to pose in front of the nation's Oldest Wooden School House.
                           

Lightner Museum
                           

Cafe Alcazar in the Lightner Museum used to be the Largest Indoor Pool in the country. You can see where the water level used to be just below the second story balcony.


                            


                                    

Something beautiful everywhere you look.
The Oldest House in America.

                            









                         
                         



Cannonball in the wall?



Bridge of Lions
Leon
                         


Grace United Methodist Church
                         

Grace United Methodist Church is also beautiful at night.

                                               


St. Augustine Lighthouse

Everywhere we looked...the streets were paved Reynolds' Bricks.




Shopping

Opportunities for shopping in St. Augustine are abundant. We found jewelry, herbs, spices, teas snacks, pottery, and did I mention snacks? From Cuban churros and French Macarons to popsicles and pastries, we shopped and snacked our way through the Old City. The jewelry shops are full of treasure and the spice and herb shops are a delight for the senses.

Shopping in Old St. Augustine.






The Spice and Tea Exchange smells heavenly!


I just read this cute little bake shop on Saint George St. is permanently closed. What a shame!

But Le Macaron is still open! Thank goodness!



                           
And so is The Cuban Bakery,

Where you can get these great churros!

Cool off with a gourmet ice pop at The Hyppo.


Dining


Catch 27

On our first night in St. Augustine, we had dinner at Catch 27, located on Charlotte Street in the historic district. As the name implies, Catch 27 specializes in fresh seafood. We enjoyed our meal, from the fish to the shrimp, but that local cheese board with Georgia honeycomb and crostini was a particular favorite.

Love these friends!

Local Cheese Board



Shaved Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Catch of the Day
Shaved Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Shrimp




Columbia

Night number two was spent at Columbia on Saint George St. in the historic district. The cuisine is Spanish and Cuban with emphasis on fresh seafood. We enjoyed a Sangria made at our table.











The Floridian

Dinner number three found us at The Floridian on Spanish St., also in the historic district. The Floridian is a casual affair with regionally inspired dishes. One of our favorite dishes was the pickled shrimp appetizer.







House Fish Dip with Corn Tostadas



Addictive Pickled Pepper Shrimps

Fried Green Tomato BLT with house made Chips


Fried Green Tomatoes




Buttermilk Biscuit with Braised Pork Belly and Hot Sauce Honey

Cheese Board with Candied Pecans and Florida Honey
Preserved

Preserved Restaurant is located in one of the oldest houses in St. Augustine's Lincolnville Historic District. President Thomas Jefferson's great granddaughter, Maria Jefferson Shine, lived in the home in 1892. The ingredient driven menu at Preserved features innovative Southern cuisine. Everything we had at Preserved was divine, but those house made scones with homemade jam were a particular favorite.


Banana Nut French Toast with Berries

Scones and Jam


Shrimp and Grits
Black Hog Farms Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Corn

Smoked Salmon Benedict with Poached Egg, Hollandaise, and Potatoes Lyonnaise 




Raintree

Raintree was a last minute decision and it was a good one. We were going to a play and needed something close by. Our friend, Susan, came to the rescue when she googled this wonderful place which happened to be right next door to our theater. Raintree is at the corner of San Marcos and Bernard Streets and serves an international, continental cuisine, heavy on seafood and steaks. It was all delicious, but the big surprise, to me, was the cinnamon banana crepe. I'm not usually overfond of crepes. They always seem to be a poor relation to pancakes, but this dessert was delicious!




Beautiful Outdoor Dining

Colorful Cocktails





Shrimps, Scallops and Angelhair Pasta

This fillet can be identified as Allison's because of the catsup in the left hand corner. Haha!
Filet with Bearnais√© 


Cinnamon Banana Crepes

All Gone!



Maple Street Biscuit Company

This quirky little biscuit joint started in nearby Jacksonville and has now locations in six states. The one in St. Augustine is on Cordova Street in the historic district and serves up some yummy breakfast foods. The uninitiated, as we were, should take note. When you sidle up to the counter to place your order, you will be asked a question. It may take you by surprise, but your answer to the question will be what will be called out over the speaker to let you know your order is ready to be picked up. On the day we went, the question was, What was the first song or album you ever bought? We were totally unprepared for this question and I think I stumbled around for five minutes trying to come up with an answer. The question of the day is posted on a chalk board near the entrance, so you can think about your answer before you reach the counter.

Everything we had was delicious. With names like The Five and Dime and The Squawking Goat, the menu is entertaining as well as inventive.

Maple Street Biscuit Company







The Sticky Maple


Biscuit, Butter, Jam and Grits


The Blue Hen Cafe

This little laid back joint was one of our favorites. Back to the Lincolnville Historic District, The Blue Hen offers up both fresh comfort food and healthy choices. My Baja fish sandwich was fresh and delicious, as was the blue crab quiche. And we all devoured the chocolate chip muffin.

The Blue Hen


Baja Fish Sandwich with Cilantro White Sauce



Blue Crab Quiche, Biscuit and Grits
Chocolate Chip Muffin




Sheila's Cafe at Anastasia Kitchen

On our last morning, we split up into two cars to go home. Merri, Allison and Susan planned take a route through Birmingham to drop Susan off. This group (the type A's) got up, had their act together and got on the road. Julie and I were in the laid back (Type B) car. We took our time, barely planned a route, stopped to check out St. Augustine's lighthouse and get breakfast before leaving town. We found this tiny, like maybe five tables tiny, cafe on Anastasia Island, over the Bridge of Lions, near the lighthouse. The name, Sheila's Cafe at Anastasia Kitchen is actually bigger than the place itself. Julie and I both had Mexican breakfast quesadillas. But we chose different sides. One of us got hashed browns and the other got grits. It was all hot, spicy and wonderful.







The Tini Martini Bar

One of our favorite hang-outs was the Tini Martini Bar at the Casablanca Inn on the bayfront street, Avenida Menendez. We loved sitting outside on the patio, watching the boats sail by in Matanzas Bay and listening to the clip clop of the horses as they pulled carriages up and down the street. The martini menu is extensive and the names are intriguing. We had a hard time deciding between such options as A Kiss on the Lips, Tahiti Tini, and Bikini Martini. But, between the five of us, we made a valiant effort to sample as many as we could.


Tini Martini Bar



These two took us on a tour of the historic district.

Boats in the Bay


Since we were in town over St. Patrick's Day, Merri made us some pretty cookies to celebrate. They tasted as good as they looked!

We admired this beautiful automobile sitting right outside The Tini Martini Bar.

It was a wonderful trip, with lots of laughs, good food and great memories. Maybe someday Julie and I will tell you about our trip back home. Let's just say we were having so much fun talking non-stop about our favorite television shows, Poldark and Outlander, that our trip home took a little (ok a lot longer than it should have). On the positive side, we bypassed Atlanta altogether! We laughed even harder thinking how our friends in the other car would have had a fit if they had been with us.

Three Friends and a Fork and these Five Friends give St. Augustine CHEERS and 3 Tini Martini Yums UP