ANOTHER GETAWAY: ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA

 

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You’re probably wondering why a “retired” couple living in a resort-style community would want to get away. Well, we really don’t need to get away; we are extremely fortunate to have a happy life, just the way it is. But, when the travel bug bit me in my youth (thanks to my mom and dad), it bit hard. And, thankfully, I am married to a great guy who enjoys the adventures, too!

So, here we are in St. Augustine; another road trip getaway to a place we were curious to see, being East Coast newbies.

Did you know that St. Augustine is the oldest city in the U.S.A. and is celebrating its 450th birthday? Well, I sure as heck never knew that, even with my college education. Either I missed that little nugget of knowledge while out sick one day or none of my history teachers never shared that interesting fact. Same goes for Bruce; he didn’t know it either.

So, now, as adults, that little factoid interested us enough to see what this 450 year old city is all about.

We arrived on Sunday, at our cozy 1930’s era rented Vilano Beach cottage (www.homeaway.com ), located maybe 100 yards from the beach. It’s just over the bridge from the historic downtown area and a perfect location for us. A terrific boat ramp is just three minutes down the road; perfect for launching our kayaks into the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway), for a short paddle over to Poncho Creek.

In our area of Vilano Beach, we are away from the hotels and tourists in a quiet residential area. Just like in Sanibel, beach houses- 3 stories at most- line the beach, rather than high rises; our preference over tourist beaches, such as Miami and several other Florida beaches.

It was so nice on Sunday, during the late afternoon, walking along the beach and seeing very few people. The tourists are drawn more to St. Augustine Beach, according to the reviews on Trip Advisor. Fine. The tourists can have St. Augustine Beach!

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On Monday, our day started out very much like one of our typical Sanibel days: Go kayak fishing first thing in the morning (although our “first thing” was too late; the fish had already eaten their breakfast), followed by a trip to the local pool for a swim workout.

The results were the same: No fish- yet. We set the alarm for an early rise, today, in hopes of some redfish having what was on the end of Bruce’s fishing line for breakfast. Again- nothing. But, I got to observe these roseate spoonbills eating plenty of munchies for breakfast.

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As for the community pool, it is nowhere near as nice as the one at the Sanibel Recreation Center, but it will do. I had to share a lane, on Monday, but had one all to myself, when I returned yesterday for a swim. I finished just in time before hundreds of kiddie day campers took over the lanes surrounding me. Some of them were even sitting on the edge of the pool on each end of the swim lane I occupied, with their little toes dangling into the water; a bit of a surprise, when I did a backstroke turn, pushed off, and saw their little faces staring wide-eyed at me!

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Our afternoon on Monday was pretty quiet, after a morning of kayaking and swimming. We stopped by Kyle’s Seafood Market to pick up fish for dinner, since the redfish seemed unwilling to sacrifice themselves for our meal.

Have you ever tried cobia? I had it for the first time on the Mississippi river cruise and fell in love with it at first bite. Delicious! It was locally caught and very fresh at the market, so that was our selection. Mmmmm!

Our other little excursion was to find the “castle” in Ponte Vedra. I had heard about this from Laurel, the gal who cuts my hair, and assumed she was being a bit dramatic in her description. But, she was right. Check it out here: http://www.castleotttis.com . What a trip…

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We skipped kayak fishing, yesterday, and opted to head straight to the pool, instead. The afternoon was spent at Whetstone’s Chocolates ( http://www.whetstoneschocolates.com ), for a chocolate factory tour and tasting, followed by San Sebastian Winery ( http://www.sansebastianwinery.com ), for a winery tour and tasting. Wine and chocolate; life is good! Just for the occasion, I wore my t-shirt with a graphic of a glass of red wine and dark chocolate, with a hand holding a prescription that reads: “Red wine and dark chocolate. Doctor’s orders.” It will get another wearing on Saturday afternoon, when we go for the Tour de Chocolate, a chocolate walking tour being conducted by St. Augustine City Walks ( http://www.staugustinecitywalks.com/?page_id=67 ).

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So, back to Whetsone’s, we enjoyed the chocolates and bought some of our favorites to enjoy later. Our favorite was the De Leon Blend Dark Chocolate (at 47%, it is technically a semisweet chocolate), and I also liked the Menendez Blend Dark Chocolate (72%); a European style bittersweet chocolate.

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Whetstone’s buys their beans from South Africa, a question our tour guide was able to answer. But, when I asked her if they make any single origin chocolates, she didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Neither did one of the sales staff behind the chocolate counter. So, the answer to that question would be, “No.”

We enjoyed the tour and our chocolate tasting, before making our way down the street to the winery. San Sebastian was quite generous; the tour was free (Whetstone’s was $8 per person) and the tastings were plentiful. Unfortunately, the wine wasn’t our style; there was only one dry white and one dry red. The rest of the wines were quite sweet to me. Our guide even recommended one of them be used to make “winesicles”, combining the wine with blueberries and peaches in popsicle molds for a refreshing summer treat. I’ll pass, but we enjoyed the winery experience and our guide’s sense of humor!

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After a late afternoon walk on the beach, we enjoyed another Cooked Creation by Bruce Cook: Fresh shrimp from Kyle’s ($9/lb. for 30 VERY fresh shrimp), sautéed in garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flake. The shrimp was served over pasta with steamed broccoli and tomatoes with a little pesto sauce stirred in; perfect with my glass of bubbly. Ahhhhhh…

4 thoughts on “ANOTHER GETAWAY: ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA

  1. Elaine,
    We are heading down to St Augustine in a little over a week and are going to be staying in the cottage! Both my husband and I have enjoyed your blog and have gotten some wonderful ideas what to do while we are there (thinking of surprising him with the Chocolate tour for his birthday). You have made us even more excited about our vacation than we were to begin with and Jacqueline has been such a pleasure to work with. We are driving down from Charleston SC and I was wondering what you would suggest we bring with us that might not be in the cottage.
    Colleen

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    • Thanks for your post, Colleen! I’m pleased to hear you found my blog posts helpful for trip-planning purposes. Thanks for letting me know!

      You are going to have a wonderful time in St. Augustine. DEFINITELY see Flagler College while you are there, and make sure to sign up for one of their tours. We really enjoyed it! The Chocolate Tour is a must, too, as long as you don’t try to eat ALL of the samples DURING the tour. Bring a small cooler with you or a cooler bag with blue ice. You’ll have enough leftovers for a couple of desserts!

      I’m not sure what to suggest for the cottage, because it depends what you plan on doing while you are there. Are you going to eat out most of your meals or cook? If you are planning on cooking your dinners, the cottage has the basic pots, pans, and utensils. The kitchen is small, though, and there isn’t a lot of space for preparation. If you have specific meals in mind and need to have a detailed list of what’s available in the cottage, I’m sure Jacqueline will help you out.

      I would recommend having breakfasts and simple lunches at the cottage, but having dinners out. Trip Advisor is a great website for doing a restaurant search for dinners. I wrote reviews on the restaurants we ate at, so you can check those out on the site if you need more information than what I wrote in my blog.

      Best wishes for a wonderful trip to St. Augustine! If you have any more questions, please let me know!

      Cheers!

      Elaine

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