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St. Augustine: A Reasonable Day Trip from Disney World

I drove from Disney World to St. Augustine yesterday–not in spite of the fact that it’s a five hour round-trip drive but because it is a five hour round-trip drive.  You see, my rental car is really comfortable…and it has air conditioning.  Oh–and there are zero screaming children there, too.  After almost two weeks in Walt Disney World, five quiet hours by myself in my comfy, cool car sounded lovely.  And it was–minus the rush hour Orlando traffic (in both directions) and the crazy Florida weather (sunny and pouring–huh?)

I had planned to go for a day and a night but it just didn’t work out that way.  Yet I still wanted to go if only for a day trip–not just to enjoy five hours of air conditioned comfort in my rental Chevy.  I went to check the place out for future reference.  Could I have spent more time there?  Definitely.  Which is why I’ll consider visiting as part of a longer southern road trip.  With my husband.  Maybe next summer…?

St. Augustine is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for years now–after seeing a friend’s vacation photos–and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed.  It was super touristy–but again, I’m a tourist–and had everything I’m looking for in a tourist destination:  many restaurants, lots of bars, a little history and an adequate amount of….

…and you know how important public restrooms are to me!  It was almost Disney-esque in this (and several other) respect(s).

So what did I do on my whirlwind tour?  I strolled the pedestrian streets–lined with shops.  I did venture in to a few shops, if only for the AC.  The prices were reasonable–but I wasn’t actually in the market for anything, so browsing was all that I did.  But even the tacky shops were cute…

I walked down to Flagler college which is way more beautiful than any other college I’ve ever seen.  I felt kind of creepy wandering the campus with my camera given the fact that students were also milling about–but whatever.  They go to a school with amazing architecture.  I’m sure they are used to it by now.

After taking seventeen dozen photos of Flagler College I was pretty hungry, so I checked out ‘the oldest restaurant in Florida’, the Columbia.

While my meal was only average, I think it was a case of poor ordering–all of the other food I saw come out looked fantastic (I had the half of a cuban sandwich and cup of soup–to be fair, the gazpacho was quite good.)  But the restaurant could not have been more beautiful if it tried–sadly I got very few interior photos, as it’s awkward enough dining alone in a mostly-empty tourist town.  Pointing your camera at the waiter just makes it worse.  But here’s one I clicked very quickly…

I do have to say that I am beginning to be proud of my ability to walk into the nicest restaurant in any town and proudly ask for a table for one.  Yes, I’ve been doing it for years, but now I don’t even think twice about it.

But I digress.

At this point you should be thinking ‘gee–she really should head back to Orlando now, to avoid rush hour traffic.’  And you’d be right.  But of course that’s not what  I did.  Instead I walked over to the fort–because I’ve never seen a Spanish fort, or a fort surrounded by palm trees (not surprisingly, there aren’t any palm trees near the Citadel in Halifax or outside of the tower of London!)

At this point I really should have gone home…but of course I was lured by something I’d read about–and then seen on the skyline from the fort.  And it was….a lighthouse!  You know how I feel about lighthouses, right?  Or didn’t I post enough lighthouse photos from our last road trip?  Well, here’s one more…

The not-cool thing about this lighthouse was that it wasn’t on the water (strange, right?) and that it was kept in this little protected lighthouse ‘reserve’ that prevented you from even taking a photo of it without paying the $10 ‘lighthouse museum’ entrance fee.  Clearly I paid it–as you can see the photo I took above.  But the admission also came with the extra added ‘bonus’ of being able to climb the steps to the top of the lighthouse–all 219 steps.

I did not actually enter or climb any of the lighthouses on our Atlantic Canada tour.  No–that would be silly.  Why climb a lighthouse when it is 62 degrees out?  I’d much rather wait for a nice 92 degree day with 100% humidity and heat lightening–wouldn’t you?  Yeah–it was an insane idea, but I did it anyway.  Here I am, at the top…

Just over 24 hours later, my legs still hurt.  In fact, they hurt more and more with each passing minute.  Though walking around the Magic Kingdom today likely didn’t help.

I am very, very glad I made the trip to St. Augustine.  It’s yet another lovely touristy town–worthy of at least a two night stay.  I regret not doing any of the guided tours, but to be honest, the place was so dead (on a random Thursday in September) that I feared I’d be the only one on the tour.  Plus the trolley tour looked suspiciously like a Walt Disney World tram–and that’s exactly what I was trying to avoid!   But I’ll definitely take my husband here at some point–after all, it’s only a three hour drive from Savannah, which is on our must-do road trip list.

And really, what’s three hours?

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