St. Augustine. I wasn’t born there, and my family only stayed for a year and a half, but it holds in my memory a strong sense of home. I’ve been boasting of its riches to Jason since we were in college, trying to convince him that there really is one magical place on the eastern shores of Florida’s coast. Though often we’ve talked of visiting (Jason with a lesser enthusiasm), this vacation presented the first real, and for Jason, inescapable, opportunity of going. The siren song of that Spanish Colonial treasure lured us away from Fernandina Beach at the obscene hour of 7 a.m. (obscene by vacation standards). By nine we had wrestled our way through the wilds of outer Jacksonville and were hoofing it in the historic area. After a bite of breakfast at the Bunnery (don’t drink the lattes!) we were off down my memory lane, and joyously creating one that belongs to the both of us.
Oh the faces you make when you forget to worry about the camera your photo-happy husband is holding! Potential internal conflict- insane fear of sharks meeting intense love of ocean, desire to be a mermaid and hug dolphins, manatees and sea turtles :) or why, WHY did I wear jeans in 100 degree heat!
I was actually the tiniest bit worried about revisiting this gem of my childhood, worried that maybe I had idealized it, that it wasn’t as fantastic as I seemed to remember. What if I was wasting a day of Jason’s much needed vacation rest? Now, after the fact, I can safely say that my 11 year old self’s love was not for naught; St. Augustine is amazing . Sure, just like any other town it has its run down bits, tourist traps, and mundane everyday necessities. But it also has gorgeous red brick and cobble paved streets hiding dozens of jewel-like courtyards overflowing with heady bougainvillea, palms, roses, oleander, aloe, moss hung trees and vibrant green grasses. It has cool-tiled, melodious fountains, shady lanes, museums, colleges, bays, bridges–beauty abundant for those who would find it.
We eventually tore ourselves away, taking the A1A back up to Jacksonville and, in the end, “home” to the Hampton. The remainder of our time at Fernandina Beach was spent exploring Fort Clinch, enjoying (or in one instance enduring!) leisurely meals, trying not to think about the upcoming return to reality.
Just a few quick notes, since this is a web site about food, on the difficulties of eating on this trip back down south. It can be very, very challenging to find well-rounded, gluten-free meals (or even familiarity with the term gluten-free) outside of large cities in the south. In restaurants, ask about the ingredients in your food, even if you are ordering something you have found to be a safe bet elsewhere in the past. Even things like tomato soup, french fries, sauteed vegetables, fudge, ice cream and some salads may be prepared with a wheat component. Luckily, the south is also home to some of the friendliest, most accommodating people on earth! Most restaurants will do the best they can to make sure you leave happy and FULL (portions typically run large) once they understand your needs. That said, do yourself a favor if you have allergies, and pack some supplies. Breakfasts, snacks and desserts can be especially difficult to manage if you want anything other than fresh fruit.
Camera shy = Goofy
Jason finally made a friend who spoke his language
Sunday morning it was time to move on. We stayed in town just long enough for Jason to shoot the footage for this video, then set our sites 547 miles north to Virginia Beach. More on that next time. Ciao!