05.11.2010 - 07.11.2010
I'd been to St. Augustine, the country's oldest city, a long time ago....on a spring break trip during my senior year of high school with a friend and her family. I always wanted to go back one day, so when some friends asked if we'd like to go somewhere for a sunny weekend in early November, I said, "What about St. Augustine?"
St. Augustine, Florida is a gorgeous little town perched on the Atlantic coast. Rich in history, dripping with architectural delights, and abounding in delicious food....it was a perfect stop for a fun weekend.
We arrive on Friday morning and decided to tour old St. Augustine since we couldn't check into our beach house until afternoon. We parked near the Castillo de San Marcos and arrived at the old fort just in time for the re-enactment group to fire the canon. BOOM! What a way to start the trip. We did a self tour of the fort before heading over to the Old City.
Old City and St. George Street were like stepping back in time...well...if you pretended the tacky t-shirts and St. Augustine shot glasses weren't lining the shop windows. The old buildings lined the streets for block after block as tropical flowering trees waved in the bright blue sky overhead. Musicians stood on the sidewalk, playing their tunes for a friendly dollar and kids ran laughing with ice cream cones dripping down their sticky hands. It was quaint.
We wandered as far as Flagler College and the architecture simply blew me away. What started as a high end luxury resort back in its hey-day, this college campus is simply beautiful. Red brick lions greet you at the gate and ornate ironwork and masonry are everywhere you look. The cafeteria looks more like the inside of a fine mansion than a place that should be serving mashed potatoes and weak coffee every day.
Shopping bug satisfied, we drove toward our beach house, stopping at Osteen's on the way.
Osteen's isn't sexy. It isn't glamorous or trendy. It's plain. It's simple. It's old school seafood done the way it was when you used to vacation with your parents in 1977 by driving down to Florida in a station wagon that had no air-conditioning and in-car entertainment was a stack of comic books and a barbie doll. We knew it would be good when we parked the car in a lot filled with old Buicks and Cadillacs and saw that no one inside was under 55 years of age. This was the real deal.
The fried shrimp at Osteen's is golden and delicious and served with your choice of old school sides like macaroni salad, greens, or sliced cucumbers with vinegar. Crispy hushpuppies and sweet iced tea topped things off.
It was early afternoon and we headed to Point Break beach house, an absolutely PERFECT little gem that sat right on the sand of Vilano Beach. Most houses are back behind the dunes or across the street, but this one was on top of a rock pile that was so close to the water that when the tide came in, the waves showered the deck. We settled in with books and views for the evening.
The next morning we took a long walk on the beach.
I have never seen so many shells on one beach in my life. It was littered with shells. There were so many that you couldn't walk without shoes. They piled up in bunches along the edge of the seafoam, tinkling like bells as the tide rolled waves across them.
We spent a lazy morning reading at the beach house. The house had a rowboat strung up like a hammock filled with pillows and soft white sheets that made and ideal reading spot....you could hear the waves as they brushed the soft sand near the house.
Lest lethargy totally take over and keep us inside on a beautiful day, we wrenched ourselves from our sun grazed haven and headed to the Conch House for lunch.
One part tiki bar and one part seafood house, the Conch House was just what we needed. We had frosty goombay smashes and fresh seafood with a beautiful view.
After lunch, we headed to see the Lighthouse. We walked up and up. Up and up and up and up. We walked up some more. Two hundred and nineteen steps later, we reached the top of the 165 foot tower. The view from the top was remarkable, and the extremely windy day made it a little...extra exciting.
We spend the afternoon at the house doing some serious seaside relaxing.
and then cleaned up and headed to the Reef Restaurant on Vilano beach. It was quiet and candlelit, and that night had live piano music, when lent it an old style glamour. The food was delicious. I had a Minorcan Clam Chowder...a spicy tomato based soup that lit my tastebuds on fire. That was followed by sesame crusted tuna seared and served rare with wasabi and a soy-ginger dipping sauce. After dinner, we headed to Zhanra's cigar bar for martinis and live music. The band was playing covers of old 80's tunes and we had a blast.....until they closed and made us go home.
Sunday morning brought a glorious sunrise.
It was time to head home. We made a pit stop in Atlanta and borrowed the airport's crew car to run to Flip Burger for lunch. I have never been to a "burger boutique" but it was definitely something special. I had a Krispy Kreme milkshake and a blue cheese and caramelized onion burger with fried pickles. If you are ever in Buckhead, stop by. You'll be glad you did.
Before we knew it, we were back in Knoxville and another adventure had come to a close almost as quickly as it had begun.