Tuesday, July 31

Postcards from St. Augustine

Greetings from sunny St. Augustine!
(This postcard is arriving a bit late, since I just sent one from Jacksonville last week, and the two cities differ enough to warrant their own posts. I hope you enjoy part deaux of the Florida east coast adventure.)

Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is one of the oldest* continuously settled (by Europeans) cities in the United States.
One of St. Augustine's many historic homes
*For the record, I am highly suspicious of anything in the United States that claims to be the "oldest" anything. I am fairly certain that native peoples lived here for hundreds of years before any Europeans figured out this wasn't India. That said, St. Augustine has historical tourism in spades - as long as that tourism starts with Columbus and ignores whomever the Spanish evicted.
My favorite slice of history was the Castillo de San Marcos, a fort that was attacked repeatedly, but never fell to foreign invaders. Despite many sieges over the centuries, changes in ownership were all handled by treaty as the city passed from Spanish to British to Spanish to American hands. (There may have been some other hands involved in there, but you get the idea.)

If you look closely at the fort's soft stone walls, you can see ancient graffiti left behind by former inhabitants. An enthusiastic volunteer spent 20 minutes showing us the tracings - ships, crosses, initials - carved by former soldiers and citizens who "lived" in the fortress when the city was under attack.
Inside the Castillo de San Marcos
As you can imagine in an old and tourist-oriented city, there are advantages and disadvantages for runners. The streets of downtown St. Augustine are narrow - barely wide enough for cars - and the pavement is uneven. If you run through the older parts of the city keep an eye and ear out for passing cars and tour trolleys. Also, plan to run early in the morning. Before 10am the tourists are still (mostly) sleeping.
One of the many pedestrian-clogged streets, which seem to get
crowded at mid-day and stay busy well into the night
There are quieter (read: more runner-friendly) neighborhoods closer to the water. Those beach communities are accessible from downtown via the Bridge of Lions.

Early one morning Hubby and I ran a 5.5 mile loop from the historic district, over the bridge...
One of the stone lions for which the bridge is named
Past the St. Augustine Alligator Farm...
How often do you see a 30-foot alligator sunning herself on the side of the road?
To the St. Augustine Lighthouse.
St. Augustine lighthouse
At the salt marsh near the lighthouse, I asked Hubby if he saw anyplace where we could refill my now-empty water bottle. We saw a public restroom and headed for it, hoping for a water fountain. A middle-aged, weather-worn man and his wife overheard and warned us that the water quality was less than desirable. It was only good (their words, not mine) for relieving constipation. (At least they warned us! It would have been a loooooong drive home to Pensacola otherwise.)

Better water, they said, could be found at the sink (often used for fish cleaning) on a nearby pier. While it might seem counterintuitive to refill drinking water at a fish cleaning station, the sink is used continually, which means the water does not sit, sluggish and breeding bacteria, in the pipes.

As we talked, I noticed a smudge high on the man's left cheek.

When we got closer, the outlines of the smudge came into focus, and I realized it was a tattoo. A big, blue, teardrop tattoo. This brief conversation about the relative merits of local water sources is now, and will probably remain, the most helpful chat I ever have with a murderer. (Maybe I'm wrong... Maybe the guy got really drunk one night, stumbled into the wrong tattoo parlor, and now can't afford laser removal? Anything is possible, right?)

Armed with knowledge about where to get water, Hubby and I took a few photos of the marsh, looped through a quiet residential neighborhood, and headed back toward our hotel. On the return trip I cruised past the Castillo.

Stopped for a photo at the city gates....
St. Augustine city gates
And finished with a sprint down the pedestrian street that runs through old town. This last stretch took me past the oldest wooden schoolhouse, which was blissfully tourist-crowd-free at 9am.
Oldest wooden schoolhouse
(This is the same street as the crowded photo, above, but at 9am. Most tourists sleep in.)
See route map here.

All in all, it was a great weekend getaway!

For other travel posts, see Places to Run.

Where did you run last weekend?

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