Sunday, August 15, 2021

Heading North - St. Augustine and Lake Norman

Since leaving the Keys at the end of January 2020 we have not ventured very far from our place in Stuart other than our trip to Mexico. We sold Opus in July so on our trip north we planned on staying in hotels. When we left Stuart covid cases were around 30,000 a day but climbing. We felt traveling would be safe since we have been fully vaccinated since February. But as I write, cases have climbed to over 128,000 daily. The good news for us is, though Florida is the worst place in the country, we aren't there. 
Our plan was to drive to St. Augustine on Routes 1 and A1A thus avoiding I-95. It was much more relaxing and we got to see some beautiful beach towns. We even saw the Blue Origin buildings near Cape Canaveral a few days before Bezos went into space atop one of their rockets.
We have been to St. Augustine several times in Opus, but this was the first time we stayed close enough to be able to walk to all the local attractions. It was a short walk downtown across the Bridge of Lions where you could view the boats anchored near the shoreline. In the background is Castillo de San Marcos National Monument that we toured on an earlier visit.  
Beautiful downtown St. Augustine.
One of the many lions near the appropriately named Bridge of Lions.
On our last visit we toured Flagler College located in the old Flagler Hotel. This time we went to the Lightner Museum, the building across from the college that was formerly another Flagler hotel. The Alcazar Hotel was the second one he built here before deciding that the winters were too cold so he built another hotel further south in Palm Beach.
The museum has an eclectic collection of art and artifacts. This child mummy is in a recreated Egyptian tomb. Strange but interesting.
Part of the huge collection of glassware and pottery that includes these beer mugs. 
This stained glass window, Woman on Garden Bench, was made for H. J. Heinz in Pittsburgh.
A large part of the hotel was a spa and fitness center with steam room, sauna and this pool.
Today the pool is a cafe. The Lightner is an interesting museum and well worth a visit.
A few miles south of St. Augustine is Fort Matanzas National Monument. The first historical event here was the massacre of French shipwreck survivors by the Spanish on 1565. In 1564 Spain learned that the French had built Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River near present day Jacksonville, land claimed by Spain. In 1565 both countries sent reinforcements to Florida. When the Spanish arrived they found Fort Caroline abandon so they proceeded to the newly established St. Augustine. The French plan to attack St. Augustine was disrupted by a hurricane that carried their ships south, before wrecking them. When 130 survivors were found near the inlet, all but 16 who were Catholics or artisans were killed. Two weeks later near the same place 250 more survivors were found and met the same fate. These two events led to the inlet being called Matanzas, Spanish for slaughter.  
While waiting for the boat to the fort we took a walk to the beach along a short nature trail. All along the trail we saw many of these Golden Silk spiders. The smaller one is the male, the larger the female. The male stays on the opposite side of the web from the female until they are ready to mate. As soon as that happens she eats him to provide nutrition before the babies are born. They were neat to see and generally harmless to humans.
Fort Matanzas, really a watchtower, was built by the Spanish in 1740 - 42 to protect the inlet from British ships trying to attack St. Augustine. The fort is on Rattlesnake Island, a name that may have been used to keep people away. That said, the ranger told us you are just as likely to meet a rattler in the other part of the monument back across the inlet. 
While the fort never came under attack, today it is often under siege from many boaters. Access to the fort is on a free park service boat with ranger guides.
Nanc heading up to the watchtower for a better look.
As with all park service forts there are old cannons that would have been used mostly to discourage invaders.
Each of these poles was used in the firing of the cannons. Each had a specific job such as putting in gunpowder, packing a cannonball on top of the powder, then cleaning out the barrel for the next shot. 
A couple more cannons and the guard tower.
The whole fort is quite small and would have had only a few soldiers stationed there at any time.
This 1939 photo shows the fort after it had been reconstructed. The fort and surrounding area is well worth a visit if you are in search of a day away from the crowds in St Augustine.
We have been to St. Augustine a number of times but this time we found two or three restaurants that offered much better food than we had in the past. As you can see, Harry's is "the" place to go. This line was just to get to the hostess to put your name on the waiting list. Our overall wait was about 40 minutes, but well worth it.
While standing in line we ran into Kristen Chase Gore, a former student, and her husband Randy who were vacationing on Florida. We always say meeting people on the road is the greatest thing about traveling. Great seeing Kristen and Randy. 
Harry's served Cajun food and I'm happy to report the crawfish etouffee was wonderful.
If there is a lighthouse we will climb. Our motel was close enough that we walked to the St, Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. There are 219 steps to get to the walkway around the 165 foot tower. It was built between 1871 and 1874 following the same plan used for the Bodie Island and Currituck lighthouses in North Carolina. 
The view looking toward the Atlantic Ocean.
The view looking toward downtown St Augustine.
There is a wooden boat exhibit where volunteers build a boat every year that is raffled off to raise money for the museum.
A model of the original lighthouse that fell into the ocean in 1880. The light keeper's house has been restored and is furnished with period pieces. There is also a special exhibit about the German U-boat attacks on US ships off the coast of Florida during WWII.
The lighthouse is another must see stop. The climb is not too bad and is worth it for the view. 
We left St. Augustine and headed to Mooresville, NC to spend a few days with my brother Rick and his wife Denise at their beautiful place on Lake Norman.
We went for a boat ride and enjoyed a dip in the water. Nanc and I both paddle boarded but we did not get a picture.
A beautiful sunset through the haze of the wildfires a couple thousand miles away. 
Something new to us that we discovered on our way north was bars offering exotic mixed drinks. There were a couple places in St. Augustine and this one at Barrel and Fork in Cornelius, NC where your drink was as much about watching the bartender preparing and mixing your drink with fresh and homemade ingredients, as it was getting to enjoy it. Yes, where there is smoke there is fire, that burned on the bar while this Old Fashioned was being made. 
As you can see it was not just a bartender mixing and serving a drink, it was a show right down to the crazy goggles.
Nanc had a Ghost of Shiloh made with bourbon, blackberries and beet shrub, fermented honey, cocchi Americano, lemon juice and aromatic bitters. It sure put a smile on her face.
Relaxing on the dock. We always enjoy our time at the lake.

We are now staying in an apartment in WashPA until September 19. Some of our plans have been disrupted because of rising covid cases, but we are having a good time in our old hometown.