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    Castillo San Marcos

    Whether young lovers or just young at heart, romance can undoubtedly be found at the dreamy Casa de Suenos in Florida’s historic city of St. Augustine.  The first impression of this cozy bed and breakfast is one of a sheltered haven from the hustle and bustle of larger towns, lodgings, and the interstate left far behind.  From wherever you may have come, the pastel yellow stucco welcomes you in the warmth that is echoed within by its soft colonial decor.

    As you enter side entrance to the house, the stylish sunroom to the left is just the first invitation to relax.  The six guest rooms upstairs and one on the main floor welcome the weary traveler whether staying for a weekend or weeks at a time.

    Like many Bed & Breakfast of period build and design, access to the rooms follows a narrow wooden staircase with an equally petite hallway.  Instantly, on seeing the big puffy pillows and quilts, my tired bones smiled as I dropped my suitcase and plunked down on the heavenly bed.  A late-night snack and port wine were left in the room to ease us into sleep.

    Casa de Suenos in Florida’s historic city of St. Augustine

    After a good night’s rest we were ready to explore St. Augustine, but not before a delicious, hearty breakfast buffet.  We sat among the other inn guests where the conversation was friendly and inviting.  Some, we found, returned year after year.  The inn’s host, Linda, graciously met every need.

    The generous portion of gently scrambled eggs melted in my mouth. I added some velvety yogurt with fresh fruits, and I was ready for my day.

    St Augustine offers many and varied experiences. Located just blocks from The Colonial Quarter, Casa De Suenos lies within effortless access to the city.  Walk to Cuna St, then to St. George Street which is the main route through the quarter.

    Our stroll took us past a pirate shop, a purveyor of Panama hats, and a  candy store

    St. George Street in St. Augustine

    We shopped at some of the quaint stores like Go Fish, a company that purchases most of the items they sell from the indigenous people of developing nations. We were unable to leave The Spice & Tea Exchange where the pungent aromas of freshly ground spices played in our noses, without buying little bags of the peppers, chilis, and paprikas.  The wooden wind chimes at Earthbound Trading Company called to us like Sirens, and we eagerly added them to our bounty.

    The Colonial Quarter offers an immersion into the colonist life in early St. Augustine history. The sights and sounds of blacksmiths, gunsmiths, and rustic living greeted us as we stepped through the gates back in time.

    Blacksmith tending a fire at Colonial Quarter

    No trip to St. Augustine is complete without a stop at the Castillo de San Marcos or “The Fort.”.  Despite chilly winds, the view from the parapets was incredible and well worth the extra jacket that day.  The bright blue sky and endless horizon belied the fact of nippy weather.

    What was once the stately Hotel Ponce de Leon, is now Flagler College, A liberal college that has recently added a new program for the first master’s degree program in Deaf Education, as well as a museum with an outstanding collection from its original period.  The museum tour starts in the enormous, stately courtyard with red clay tiled roof, gargoyles and a frog-festooned fountain that doubles as a sundial. 

    Flagler College

    Once inside, the grand lobby reveals detailed architectural carvings and a rotunda with decorated with intricate murals depicting scenes of eight female figures representing the four elements - Fire, Earth, Air and Water - and the four stages of Spanish exploration. 

    Domed ceiling at Flagler College

    The dining room is one of the most beautiful collections of Tiffany Glass to be found.  Each window in this round gathering place is an exquisite piece of art.  Even as we sat among the students scattered about, it was hard to imagine this as a college cafeteria.  The young people we encountered here, some guiding the tours, demonstrate a deep pride and appreciation for their environs.

    We visited the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum and if you are fit or adventurous enough you can brave the climb) to the top, 219 steps (I counted each one as I went) for a panoramic and awe-inspiring view.

    View form the staircase at St Augustine lighthouse

    The less adventurous, and more earthbound, enjoyed the stories and historical aspects of the family who tended the lighthouse in its early years. A lovely gift shop sends you off with maritime memorabilia.

    St augustine lighthouse

    While it may not start out on everyone’s top list of things to do, we could not miss St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.  So, with a bit of a giggle, we crossed the highway from the museum. The farm entertained us as a delight for both young and old.  Daring children (or adults) have the option of navigating the park on zip lines and rope courses above.

    Despite its name, and though the star attractions are the alligators lounging atop one another in scattered heaps, the grounds are teeming with a variety of species.  We saw macaws, parrots, pythons, lemurs, exotic birds, and reptiles. 

    Alligators at St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park

    Ours was much too brief of a visit, but that gives us even better reason to return soon.  Thank you, St. Augustine, for your warm hospitality. 

    Links to attractions mentioned in this article:
    Casa De Suenos
    St. Augustine Colonial Quarter
    Castillo de San Marcos
    Flagler College
    St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum

    St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
    http://www.flagler.edu/academics/departments-programs/education/undergraduate-graduate-programs/deaf-education-masters/

     

     

     

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    Public Disclosure-- Please Read
    I recently learned of a FTC law requiring web sites to let their readers know if any of the stories are "sponsored" or compensated.  American Roads and Global Highways' feature writers are professional travel writers. As such we are frequently invited on press trips, also called fam trips. Most of the articles here are results of these trips. On these trips most of our lodging, dining, admissions fees and often plane fare are covered by the city or firm hosting the trip. It is an opportunity to visit places we might not otherwise be able to visit and bring you a great story. However, no one tells us what to write about those places. All opinions are 100% those of the author of that feature column.  

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