It was still pretty cool but the wind had eased up, making yesterday a lot better day than Saturday to play tourist. I have to tell you, the more we see of St. Augustine, Florida, the more we like it.
Whenever we are visiting a new area I always ask the local people we meet how they like living there. Usually it’s a mixed bag of hometown pride along with complaints about the things that are wrong with the community. But we have not met one person here, from natives to transplants, that has not said they love the place and everything about it.
And even though it’s a busy place down in the touristy areas and at the two outlet malls out on the interstate, it’s still a small southern town, with small town values. When we took our Old Town Trolley Tour on Friday, one of the stops was at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, home of this replica statue Michelangelo’s famous David. Created by Sollazzini & sons Studios in Florence, Italy, it is one of only two in the world made to the exact specifications of the original – 17 feet high and weighing 10 tons.
Our tour guide said the folks in St. Augustine were thrilled when word of the statue coming to town was released, but then scandalized when there it was in all of its naked glory on busy San Marco Avenue. I mean, a 17 foot tall naked guy will stop traffic! After a lot of hasty telephone calls and some negotiations, a hedge was put around the statue with an entrance that screens it from the public unless they want to see it.
Also on the Ripley campus is this impressive horse made entirely from vintage 1950s and 1960s chrome car bumpers. Measuring over 20 feet from nose to tail, the sculpture was created by metallurgist Sean Guerreroto to honor the Denver Broncos. Our tour guide said she had nicknamed the oversize horse what else, Hi Ho Silver.
Here is a close up to show you how the horse is constructed. And unlike the David statue, it seems to be a gelding. Or maybe gender-neutral?
One of our favorite things to do in St. Augustine is stroll down St. George Street, a pedestrian only roadway where no cars are allowed. Here you will find all kinds of interesting little shops selling everything from tourist trinkets to fine art, and restaurants offering snacks, ethnic foods, and live entertainment.
There are some very old buildings here, including the Salcedo House, once the home of General Jorge Biassou, a former Haitian slave who led an uprising in 1791 and was made a general by the Spanish because of his loyalty in their wars with the French. The general lived here, and owned a large tract of land outside of the city that was worked by his own slaves.
A couple of blocks away is the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the United States, built over 200 years ago while Florida was still under Spanish rule. It was constructed of red cedar and cypress and put together with wooden pegs and handmade nails.
After we left St. George Street we spent some time walking along the waterfront and admiring the Bridge of Lions, the drawbridge that spans the Intercostal Waterway over Mantanza’s Bay, connecting Anastasia Island with downtown St. Augustine.
If you want a slow paced, romantic way to experience this beautiful city, how about a carriage ride? Several horse drawn carriages can be found along the waterfront. I wonder if the horses that pull them feel as inadequate when they see the giant silver horse at Ripley’s as I did when I saw the statue of David.
Congratulations to Wayne Shunamon, this week’s winner of an audiobook of John Daulton’s Rift in the Races. We had 53 entries in the drawing, and stay tuned, because a new contest starts soon.
Thought For the Day – Some things may be beyond our control, but those that are within our control… we have to control the hell out of them! – George Wier