The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Taking a Break in St. Augustine

Late last week Diane and I made a snap decision to take a few days off and head for St. Augustine, Florida. We both needed a break from all the "stuff" that has been ruling our lives lately and St. Augustine seemed like a good choice -- only a two-hour drive but a big psychic change.

And so on Sunday we drove to the oldest continuously occupied city in the USA and spent a relaxing two days at the St. Francis Inn, a very nice little B&B in the middle of the city's historic district. St. Augustine is so close we should really visit it more often. It's a beautiful old city with a history that goes back to its founding by the Spanish in the mid-16th century. And as you might expect in a city with a long history there is plenty to see and do. In addition to the usual touristy kitsch from which there is no escape, the city offers plenty of interesting attractions to occupy your time during a visit. Two of my favorites are the Lightner Museum and the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

A Tiffany stained glass window of St. Augustine at the Lightner Museum

The Lightner Museum is one of those oddly interesting places that should not be omitted from your itinerary. It occupies what was once the Hotel Alcazar, a resort hotel built by railroad man Henry Flagler in the late 19th century to attract wealthy tourists to northeast Florida. The museum contains the vast collections of one Otto C. Lightner, a successful publisher who in 1945 bought the then-defunct hotel and turned it into a museum. His eclectic collections, mostly of Victoriana, are nicely displayed and include everything from a small Egyptian mummy to collections of Tiffany glass and 19th century paintings and sculptures. An especially interesting feature of the museum is a music room filled with wonderfully elaborate music boxes. (The museum schedules a "concert" of these automated music makers several times daily.) You can also enjoy a nice lunch in the "ballroom" which at one time was a swimming pool, indeed the world's largest indoor swimming pool. (See the photo below.)

The ballroom (former hotel swimming pool) at the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine

The St. Augustine Lighthouse, about a mile or so from town at St. Augustine Beach, is also worth a visit. The lighthouse, which rises to a height of 165 feet, is now operated and maintained by a private foundation which also runs the attached museum. You can, if you have the heart and "sole" for it, climb the 200+ steps to the top and enjoy what I am sure is a marvelous view. Since the temperature was over 90 when we visited the lighthouse. Diane and I decided to forego the climb and simply picture the view in our collective mind's eye.

The Lighthouse at St. Augustine, Florida

The rest of our time was spent roaming the streets, visiting art galleries, bookshops, and the ubiquitous tourist traps, and sampling the fare in some of the local restaurants. We did, however, stop by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine for a visit. The cathedral also has a very nice gift shop and book store.

Interior of the Cathedral of St. Augustine

And so, we had a nice visit and returned this afternoon more or less refreshed. Life returns and barges through the door.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, we would like to share you a story from the Philippines. Please grab a copy or search Philippine daily inquirer magazine.

    Filipino triplets baptized in mass baptism held in the country. Said to be a first in world records of Baptism, read about them and their life story in Philippine Daily Inquirer MAgazine tomorrow August 23,2009.

    Hulog ng Langit Foundation