Saint Augustine, FL is an interesting little place. In short, it’s sort of a Disney Land for history buffs. It’s got a long and varied history that includes being the oldest city in the U.S. and therefore claims to have the “oldest” and “first” of all sorts of things, from several churches to the very first wooden school house. You can walk the narrow, history-laden, quaint, cobblestoned streets for hours, stopping along the way at seemingly endless art galleries, church steeples, museums, historical landmarks and intricate, wild gardens behind stone and wrought iron gates throughout.
The architecture is incredible and most buildings are kept in impeccable condition. Horse and buggies, also decorated and even lighted, trot down the streets. Live music seeps out from every corner, whether it’s a busker or local performer at an outdoor dining area.
The Freedom Trail recounts the influence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and significant events of the Civil Rights Movement that occurred here, which enthralled me to stop and read the placards placed along residential neighborhoods, citing the pivotal role it all had. Dr. King spent a lot of time here, in a neighborhood called “Lincolnville” that was settled by former slaves, moving from house to house each night to ensure his safety and the safety of those working with him.
The city was also absolutely packed for Christmas season as the entire city is lit up and has a very festive atmosphere. There’s not a standing tree nor bush without a string of lights on it. People from around the world flock here this time of year, little did we know. Walking through the old fort, Castillo de San Marcos, we counted having heard 8 different languages as we strolled.
Overall, it was the perfect place to meet up with and spend the season with our friends from s/v Beam IV who we originally met November of 2017 after they sailed across the Atlantic from their native England and docked their Amel right next to ours in St. Lucia. We also spent last Christmas with these fast-friends in Martinique. Then we had an extra-special visit from Sophia, Daniel’s girlfriend and I dragged them on a trolley tour with me.
One aspect we were not prepared to encounter in town was how far in advance it was needed to make a reservation for dinner during this time. It was hard to get in ANYWHERE even with several days’ notice. One night, we got lucky and found a table for three in an Italian piano bar right across from the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, where we were staying. Often when we make a restaurant reservation, we use “Paul” as the name, it’s just easier. The gentleman who answered the phone asked for a name before he gave a yes/no answer to whether or not they had an available table to which he answered, “OH, Mr. Paul!” and gave us a table for that night. We figured once we arrived, he’d realize we were not the “Mr. Paul” party he anticipated, but that was not the case. When we arrived, the owner/chef was out by the podium taking a break and he happened to be the same man on the phone from earlier. He turned to the maître d’ who was walking over and announced “Mr. Paul has arrived!” Paul, Daniel and I just sort of looked at each other and wondered if this really was a case of mistaken identity and perhaps the only reason we actually got a table on such short notice. We went along and had a great meal with fabulous piano music to accompany it. As Christmas Eve approached, we wanted to all go out together with the Beam Team Crew, which made us now a group of 8. And though I literally spent hours walking the streets and poking my head into ANY establishment possible to see if they could make room, I had no luck at all. Finally, I told Paul to call the same Italian piano bar as before and use his “pull”. Sure enough the man who answered the phone said he could not accommodate us and then Paul asked, “Not even for Mr. Paul?” And his prompt reply…? “OH! Mr. Paul, hold on…. Eight, yes, a table for 8 at 7:30 Christmas Eve, we can accommodate you Mr. Paul.”