St. Augustine Florida is known as the Nation's Oldest City, but those who know her, know that there is so much more than history.
My Dad and I drove into St. Augustine on a stunning day in May of 1980. I had applied and been accepted to Flagler College, so we thought we would drive down and visit it before I made my decision to attend. I remember the clear blue sky of the day, the 250 foot stainless steel cross that loomed over the city as we began our approach to the town, the flowers planted at the base of a statue as we neared the center of downtown, and I remember that we got lost and ended up on "Charlotte Street.". I remember knowing with everything in my heart that this was where I was supposed to be
St. Augustine may be the Oldest City, I thought, but driving into town I felt shiny and new... little did I know how the rest of my life would be impacted by this precious town.
Like anyone that takes a look back at a season of their life, I realize that four years went by in a flash. I graduated in 1984 with B.A. with concentrations in Religion / Philosophy, English and History. I had some of the finest teachers in the country and count my education as superior in every way. My professors were brilliant, engaging, demanding and personable. I have maintained contact with my religion teacher and the former President until today.
REVISITING MY HISTORY It was almost 12 years after my graduation that I found myself back in St. Augustine for a camping vacation. I had happened upon a campsite during a trek south and decided to return for a longer stay. This re-introduced me to the city in a way that I never appreciated while being a student. Albeit, the town had grown tremendously in the years since graduation and a better economy had allowed every part of the town to improve itself and to flourish.
By 2001 I had changed a lot, too. I had become a wife, a mom, and eventually I added "Artist" to my personal resume. And although I only considered myself a "little 'a' artist,"
I was invited to show some of my art at the sweetest little gallery in St. Augustine - "Simple Gestures." This began a wonderful journey of engaging in the arts community of St. Augustine and repeated visits for "First Friday" art walks. I fell deeply in love with the town, the people and the atmosphere of my alma mater. I began to see what a gift it was to have been schooled here, and then to have found a "home" here for my art.
The arts community of St. Augustine was a welcoming and growing group. The art per square mile in the city probably rivaled any major city - both in quantity and quality.
Along with the growth of the city and it's destination-wedding business explosion came a-m-a-z-i-n-g restaurants. Choosing where to eat in the 90's was pretty easy - Gypsy Cab Co., Beachcomber, Cowboys (for the tourists), AIA Brewery, and a few others - But now - Ice Plant, The Floridian, Crave Food Truck, and the many Farm-to-Table options. Truly good food abounds - and don't even get me started on the Farmer's Markets, and the Amphitheater with internationally famous musicians, "Nights of Lights," and some of the most wonderful beaches in the world.
All this to say, the Oldest City with it's historical landmarks and overblown Tourist spots has grown into a breathtaking destination whether or not you ever set foot on an Alligator Farm - "Believe it or Don't!" Take a trip down I-95 and see for yourself. You won't regret it!
P.S. - And Please, contact me for recommendations!