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Celebrate National Poetry Month in St. AugustineWith Heart-Felt Events Designed to Stir Up Your Spir
Thursday April 23, 2015 @ 3:33 pm

Celebrate National Poetry Month in St. Augustine
With Heart-Felt Events Designed to Stir Up Your Spirit

By Ama Reynolds

Poetry Reading
“At the touch of love,” said Plato, “everyone becomes a poet.”

We’ve all been swept up by the magic of love--for which no words ever seem enough. As it is with poetry, so it is with love. Head out, at the tail end of this month, to celebrate the most perfect distillation the soul, of love, and of any language--poetry.

Founded by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, “to increase the attention paid—by individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our poetic heritage, and to poetry books and magazines,” National Poetry Month, almost twenty years out seems to have met its mission.

“In the end, we hope to achieve an increase in the visibility, presence, and accessibility of poetry in our culture.”

Such visibility and accessibility is certainly in bloom this first month of spring in St. Augustine--thanks to Ancient City Poets, Flavors restaurant, City Coffee, the Southeast branch of St. Johns County Public Libraries, and the Academy of American Poets.

Poem in Your Pocket
Thought up by the Academy of American Poets and much supported by Ancient City Poets, Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 30, encourages the passing along and sharing of the joy of poetry in a fun, simple way that allows you to share your favorite poem in myriad ways. Find a poem you love and keep a copy of it in your pocket. Each year on this day, poems from pockets throughout the United States will be unfolded at events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores. Share it everywhere you can--with family, friends, co-workers and even the world at large via social media like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram--anywhere you like. Here are a few ideas to share your loved poem as far and wide as possible:

  •  Start a “poems for pockets” give-a-way in your school or workplace
  •  Urge local businesses to offer discounts for those carrying poems
  •  Post pocket-sized verses in public places
  •  Handwrite some lines on the back of your business cards
  •  Start a street team to pass out poems in your community
  •  Distribute bookmarks with your favorite immortal lines
  •  Add a poem to your email footer
  •  Post a poem on your blog or social networking page
  •  Text a poem to friends
  •  Read it at National Poetry Month Celebration sponsored by Ancient City Poets

National Poetry Month Celebration & Poem-In-Your-Pocket Reading

Come celebrate National Poetry Month and Poem In Your Pocket Day on Sunday,  April 26 from 3 to 5 p.m. at City Coffee Company courtesy of Ancient City Poets. Step up to the poetry podium and share the poems you’ve prepared for Poem In Your Pocket Day. Feel free to read your own work as well.
Founded in August of 2009, Ancient City Poets readings have been held every month and have been at their current locale of City Coffee Company for quite awhile. The poets host their monthly open mic readings “renga style” with no emcee or sign-up sheet. Come up to the mic when the spirit moves you. The reading ends when all presenters have had their chance to share. And of course, you’re more than welcome to enjoy the reading without participating. Additionally, original poems will be considered for publication in the second issue of A.C. PAPA, a literary journal that spotlights Florida poets, authors, photographers and artists.

Open Mic Poetry Night at Flavors
Every second and fourth Thursday, the long-held local favorite eatery and coffee spot we call Flavors hosts a Poetry Open Mic from 7 to 9 p.m. And though we’ve missed the month of April as of publication, be sure to pop in and experience these regular poetry nights and share your work or listen in.

Blackout Poetry Pop-In at St. Johns County Public Library--Southeast Branch
For a super-quick and fun way to celebrate National Poetry Month, pop into the Southeast Branch of the public library any time on Wednesday, April 29, and make some poetry by blacking out words with markers. Who knows what fun or profundity you’re likely to make!?

Poetry is Alive and Well in the Nation’s Oldest City
Chris Bodor has worked passionately and tirelessly to spread the power of poetry throughout St. Augustine through his intensive work with Ancient City Poets readings.

Chris Boder“Every month I continue to be amazed by the talent that our microphone attracts,” says Bodor. “I have had the honor of seeing shy readers transform into confident performers. The poetry community in St. Augustine is fortunate have representation from all age groups. The Ancient City Poets have been involved with children’s events at our Amphitheatre and at River House. Regardless of age, we all have stories to tell and poetry is a very intimate way to share our feelings, thoughts and fears. The support that we get from our audience is further proof of poetry's appeal. It is one thing to get 10 to 15 people who willing to stand up and read their work, but the fact that we attract 20 to 30 people each month who just want to listen and soak in the poetry scene absolutely blows my mind.”

“Spoken word and poetry is alive in the Nation's Oldest City.”

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify important information directly with the tips and resources mentioned in this blog. Sharing and reposting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.
Photo Credits: Ancient City Poets

Spend Your Spring Break in St. Augustine
Friday March 6, 2015 @ 3:58 pm

Enjoy St. Augustine’s  Sun, Surf, Dining,
History, and All Kinds of Fun for Everyone.

By Ama Reynolds

Even if the sky is still grey where you are, come to the nation’s oldest city and find a sunlit escape perfectly suited for your kind of fun.

Whether you prefer spending time in nature and on the water, catching rays on our beautiful beaches, golfing on our famed courses, shopping it up at our one-of-a-kind boutiques and spas, taking in the famed history of our ancient city, or enjoying our fun-filled attractions, filling up on a foodie adventure, or taking a bit of a “dip” into a little bit of all of it, St. Augustine is the perfect Spring Break spot for families and couples alike.

A Guide to Our Beautiful Beaches

Spend time in the sun and surf. We’ve got all the inside tips for making the most of your trip to our coastal community right on the shores Atlantic ocean. Camp at Anastasia State Park, enjoy fine beachside resort accommodations like Castillo Real, condos and resorts, or even your own beach rentals. Swim, bodyboard, bodyboard, or body surf. Loll in the sunshine and splash in the waves at one of our many beaches. Just be sure to wear your sunscreen!

Ecotours for Nature Lovers

In addition to our gorgeous beaches, our marshlands and quiet bays offer up a ton of fun for the nature lover. Get on a kayak, motorboat or sailboat and check out dolphins, beautiful birds and more through St. Augustine Eco Tours or Ripple Effect Adventure Outfitters. Learn about the beautiful native sea life and even swim with the dolphins at Marineland. Discover the lifestyle of Florida’s native birds, alligators and crocodiles at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park. A number of stunning preserves and parks offer fishing, boating, camping, wildlife viewing. Sites and parks include Guana River State ParkPellicer Creek Aquatic ReserveFaver-Dykes State ParkWashington Oaks Gardens State ParkMoses Park Conservation Area and the River to Sea Preserve at Marineland.

A Foodie’s Delight

St. Augustine is home to a wide variety of independent restaurants, coffee shops, wineries and dessert spots. Let us fill you in. The city even offers tours just for foodies and wine, beer and spirit lovers.

Collage, an “artful global dining” restaurant in downtown St. Augustine, was recently named one of the best restaurants in the country, by OpenTable, so be sure to make your reservation right away. The farm-to-table movement has become big in St. Augustine, and being a coastal city, this also means sea-to-table. Catch 27 is a delightful seafood spot serving only the freshest catches found right off our coast.

The Floridian serves up local ingredients transformed into devastatingly delicious modern twists on Southern dishes--and was even featured on The Cooking Channel’s  “Emeril’s Florida: Farm-to-Table” series.

Fine dining spots like Raintree, Le Pavillon, the Oak Room, Cellar 6, La Cocina and Purple Olive are always a great treat. Local casual spots like Mojo Old City Barbecue and Cantina Louie, and are a definite hit for everyone in your party. An eclectic array of international cuisines include Casa Maya, La Herencia Cafe, and Bistro de Leon always satisfy.  If you’re looking for coffee and desserts, check out the Chocolate Turtle, Dos Coffee and Wine Bar, Hot Shots Bakery, Kookaburra, Cousteau’s Waffles and Milkshake Bar, and Whetstone Chocolates.
When it’s time for a nightcap, let’s fill you in on some St. Augustine-style favorites, like Stogies Cigar Bar, Ice Plant Bar, San Sebastian Winery, and JP Henley’s. Be sure to do your own research, foodies, for that list above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to one-of-a-kind local restaurants, bakeries, and bars  in St. Augustine.

Oh, and be sure to take a carriage-ride tasting tour courtesy of The Tasting Tours St. Augustine. You’ll enjoy every bite! Among their myriad carriage and walking tours, they’re even offering Family Friendly Tasting Adventures for Spring Break!

A Haven for Savvy Shoppers

While of course you’ll find all kinds of locally owned shops dedicated to giving you the best souvenirs around, our city is also home to one-of-a-kind boutiques and galleries where you can pick up unique treasures to remember and love forever.

St. George Street, North San Marco, and King Street are among the most rewarding shopping destinations in town.

St. George Street favorites include Materialistic at 125 St. George Street, Red Pineapple,  Panama Hat Company, St. Augustine Art Glass & Craft Gallery, Dragonflies, the Spice & Tea Exchange, and Earthbound Trading Company.

On King Street, you’ll discover whimsical finds at Artsy Abode by Pandora, Kessler Art Gallery, Rembrandtz Local Arts & Gifts, Anastasia Books, and ToneVendor Records, just to name a few.

Uptown St. Augustine’s North San Marco district has transformed itself from antique shop row to an eclectic selection of  boutiques, including Hello B, Goldfinch, 360 Boutique, Coastal Traders, and Cool & Collected, just to name a few.

Fascinating Fun for History Buffs

This is a given. St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States, dating back to 1565,  is home to historic landmarks and museums covering a whole lot of this city’s rich history and culture, including guided tours by trolley or by foot.

Here’s a quick rundown of but a few among many, many, MANY historical sites in St. Augustine, including but definitely not limited t Fort Mose State Park, Castillo de San Marcos, Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, Lightner Museum,  Flagler College, Fort Matanzas National Monument, the Oldest House National Landmark, the Colonial Quarter, Mission of Nombre de Dios, and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.

Those listed above are a big part of our historical attractions but by no means do they make a full list. Make your historical tours a little easier by contacting Old Town Trolley Tours of St. Augustine, Ripley’s St. Augustine Sightseeing Trains, or Tour St. Augustine.

Romance in the Ancient City

With quiet, winding cobblestone streets, cozy B&Bs, candlelit restaurants and carriage rides for two, St. Augustine is a treasure trove for lovers. So, book a B&B. Stroll the secluded streets. Visit the beaches. Dine at a fine restaurant, take a night-time carriage ride from our city’s many carriage tour companies, including the Lover’s Tour from Tasting Tours or romantic rides from Country Carriage.  Get out on the water with a romantic sunset sail courtesy of Schooner Freedom. Romance is always in the air in St. Augustine. And, of course, check out all of the above recommendations to spice things up. If you plan on really living it up, make a reservation at Casa Monica, a luxury hotel in the heart of historic St. Augustine for a romantic getaway you’ll never forget.

Live in a Golfer’s Paradise

World Golf Village and The Player’s Club feature world-famous greens and delightful accommodations just minutes from the incredible courses. Stride the grounds upon which the most revered golfers in the world have won numerous cups. Enjoy the sunshine. Shop at the nearby Outlet Malls near World Golf Village or head to Ponte Vedra Beach near The Player’s Club (TPC) at Sawgrass. With sun, history, romance and a gorgeous ocean right at your fingertips, St. Augustine is the ideal  spot for Spring Break.  Start planning your trip today!

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify important information directly with the tips and resources mentioned in this blog. Sharing and reposting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo Credits: Ama Reynolds, St. Augustine EcoTours,

Honor and Celebrate Black History Month in St. Augustine.
Friday February 20, 2015 @ 4:35 pm

St. Augustine’s Significant Role in Black History
Celebratory and Educational Events All Month.

By Ama Reynolds

February is Black History Month, and in St. Augustine, Florida, that history is long, deep, complicated, and much more significant than many of us know. 

As the old adage goes, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Thankfully, St. Augustine’s filled with knowledgeable historians--those who pore over old books and newspaper articles and official documents--and those who have lived the history themselves.

But, rest assured, this blog piece has nothing to do with doom. It is about remembrance, respect, celebration, and hope. For all. As each year passes, and the reins pass from one generation to the next,  change gets on with itself in a positive way. Let us not forget--but remember, with love in our hearts, that change happens one prayer, one act of forgiveness, and one open heart to another.

St. Augustine’s significance to Black History cannot be overemphasized. From slavery to emancipation to segregation to the nonviolent civil rights protests that led directly to the passing of the Civil Rights Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, St. Augustine’s place in Black History is as strong as the roots of our old oak trees, and its history, thankfully, has been well-researched, documented, and continues to be told.

Get St. Augustine Black History Any Time of Year

Given the long and significant black history of St. Augustine, our ancient city honors the sacrifices and successes of African Americans all year long. Two such sources include Fort Mose State Park and St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours, Inc. And during Black History Month, we can look forward to special events, too.

Visit Fort Mose State Park

Open all year long, this award-winning park is the site of first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what would become the United States, unearthed during an archeological dig in 1986. Visit Fort Mose any day of the year for fascinating natural and historical activities you won’t forget. For a deeper experience, check out the Fort Mose Historical Society to learn more about this important U.S. National Monument’s history.

St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours

The St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours offer a wide variety of enlightening insight into our community’s Black History throughout the year. Tour offerings include include Educational Field Trips for young people, All-Inclusive Custom Group Tours, “Step On” Motorcoach Tours, Fort Mose and Castillo de San Marcos Guided Tours, free Black History Historic Tours, Religious Walking Tours, and a variety of Entertainment, Plays, and Character Performances.

The Who, What and Why Behind
St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours

“I believe the history of St. Augustine is incomplete when you leave out a whole segment of people who help to make St. augustine the city it is today,” says Bernadette Reeves, founder of St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours.

“What happened in St. Augustine...helped the whole nation,” she explains. “Because of the strength and bravery of the African American citizens in St. Augustine who stood up against segregation and discrimination, who took the beating and dogs and being arrested...helped get the Civil Rights Act passed.”

“Long after I am gone, young people will come along who know nothing of this history. If you don't know your history-- that goes for anyone’s history--it is bound to be repeated. And I don't want this time of the 60s and before to be repeated ever again.”

Reeves researched this history exhaustively, backing up every piece of her information with hard and fast documents, dating all the way back all the way back to St. Augustine’s inception 450 years ago includes the history of Lincolnville (formerly called “Little Africa”), Emancipation Day in St. Augustine, and an important national holiday--Juneteenth, celebrated throughout the country from June 13 through Jun 19---which began when Galveston, Texas, slaves finally got the word of the Emancipation on June 19, 1865.

Fascinating St. Augustine Black History at Your Fingertips

Read about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s and his right-hand man Andrew Young’s historical civil rights activism in St. Augustine and Flagler College’s Civil Rights Library project. The Civil Rights Library of St. Augustine is always available online, as is St. Augustine’s Black Heritage Tours, which showcases not only the Civil Rights movement as well as the 450 years of St. significant leaders and events that came before.


“Unsung Heroes”: Welcome to St. Augustine, The City Named After an African Saint
(Monday, February 16, 2015 | 10 a.m. and 12, 2, & 4 p.m. | FREE)

Honoring great African-Americans of St. Augustine, Unsung Heroes features dancing, singing, storytelling with an opening interpretive dance to the great Aretha Franklin version of “America the Beautiful”; a (short) spoken history lesson beginning with our city’s status as United States’ oldest European occupied settlement, rounded out with the story of Fort Mose; stories about the great African-American St. Augustine citizens; a musical piece from the play Hairspray--”I Know Where I’ve Been” as well as more storytelling; and a bring down-the-house closing with the powerful Sam Cook’s “A Change’s Gonna Come. Not to be missed!

Through the Darkness
(Monday, February 16 | Castillo de San Marcos | 6:30-8 p.m. | FREE)

Celebrate Black History Month and commemorate 450 years of the African American experience in St. Augustine with  Through the Darkness: Exploring 450 Years of St. Augustine’s African Experience.

Middle Adult Ministry Civil Rights Walking Tour (March 7)
For details, contact St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours.

Black History Month Program @ Castillo de San Marcos
(Saturday, March 21 | 6, 7, 8,  & 9 p.m.)
A civil rights play written and performed by Bernadette Reeves. For details, contact St. Augustine Black History Tours.

This is a time for our whole country to honor OUR history. It’s an education and celebration. Enjoy it.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify important information directly with your array or wedding destination resources mentioned in this blog. Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo Credits: St. Augustine Civil Rights Library, Fort Mose State Park, St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours, St. Augustine Historical Society Archives

Get Engaged in the Oldest City
Wednesday February 11, 2015 @ 2:45 pm

By Ama Reynolds

Valentine’s Day in St. Augustine?
The Perfect Time to Put a Ring On It!

Just walking the downtown’s secluded and European-style streets, surrounded by centuries-old buildings and majestic oak trees, one can’t help but feel a flutter in the heart.

You feel protected, transported, and free. And when you’re embracing your beloved at sunset, toes in the sand, staring out toward the horizon as the bright blue Atlantic ocean’s tides ebb and flow, a person becomes more attuned with the more important things in life--like spending the rest of yours with the one you love.

So If You Decide to Propose in St. Augustine...

Just stroll through the streets and get down on one knee when the moment hits you. Hit the beach and profess your love, a ring offering up the very question she’s been waiting to hear. Make elaborate  plans to ask for her hand at the end of a long, romantic dinner.

No matter how you do it, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to propose. Need some help? Turn to the Eventful Gals. From proposal to planning, this dynamic duo does it all.

Did You Say Yes, Dear Bride-to-Be?
Plan Your Wedding in St. Augustine!

For sentimental and the purely practical reason that St. Augustine is one of the most beautiful, accommodating, and romantic cities in the United States, you may want to marry in this very city. And it’s never too soon to get started! Check out the St. Augustine Wedding & Events Association to get begin!

First Things First! Engagement Photos.

Engagement photography. Few places offer more beautiful settings or more talented and creative photographers than St. Augustine. Turn to talents like Dana Goodson and other members of the St. Augustine Wedding & Events Association.

Hope to See You Soon!

We know you’ll enjoy all of your return visits as you plan your wedding. If you live here--yay! If not, we think you may just decide to stick around and enjoy the place where you began your life with your true love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Insider Tip: To find out about great proposal spots in St. Augustine, or to find a place to celebrate your engagement, please check out OldCity to review an extensive list of attractions, restaurants, accommodations, beaches, events and more, as well as  The St. Augustine Wedding & Event Association to get started with your wedding planning!

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify important information directly with your array or wedding destination resources mentioned in this blog. Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.
Photo Credits: 
Eventful Gals, Dana Goodson Photography

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in St. Augustine
Wednesday February 11, 2015 @ 2:42 pm

Let St. Augustine Help You Fall in Love
Again With Sweet
Spa Days, Romantic Restaurants, Wine Tasting, Sunset Sails, and More.

By Ama Reynolds

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in St. Augustine, where wonderful Valentine’s Day date ideas and gift options abound. From romantic carriage ride tasting tours, a Valentine’s Day meal at the Floridian, or a transcendent spa day at Poseiden Spa at the Casa Monica Hotel to a cocktail class at the St. Augustine Distillery, a dreamy Valentine’s Day sail on the Schooner Freedom, and, of course, lovely overnight stays at one of St. Augustine’s many Bed and Breakfasts and luxe hotel suites, the romantic possibilities and are endless. 

Valentine’s Day Your Way.
Let Us Help You Count The Ways:

Super-Fun Valentine Dates You’ll Remember Forever

Whether you’re a sporty kayak-fiend, a zip-line thrill-seeker, a sucker for the sea or if the laid-back indulgence cocktails, wine and chocolate are more your style, these Valentine date options are as unique as you are.

Eco Tours at Marineland
Sunset Sails on the Schooner Freedom
Romantic Cocktail Classes at the St. Augustine Distillery
San Sebastian Winery
Whetstone Chocolate Factory Tours
Valentine’s Day Aboard El Galeon
Washington Oaks Gardens
Special Valentine’s Day Weekend Food, Wine and Carriage Tours
Country Carriages Valentine’s Day Tours
St. Augustine Carriage Tours

Sweet Serenity--Spaaah Days in St. Augustine

There’s no variance in quality here, only in style and budget. Valentine’s Day specials abound. But be quick about it and book your day of indulgence right away. Please click on the links to find out more.

Poseiden Spa at the Casa Monica Hotel
City Wellness
A Touch Above San Marco | 904.819.0924
Small Indulgences Day Spa
City Wellness Yoga Spa
Debbie’s Day Spa

Valentine Dining

Whether you seek traditional candlelight or a more down-to-earth affair, no matter the style of cuisine,  we’ve got you covered. And several of these listed restaurants are offering special Valentine’s Day menus.

The Floridian
Raintree Restaurant
Bistro de Leon
Purple Olive
La Cocina
Aviles Restaurant and Lounge
Le Pavillon
Old City House Restaurant
95 Cordova Restaurant
Cafe Alcazar
Catch 27
Tasting Room
Oak Room Restaurant & Lounge at DoubleTree by Hilton

Sinful Dessert & Buzz-Worthy Coffee Spots

Chocolate is truly an aphrodisiac. So is wine. Confections of all kinds make the heart beat beat fonder. And espresso beverages make the heart beat faster. Put them all together? Boom! You’ve got yourself a match made in molecular heaven. Visit these St. Augustine’s dessert spots any time of the day or night.

Cousteau’s Waffle & Milkshake Bar
The Chocolate Turtle (Valentine’s Party February 12!)
Hot Shot Bakery
Claude’s Chocolates
Gaufre’s & Goods
The Kookaburra
Dos Coffee & Wine

Make a Weekend of It

Whether you prefer a cozy Bed & Breakfast, a full-service package at the Casa Monica Hotel  or other historic district accommodations, oceanfront rentals, or any kind of accommodations in between, book your stay as soon as possible and enjoy a romantic getaway you won’t soon forget.

In St. Augustine, The Romance Lasts All Year Long

Come visit. And just see what happens. We guarantee you’ll leave town much more starry-eyed, sentimental and possibly, even a little bit sweeter.

After all, love is all you need. And in St. Augustine, love is all around.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify important information directly with your array or wedding destination resources mentioned in this blog. Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo Credits: Wilson Photography, St. Augustine Distillery, Poseiden Spa at Casa Monica Hotel, Purple Olive Restaurant, Chocolate Turtle

Dream Weddings in St. Augustine, Florida
Thursday January 29, 2015 @ 4:49 pm

Say I Do  In Beachy, Historic  St. Augustine, Florida:
Your Perfect Destination Wedding Celebration Location.

By Ama Reynolds

St. Augustine is a dream destination for most everyone. When you arrive, magic surrounds you. And love is in the air, and not in such a fantastical way as you might imagine. St. Augustine is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the United States, and the joyful spirits of those who’ve tied the knot here before you still linger. The old city is a bucket list visit in and of itself, but imagine spending some of the most important days of your life here. Imagine making unforgettable memories with the people and that one special person you hold most dear. Imagine getting married here.

Falling in Love with St. Augustine:
A Destination for Your Guests, Too

There’s no better destination wedding spot than St. Augustine. You don’t have to leave the country. Just head to the southernmost state, to the oldest city in the United States, and you and your guests will love every minute of it.  And isn't this the time where love is all around?

The Oldest City Has Everything
You Need for Your Special Day

In addition to witnessing your matrimony in a magical city, your guests will enjoy most charming hotels, beds and breakfasts and beach houses as accommodations.

And with the beach itself and the endless attractions of the city, any off-days will be filled with fun.

Your rehearsal dinner, bachelor and bachelorette parties, your ceremony and your reception--thanks to the superior offerings of planners, florists, caterers, spas, photographers, entertainment, and gorgeous venues for every event on your list--your big day will  be as one-of-a-kind and as special as the love you share with your sweetheart.

Make Romantic History in Historic Downtown

Picture yourself saying your vows in one of the oldest and most beautiful churches in the country, or within one of the most stunning museums in the world, among palm trees and fountains, beneath an archway of gorgeous tropical flowers in the country’s oldest garden.

The historic wedding venues in St. Augustine are myriad, and the settings themselves are enough to make you swoon.

Start Your Life Together on the Silver Sands of St. Augustine Beaches

Sunrise, sunset, or in the middle of the most beautiful day, let your life together begin on the beautiful beaches of St. Augustine. Walk down an aisle on the isles of St. Augustine’s white sand beaches, a canopy of tropical flowers and white chiffon floating mildly in the breeze, the beautiful Atlantic ocean waves ebbing and flowing, the wind whispering, and your ceremony both casual and stunning. Make a beach trip out of it with some great beach-side short-term rentals.

So You’ve Made the Right Decision. You’re Hosting
Your Destination Wedding in St. Augustine. Now What?

Check Out The St. Augustine Wedding & Events Association

Even though you’re not in town, you can begin your planning by consulting with the comprehensive and tried-and-true wedding resource that is the St. Augustine Wedding & Events Association

From accommodations, planning, catering and flowers to officiants, photography, and entertainment, you’ll find the most trusted resources on this cooperatively created set of services all in one place.

It Takes a Village of Talent
Kate Gardiner, a professional wedding photographer for more than 20 years and board member of the St. Augustine Wedding & Events association says it better than this writer could:

Since 2008 the St. Augustine Wedding & Events Association has helped couples planning a wedding in the St. Augustine and Jacksonville area find quality professionals to be a part of their wedding day.

Our network of over 30 vendors are vetted by our board members ensuring that the vendor is licensed by local and state governing bodies for their particular service, as well as recommended by other vendors in the community.

Association members meet once a month to share the latest trends in the wedding industry, making our vendors some of the best in Northeast Florida. Members get to know each other on a more personal level, and work together to make your event a seamless production.”

Kate also offers her own reasons for being a part of this community.

“ Working within this community just makes doing business so much easier,” she said. “We all know each other and know what each vendor needs or expects in order to pull off a tremendous event.”

And for a busy bride, possibly planning from out-of-town for her destination wedding, such an organization and community of services is a blessing.

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

The cliche is true for a reason. And her journalism background, she says, allows her to fade into the background, using her photojournalism savvy to catch the kinds of candid moments that more often truly reach the heart of what the wedding is all about--connection, the kind more often expressed when the images are captured without the notice of those experiencing some of their most special, emotional, touching, and funny moments. There’s no pretense.

She also features beautiful portraiture, too.

Weddings for me are a chance to tell the story of a couple’s most memorable day,” she says.

“Ten, twenty, thirty years from now they won’t remember their wedding day from their own memories, more so from my photos of their day. I see that as a huge responsibility and gift to be able to play that part in their lives.”

A gift as precious as a diamond to most.

Take A Look at All the Wedding Resources Right Here

Another excellent resource? Why the comprehensive St. Augustine wedding resources right here on our site, of course. We know this town inside and out and many of us are natives. We've attended numerous weddings at just about every special venue and have the pleasure of witnessing resplendent brides, grooms, and their giddy wedding parties all over town, and offer a few resources of our own. 

Start Planning the Perfect St. Augustine Wedding

You don’t want a thing amiss on your wedding day, and professional planners like these will ensure your wedding is orchestrated to absolute perfection. Count on any of these pros to create a wedding as special as you are: Coastal Celebrations, Elegant Events, First Coast Weddings & Events, St. Augustine Weddings & Special Events, The BIG Event, The Wedding Authority, and Destination Planning.

Whether you’re planning a simple ceremony or a grand affair, the variety of St. Augustine wedding venues ensures you’ll find your dream location both for your wedding and reception and often your accommodations, too. In addition to the amazing options offered by St. Augustine’s wonderful wedding planners, unique options include Pearl of the Sea Luxury Bed & Breakfast, Weddings at the Reef, Fountain of Youth, Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, and Ponce de Leon Weddings,

Whether you’re staying right downtown, saving money by staying just minutes from downtown, are staying on the beach, you can find the perfect accommodations to suit your needs. Whether it be a B&B, hotel, or vacation rental, a wide selection of options await in historic downtown, on the beaches, or in a vacation rental. Try the Hilton Garden Inn on St. Augustine Beach or The Oviedo House in historic downtown.

Food can make or break a wedding, and you can rest assured these talented caterers will exceed your expectations. A few options include The Tasting Room, By Design Catering, and The Chef’s Garden.

Floral Design
Flowers are synonymous with weddings in a very special way. They set the tone and reflect the couple’s personality. And when done just right, create the kind of beauty almost as radiant as that bride! It takes a talented floral touch to do just that. Superior local specialists include The Conservatorie Floral & Event Design, Lori Parker Floral Studios, Jade Violet Wedding & Event Floral Boutique, and Flower Works.

Photographers & Videographers
Make sure every moment is captured more beautifully and imaginatively than you could ever imagine. A long line of talented wedding photographers and videographers each have their special touch, talent and vision to offer you. A few in town include Kate Gardiner Photography, Life & Love Studio, and Wilson Photographs.

Your Wedding Cake
Perhaps, after the dress and the venue, this is the most important part of your wedding reception. Find just what you’re looking for from the amazingly talented wedding cake specialists in town, including Small Town Cake Shop,

Every Thing ELSE You NEED For
Your One-Of-A-Kind St. Augustine Wedding

Whew, that’s quite a list already! Of course, there’s a whole lot more that goes into getting ready for and pulling off a wedding--like gussying up at the salons like Small Indulgences,Debbie’s Day Spa & Salon, and Panache Salon & Spa, finding the perfect entertainment, renting all that party equipment, and oh, yeah, finding an officiant--you know, the person who will marry you. St. Augustine’s pros have you covered. We can’t wait to see you!

Now, Get Ready Packing.
It’s Your Wedding. You’re Our Guest.

Once it’s all in place, make sure to enjoy your day. Make memories. Look at the lights above. Dance. Ride a carriage through the St. Augustine streets. Swim in the surf. Rest in the sun. Live it up in luxury. It’s your time. And St. Augustine is ready to make all of your wedding dreams come true.

Insider Tip: TAKE A VACATION TO ST. AUGUSTINE BEFORE PLANNING YOUR WEDDING!!! Make your reservations right away and plan for at least six months in advance for many of the most desired venues. There is A LOT to do in St. Augustine. Please check out OldCity. to review an extensive list of attractions, restaurants, accommodations, beaches, events and more.  The St. Augustine Wedding & Event Association was created to provide you with vendors and businesses that follow specific guidelines to ensure the highest possible integrity of services for you.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify important information directly with your array or wedding destination resources mentioned in this blog. Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo Credits: Life & Love Studio, St. Augustine Weddings & Events Association, Kate Gardiner Photography, Small Town Cake Shop

Light Up Your Holiday: A Guide to St. Augustine's World Famous Nights of Lights Celebration
Thursday November 20, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

Light Up Your Holiday: A Guide to St. Augustine's World Famous Nights of Lights Celebration By Ama Reynolds


Once upon a time, festooned in lovely white lights, bannered across the beautiful Bridge of Lions, visitors and locals on the downtown side of town were greeted with Feliz Navidad, streetlights and lamp posts swirled with lights and green garland. 

Wreaths with red ribbons lined the streets. And tiny white lights glittered hither and yon, lighting up the bay front downtown, upon anchored boats in the bay, across some of the city skyline’s main buildings facing the bay. Modest. But beautiful nonetheless.

My how times have changed. Today, come holiday time, the whole city glows with millions beautiful white lights. From across the bay, St. Augustine looks like a fairyland and Nights of Lights, especially opening night, has become a worldwide attraction and is listed by National Geographic as one of the 10 Best Holiday Displays in the World. In the WORLD.


The Nights of Lights Festival begins every year on the first Saturday before Thanksgiving. This year the date is November 22, 2014 and  the celebration runs through February 1, 2015. So there’s plenty of time to plan a trip to the Old City and enjoy the holiday season in milder climes.

The Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches--even for the most immune and hardened locals, gets to the hearts of everyone who sees the city, the whole city, lit up with those tiny white sparkling lights in trees and bushes, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, businesses, EVERYWHERE. It’s magical. And with the lights lit up for almost three months, you have plenty of time to make a trip to the Old City and enjoy them.

In the Plaza de la Constition, in the city’s historic center, a huge Christmas tree will even light up--and all of it--millions of lights will appear all at once all over St. Augustine, when the switch is flipped to on, saying, “the most wonderful time of the year,” is here.

This is the place to be to celebrate the holiday, so bring your beloved or your family for a weekend or a week-long holiday getaway. We have the perfect guide of tours, attractions, restaurants, nightlife and accommodations all designed to help you make the most of this magical season.



Take in the magic of the city in your own style, with a fun guide to light your way. Decked out in holiday finery, each tour offers a one-of-a-kind look at the city and the wonder of it when it’s all lit up.


VIP Vittles & Vino Carriage Tour

These tours take place year round in the afternoon--a great way to enjoy the day--then even continue on another seasonal tour--the Nights of Lights Wine and Carriage Tour, Nights of Lights Lover’s Tour and the Haunted Lights Carriage Tour, which take place November 22, 2014 (opening night) through January 31, 2015.

First, before your VIP Vittles and Vino Carriage Tour begins, visit home base, let the charming  Daniel explain the delicious boutique wines. Select your favorite, uncork, and enjoy while your tour guide--in this case, ours was the delightful Jennifer--gives you a friendly warm-up and run-down of all the fun to come. Relax in the warm comfort of the living room, get to know your fellow travelers, and pleasurably anticipate the fun to come.

Your carriage will arrive with a friendly driver and horse to greet you. Now it’s time to board the beautiful carriage with your fellow travelers, armed with a delightful bottle of wine to split with your date as you travel in decadent style through the historic streets of St. Augustine, on your way to get a taste of the best beers, wines, and appetizers at some of St. Augustine’s best restaurants, including Mojo’s, an amazing barbecue place--and ahem, Bill Murray’s favorite St. Augustine dining spot. Such fun, not-on-the-usual-tours tidbits pour like a smooth Pinot Noir or a crisp Chardonnay from her sweet mouth as we make our way in grand, VIP style through the city.

The modern, expansive atmosphere of Mojo’s complements the finest barbecue and its attendant accoutrements--an overflowing basket of well-spiced, HOT, beer-battered, four-bite-minimum MONSTER onion rings to share with your choice of incredible homemade sauces--paired with a great selection of the wine-lover’s favored red or white or even a fine, rare stout.
Mojo’s offers the perfect blend of down-home barbecue cooking with a modern bent everyone will love.

This three-hour-tour is one of the best this local has ever enjoyed.  It’s designed for friendship and celebration, and locals-only tips from Jennifer and other guides on where to go to dinner, what attractions to visit, where to head out for shopping and nightlife--all based on YOU and what you’re into.

This intimate tour allows revelers to learn about the city, appreciate very fine wines and beers of their choosing, savor the most delicious appetizers at restaurants adored by locals, too.

I share my time with a newlywed couple, first-generation Greek, both of them, who live in the United States but met on that gorgeous Mediterranean isle--our other friends? A delightful couple based in Chicago who spend nine months out of the year traveling. They even have an 18-years-long-and-running diary of all of their adventures.

Our carriage driver, Maureen, shares fascinating St. Augustine history about Flagler College, Lightner 
Museum, Flagler Presbyterian Memorial Church, Ancient City Baptist Church and more--and the star of the day, the gorgeous and brilliant and courteous horse aptly named Prince, provided everyone great joy and a smooth ride through all the St. Augustine Streets.

Jennifer kept us up and up on St. Augustine history, too, of course, and filled us in with every perfect detail you WANT to know about the city you’re visiting--back stories about the restaurants and decor, the buildings--and ideal recommendations for wine, beer, food, desserts, and nightlife at the spots we visited as well as wonderful spots she knows and loves herself. And places her guests would love. She’s a great people-reader, and seems easily to determine just what her troupe would best enjoy while in town.

Jennifer not only shared history and guided us through our dining stops; she asked questions and incited lively conversation all the way. She’s the kind of person you want to be your best friend, the one you want at every dinner party and even the one you might want to call in the middle of the night for pressing advice. Yes! After three hours, that’s the impression she emanated--that and she goes above and beyond to ensure the perfect experience. 

Next-stop, local favorite The Floridian, where Southern favorites meet hip, brilliant, and even healthful twists. A variety of local brews and carefully selected red and white wines were offered up for our enjoyment, along with the very popular and decidedly Southern fried-green tomato bruschetta topped with local goat cheese as well as grit cakes topped with seasonal salsa. This is the restaurant where I've celebrated two birthdays and where I bring every one of my many St. Augustine guests. I am biased. But most people here and all over the country feel the same way I do. No one else besides me and Jennifer had tasted fried green tomatoes--not too sure if they'd had grit cakes, either--butour companions loved them--because they were done RIGHT (P.S. They’re done right every time).

After a lovely time spent with Maureen and Prince, we step off the carriage at Lightner Museum's Alcazar Cafe, located in the famous--now drained--pool. Where presidents and still-famous magnates once swam above Spanish tile, diners enjoy delightful fare at this famous spot. We swiftly consumed a to-die-for hummus platter even the Greeks enjoyed, our choice of wine, of course, and another herbal wine specialty called Absentroux, “blended with wormwood and other distinct botanicals to bring your palate the essence of absinthe with the softness of wine,” so reads the lovely art nouveau-styled informational postcard, anyway. Following our illuminating visit of both history, wine, and the cool and spacious atmosphere with three-story-high ceilings, cool cement beneath the feet, and sunlight dappling through the upper-story windows, we stepped outside to meet our carriage.

Our final stop, oh my, was the brand-new and divinely decadent Chocolate Turtle, locally owned and blowing up on the local’s radar, which serves up hand-crafted desserts, coffee and espresso beverages, and selections of red or white wine. Two of us ordered the signature dish--The Chocolate Turtle--and emitted two unbidden and simultaneous shouts of OH MY GOD! A layer of caramel, a layer of chocolate cake and a chocolate mousse filling encased in an elegant chocolate shell (the shape of a turtle’s--okay, a little rounder), encircled by walnuts and presented modestly upon a swirl of caramel and chocolate.  Best with the red. The wide selection of espresso beverages looked positively buzz-worthy, too.

Fully sated and slaked, we climb upon the carriage back to the “home” of Tasting Tours. No one wanted it to end. When it comes to anything, really, you can’t get much better than that--something so good you don’t want it to end. That’s why so many guests always come back. There’s hardly a better afternoon one can have than drinking wine while riding a horse drawn carriage in one of the most beautiful cities in the country, enjoying fascinating history from a friendly guide, and savoring appetizers and boutique wines you won’t find anywhere else. Who in the world would want such a heaven to end? Nobody. That’s who.

Holly Jolly Holiday Trolley

Step into the cozy trolley and travel through the historic streets of St. Augustine for carols, spectacular views of more than three million tiny white lights dressing up the city with magic, and trip the lights even more fantastic with magic viewing glasses. Of course, there's more, including complimentary hot cider and cookies and live performances on select nights. Book online and get even more information at the Holly Jolly Holiday Trolley site.

Santa’s Big Red Christmas Train

Ride Santa's Big Red Christmas Train, enjoy carols and take in the millions of lights with your Santa's Magic Viewing Glasses. Lots of holiday extras, like holiday movies, free balloons, a chocolate fountain and more await you at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium . Visit the Red Train Nights of Lights site for all the details.

Nights of Lights & Holiday Traditions Plaza Stroll

Take in the glimmering views and discover the history behind these white lights when you walk through town on the Nights of Lights & Holiday Traditions Plaza Stroll. What began as a Colonial-era tradition has turned modern-day spectacle famous all over the world. Stroll through the Plaza de La Constitucion and learn all about it.

Nights of Lights Cruise

See the lights sparkle upon the water as you cozy up for a wonderful Nights of Lights Cruise from the Vilano Beach Pier.

Holiday Shopping & Wine Experience

Follow a St. Augustine Shopping expert through the historic streets of St. Augustine and enjoy a fine glass of much-deserved wine at the end of your spree. The Holiday Shopping & Wine Experience Tour begins and ends at the Gifted Cork.



You might find it implausible that such a small, subtropical town in the Sunshine State of Florida offers one of the busiest, most beautiful, and widespread holiday celebrations in the country, but you’d be wrong. The Ancient City’s holiday season lasts from the opening Nights of Lights extravaganza on the first Saturday before Thanksgiving--this year that’s November 22, 2014 and lasts long through January, when the holiday lights go down on February 1, 2015, letting the cheer linger while many of us face colder climes and grayer skies after all the festivities have passed.

Come join us! There’s plenty of time to get in on the fun.

Insider Tip: Park at in the HisToric Parking Facility Located off Castillo Drive and take in the sights in all kinds of ways--on foot, by bicycle or pedicab, on the Old Town Trolley or the Ripley’s Red Train, or by horse and carriage. ARRIVE THE NIGHT BEFORE and park early in the day and hang around town to ensure a parking space. Win a FREE VIP Nights of Lights Tour:
Right now, anyone is eligible to win a VIP tour of this incredible display on your choice of trolley, train or horse and carriage. Discover Great Nights of Lights St. Augustine Accommodations Deals: Make this St. Augustine holiday getaway even sweeter with these great accommodations Deals of the Season.
Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure. Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo Credits:
St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches Visitor's Convention Bureau,, Old Town Trolleys, Ripley's Red Trains, Tini Martini, 
Tasting Tours, LLC and Ama Reynolds 

Don't Miss Out on Raintree Restaurant: A Fresh and Historic Uptown Dining Spot
Friday October 17, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

Historically Delicious Dining at
St. Augustine's Raintree Restaurant

Before you reach the front door, you're already enchanted.

You've passed through the cast iron gates, and perhaps it's evening. Tall lanterns flicker. Under your feet, deep red brick. Perhaps a local musician is playing in the raised outdoor gazebo. Lively diners talk animatedly (or whisper quietly) to one another while enjoying a glass of fine wine. A woman nods her head in assent to someone's comment, all the while savoring a particularly melt-in-your-mouth and fresh-from-the-Atlantic slice of blackened flounder. 

Smiling servers expertly weave through the packed patio, carrying trays of food that, "look too good to eat," but then again, are so out-of-this-world amazing that some Floridians would call it a sin to miss the intoxicating layers of savory flavors that "taste too good not to eat."

Truer words have never been spoken, for once you do get a chance to taste what's on the plates at Raintree, you'll agree.

Raintree Restaurant's Casual Fine Dining:
Stunning Surroundings and Even Better Food

Sitting in what one of the fanciest Florida sun rooms I've ever seen, my dining companion and I take in our beautiful view. It was like we had the restaurant equivalent of VIP tickets to our team's winning game. White linen table clothes and napkins, sterling silverware, crystal wine glasses beaded with ice water, and a glorious view of the restaurant's brick patio and across San Marco Avenue to one of St. Augustine's most famous attractions--Nombre de Dios and Our Lady of La Leche, best known for its beautiful, peaceful grounds and its Great Cross, approximately four stories tall and a stunning structure that you can see clearly day and night. 

We sit in the beautiful sunshine, surrounded by glorious glass windows, and our server appears immediately with a glowing smile and a warm hello. As he pours ice-cold water into our glistening glasses, he fills us in on the specials so well that we can practically taste the food. 

Raintree's Been Serving Up St. Augustine's
Locally Sourced Food--Especially Fish--Since Its Inception

When you order from the Fresh Catch portion of the Raintree dinner menu, you can be guaranteed it's truly a fresh catch, from the ocean to the filet to your plate. If for some reason it's not, your server will let you know. Disclaimer: this writer has been a hardcore vegetarian since she was 15 and was never a fan of fish.

However, having recently felt brave enough to try fish just few weeks or so before this visit, I felt brave enough to get out of my food comfort zone to order another serving of fish. I filled our fine server in on this fact, and he filled us in on the flounder. And as a native Floridian fisherman himself, we could rest assured his word was golden.
"Our fresh flounder tonight is one of the most mild saltwater fish that I've ever had," he says.

 "It’s very light and a good recommendation for someone who has never had fish or doesn't really like a really fishy fish. It’s very light, very mild, and of course the preparation of blackening, the goat cheese and the balsamic vinegar is amazing."

And he was right! It was AMAZING.

In addition to their Fresh Catch of the Day offering, Raintree also serves up seasonal dinner specials and pastas highlighting the best foods of the season, using local ingredients whenever possible.

Fine International Dining in St. Augustine: Menu Blends
Steak, Seafood, Mediterranean, American, and Pasta Perfectly

Reviewing the dinner menu, you find fantastic favorites for every taste, and they graciously offer up vegetarian options, including a black bean burger, Mediterranean pizza and classic pasta dishes. My dining companion asked about the Steak Capresse.

"The serving is between four and six ounces of blackened filet tips. It’s got a lot of flavors there, too," he said. "The cheese, the balsamic, the’s very nice."

In the dappling light, we eat our Brushchetta Caa pressee starter--roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese atop fresh French bread--so quickly that it was gone before we even knew it.

The same went for our dishes. We are both very quiet during dinner, enjoying our dishes with utter in-the-moment enjoyment and concentration.

Raintree's Signature Dish: Beef Wellington

Once we finish our meal, our fearless tour guide of deliciousness points out a his suggestions for our next visit. First of all, he let us know all about the dish that makes them famous: Beef Wellington.

"It’s inside a puff pastry. The chef sears beef filet tips on all sides and puts them in the oven so that when you put them in the puff pastry the meat doesn't soften the pastry," he says.

"So you have a nice, crisp puff pastry and a nice, tender medium rare filet inside there. It’s delicious," he adds. I always recommend it."

Our charming guide's favorite dish? The Rack of Lamb. "It's phenomenal," he says.

The Raintree Dessert Bar:
A Sweet St. Augustine Legend

Everyone in St. Augustine knows about the desserts at Raintree. In the evenings, many theater-goers, having enjoyed a wonderful performance at the  Limelight Theatre, just a few steps away from Raintree. Catch Addams Family Musical, now running through October 19, or any other featured performance, then stroll down to Raintree to finish off your a lovely evening on a sweet note. Another note: if you eat before your visit to the theatre, Raintree offers a special menu just for you.

Famed for their eclectic selection of out-of-this-world dessert crepes, Southern-style favorites like Key Lime Pie, and the sinfully deliciousWarm Dome Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Macadamia Nut Brittle. Plus, the best Cappucino in town, in my humble opinion.

Fantastic Food, Warm Atmosphere, and Incredible Service:
Just the Beginning of This St. Augustine Restaurant's Allure

In addition to delicious dinner and dessert menus and a full bar complete with a meticulous wine list, the Raintree offers delightful extras, including: 

Oh, and The Raintree Has a Fan Club

One particular guest, Mrs. Mullen, even wrote a limerick in the Raintree's honor, titled A RESTAURANT IS:

Where we eat--where we meet
Sooooooooooo--what's the difference in restaurants, you ask?
I shall NOW begin with my task of setting them apart, 'cause Raintree has:

Gardens and gardens, whether dining in or out
Gazebos for six--so romantic I want to shout!
Oh my, oh dear, can this eatery be true?
Such a heavenly place...and great food, too? 

Great food, you say? Why, of course! It's the BEST!
Raintree's set apart from ALL the rest!

We have European atmosphere,
Waiters in uniform--red, black, and white,

We serve your desires, and it ALL turns out right,
'Cause we are the third generation and take pride in what we do,
Please give us a chance to share our cuisine with you.

Three Decades and Counting: There's a Reason
Raintree  Restaurant is Still a St. Augustine Favorite

A Romantic History

All kinds of incidents conspired fatefully to create a restaurant as special as the Raintree: a grand centuries-old Victorian building and a history as romantic as the restaurant itself--that of the MacDonalds--a bright young family of four, traveling across the pond from England, landing in St. Augustine in 1979. Just two years later, the Raintree was born, and has remained in the family ever since, while maintaining its popularity and respectability for more than three decades.

A Family Affair

Passed down from parents to siblings to Lorna MacDonald and her husband, Chris Cantanbene, Executive Chef and General Contractor, Lorna attributes the restaurant's staying power to their attention to every little detail.

From an evolving menu to meticulous attention to the 1879 Victorian building, she says that they both love what they do, and this passion and love for the place and its offerings shines through in the restaurant's ambiance and menu.

The menu is ever evolving and we endeavor to change with the times, both in pricing and variety to cater to our customers, Lorna said. 

We have evolved from a formal restaurant when we opened to what we now refer to as 'Uptown Dining' and the courtyard area outside has been a huge success as al fresco dining is what people are looking for."

The Reward Is in the Details

When asked why the Raintree has remained so popular over so many years, Lorna says, "My husband and myself spend a lot of time on details. The building takes much upkeep, but we enjoy that kind of work." The two pay equally detailed attention to the menu, ambiance and service. And the love definitely shows, so much so that one of the most famed publications in the world--The New York Times, whose particular author had this to say about Raintree:

“There should be special awards for restaurants that manage to combine quality food with historic surroundings, buildings that proudly proclaim their heritage and encourage diners in their own remembrance of things past.”

The special award? Just the Raintree itself, a truly special place of memory and joy and great times with loved ones. A place that makes you feel like all is right with the world, for a little while at least.

Insider Tip: If you're attending a performance at Limelight Theatre, when you make your reservation, let the restaurant know and you'll enjoy a special menu just for Limelight Theatre-goers.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged.  Please credit when sharing.

Photo Credits: Ama Reynolds and Raintree Restaurant

Celebrating Story at Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writers Conference:
Wednesday October 1, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

The Written Word is Alive and Well in St. Augustine

By Ama Reynolds

All over St. Augustine—all over the fair state of Florida and all over the world, for that matter—books and the people who write them continue to inform, delight, thrill, elucidate, illuminate, educate, inspire, elicit laughter, provide portals of escape, and remind us of a past we might otherwise be doomed to repeat—lest we forget, that is.

Such is the power of the written word.

Book Lovers Unite (at the Florida Heritage Book Festival)!  
This Saturday, celebrate that power at the Florida Heritage Book Festival in the heart of the St. Augustine historic district and most especially on the beautiful red brick and cobblestone terrain that is the Flagler College campus.

"Each year The Florida Heritage Book Festival showcases Florida’s rich and diverse literary legacy with a day of author talks which promise to delight book lovers and provide inspiration for aspiring authors," say Florida Heritage Book Festival co-founder Vic DiGenti.

Weave through the maze-like treasure trove of the latest books from your favorite Florida authors and publishing houses. Meet with featured and marketplace authors to purchase books, get your own copies signed and enjoy a little one-on-one discussion with the author if possible.

Florida Heritage Book Festival’s Featured Writers: Getting Better All the Time

“This year we've raised the bar even higher by presenting an enticing mix of bestselling authors whose body of work—in both fiction and nonfiction—is truly impressive,” says DiGenti.  

“If you're into fiction, you may have some tough decisions to make about which author presentations to attend. The same problem arises with nonfiction.”

Please review the festival website to discover the details about featured poetry, nonfiction, and fiction writers.

Whichever writer you decide to see, you’re sure to be pleased.

Florida Heritage Book Festival and Marketplace

The Florida Heritage Book Festival and Marketplace takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, September 27, at the Ringhaver Student Center on the Flagler College Campus.

Authors will be on site to sign their books and both featured and marketplace authors will read excerpts from their books in the Festival Reading Room. Please download the full schedule to review ahead of time, or just review the full printed itinerary that will be provided to you at the festival. Be sure to discover all you can about the festival’s featured poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers.

Festival Highlights

Hang on to your schedule and be sure to note these exciting featured events and thoughtful transportation offerings courtesy of the Florida Heritage Book Festival. All of the below events and offerings are free and are offered on Saturday, September 27, at varying times. Please click links for details or visit the Florida Heritage Book Festival site for details about all of the below featured events.

Make Every Word Count This Weekend

Kickoff fall in the right style. You’ll discover a world of knowledge at the Florida Heritage Book Festival. And this priceless good time won’t cost you a dime!

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo credits: Florida Heritage Book Festival.

In Vino Veritas: Kick Off September with the St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival
Friday September 5, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

In Vino Veritas, In Aqua Sanitas

By Ama Reynolds

The Latin phrase above translates to "In wine, there is truth. In water, there is health." Which makes our fair city the perfect spot for the St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival

Many historians, laymen and any wine-lovers claim that in this legend there is truth: when the Spaniards landed in St. Augustine almost 450 years ago, their mighty ships were filled with more barrels of wine than water. So there's health, too. They did have water. They just happened to have more wine.

St. Augustine's 450th Birthday Is on Its Way

So the Spanish brought both truth and health to St. Augustine, which is perhaps why the city has managed to maintain its honorable truth as the oldest continued settlement in the United States. 2014 marks St. Augustine's 449th birthday, and the St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival has been a part of the three-year-long celebration leading up to its 450th birthday next year.
A New Legend in the MakingThe week-long festival event pops the cork on its celebration on September 9 with its Kick-Off Luncheon, featuring Spanish-inspired fare crafted by First Coast Technical College's Culinary Arts Program students. After lunch, St. Augustine's thoughtful, charitable and celebration of fine Spanish wine flows bountifully through the entire week, featuring an enticing bouquet of great events, all capped off with the one-of-a-kind Batalla de Vino at Francis Fielda game that's kind of like a water-gun fightbut with wine!

"Indescribably fun," is how Charlie Seraphin, Marketing Strategist for the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration, describes it. He says it was Barry Broudy's idea, and that initially, Seraphin wanted nothing to do with it. That is, until he did become part of it. "I couldn't stop laughing through the whole thing," he says, adding that an 80-year-old couple showed up for the festivities, and they couldn't believe it. But the couple was game, and as soon as they were squirted with several cupfuls of red wine, it was on.

"Anyone not participating is really missing out," he says.

A Celebration of Community 

One of many wonderful factors of this festival? Its inclusion of the entire community, especially the local and regional businesses and organizations that make the festival possible. Presented by Wells Fargo and sponsored by: The St. Augustine Record; Celebrate 450 YearsSt. Augustine; Publix; Southern Wine and Spirits of North Florida; The Raintree, Black FlyThe Restaurant; Broudy's, and Michael's Tasting Room. The Festival's Masters of Ceremonies are locals, toonewscasters from Channel 4 WJXTTarik Minor, Mary Baer and Kent Justice. Tarik Minor will host Vino Veritas on September 11; Mary Baer will host the Cava Reception & Dinner on September 12; and Kent Justice will host the Batalla de Vino on September 13.

Charity Begins at Home

This open-hearted festival deepens its connection with our community by raising money for a few very special organizations and causes in St. Augustine. All proceeds benefit THE PLAYERS Championship Boys & Girls Club, St. Augustine; EPIC Behavioral Healthcare; Catholic Charities–St. Augustine Regional Office, and Fresh Starts in the Culinary Arts

"The St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival was part of the City of St. Augustine's master plan for the three-year commemoration leading up to St. Augustine's 450th Birthday," says Seraphin. He said the City wanted some kind of food and wine festival, and he was charged with finding the means with which to create and support it.t

When asked about the festival giving back to the community, he said the reasons were two-fold. First of all, since it's a city event, no one wants to use taxpayer money to fund it. Seraphin found private vendors to support the festival, and says that attendees and vendors give back to the community, given that their participation allows the festival to donate all proceeds to worthy local causes. So it's a full circle of community involvement, fully celebrating the city of St. Augustine and its people. You could say he's done a pretty good job.

*St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival Schedule of Events

Kick-Off Luncheon
September 9, 12 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
First Coast Technical College, $25 a Ticket
(Benefits Fresh Start in the Culinary Arts)

VIP All-Access Couple’s Pass, $450
September 9, 12:00 p.m.-September 13, 6:00 p.m.
Provides you and a guest with access to each event.

Vino Veritas
September 11, 6:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
$50 per ticket in advance online/$75 per ticket at the door
Learn the secrets of authentic Spanish recipes and Spanish wine pairings from the experts.
(Benefits the THE PLAYERS Championship Boys & Girls Club, St. Augustine and EPIC Behavioral Healthcare)

Cava Reception & Dinner–SOLD OUT!
September 12, 6:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
The Treasury on the Plaza 
$125 per ticket/$1,500 per table

Grand Tasting
September 13, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
$35 per ticket in advance online/$45 per ticket at the door
Sample more than 125 different types of wines made in Spain.
(Benefits Fresh Starts in the Culinary Arts.)

Batalla de Vino
September 13, 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Francis Field 
$10 per ticket in advance online/$20 per ticket at the door
Participate in an outrageous event where squirting wine on strangers is the name of the game.
(Benefits Fresh Starts in the Culinary Arts.)

What It's All About

If ever there were a perfect definition and purpose of this festival, it is this, as it appears, word for word, on the festival's beautiful and informative site:
"The Third Annual St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival is about connecting with friends, friends from the old world that many of us have yet to meet, friends from around the state and from around the country that we welcome to our community, and those from down the street and around the corner that we look forward to reuniting with." 

If the above words aren't the reason to celebrate and to enjoy all the fun, truth and health brought to us by the St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival, then this writer doesn't know what is. Truth, health, friends, great timesand a little winejust might be the perfect recipe for a good, memorable and healthy life. Raise your glass to truth, health, and happiness! Salud! 

*All event information taken directly from the St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival website.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

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Photo credits: St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival.

Bright Stars Shine in the Old City
Wednesday August 6, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

Bright Stars Shine in the Old City
Limelight Theatre of St. Augustine

By Ama Reynolds

Let the lights go down and find yourself in a whole new world, where fictional characters—living and breathing right before your eyes—weave stories to make you laugh, cry, sigh and sometimes even jump right out of your seat.

While multiplexes and blockbusters seem to have replaced the thrill and popularity of honest-to-goodness live action 3-D performances, Limelight Theatre of St. Augustine—located uptown on Old Mission Avenue and founded by local theatre grande dames Jeanne Rahner and Anne Kraft—has kept the art of theatre alive and well in the nation’s oldest city since 1992.

Thanks to 150 productions of classic favorites and cutting-edge premiers ranging in scope from comedies to tragedies and everything in between, Limelight Theatre's reputation as one of North Florida’s top cultural organizations is well-deserved.

Whether you’re a veteran patron or have never seen a play in your life, take your seat at the Limelight Theatre of St. Augustine, where thoughtfully curated productions offer something for every taste. You won't leave disappointed.

The lovely and dynamic Executive Director Beth Henley runs the helm, supported by a crew of talented and hard-working staff members and volunteers. Blood, sweat and tears truly build each and every show, resulting in breathtaking—not to mention sold-out—productions year after year.

Suddenly, Great Live Shows This Summer

Before the official season starts, reserve your seats for the theatre’s summer pre-show. Motherhood Out Loudall about the joys, trials and tribulations of motherhood, runs August 12-31.“Very emotional and very funny, these 20 short plays twine together to build a whole roller coaster ride of that strongly felt relationship of parent and child,” says director Margaret Kaler.

“What I really enjoy about this play is the depth of the relationships and the height of the humor. Mothers are really hilarious.”

Specially adapted from the Disney classic, Jungle Book Kids is sure to delight children and adults alike. You won’t have a hard time “hanging in there” as you join Mowgli and his animal friends jumping through the jungle. Amazing costumes, a killer set and wildly outstanding performances make this classic fun for everyone. The show runs from July 17-20.

Theatre Education Program & KidzFactory

“The new Education Programming here at Limelight is going to include ‘children’ from ages 4 to 100,” says Education Director Courtney Grile. “Our mission is to make theatre education fun for everyone by offering classes that will develop a great appreciate for the art and hone fine acting and performance skills.”

Grile’s transforming the program to offer even more to the community—a deeper way for audiences to appreciate the arts. “I firmly believe that to know, to understand, and to appreciate the arts is to more fully know and understand ourselves, our pasts, or presents, and our futures,” she says.

So while productions will still be a mainstay, the main focus will be on education. Grile says this will include, “creative drama courses for younger students, more focused, intensive training for middle and high school students, and classes in public speaking and acting for our adult students.”

The Limelight Theatre's Upcoming Season

Audiences can look forward to a rich and entertaining season of comedy, drama, musicals and the theatrical classic—the farce. Kicking off the 2014/15 eight-production season will be The Addams Family, a thrilling musical running September 19 through October 19. Just in time for Halloween.

Further highlights include A Christmas Story: The Musical; Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth; the hilarious farce No Sex Please, We’re British and a rousing rendition of the classic musical Hello Dolly.

So, take this as an invitation, said at the beginning of every production at the theatre, "We hope to see you in the Limelight."

Insider Tip: Ask about "Terrific Tuesdays" when making your reservations. The Raintree restaurant is a popular dining destination for Limelight Theatre-goers and serves dinner early enough for you to catch a show. 

Details: Limelight Theatre is located at 11 Old Mission Avenue. To reserve seats, please call 825.1164 and visit  

Coming Soon: My next blog post will be all about the Raintree restaurant.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo credits: Limelight Theatre of St. Augustine. 

Some Enchanted Evening
Wednesday May 28, 2014 @ 9:34 am

Some Enchanted Evening

Colonial Quarter Conjures Cultural Magic with Downtown Bazaar

By Nancy Moreland

It’s the last Saturday night of the month and what are your options? You could lower your IQ watching reality TV. Or, if you're in St. Augustine, Florida, you could experience cultural magic at the Downtown Bazaar in the Colonial Quarter.

Located in the center of St. Augustine’s historic district at 33 St. George Street, the Colonial Quarter was revamped in 2012 by Pat Croce, who also created the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. Mr. Croce, who attended the Bazaar's opening night on April 27, 2014,  said his vision for the Colonial Quarter was to give visitors an experience unlike any other other on St. George Street. The University of Florida owns the Quarter, but Mr. Croce invested millions of his own money to revitalize the facility.

Stepping inside, it's apparent he accomplished his goal. The difference is tangible from the first moment. It's always a bit cooler in this leafy green oasis of sheltering trees and native landscaping. The second difference is the intimate ambiance. The attraction covers three centuries of St. Augustine history in an up close and personal style, through reenactors and curving pathways leading to interactive exhibits. 

During Downtown Bazaar, the Colonial Quarter transforms into a friendly cultural gathering where artists display paintings, photography, sculpture, jewelry and other expressions of creativity tucked amid trees and Colonial-style buildings. Live music emanates from the Colonial Quarter stage and at nightfall, the setting sparkles with hundreds of white lights, creating a magical atmosphere. It’s hard to believe you’re steps away from bustling St. George Street.

Photographer and graphic designer Stacey Sather said the Bazaar began as a way to showcase local talent. “It can be difficult to get into a gallery. The Downtown Bazaar provides regional artists with access to a public display space. It also gives visitors and residents an opportunity to see how much talent exists here in North Florida.”

Ms. Sather credits Event Director Nico Recore of St. Augustine Art Glass with spearheading Downtown Bazaar. Her gallery is one of several local businesses supporting the event. For a complete list of sponsors, see christian louboutin schuhe web:

 Downtown Bazaar happens the last Saturday of each month, April-November, from 6 – 10 p.m.

Insider Tips:

Arrive early if you want to dine in the Quarter's Spanish Taberna del Caballo or British Bull and Crown Publick House. Both restaurants fill quickly on Saturday nights.

The Colonial Quarter and its restaurants are pet-friendly, provided that your dog is leashed and well-behaved.

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Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo credits: Nancy Moreland                       

The Journey Toward Equality
Friday May 16, 2014 @ 10:44 pm

The Journey Toward Equality

Exhibit Chronicles St. Augustine's African-American History

By Nancy Moreland

For generations, the St. Augustine story focused on Spaniards. With the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in 2014, attention is shifting to the integral role of African-Americans in the city’s narrative. St. Augustine has always been known as a city of “firsts.” The same holds true for African-American history. Now through July 15th, the St Augustine Visitors Information Center is helping visitors and residents gain a deeper understanding of this remarkable story.

The Center’s current exhibit, Journey: 450 Years of the African-American Experience, tells the story  through interactive exhibits and artifacts. The exhibit is divided into four themes: arrival of the first African-Americans (both slaves and freedmen); the first free Black settlement, Fort Mose (pronounced “Moh-say,”); St. Augustine’s connection to the Underground Railroad; and Civil Rights history.

Journey’s compelling displays bring the past into the present. St. Augustine’s earliest Black residents may not be here to tell their stories, but Journey can. We learn of Estebana, the first-known Black child to be born in the New World. Her 1595 birth record - fragile as an eggshell - is here. So is the 1598 marriage certificate of Simon and Marin, African-American citizens of St. Augustine. And how can we begin to imagine the slave experience? Rusty shackles and a bill of sale take us closer to the tragic truth. A century or more removed, another artifact commemorates the hard journey toward equality. The arrest record of Martin Luther King, Jr., (opposite right) documents his height, weight and fingerprints. The words “City of Palatka” are crossed out, replaced with a handwritten, “St. Augustine." The Old City arrested so many of King’s fellow protestors, it had to borrow forms from Palatka.

Journey also sheds light on lesser known aspects of African-American history. Did you know there were Black conquistadors and much later, Black cowboys? Or that interracial marriages existed in Colonial St. Augustine?

Like the rest of the nation, St. Augustine has been slow to come to grips with a complicated replica watches chapter of America’s history. Journey, at least, is one step closer toward understanding.

Insider Tip: Because the Journey video "ties everything together," Docent John Mofran encourages visitors to make time to watch the well-done production.

Journey runs through July 15, 2014, at the Visitors Information replique montre

Center, 10 Castillo Drive, next to the parking garage. Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tickets: Adults $4; seniors (60+) $4; children 6 and under, free; children 7-12, $3; family of 4, $15; military in uniform, free; St. Johns County residents, free.

Questions? Comments? Please email

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog. Change is inevitable, however, so before embarking on your Old City adventure, verify hours, fees, etc. with the contact information provided above.

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Photo credits: City of St. Augustine.

An Enlightening Experience in the Heart of St. Augustine
Thursday April 10, 2014 @ 11:11 am

An Enlightening Experience in the Heart of St. Augustine

The Lightner Museum and Reflections Bistro

By Nancy Moreland

Standing on the corner of King and Granada Streets in downtown St. Augustine, you bear witness to the magnificent obsessions of two powerful men. Both sides of King Street reveal the results of Henry Flagler’s ambition: the Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) and the Alcazar Hotel (now the Lightner Museum). Step inside the Lightner and you enter the world of a passionate collector. Some might say that Otto Lightner’s obsession for collecting was a hobby that got out of hand. In his lifetime, the wealthy Chicago publisher acquired thousands of objects – so many, that in 1946, he purchased the Alcazar to house his collection. From the exquisite to the strange, it’s all on display in one of the Old City’s most fascinating museums. "Otto Lightner felt this would be one of the greatest museums of Americana and in a sense, it is," said Museum Director Robert Harper, adding. "It's been called the Smithsonian of Florida."

Visiting the Lightner gives you a glimpse into life in a Gilded Age resort. The opulent, light-filled lobby hints of elegant things to come. There’s a beautifully restored grand ballroom framed by arches and a mezzanine overlooking the floors below. The former health spa, with its marble seated steam bath and plunge pool are still intact.  The impressive indoor swimming pool, built in 1889, was the largest of its kind at the time. It’s long been the home of Café Alcazar, an intimate eatery featuring live music seven days a week.

Back to Otto. His collections fill four floors of the museum and include glassware, sculpture and the kind of ornate, uncomfortable furniture the Victorians made famous. It’s not all Victorian vanity, however. If there’s one word that describes the Lightner collections, it’s eclectic. “We have everything from Tiffany to toasters,” said Jennifer Jordan. And indeed, an exhibit reflecting several eras of toaster technology is just down the hall from stunning stained glass pieces by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Ms. Jordan, who serves as the museum's volunteer coordinator, is one of five staff members. The Lightner relies greatly on the kindness of volunteers. To learn how you can help, call 904-824-2874 or email

Strolling through the Victorian Village is like looking into the lifestyles of the late 1800s, when St. Augustine became known as a resort destination. Displays of clothing, accessories, toys and top hats bring the past into fascinating focus.

The Lightner for Little Ones

If shepherding kids through rooms filled with fragile objects seems like a reason to skip the Lightner, think again. The Museum has a kid-friendly side. Museum staff created a clever scavenger hunt questionnaire to spark the interest of elementary-age children. Somehow, they knew kids would love searching for a real Egyptian mummy, shrunken head and dinosaur egg. Those oddities are all here, as are Indian arrowheads, antique toys, a charging lion and grinning crocodile. With kids in tow, your best bet is to focus on the Science Room and Victorian Village, both on the first floor.

Older kids (including grown men) will appreciate the vintage cigar labels, Confederate army buttons and furniture made of steer horns on the “3F” floor. As a reward for good behavior, you can always promise children a chance to feed the fish in the courtyard ponds afterwards.

Timely Moments
If you visit at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m., check out the music demonstrations on the first floor. Wednesdays at 10 a.m., Barry Myers leads a Curator Tour that provides extra insights into the exhibits.

Insider Tip: Admission is free for St. Johns County residents.
Reflections Bistro
Even the most energetic tourists and locals appreciate a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Luckily, in the center of St. Augustine, there’s an oasis of serenity, where classical music, fountains, fresh flowers and excellent food restore your sanity.  Located inside the Lightner courtyard, Reflections Bistro is a refreshing recent addition to the Old City restaurant scene.

It’s owned and operated by Kristian and Laura Kohrs, familiar to Art Walk enthusiasts from their Aviles Street gallery days. The Kohrs have merged their Natural Reflections Glass art business with a café featuring indoor and outdoor dining.

Small by design, the Bistro allows the Kohrs to focus on fresh ingredients and attentive service. “We’re focusing on simple, consistently high quality food,” said Kristian.

Laura agreed, adding, “We use locally-sourced products whenever possible. About 85 percent of our produce is from the Saturday Farmer’s Market. Our coffee is roasted by Jayell’s and our bread comes from Jeffreys Bakery north of town.”

Reflections is the ideal spot for a healthy, yet satisfying meal. Breakfast, served all day, includes favorites such as the Flagler Wrap, a scrambled egg, ham and cheddar cheese concoction that will fuel you for a full day of walking around town.

Lunch selections range from light soups and salads to substantial sandwiches like the San Sebastian. Tucked inside homemade bread are Boar's Head Black Forest ham, Granny Smith apples and Brie. There's also a kid's menu. Another nice change of pace is price – there’s nothing over $10 on the menu.

Reflections Bistro provides pleasantries that are increasingly rare in larger establishments. The food is beautifully presented on colorful glass plates. Coffee is served in unique mugs Laura found in a local antique shop. The peaceful setting encourages conversation. Seated at an outdoor table, listening to classical music and surrounded by beautiful architecture, you feel transported to a time when life moved at a gentler pace. Not a bad bonus, for the price of lunch.

Reflections Bistro is open 10-5, Monday – Saturday.  

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Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo credits: Reflections Bistro table scene: Cecile Browning-Nusbaum; all others: Nancy Moreland.


Colonial St. Augustine Comes Alive at Government House Museum
Friday March 21, 2014 @ 5:14 pm

Colonial St. Augustine Comes Alive at Government House Museum

Exhibit puts 21st Century Spin on 16th Century Town

By Nancy Moreland

Colonial St. Augustine pushed the “multiculti” envelope centuries before it became a buzz word. The fledging settlement was a melting pot with interracial marriages, slaves who bought their freedom and mulattos who became prominent landowners. Old City culture evolved from Spanish, Native American and African influences, but Catholicism was the great leveler. For Spaniards, religion was more important than skin color or social status.

That’s the message of “First Colony – Our Spanish Origins,” the current exhibit at the Government House Museum overlooking the Plaza. On loan from the Florida Museum of Natural History, it’s another of the high quality exhibits to visit St. Augustine in recent years.

“We look at multiculturalism as a modern development, but it was alive and well in 16th century St. Augustine. First Colony presents history in a way that makes it easy to relate to. It connects visitors with the individuals who founded our city. In that sense, it puts a face on history,” said Willie Masson, general manager of the Government House.

The First Colony exhibit gives a glimpse into the health, wealth, religion, weaponry, playthings and daily life of early St. Augustine. It features Indian and Colonial artifacts and interactive touch screen displays that appeal to the 21st century mind. Using 3-D gaming software, visitors can “fly” through the original settlement and hear stories from its residents. All signage is bilingual, a plus for Spanish-speaking visitors.

Looking at artist renderings of settlers and reading their stories, you marvel at their hardships and opportunities. Did Estefania de Cigarroa, kidnapped by pirates as a teenager and later returned, ever recover from seeing her little sister killed? How did Diego de Espinosa, a mulatto, make his remarkable rise to wealthy landowner status?

History becomes tangible when you see the belongings of early residents. How many hours did the Timucuan Indian spend holding her well-worn shell scraper? Was the gentleman who spent the glimmering gold escudos (coins) the same fellow whose weapon had a brass trigger guard? Did the woman who wore those still-stylish earrings stroll the same streets we do today? Even less attractive artifacts are intriguing. Leftovers like you never want to find in your fridge – pig bones and carbonized corn cobs – connect us to the past through mundane daily rituals.

“The Colonial Quarter tells St. Augustine’s civilian story, the fort explains military history and the Government House reveals the cultural side of the city,” said Willie Masson. The renovated Government House is impressive. “There’s been a government building on this site since the 1570s,” Masson explained. In the early days, the building served the same purpose as the White House in Washington. Spanish and British governors lived and worked here. It’s also been a post office and court house.

Insider’s Tip: Buy an Explorer’s Passport ($19.95) and you get admission to Castillo de San Marcos, the Colonial Quarter and Government House Museum. Passports are available at the Visitors Center, 10 Castillo Drive.

“First Colony” runs through 2015 louis vuitton outlet. The Government House is at 48 King Street. Admission: $7.99 adults; $5.99 adults age 62+; kids $5.99; $5.99 for St. Johns County residents; $3.99 for St. Johns County kids. Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Sunday, except Christmas.

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Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo credits: Nancy Moreland


First Friday Art Walk
Tuesday March 11, 2014 @ 5:40 pm

First Friday Art Walk

Gallery Hopping through St. Augustine

By Nancy Moreland

When it comes to culture, St. Augustine doesn't let inclement weather get in the way. Rain or shine, the First Friday Art Walk must go on. If anything, cloud bursts, frigid or humid temperatures just make the atmosphere inside the galleries more convivial.

Established by Art Galleries of St. Augustine (AGOSA) and now in its 18th year, the free event has become an Old City tradition. The first Friday of each month, from 5 - 9 p.m., more than 25 member galleries showcase new exhibits, guest artists, refreshments and live music.  

"Art Walk is a professional, collective presence for our member galleries. It's one of many ways AGOSA provides a strong support system for art venues in a recovering economy. Together, we're saying to the world that St. Augustine is a true arts destination. No matter what your artistic interests are, we have it here," said Aimee Wiles-Banion, owner of High Tide Gallery and secretary of the AGOSA Board.

Although the hub of activity happens near the Plaza de la Constitucion, Art Walk also extends to West King Street and Anastasia Island. Participating galleries are listed on AGOSA's self-guided walking tour maps. Maps are available at all AGOSA member galleries, the St. Augustine Visitor Information Center, downtown St. Augustine B&Bs and Jacksonville International Airport.

From folk to fine art, whimsical to introspective, exhibits are as eclectic as the artists themselves. There's wearable art in the form of one-of-a-kind jewelry and stunning sculptures that could fill a foyer. Building a collection on a budget? Art Walk is full of affordable finds, from the work of emerging artists to smaller pieces with smaller price tags from established creatives - replica prada handbags.

"Art Walk has changed the landscape for artists in St. Augustine. New artists are getting an opportunity to showcase their work and established ones are getting repeat patrons. It is a win-win situation for gallery owners, artists and our visitors," said Tina Verduzco, a local artist and owner of 2ghouls Paranormal.

Insider's Tips: After 5 p.m., gallery-goers can park for free at downtown meters and lots, except for the Visitor Center Parking Garage.

From 6-9 p.m., Red Train Tours and Old Town Trolleys provide free Art Walk shuttles around downtown, except during December and January Nights of Lights.

For more information, call 832-779-2781or visit

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Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, but please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo credits: Top: St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau; others: Nancy Moreland.


Exploring the West King Street Shopping District
Thursday January 30, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

Exploring the West King Street Shopping District

Spend an Afternoon on the Eclectic Side of St. Augustine

By Nancy Moreland

Some people recognize a great neighborhood long before it becomes popular. (Think of the Beat Generation artists and writers in San Francisco’s North Beach area.) In a picturesque town like St. Augustine, Florida, West King Street might be considered more gritty than pretty. The neighborhood hasn't really shared the spotlight with other Old City historic districts. Not yet, anyway. If you haven’t visited West King Street lately, you owe it to yourself to explore the area. The neighborhood's small, but growing contingent of entrepreneurial urban pioneers are transforming the street, one business at a time.  West King has an artistic, eclectic vibe and a refreshing authenticity.
Art with an Edge

It's best to explore West King is on foot. Parking isn't a problem, thanks to three free parking lots. For an an eye-opening first stop, visit the gallery at 228 West King, known as Space Eight. Plenty of St. Augustine galleries peddle pastel beachscapes and quaint street scenes. How many feature contemporary artists working in Pop Surrealism, Underground or Street Art styles?

Space Eight doesn’t shy away from the edgy or controversial. The gallery is a window into a larger national and international art scene. Owner Rob DePiazza works with an extensive network of artists who share his aesthetic vision. For more information: 904-829-2838.

Insider Tip: Space Eight is not open on weekends, except during First Friday Art Walk.

Fun and Funky

Just up the street, on the corner of Pellicer and King, is Furniture Effexx. The store sells a mix of mid-century modern, industrial and vintage furniture that could dazzle the dullest living room. Owner Nathan Toothman has assembled a whimsical collection of quirky, stylish pieces.

Toothman's flair for furniture began as an outlet to balance the demands of a job working with autistic children. As he began refurbishing vintage furniture, his design talents emerged. After falling in love with St. Augustine, he went full-time with his hobby, opening his shop at 233 West King. He’s optimistic about the neighborhood, citing the spirit of “cooperation versus competition” among businesses. “We’re bringing the street up, one shop at a time,” he says. For more information: 904-819-5450.

Vintage Values

With prices low enough to incite envy in other antique dealers, Unique Finds & Furniture at 215 W. King, Suite 2, is a boon for bargain hunters who enjoy the hunt as much as the discovery. You never know what you’ll find, but there’s an honest simplicity in the shop’s vintage accents and functional furniture. For more  information: 904-679-2081.

A Cup of Jayells Joe

The only thing more comforting than coffee brewed from Jayells Coffee Company beans is the warmth of Lynda Fisher’s smile. The owner of Jayells, Fisher is a Nebraska native who exudes down-to-earth Midwestern charm. When it comes to coffee beans, however, she’s as sophisticated as a sommelier. Fisher began roasting coffee beans a decade ago, but her love affair with java dates to childhood. “Drinking coffee with my dad is one of my fondest memories,” she says.

Fisher can custom-roast her organic, fair trade coffee beans to suite your palate – whether your taste runs to mellow, spicy or full-bodied.  A caffeine connoisseur’s dream, Jayells isn’t a coffee shop, but you can sip samples and purchase fresh, whole beans by the pound to brew at home. Her shop is located at 215 W. King, Suite 3. For information: 904-729-6771.

Savvy Salvage

When you spend more than 20 years restoring historic properties, you amass a treasure trove of architectural salvage. That was the impetus for Elaine H. Darnold, Inc., Architectural Salvage. Darnold and her husband Kenneth have worked on some prestigious St. Augustine properties, including the Casa Monica Hotel and Ponce de Leon Hotel, now Flagler College's Ponce Hall. Her salvage collection includes antique heart pine timbers, antique doors, windows and hardware.

“We repair, restore and reuse materials in their original locations when feasible, but we also find new purposes for items that cannot be reused in our restoration or new construction projects,” Darnold says. This is Darnold's way of honoring “the spirit of the original craftsmen who contributed to our City’s architectural history.” The store also features artwork and furnishings created by Kenneth Darnold. Located at 9 Leonardi Street, the store is housed in a 1920s-era building with ironwork balconies that would be right at home in New Orleans.  For more information: 904-829-0790.

Local Eats

You don’t need to leave West King Street to fuel your explorations. Nathan Toothman recommends King’s Bistro at 6 Mackey Lane for  lunch or dinner. Like other West King businesses, the Bistro holds pleasant surprises for those willing to scratch the surface. Located in a small, unassuming house, it’s run by Chef Michael, who cooked for three different U.S. Presidents. “People return to my shop to thank me for sending them there,” Toothman says.

Cabo Taco fans will be happy to hear that the restaurant is no longer MIA. In February, Cabo Taco will begin serving breakfast and lunch at Jackson’s Garage Bar at 223 West King. Evenings, Jackson's will convert back to a bar.

Present Moment Café at 224 West King holds a special place in the hearts and stomachs of many locals. The kitchen staff transform healthy ingredients into beautifully delicious vegetarian dishes that delight the eye and taste buds. You’ll have no trouble being in the moment with their Pad Thai, a delicate blend of tastes and textures. Funky artwork and friendly servers give this neighborhood café a mellow 1970s ambience. For more information: 904-827-4499.

Insider's Tip: Many West King businesses keep unorthodox hours, so it's wise to call ahead.

Every effort is made to verify hours and important information. Please confirm hours and other pertinent information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

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Photo credits: Architectural Salvage: Elaine Darnold; All others: Nancy Moreland.

Catch the Holiday Spirit in St. Augustine
Wednesday December 11, 2013 @ 10:18 am

Catch the Holiday Spirit in St. Augustine

Five Places to Get Your Jingle On

By Nancy Moreland

In St. Augustine, like other parts of the nation, some big-box retailers began overlapping holiday inventories in September. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations, stacked aisle-to-aisle, created a surreal display of seasonal whiplash. Next thing we knew, Christmas tunes began belting out of our radios before Turkey Day. And while most of the country was covered in snow, the Old City stayed stuck in 80 degree weather.

It's enough to make a Scrooge of anyone.

Yet, even before National Geographic ranked St. Augustine one of the top 10 places to experience holiday lights, our town was a special spot to celebrate the season. Certain aspects of St. Augustine's personality protect it from falling completely under the spell of over-zealous commercialism: a strong sense of place and history, Southern hospitality balanced by an influx of cosmopolitan residents, a multitude of small, locally-owned businesses. 

Here are five ways to boost your holiday mood, St. Augustine style:

1. Soak up the Nights of Lights on a Country Carriages tour. Viewed from a horse-drawn carriage at a 19th century pace, the display is especially magical. If the weather turns chilly, drivers provide cozy blankets. Private tours are $85/up to four people. Insider Tip: Share a carriage with another couple and you may be able to trim the cost of your fare. Ask your driver.

Nights of Lights tours run through February 2nd and depart nightly from the Bayfront. 

2. Sip a cocoa concoction. On weekends from 5:30-close, The Kookaburra hot chocolate bar allows patrons to mix and match cocoa toppings with glee. The bar includes everything from white chocolate sprinkles to caramel, cherry, blackberry and peppermint flavorings. Overlooking the Plaza, Kookaburra coffee shop is the perfect pit stop. A cup of cocoa will fuel several strolls around town to admire the lights.

Want to sample a sophisticated cocoa drink a bit closer to what the colonials imbibed? Visit Casa Maya, at 22 Hypolita Street. Your server will whip up a mixture of Abuelita brand Mexican chocolate, with just enough nutmeg and chipotle pepper to make it intriguing. It's hot cocoa for grownups, deliciously different from the instant variety.

3. Inhale the scentual delights of Southern Lights Candle Company. As the sign reads, "Come in for the smell of it," and you'll discover tapers, pillars and votives instilled with a variety of exquisite aromas. All are handcrafted onsite by owner Susan Bradley a veteran candlesmith. Housed in an 18th century cottage at 12 Cuna Street overlooking Castillo de San Marcos , the shop comes by its historic patina honestly. It's one of St. Augustine's most enjoyable shopping experiences, akin to Williamsburg's colonial ambience. Insider Tip: Susan's bayberry tapers with jaunty bows make budget-friendly hostess gifts for holiday parties can get diskont christian louboutin.

4. Indulge your silly side. Only the most hardened of humbugs could ride the Holly Jolly Holiday Trolley without smiling. Hop on, slip into the 3D glasses that turn millions of  holiday lights into Santa's face and sing Christmas carols as you roll through a city high on holiday happiness. Fun for families, the trolley's a bargain at $9/adults Sun-Thurs; $12/adults weekends; $4/kids, 6-12. Tours run through January 4th and depart 6-8 p.m. from the Visitors Information Center, 10 Castillo Drive.

5. Attend St. Augustine's signature holiday event, The Nutcracker. Staged by the St. Augustine Ballet, this year's production features guest artists from the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet. December 21 and 22. Tickets are $25 and $30.

Disclaimer: Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog. Change is inevitable, so please verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo credits: Nights of Lights:; Casa Maya cocoa: Nancy Moreland; Southern Lights Candles: Susan Bradley.

St. Augustine Art: Sept. – Oct. Gallery Exhibits
Wednesday September 21, 2011 @ 12:00 am

Enjoy some of St. Augustine’s great artists by visiting these events going on in September and October:

“Walk in Peace” art exhibit ¦ St. Augustine Art Association

The St. Augustine Art Association will launch its 88th season this September with the premier of Don Trousdell’s “Walk in Peace” exhibit. A collection of colorful paintings and interactive installations, the exhibit chronicles the history and imagery of peace, as interpreted by the internationally acclaimed artist.  A shoe drive will last throughout the month of September, and the “Walk in Peace” exhibit will be on view through October 2.

22 Marine St, St. Augustine
Phone: 904-824-2310
Event Pricing: FREE
Now through Sunday, October 2, 2011

Marianne Lerbs Painting Series “Menagerie” ¦ Taylor & Taylor

“Menagerie” is a word used to describe animal figures other than horses, in the old carrousel figures. But make no mistake, There is no intention of making “cutesy” in these images. A collection of impressions loosely inspired by antiqued archetypical zoomorphic figures is no strange subject matter for artist Marianne Lerbs. The works are contemporary, both old and new in a fresh revision of the mythical entities.

125B King Street, St. Augustine
Phone: 904.687.1630
Now through Friday, November 04, 2011
Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

The P.A.ST.A. fine arts gallery`s featured artist for the month of September will be local artist Maricarman.

The show entitled : ” With All Colors ” will feature the artist`s work in acrylics. Born in La Mancha Spain, her work still bears a Spanish influence, but the contrast of a quiet relaxed lifestyle and bright light of St. Augustine are now her primary influence. The subject matter will consist of still life, figurative and paintings of Spanish villages.

The show will run through the month of September. The gallery is open seven days a week, Mon.- Fri. 12 to 4:00 p.m. and Sat.& Sun. 12 to 5:00 p.m. and is located at 214 Charlotte St., St. Augustine.

“Molting-It’s a Process” Mixed Media Painting Exhibit By Kathe O’Donnelly ¦ Hospitality Gallery -Center For Spiritual Living

1795 Old Moultrie Rd., St. Augustine, Florida
Phone: 904-825-3600
Paintings inspired by Joseph Campbell’s Myth & Spirit plus a retrospective of past paintings.
Gallery is open Tuesday-Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.. Sundays 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Now through October 30th

David Ouellette Contemporary Paintings ¦ Rotunda Gallery at the St. Johns County Admin Building

Renowned artist, David Ouellette will exhibit a collection of original pieces in the Rotunda Gallery located in the St. Johns County Administration Building.

St. Johns County Administration Building
500 San Sebastian View, St Augustine
Phone: 904.471.9980
Event Pricing: Free
Now through Friday, October 21, 2011
Gallery is open Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

5 Things You Need to Know About the St. Augustine Amphitheatre
Monday August 15, 2011 @ 10:37 am

This weekend features not one but TWO concerts at one of Northeast Florida’s premier music venues, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. Grammy winning bluegrass artists Alison Krauss and Union Station will play to a sold out crowd on Friday night while acoustic rock and reggae group Slightly Stoopid will take the stage on Sunday night. In its fourth year of operation since a major overhaul was completed in 2007, the amphitheater has become a favorite stop for musical acts from a variety of genres, as well as the preferred venue for St. Augustine residents and visitors.

So what is there to know about the amphitheater? Plenty! We’ve got five pointers for you that will make your next visit to the amphitheater the perfect night out:

The St. Augustine Amphitheatre has seating for just over 4,000 people, that's a lot of cheers when the lights go down!

1. Parking: On the day of an event, limited parking is available at amphitheater itself, but if you don’t make it in time to snag a space in the venue’s lot, go next door to the Elk’s Lodge. Behind the main lodge, the rear parking lot at the Elk’s Lodge is connected directly to the amphitheater’s lot, allowing for a very short walk to and from the concert. Parking is also available in satellite lots at the St. Augustine Pier and R.B. Hunt Elementary with a shuttle that provides a quick ride to the amphitheater. Please respect the rest of the community and do NOT park in the residential areas surrounding the amphitheater, there are plenty of other options!

2. Vending: Once inside, you’ll find vendors stationed on the platform prior to your entry into the seating area of the amphitheater. Most shows feature your typical concert staples–pizza, hot dogs, nachos, sodas, beer and cocktails. Frozen margaritas and daiquiris are usually on hand as well, both at the entry vending and in the lawn areas on the outside edges of the upper level sections. Most musicians also have a merchandise area under the stands in the entry area.

3. Restrooms: This may seem like a silly thing to point out, but if you’ve ever missed half a concert standing in a bathroom line it’s worth noting that there are two sets of bathrooms at the amphitheater, one of which few people actually know about. The main facilities are located off the entry concourses at the top of the amphitheater, but there are also men’s and women’s facilities plus porta-potties positioned to the right (east) of the stage. These are accessible to everyone, not just people seated in the pit area.

4. Weather: The St. Augustine Amphitheatre is an OUTDOOR venue. A canopy covers the lower two sections and pit, but it does not protect from heat or mosquitoes. Dress accordingly and bring bug spray. Patrons in the upper levels (sections 301, 302 and 303) are not covered by the venue’s canopy, so if it looks like rain you may want to bring along a poncho. In colder weather (it’s rare but it does happen in Florida) blankets are also permitted.

5. Seating: The seat numbers at the amphitheater can be just a tad confusing. If you ordered your tickets and were unclear why your two seats weren’t next to each other, you’re not alone. In the odd number sections of the amphitheater (101, 103, 201, 203, 301 and 303) the seat numbers are either evens or odds. So for example, the seat numbers in sections 101, 201 and 301 go 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, etc. so if you have seats 2 and 4 you are next to each other. In sections 103, 203 and 303 the seat numbers are odd, going in order 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, etc. In the center sections, however, (102, 202 and 302) the numbers are sequential. If you’re still confused, fear not, the amphitheater has a knowledgeable crew of volunteers on hand to help you find your seats.

That’s all you need to know to have a great time at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre! Come out this weekend for either of the concerts going on or stop by Saturday afternoon for the Back2School Beach Fest!


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