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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


St. Augustine’s Newly Renovated Edgewater Inn
Friday March 27, 2015 @ 11:32 am

Rejuvenated and Re-Imagined, St. Augustine’s
Edgewater Inn Boutique Hotel is Better than Ever.

There’s this beautiful little scoop of shore on the island side of St. Augustine’s Matanzas Bay.  
Driving from town across the Bridge of Lions, you’ll see it on your left.  Most likely--again, if you’re paying just the slightest bit of attention--again, on your immediate left, when you see St. Augustine’s Edgewater Inn and her famous A-Frame tower, you’re likely to do a doubletake. She’s undergone a stunning makeover and her freshly painted light yellow exterior and terra cotta Spanish-tile roofing are just a tiny hint of the tasteful luxury you’ll discover inside.

St. Augustine’s True Blue Boutique Hotel

Simply put, a boutique hotel is one like no other, unique in ways that cannot be duplicated. While many hotels make boutique claims, Edgewater Inn is the real deal.

Nestled at the edge of Matanzas Bay, Edgewater’s crowning glory is the stuff dreams are made of, a waterfront literally a stone’s throw away. The dream part? Every single room opens directly onto the expansive deck overlooking the bay, again, with the salt water just a stone’s throw away. But we’ll get to that later.
Unexpected and convenient amenities and services both large and small  all add up to the feeling of staying with someone you know--someone with amazing taste. Someone so thoughtful they’ve already anticipated your every need and desire, even if you had no idea what it was you wanted or needed in the first place.

Experience Edgewater Inn’s Cachet for Yourself

Let Edgewater Inn speak for herself. She’ll give you the kind of definition that words can’t offer. Though completely renovated and redesigned, this makeover compromised not an inch of the Old Florida hotel charm that makes this place so special.

The chic, contemporary accommodations--20 rooms in all, six with poolside views, 13 with waterfront views, and one very special second-story guestroom with a private balcony facing the water.  Even a dock for boaters right next door to the hotel. The sunlit waterfront guest lounge. The warm welcome. The location. The refreshing, clear blue swimming pool where you can relax in the sun or cool off in the water.                     

The divine Smart-Start breakfast featuring a small buffet of juice, coffee, cereals, yogurts, and bagels complemented by table service of delightful mini egg casseroles complete with your choice of plain cheese, ham, spinach, or mushroom.

It’s clear that every element of the physical renovation and the hotel’s modern offerings have been painstakingly personalized to create a warm, welcoming, and luxurious experience you’ll want to revisit every time you’re in St. Augustine.

Even if you’re a local, a stay at Edgewater Inn is the perfect getaway, giving you the sense that you’re miles away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life.

All I Want is A Room with A View!
That’s Just What You Get at Edgewater Inn.

Rise from a restful slumber made more glorious by the luxurious bedding and crisp, cool white sheets. Brew rich Keurig coffee. Customize it to your liking. Open the back door. Let the light shine down and let your breath get taken away at the glorious view of downtown St. Augustine, dolphins playing in the surf, and boats passing to and fro to destinations known and unknown. Kick back in your very own rocking chair and take it all in. It’s going to be a great day, isn’t it?

And thanks to an impressive welcome packet offering you have all the details you could ever need to know about where to go and what to do; a roster of all the help and extra services offered at Edgewater; how to handle any unforeseen emergency or urgent need that’s less glamorous than the supremely up-to-date local’s guide listings of the latest and most popular restaurants, shops and attractions that offer you your very own customized itinerary.

Decked out in spare modern or country chic decor, all guest rooms include flat-screen televisions, a sleek dresser complete with a hidden mini-fridge, a Keurig coffee-maker with all the accoutrements, complete with ceramic cups, complimentary water, wireless internet and surprisingly small but thrilling details like the very lovely lamps with built-in electric outlets for all of your electronic gadgets.

When you return from sightseeing, dining, and shopping in the historic district that’s just a short walk away over the esteemed Bridge of Lions, break out refreshing beverages and return to that deck and those rocking chairs, taking in the glistening water, the St. Augustine skyline, and the starry sky above.

Sea breezes come free. And again, return to bed ready for another night of luxurious sleep. Wake up. Repeat. You’ll Never Want to Leave.

I sure didn't.

Insider Tips: This is an amazing spot for the Fourth of July fireworks in the summer and the Nights of Lights display in the winter months. Reserve your stay ASAP, and check out the special packages offered on the hotel's website.

Unofficial Disclaimer: I've wanted to spend the night in this hotel since I was a little girl. Edgewater Inn made my childhood wish come true.

Official 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: Edgewater Inn


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 ...

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 


Spooky St. Augustine Ghost Tours Shine a Light on the Dark Side of the Ancient City
Wednesday October 29, 2014 @ 8:45 am

Spooky St. Augustine Ghost Tours Shine
A Light on the Dark Side of the Ancient City

By Ama Reynolds

When you’ve been around as long as the Old City has, chances are you’re likely to have more than a few skeletons in your closet. And while ghosts and spirits and the supernatural can become an almost controversial subject of conversation, no one doubts the thrill and chill of a good-old-fashioned ghost story.  

The best ghost storytellers around--mean teenage babysitters of yore excluded, of course--seem time and again to be walking, lanterns (or ghost tracking devices) in hand, through the dark and twisted back streets of the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine.

Whether by foot, trolley, shuttle, Hearse and even ship--in St. Augustine, there are as many ways to see a ghost as there are shells in the street’s coquina.

So this local decided she’d haunt the tours herself, and is happy to bear witness to the chills, thrills and history that accompany St. Augustine’s wide variety of ghost tours. We hope you’ll find one or two to your liking.

Ghost Tours of St. Augustine

Ghost Tours of St. Augustine has been offering well-researched and historically accurate ghost tours for more than 20 years. You can even buy your own book of these ghost stories--along with all kinds of fun and spooky ghost paraphernalia--yourself when you purchase your tickets at Tour St. Augustine on Granada Street.

Current tours include: Ghost Tours of St. Augustine: A Ghostly Experience Walking Tour; Creepy Crawl Haunted Pub Tour & Paranormal Investigation; Old Town Trolley’s Ghosts & Gravestone’s Trolley of the Doomed; and the Maritime Haunts & Legends Ship Tour. To book your tours and get more information about them, click on St. Augustine Ghost Tours Booking.

GhoStAugustine Paranormal Ghost Tours

Want to ride around town in a hearse? Was Six Feet Under one of your favorite television shows? How about Ghost Hunters? Are you looking for a ghost tour in the Oldest City that’s relaxed and intimate but pulls no punches when it comes to telling tales of ghosts and murder?  Since 2001, Ghost Augustine has been offering chilling tours to locals and visitors alike, complete with state-of-the-art ghost tracking equipment.

Current tours include: Dead Walk; Everdark Express Shadow Shuttle & The Original Hearse Ride Tour; Haunted Pub Tour; Haunted St. Augustine Paranormal Investigative Tours and  Para Force Investigations. Tours use K-II EMF meters for ghost hunting, Ovilus III, P-SB7, Full Spectrum camera, and more. The Haunted St. Augustine tour is set up under professor Harry Stafford, PhD, internationally famous within the paranormal and metaphyscial community.

To book tours and learn more, visit the GhoStAugustine site or stop by Hammerheads Beer Gear Store on St. George Street.

Dead Walk Paranormal Ghost Tour

Follow your tour guide through dark and shadowy St. Augustine back streets, streets so old and narrow no cars can pass through. You’ll hear rarely told ghost stories in very creepy locations--after dark, of course, as your guide leads you through past homes and current haunts of the long, and quite, dead. Ghost tracking devices are available for your use during these tours.

A Ghostly Experience Walking Tour

Gather at the lantern held high in the dark, open your mind, and grab hold of your loved one’s hand. Spooky experts will guide you through St. Augustine and tell you all about what lurks inside those cemeteries you glanced past during your day’s adventures. Look closely and you might see a shadow passing behind them as they weave their tales of beheaded Indian chiefs, Bishop’s corpses, and hanging rites too torturous for murderers.

GhoStAugustine Haunted Pub Tour or Hearse Ride

You might be feeling a little more brave once you have a drink or two, but that won’t make the twisted tales any less scary. Some of St. Augustine’s most popular watering holes are in some of the oldest buildings in town. Allow our knowledgeable guide to lead you through their ghostly side, allowing for long stop-offs at four very paranormally busy taverns. The tours are available by foot or by Hearse, spirits--and "spirits"--are guaranteed.

Creepy Crawl Haunted Pub Tour & Paranormal Investigation

Your other-worldly guide will lead you through the more haunted buildings in town, and let you stop for a spell at the city’s more haunted drinking locales. Maybe you need a little liquid courage to face the more frightening haunts? Here’s your chance to enjoy some “spirits” with your spirits. You'll get to use the same tools real ghost investigators use when searching for paranormal activity.

GhoStAugustine Everdark Express Shadow Shuttle & The Original Hearse Ride Tour 

Ride in the alarmingly comfortable GhostAugustine hearse--or our Everdark Shadow Shuttle--for an intimate guided tour of both well and lesser-known parts of haunted St. Augustine, featuring visits to haunted buildings and other famously haunted spots in town, including: the Fort (Castillo de San Marco); St. Augustine Lighthouse; the National Cemetery, the "murder house"; and St. Francis Inn. Ghost hunting equipment is provided.

Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley of the Doomed

Your guide may seem quite corporeal, your driver just ready to go home...but don’t let their human appearances fool you. These ghastly guides are very good at what they do. So keep your eyes peeled and your limbs inside the trolley at all times. Missing heads, hanging limbs, orbs of night-swallowed light, shifting shadows, a hangman’s noose, a pirate or two, thoughtless children, upended graves and very disrespected corpses--all come to light on this chilling tour.

Hold tight to your seat as the Trolley careens across the Bridge of Lions toward St. Augustine’s Lighthouse, famous in the ghost world as one of the most haunted sites in the United States. Spend some time INSIDE the most haunted building in town--the “Old Jail,” where your tour guide might bid you adieu for a moment or two, leaving you and your fellow ghost tour companions alone in the dark.

Maritime Haunts & Legends Ship Tour

When the beautiful El Galeon ship is in port, you’d do well to book a seat on this historic ship as it tours the city’s surrounding waters. Your host will let you in on the ancient sailor’s “ghost ship” folklore and the maritime haunts particular to St. Augustine.

Happy Haunting (and Hunting)!

Accurate, passionate, and more than a little alarming, these tales and their tellers are the perfect way to get a little fright and insight into the oldest city’s unseemly and unsettling past, especially during the witching season of Halloween.

Insider Tip:  Book your tickets as soon as possible, especially during Halloween season. You can book online or by phone. Just click on the links above for the tours of your choice.

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:
GhoStAugustine, Ghost Tours of St. Augustine, and Ama Reynolds


Three Places to Celebrate Earth Day in St. Augustine
Friday August 1, 2014 @ 10:11 pm

Three Places to Celebrate Earth Day in St. Augustine, Florida

Outdoor Recreation in the Old City

By Nancy Moreland

St. Augustine may be the nation’s oldest city, but it’s keeping up with a contemporary concept: eco-friendly tourism. April is an excellent time to get outside to enjoy our naturally beautiful surroundings. Here are three places to visit in honor of Earth Day, April 22nd.

Hiker Heaven

If you want to imagine what St. Augustine looked like before it became a popular tourist destination, hike Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve's nine miles of woodsy trails or five miles of unspoiled beaches. With 73,352 acres, the GTM Research Reserve offers plenty of room for hikers, cyclists, fishermen and birders.

The Reserve's trails are mostly shaded and lead to the river where, even on warm days, you can usually catch a breeze. At the trailhead, a covered pavilion with rest rooms makes a fine post-hike picnic venue.

Just 11 miles from downtown, the woods, marshes and waterways of the Reserve feel far removed from the busy bustle in town. Perhaps the presence of 22 archaeological sites, some dating back 5,000 years, contribute to the sense of peaceful simplicity.

Kayaking Excursions

Since most of the Reserve is inaccessible on foot or by motor boat, kayaks are a wise way to approach and fully appreciate this pristine area. Bart Swab of Action Kayak Adventures  specializes in kayak fishing expeditions to quiet, scenic spots many folks have never seen. A licensed and insured guide, the native Floridian is well versed in the fish, wildlife and waterways of St. Augustine.

His half-day, full-day and evening tours include kayaks and all the gear you'll need for a memorable fishing trip. He also leads non-fishing tours for folks who want close-up views of the marshes, estuaries and wildlife. If you’re interested in seeing sites like the St. Augustine Lighthouse from the water, Bart can arrange tours of Salt Run and other areas closer to town.

Nesting Season

Even novice shutterbugs can capture amazing close-ups at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park starting in March and lasting through June. That's when flocks of coastal birds build nests and hatch their young in the Farm's dozens of rookery oaks, even as gators loiter beneath. Any time of year, the Park’s focus on fun (try the Crocodile Crossing Zip Line) and conservation make it a worthwhile trip.

Insider's Tip:
Avid birders and photographers begin staking out their viewing venues along the  boardwalk soon after the Alligator Farm opens. Arrive early to get a good spot.

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 replica watches uk blog is encouraged. Please credit when sharing.

Photo credits: GTM Research Reserve; Kayaker: Bart Swab; Rookery: Nancy Moreland.


The Ice Age Arrives in St. Augustine
Thursday June 26, 2014 @ 8:42 am

The Ice Age Arrives in St. Augustine

A Jazzy Spot for Dinner and Drinks: The Ice Plant Restaurant and Bar

By Nancy Moreland

The St. Augustine Distillery's next door neighbor, the Ice Plant restaurant and bar, maintains the vintage industrial vibe and lively atmosphere that  made the Distillery a hit with locals and tourists. Opened less than a year ago (September 2013), the Ice Plant draws crowds every weekend and recently expanded its hours to include lunch. Like the Distillery, the Ice Plant underwent an extensive renovation. "We gutted the entire building, while working to preserve the history. We wanted to create an experience that felt like walking back in time," said General Manager Patricia McLemore.

Stepping inside the Ice Plant, I was greeted by Bessie Smith’s plaintive crooning and the yin-yang aroma of spicy shrimp mingling with mild grits. Edison-style lights cast an amber hue on the exposed brick walls and pine floors worn to a patina. The wait staff, who wore their personal interpretations of early 20th century attire, served cocktails with names like Rosie the Reviver and Bees Knees.

The Jazz Age ambiance was so evocative, it made me wish I’d worn a flapper dress and left my cell phone at home.

An Icy Reception

The defining difference at this establishment may be lost on all but the most discerning tastes. True to its historic heritage, the Ice Plant makes its own ice. Using slow-frozen filtered water, the staff  chainsaws large blocks of ice into small "rocks", spheres, pebbles and shaved ice. The result is a cold, hard, diamond-clear ice that doesn't dilute the flavors of a custom cocktail. Three ice machines work 24/7 to slate the thirsts of St. Augustine. Patricia McLemore is especially proud of the Clinebell ice maker. "No one in Florida, except maybe a restaurant in Miami, has this type of machine." Why go to all the trouble of carving massive ice blocks into 1-2 inch pieces? "It makes such a difference because it doesn't dilute the flavor. The drink tastes the same, from the first to the last sip," McLemore said. 

I can vouch for two Ice Plant cocktail creations. As complex and compelling as the Sylvia Plath book of the same name, the Bell Jar is an unlikely combination of gin, strawberry rhubarb jam, lemon and cucumber. Reading the ingredients on the menu, I was skeptical. The result, however, was refreshing. It's the ideal  beverage to savor on a summer afternoon - provided you don't have to operate heavy machinery or meet a deadline. On my second visit, I sampled La Dona, the Ice Plant equivalent of a margarita. Like the Bell Jar, the beautifully pink drink packed a powerful punch. 

The Science of Good Taste

A few folks have told me they experienced inconsistency in the strength and flavor of Ice Plant cocktails. I give the establishment an A+ for effort. In this age of pre-packaged flavors and industrial food production, the Ice Plant's earnest emphasis on hand-crafted food and drink is admirable. The micro-brewed libations and fresh ingredients keep the servers on their toes. "The staff helps plan the menus and drinks. We have to be able to describe the unique flavors. We don't just open a bottle of Ocean Spray cranberry juice. There's one employee who juices all of the fruit that goes into our drinks," said server Karley Faver.

The Ice Plant is a separate entity from St. Augustine Distillery, but shares the same dedication to delicious details, starting with decor and filtering down to drinks and food. "We make everything from scratch, including our condiments," McLemore said. Cocktail recipes are created by individual bartenders, hence the initials next to each drink on the menu. That said, if you want a basic Bud or simple Sauvignon, it's available to get chanel bags outlet

Most people may come for the designer drinks, but the food is high quality, too. Intentionally small, the menu selections reflect the seasonal availability of locally-sourced ingredients. The menu features dishes such as grass-fed Georgia beef burgers and local daily catch. The previously mentioned shrimp and grits were an artful interpretation of an old classic.

Staying on top of trends, whether it's farm-to-table fare or micro-brewed beverages, motivates the staff to tweak the menu and experiment with new approaches. The long hours of launching a business haven't dimmed McLemore's enthusiasm. "We're bringing life and energy back into this building," she said.

It's ironic that McLemore and staff, who grew up in the information age, are inspired by the history and hand-crafted precision of a former era. Ironic, but fortunate for St. Augustine, that a new generation of old souls has revitalized a former factory into an inspiring dining destination.

Insider Tip: To avoid long wait times, visit the Ice Plant Monday-Thursday nights or during lunchtime. The best seat in the house? "At the bar, so you see how the drinks are made," said Patricia McLemore

Comments? Email

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: Ice Plant Bar: Cecile Browning-Nusbaum; all others: Nancy Moreland


Renewal on Riberia
Tuesday June 10, 2014 @ 2:11 pm

Renewal on Riberia

American Ingenuity Shines at St. Augustine Distillery

By Nancy Moreland

A city that’s nearly 450 years old can’t help but have character. Year after year, St. Augustine beguiles visitors with its history and sense of place.  St. Augustine Distillery , a newcomer on the Old City scene, radiates a depth of character that usually takes generations to acquire. The evocative ambiance is what Ryan Dettra and Philip McDaniel envisioned for their craft distillery. Craft distilling was catching on everywhere else, why not Florida? After three years of planning, research and working with distillery experts and community investors, their vision took shape.

Repurposing Florida’s Oldest Ice Plant

After much negotiation, the partners secured their distillery dream location: the former St. Augustine Ice Plant and Florida Power and Light Building. Located at 112 Riberia Street in historic Lincolnville, it was built between 1905 and 1907 and renovated in the 1920s. Remaining true to the era, Dettra and McDaniel renovated and reused as much of the original building as possible. When that wasn’t practical, they salvaged period materials from other buildings. More than four million in painstaking renovations later, the men have infused the industrial building with new purpose. Florida’s oldest ice plant is now a more elegant version of its former self. In 2014, they received a Florida Historic Preservation Award for their efforts.

Local Libations

A building that cranked out 52,096 tons of ice per year is once again producing a cool product. Head Distiller Brendan Wheatley oversees production of the made-from-scratch spirits using fresh, locally-farmed ingredients. Distilling small batch spirits in copper pots creates flavors that are fuller and more pure.

(Vodka on Ice Photo)The Distillery’s vodka is made from sugar cane. “We separate the heads, hearts and tails of the cane during distillation and only use the hearts,” Dettra said. Rum and gin will soon follow. Whiskey drinkers will be pleased to know the Distillery plans to release its first batch in 2015-2016. The whiskey is created from locally-grown heritage corn and winter wheat. “We’re trying to capture the flavors of our region, what’s known as ‘terroir’. We’re in a prime location for brewing quality whiskey,” Dettra said. Florida humidity makes humans wilt, but works to the whiskey distiller’s advantage.

For now, visitors can wet their whistles on Distillery vodka in the Ice Plant Bar upstairs and at more than 140 Florida restaurants and bars. They can also purchase bottled vodka in the Distillery Gift Shop. (Gift Shop purchases are limited to two liters per year by Florida law. Distillery vodka is also sold in regional liquor stores.)

Tours and Tastings

Like a custom cocktail, the Distillery is an experience that should be savored. Start in the attractively curated museum. It tells a concise, compelling story of the building and Florida’s distilling history.

A short video highlights the Distillery’s innovative partnerships with farmers who produce the ingredients.  Like other 21st century entrepreneurs, Dettra and McDaniel try to keep dollars in the local economy. “It’s more expensive to make a product by hand and to buy American-grown ingredients, but it’s the neighborly thing to do,” Dettra said. They also follow sustainable business practices such as water recycling and redirecting spent distillery grains to farmers for animal feed.

After the video, a gregarious guide walks you through the distilling operations, followed by a vodka tasting. Like many St. Augustine attractions, you exit through the gift shop, but this one is worth your time. In addition to vodka, it sells an upscale collection of culinary and cocktail accessories and books.

(Distillery Tasting photo)

The St. Augustine Distillery brings a new buzz to Lincolnville, a neighborhood that has experienced ups and downs. Judging from the  weekend crowds, this old building with a new twist is the toast of the town.

Insider Tip: The St. Augustine Distillery offers free tours and tastings, 7 days a week, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Coming Soon: My next blog will visit the Distillery's next-door neighbor, the Ice Plant Restaurant and Bar.

Comments? Email

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 Distillery

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.

Comments? Email

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.

Sharing and re-posting this blog is encouraged. When sharing, please credit

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.

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Photo credits: Nancy Moreland


Fort Mose Historic State Park
Thursday February 27, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

Fort Mose Historic State Park

St. Augustine the birthplace of America's First Free Black Settlement

 By Nancy Moreland

Each year, millions of people visit St. Augustine. Many of them miss one of our most historically significant sites. Just two miles north of downtown, the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in the New World was established.

Today, it’s known as Fort Mose Historic State Park, but in 1738, it was named Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose by the Governor of Florida, Manuel de Montiano. In 1987, a team from the University of Florida discovered significant archeological evidence of Fort Mose (pronounced “Moh-say”). That discovery and additional research pieced together a remarkable story.

In the eighteenth century, the Spanish governor promised freedom to slaves working in the Carolinas, a British territory. The catch? The slaves had to travel more than 300 miles to St. Augustine. Driven to desperation in their desire for freedom, nearly 100 slaves evaded alligators, snakes and slave catchers to reach Spanish Florida. Like pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, they were helped by Native Americans who taught them how to survive off the land.

Arriving in St. Augustine, the Africans built an earthen fortress under the leadership of former slave Francisco Menendez, a Mandingo from West Africa. Constructed of logs and mud, Fort Mose was a first line of defense against the British. As Park Services Specialist Tonya Creamer said, “It was like a early warning Doppler alert system. Castillo de San Marcos was the real protection.” Two years after the Africans arrived, the British attacked St. Augustine. Fort Mose residents escaped to the Castillo. By the time the British were driven away, Fort Mose was demolished. The Africans lived in St. Augustine while rebuilding their settlement. By 1752, the settlement had a church and 22 huts housing nearly 100 people. They occupied Fort Mose for almost 25 years until 1763, when the British reclaimed Florida. Spanish subjects, including Fort Mose residents, left for Cuba. Today, nothing remains of the fort, but there are plans to build a representative structure, hopefully by 2015.

Fort Mose is worth a visit for several reasons. What you learn here may surprise you. “The Spanish slave system was very different from the British system. Under the Spanish, slaves could own property and could work their way out of slavery. They could even sue their masters for bad treatment. And many people are surprised to learn that freed Blacks even existed at that time,” Creamer said.

There’s something special about standing on the spot where history happened. Visitors can walk or picnic amid peaceful long leaf pines and live oaks close to where the settlement stood. Depending on the season, the park’s historically accurate garden may be growing. Stroll the two boardwalks overlooking the scenic marsh and Robinson Creek and you’re likely to see wood storks, osprey and hawks.

To fully appreciate Fort Mose, watch the brief video at the Visitors Center. Next, visit the museum, where state-of-the-art, interactive exhibits give a glimpse into Fort Mose through stories of people who lived here. “Fort Mose was a melting pot settlement, with interactions between Blacks, Indians and Spanish. They all learned from each other,” said Creamer.

Insider Tips: Fort Mose has public kayak launch behind the Visitor Center. Water levels change dramatically – plan to depart and return during high tide.

With picnic tables, a grill and room to play Frisbee, Fort Mose is a nice retreat. Open year-round, the grounds are free. Picnic tables are first-come, first-serve, but groups such as family reunions may reserve space.

Call for Volunteers

Fort Mose is seeking volunteers. To learn how you can help, contact Tonya Creamer at 904-823-2232 or

Upcoming Events

The park presents a variety of free monthly programs, from guided nature walks to lectures and reenactments. On June 21-22, the park stages its largest event, the Battle of Bloody Mose, commemorating the 1740, battle between the Spanish and British.  This lively event features a side-by-side battle reenactment, a cannon and musket salute and a presentation of one of Spain’s oldest plays by Florida Living History’s Theater with a Mission.

The Visitor Center is open Thursday – Monday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is $2.00 per person; kids five and under are free. The grounds are open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., year-round. Admission is free.

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

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Photo credits: Reenactors and boardwalk: Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Marsh/Fort Mose site: 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.


Father Miguel O' Reilly House Museum
Friday January 24, 2014 @ 1:03 pm

Father Miguel O' Reilly House Museum

The peaceful museum offers insight into St. Augustine's past and possible protection against hurricanes.

By Nancy Moreland

Some of St. Augustine's most intriguing sights are off the beaten path. The venerable Father Miguel O' Reilly House Museum is located on the south end of Aviles Street, which was named for the town's founder and considered by some to be America's oldest street. The picturesque brick lane is about as close as you can get to Europe without changing time zones.

The peaceful museum with the perplexing name (Father O' Reilly was born in Ireland, educated in Spain) reflects St. Augustine's multicultural and spiritual heritage. Father O' Reilly was St. Augustine's parish priest in the late 1700s. The building at 32 Aviles was his home during that time. 

Located within the original city boundaries, some speculate it might actually be St. Augustine's oldest house. The architecture reflects several eras in St. Augustine's history. According to museum staff, Florida State University dated the foundation at 1580 and Florida's Division of Historical Resources documented that the house was built in 1691.

The Gonzalez-Alvarez House, part of The Oldest House Museum, dates to the early 1700s.

In 1866, the Sisters of St. Joseph order relocated from France to St. Augustine to educate freed slaves. They settled in the house that once belonged to Father O' Reilly, transforming it into a small schoolroom. The tranquil house and its historically-accurate garden remain under the care of the same order today. Displays feature architectural, religious and educational themes.

Saintly Protection from Hurricanes

One of the most fascinating exhibits is the iconic Hurricane Lady. Anyone wanting a little extra hurricane protection should pay her a visit. According to legend, the statue was on a Spanish cargo ship bound for St. Augustine in the late 1700s when a storm hit. The Sisters of St. Joseph believe the icon depicts St. Barbara, patron saint of sailors.The sailors prayed to the saintly icon for safe passage.

They promised her a place of honor in the city if she answered their prayers with a safe journey. Prayers were granted, promises kept and locals say the Lady is the reason St. Augustine has been spared from a direct hit hurricane. A testimonial from a museum visitor credited the Hurricane Lady with saving her Naples, Florida, home from the hurricanes of 2004. Before evacuating, she glanced at her post card of the Hurricane Lady and prayed for protection. Later, when she returned home, her house was the only one left standing in an otherwise devastated neighborhood.

The O' Reilly House Museum is located at 32 Aviles Street and is open Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.

Admission is free. For more information, call 904-826-0750.

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Photo credits: Nancy Moreland

How many people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions? According to surveys, only eight percent of us make it through 12 months without tossing resolutions aside like last year’s holiday gift wrap.

Don't let those dismal numbers get you down. Apart from our wonderful restaurants, St. Augustine is a city where you can have fun while keeping your resolve. Here are six fun ways to stick to common resolutions.

Lose Weight

1. Think of how many pounds you could shed if you resolved to walk all 42 miles of our scenic coastline, from Ponte Vedra to St. Augustine! With wide, hard-packed sand and plenty of public access, our beaches offer the perfect reason to be an avid walker or jogger.

Insider tip: Beaches are more user-friendly during low tide, so check out the tide charts.

2. Ready to take your workout up a notch? Walk-climb the Usina Bridge. Spanning the North River and connecting mainland St. Augustine to Vilano Beach, the bridge's elevation gets your heart pumping. Bonus: Spectacular views distract you from protesting muscles. Free parking is available on the mainland and Vilano sides of the bridge.

3. A few weeks of bridge walking may prepare you for a steeper challenge. If so, climb the 219 steps of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. You'll be rewarded with a Stairmaster-worthy workout and panoramic views. Hours: 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. Admission is $9.75 for adults; $7.75 for seniors. Insider tip: St. Johns County residents can purchase a year-long tower pass for $9.75 or $7.75. You must show proof of residency.

Eat Healthy

4. Every week brings three opportunities to buy healthy, mostly-local food at St. Augustine farmer's markets. Of the three, the Saturday Old City Farmer's Market has the biggest selection, though it can be crowded and some items are pricey. Other options include the Tuesday Salt Air Farmers' Market at Marineland and the Wednesday Market at the St. Johns County Pier Park. As of this writing, the Sunday Lincolnville Farmer's Market was still searching for a new location.

Stress Less

5. Something about St. Augustine seems to attract yoginis . . . maybe it's the city's natural beauty and laidback lifestyle. At last count, there were nine St. Augustine yoga studios. With a yoga class for every seeker - from kripalu to bikram - there's plenty of places to get centered.

Save Money

6. Being stylishly frugal is easy in the Old City, where consignment and thrift shops abound. So many stores cater to bargain hunters, it's best to save that story for a future christian louboutin outlet blog!

Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, we recommend that you verify hours, prices and important information before embarking on your Old City adventure.

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

Photo credits: Beach Scene: Cecile Browning-Nusbaum; Usina Bridge and Farmer's Market: St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & the Beaches Visitors & Convention Bureau; Lighthouse: St. Augustine Lighthouse.


Holiday Tours a St. Augustine Tradition
Tuesday December 3, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

Holiday Tours a St. Augustine Tradition

Historic homes and inns open their doors during December

By Nancy Moreland

Every December, visitors and residents get a special gift: an invitation to step inside the garden gates and into the private courtyards of St. Augustine’s prettiest properties.  This month, Saint Augustine Historic Inns and the Garden Club of St. Augustine stage separate, one-weekend tours of historic bed and breakfast inns and private homes. It’s a chance to see dozens of historic places decked out in their holiday finery, while supporting community causes.

Global Glamour

Now in its 20th year, the Bed and Breakfast Holiday Tour happens December 14 and 15, 1-5 pm each day. To reflect this year's theme, "Christmas Around the World," 24 inns will feature the holiday traditions and cultures of different countries. The $25 tickets are good for two days and include refreshments at each stop. Tours are self-guided and easily navigated by walking. Free shuttles, courtesy of Old Town Trolley, also stop at locations along the tour route. Tickets are still available at:  Rembrandtz Gifts at 151 King Street and Metalartz Gallery at 58 Hypolita Street.

Partial proceeds of ticket sales will benefit the Betty Griffin House, a resource for victims of domestic violence.

Party Like it's 1513

The Garden Club of St. Augustine has a tradition of outdoing itself, year after year, with the quality and beauty of its holiday home tours. Another Garden Club tradition is the sold-out tour. For the last three years, tours sold-out in advance. Unfortunately for procrastinators, this year was no different. Before you yell at this blogger for featuring a sold-out tour and end up with coal in your stocking, mark your calendar for next year. Tickets generally go on sale in early October.

This is the 45th year the Club has held a holiday home tour. This year's theme, "La Navidad en la Florida," celebrates the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida in 1513 christian louboutin online.

One of St. Augustine's most venerable institutions, the Garden Club was founded in 1926, to promote beautification and conservation, concepts that are especially important today, with the growth of the Old City.

Proceeds from this year's ticket sales will help fund Club activities and scholarships to Camp Wekiva, a summer camp that teaches kids to appreciate  nature.

Insider Tip: December in St. Augustine brings changeable weather - windy and rainy one minute, sunny and warm the next. Dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes. Even with shuttles, you'll walk some distances, up stairs and over our beloved, but uneven brick lanes.

Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, we recommend that you 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: Saint Augustine Historic Inns and The Garden Club of St. Augustine.                          


Will the Real First Thanksgiving Please Step Forward?
Wednesday November 20, 2013 @ 10:36 am

Will the Real First Thanksgiving Please Step Forward?

The first European-Indian feast happened in St. Augustine, Florida

By Nancy Moreland

Every American school child learns the facts about the first Thanksgiving: Indians, pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, 1621. Right? Not so fast. The legend we learned in grade school has come into question.

Consider this: St. Augustine, Florida, was founded 56 years before Plymouth Rock. When Spanish Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés landed here on September 8, 1565, he and his crew of soldiers, sailors and civilian passengers held the first Catholic mass in this new land. Meanwhile, the native Timucua Indians watched the ceremony. Afterwards, everyone gathered for what appears to be the first feast between Europeans and Indians on North American soil. The Spaniards brought beans, salted pork, hardtack and that ever-popular St. Augustine beverage, wine. The Indians would have contributed whatever fish and fowl they had on hand, which could have included wild turkey. The inaugural potluck was held in the vicinity of the Mission of Nombre de Dios, overlooking the Matanzas River.

Charles Tingley, senior research librarian at the St. Augustine Historical Society, believes this first Euro-Native meal was motivated by gratitude for a safe voyage and to honor the founding of a new town. According to Tingley, the Spaniards sang Te Deum Laudaumus, the "Song of Thanksgiving" as part of the day’s activities. “Singing or more likely, chanting Te Deum Laudaumus was standard operating procedure for Spanish explorers,” Tingley says. Mission Director Eric Johnson concurs. "The 1565 event meets every qualification one would use to define a Thanksgiving feast."

Rediscovering History

This fascinating bit of history was brought to light by two Florida authors. In his book, Cross in the Sand, Dr. Michael Gannon argued that the St. Augustine feast should be considered the real first Thanksgiving. Among his many honors, Gannon is a Distinguished Service Emeritus Professor of history at the University of Florida and a former Mission director.  Inspired by a Gannon lecture and determined to bust the Plymouth Rock myth for new generations of school kids, Robyn Gioia wrote America’s REAL First Thanksgiving, a children’s picture book.

James W. Baker begs to differ with Gannon and Gioia. His book Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday, states, "despite disagreements over the details" the event in Plymouth in the fall of 1621 was "the historical birth of the American Thanksgiving holiday."

Regardless of where the experts stand, we can all be grateful that history is alive and well in St. Augustine, Florida.

Insider Tip: Stage your own feast where history happened. Small picnics are permitted on the grassy waterfront area by the Mission parking lot. Grills and tables are not available, bring your own picnic blanket or enjoy the benches.

Mission de Nombre de Dios
Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche
27 Ocean Ave
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Hours: Monday-Friday: 9-5 Saturday/Sunday: 10-5. 

Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information on City Blog, we recommend that you 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: Cecile Browning-Nusbaum,                             


Tasting Tours a Favorite with Foodies
Wednesday November 13, 2013 @ 10:21 am

Tasting Tours a Favorite with Foodies

Savoring St. Augustine history, one bite at a time

By Nancy Moreland

A city can’t survive nearly 450 years without developing some cooking skills along the way. St. Augustine’s food scene is a literal melting pot of multicultural tastes and traditions. For a community of its size, St. Augustine has a remarkably diverse selection of restaurants. A fun way to discover places you might not find on your own is by taking a food tour. There are several tours in town, including The Tasting Tours and St. Augustine Historic Walking Tours that combine food, libations and learning. This month, we're featuring the Savory Faire Food Tour a 2.5 hour walking tour of four Old City eateries, with some history on the side.

Living Lessons

It’s one thing to experience the past through mind-numbing textbooks. It’s entirely different to stand in the spot where history happened. Even if you slept through American History class in high school, you’ll enjoy this tour. Affable guide Alan Hudson presents a narrative of historical high points – from the Menendez landing to Flagler's Gilded Age. Strolling through downtown, Hudson’s bite-sized history lessons are more like listening to a well-informed friend than a guide who has memorized all the spark out of his spiel. Hudson encourages questions and strives to present an accurate picture of St. Augustine's complex history while reminding tour-goers that, “History is a living, breathing thing,” with multiple perspectives.

Casual and Convivial

Fortunately, you won’t be quizzed on dates and battles at tour’s end. Your biggest challenge is pacing yourself as you taste and sip your way through four restaurants and a couple “bonus stops” at food specialty shops. Routes change throughout the year to keep the tour fresh for repeat customers and to suit the season (summertime gelato stops are popular). And although you’re dining next to people you’ve never met before, the atmosphere is casual and convivial.

Sipping and Sampling

On my tour, the first stop was Old City House Inn and Restaurant, a 19th century horse stable turned B&B and restaurant.
Under new ownership, the establishment has retained its intimate ambiance and attention to detail in each dish. Next, our group headed to Athena Greek Restaurant, overlooking Plaza de la Constitucion. Of the four tour stops, Athena’s fare seemed most closely connected to St. Augustine’s culinary history. The city’s multicultural flair was represented in the staff, including Greek cooks and a Czechoslovakian waiter who urged tour-takers to shout “OPA!” as he set Saganaki (Greek cheese) aflame. Saganaki is actually much better than it sounds, particularly if you like tangy, tart
Mediterranean flavors.

Moving along to Meehan’s Irish Pub, we sampled a noteworthy chowder, Guinness beef sliders and a Reuben disguised as a spring roll. We also learned that the Irish had a presence in St. Augustine from the start. “The Irish came to St. Augustine in 1565 with the Spanish and five of our colonial mayors were Irishmen,” Hudson said.

Tour-goers were pleasantly satiated at this point, but the eating wasn’t over. Thankfully, our last stop, Gourmet Hut, served lighter fare – a small salad and bruschetta, followed by a tasty dessert morsel. Selections reflected Hut’s preference for farm-to-table food. Seated in the eatery’s eclectically-furnished garden overlooking Cuna Street, this spot was an appealing end to an appetizing afternoon.

The Savory Faire Food Tour departs daily from Tour Saint Augustine at 4 Granada Street. Price: $49/person; wine pairing (3-4 glasses) additional $15. (Sharing is permitted on wine pairings.)

Insider Tips: 

  • The Villa Zorayda lot at 83 King Street is the closest parking to the tour departure point. A bit farther down Granada, you’ll find cheaper parking.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes and dress for the weather.
  • Food tours are recommended for ages 12-up. Bringing a baby? Call ahead so tour guides can accommodate you.

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.

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Photos: Old City House appetizers: Stacey Sather/St. Augustine Visitors & Convention Bureau; Preparing Saganaki: Nancy Moreland.                            



Lincolnville Heritage Festival
Wednesday November 2, 2011 @ 12:00 am

Long after the era of Spanish conquistadors clashing in battle along our coast, St. Augustine became known as something else: a destination on the underground railroad. Formed in 1866 by a group of freed slaves, this historic neighborhood of Lincolnville was a place of refuge for African Americans seeking to carve out a life of their own. Always a place ripe with political participation, later members of the Lincolnville community played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960?s.

This weekend, for the 31st year in a row,  we come together to celebrate this tremendous part of St. Augustine’s history at the Lincolnville Heritage Festival. Held at the Special Events field in downtown St. Augustine, this three-day festival was started in 1979 by Jazz musician Doug Carn (one of the performers at the festival this year) and businessman Christopher Lightburn. The festival helps fund the restoration of Lincolnville which continues to preserve and restore Lincolnville’s great history to this day.

Take a look at the schedule of events below or visit the Lincolnville Heritage Festival website for more information on the music, food and vendors who will be represented at this year’s event. And make sure you join us this weekend to honor this tremendous part of St. Augustine’s history!

Friday, November 4, 2011
  • 4:30: PM DJ Dr. Doom
  • 5:00 PM Gates Open
  • 7:00 PM ELISHA”ATLAS” PARRIS with A`Jaze
  • 8:00 PM SOUL TRAIN LINE featuring DJ Dr. Doom
  • 9:00 PM DOUG CARN
  • 10:00 PM Gates Close
Saturday November 5, 2011
  • 10:00 AM Gates Open
  • 11:30 AM DJ Dr Doom
  • 12:00 PM FREE TOUR Lincolnville & Fort Mose
  • 12:30 PM EBONIRAMM JAZZ SALON Workshop
  • 1:30 PM DANCERSIZE Workshop **Learn the Cha Cha Slide & More** with Dr. Dawn McDermott
  • 2:00 PM FREE TOUR Lincolnville & Fort Mose
  • 4:30 PM DANCERSIZE Workshop ** Learn to Wobble** with Dr. Dawn McDermott
  • 6:00 PM DOC HANDY
  • 7:00 PM Community Wobble & Cha Cha Slide with DJ Dr. Doom featuring Dazzling Diamonds
  • 9:00 PM BRICK
  • 10:00 PM Gates Close
Sunday, November 6, 2011
  • 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM GOSPEL & BLUES BRUNCH featuring BAATIN
  • 2:00 PM FREE TOUR Lincolnville & Fort Mose
  • 2:00 PM Prince Rod & Praise Dancers
  • 2:30 PM Ritz Voices
  • 3:00 PM Minister Roosevelt Forehand & Oneness
  • 3:30 PM St. Paul AME Choir
  • 4:00 PM Lawrence Flowers & Intercession
  • 4:30 PM Jones Sisters
  • 5:00 PM Gospel Best 2011 Winners
  • 6:00 PM Gates Close

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