Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Hot Day in St. Augustine, Florida

When we left to go to Savannah in January, the customs agent at the border in Houlton said "Make sure you go to St. Augustine!" We've been thinking of somewhere to go next year, so we decided a day trip to St. Augustine was a good place to start. It's about 3 hours from Savannah.

Holy Hannah! It wasn't even noon and it was 26 degrees. It was going to be a hot one!

Hmmm...Daytona Beach. What about that 500? It's on Feb. 24 this year, so with a little planning, we could get there for next year's race. A new goal!

Cracker Barrel, not just an Old Country Store, but a restaurant with THE best biscuits ever.

It's 28 degrees and we haven't arrived yet.

St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer and admiral, Pedro Menendez de Aviles. The population is around 12,000 and it is the oldest European settled area in the US.

We decided to take a trolley tour, a great way to get around on a hot day and also to learn some of the city's history.

The tour started at the Old Jail. This was starting to look pretty touristy...

OK...maybe a lot touristy!

When you're a tourist, act like a tourist!

I like the big sheriff. Makes a girl feel smaller!

No problem!

These guys didn't have it so good. It must be very hot in the summer.

These are collard greens, a very popular vegetable in the south. There aren't that good on their own, but with some seasonings and butter, they can be pretty tasty.

You could tour the general store, but we passed on that one.

And we're off on our tour going past the old drugstore. It's authentic, in case you were wondering!

Modern day St. Augustine can be attributed mostly to one man, Henry Flagler. He was the co-founder of Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller, and also built the Florida East Coast Railway. He was a key figure in the development of Florida.

Grace Methodist Church, built by Henry Flagler in 1886-1887.

This is Memorial Presbyterian Church, built in 1889 by Henry Flagler in memory of his daughter who died that year.

This is Flagler College (are you sensing a theme here?). This building was originally the Ponce de Leon Hotel, built by Henry Flagler in 1888.

The Lightner Museum was once the Hotel Alcazar, commissioned in 1887 guessed it...Henry Flagler. It was an amazing hotel, once boasting the world's largest indoor swimming pool.

The Visitor Information Center...

Part of the Cathedral Basilica...

I don't know what this house is, but I liked it. Probably built by Henry Flagler!

This is the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, the oldest house in St. Augustine. The title dates back to the 16th century.

These are the original gates to the old city, which now have very modern houses behind them.

This was originally the winter home of millionaire William Warden. Named Castle Warden, it later became a hotel owned by Norton Baskin and his Pulitzer Prize winning wife, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Robert Ripley was a frequent visitor to the hotel, and tried several times to purchase the property believing it would be a perfect place to showcase his collection of unbelievable curiosities. It was only after Ripley's death that his heirs were able to purchase the property, and it is currently St. Augustine's Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.

The tour ended and we drove back to some of the sites that we hadn't really seen from our spot on the trolley.

Construction of this fort, Castillo de San Marcos, was begun in 1672 more than 100 years after St. Augustine was founded. The British gained control of Florida in 1763 and then it once again belonged to Spain before being ceded to the US in 1821.

This marks the spot of the first shrine in the US devoted to Mary, Mother of God, in the early 1600s.

Thousands of visitors and pilgrims make their way to the Shrine each year.

The cross is made of stainless steel and is 208 feet tall. It was erected in 1966. Four hundred years before a small wooden cross had been placed in the soil by Pedro Menendez de Aviles.

This tree is called a bottlebrush tree. Yup, well named!

We enjoyed our day in St. Augustine. I would love to go back for a weekend, but don't see it as a place where we would spend two months next year.

We headed home passing more marshes. It is amazing how much of Florida and Georgia is marshland.

Whoa! 30 degrees on January 30!

Heading back over the Talmadge Bridge. We're almost home again!

This pretty much sums it up!

It was a hot one but a great day in Florida...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Tour and Church Service at the First African Baptist Church

This is the First African Baptist Church, the oldest black church in North America. The first pastor was George Leile in 1777. They worshipped in four different locations before moving to this one which originally had a wooden structure. A group of slaves donated their savings amounting to $1500, which they could have used to buy their freedom, in order to buy the land and building materials to construct the present day church on this site.

Work on this building began in 1855. What is amazing is that the slaves worked on the plantations all day before leaving at night to travel to this location and work by lamp light to complete the church. The plantations weren't exactly close by, so they often walked long distances to get to the church. Now that is faith!

This is the first building constructed of brick and owned by blacks in the State of Georgia. This church has a lot of history, playing a part in the Underground Railroad, so we decided to take a guided tour.

Look at this magnificent sky!

We went with Lorie and Flemming and Barb and Ed...

At first we were told we could not take pictures in the church, but then our tour guide said we could as long as there were people in the picture. They had some sort of issue on the internet with people who taken pictures. Not sure what that was about, but I tried to comply...

The ceiling is in the design of a "Nine Patch Quilt" which represents that the church was a safe house for slaves. Nine patch quilts were often left outside on clothes lines and served as a map and guide informing slaves where to go next in their travels. Who knew?

The beautiful stained glass windows show the second to seventh pastors of the church.

The organ and the pews in the balcony are original to the church. The organ doesn't work and a group of SCAD students are making it a project to restore it. Our tour guide was excellent showing such enthusiasm for his church and his faith.

These pews in the balcony are the original ones built by the slaves. They have no nails or screws and are considered to be very valuable today. The ones on the main floor were installed in the early 1900s.

There is great admiration and love for Martin Luther King and also for Barrack Obama.

Here is an example of a quilt that would have been left out to mark the way for any slaves who were escaping.

And this is the guide explaining the symbols. The plantation owners wouldn't have thought anything of these quilts. There were also many meanings in the songs they sang for those who could interpret them.

These holes in the floor provided ventilation to the slaves hiding below in the four foot high space. I cannot imagine the heat down there. The holes are in the shape of an African prayer symbol which means "Flash of the Spirits" and represents birth, life, death and rebirth. Our guide explained that visitors from Africa have wept at seeing this as they understood immediately what it meant.

During the period of the Underground Railroad when the blacks were questioned about the holes in the floor, they were able to say that it was just an African symbol, rather than giving away the true meaning of the ventilation holes.

The exit to the tunnel remains unknown. After leaving the church, the slaves would try to make their way as far north as possible.

We loved the tour so much, we decided to attend the church service a few Sundays later. We were greeted with hugs and handshakes and absolute warmth. What a church!

The parking lot near the church is used as a revenue generator for the church during the week. We had parked there the night before and spoke with the parking attendant about the church. The next morning he saw us and came right over and shook hands with each of us with a sincere "y'all made it!" These people are beyond generous and kind.

Four people were baptized the day we attended church, all of them adults. They are completely submerged in the baptismal pool, which is also original to the church. We were ushered up to the front by several ladies who insisted we have a view of the baptism and many people moved aside to give us a better view. This was immediately following...

In this church, if you want to stand up and clap, you do. If you want to stand up and shout Amen, you do that too...whatever and whenever the mood takes you. I wanted so badly to have a video of the beautiful choir singing but was trying not to act too touristy. This is just a small snippet.

The service lasted over two hours. It was long, but certainly not boring. Amen! What an amazing experience!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Martin Luther King Day...a Parade!

It's Martin Luther King Day! Savannah has one of the largest parades in the US, and we took our chairs down early to get a good seat.

Barb and Ed's dog, Maggie, got lots of looks and attention. Maggie is deaf, but she certainly heard the loud fire engines. Her poor ears!

This day celebrates the life and legacy of civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and this year’s theme, by 7th grader Sierra Vincent, was "Dreamers are Believers, and Believers Become Achievers."

The mayor of Savannah...

Vietnam Vets...

The casualties of the war (I'm assuming from this area) were listed on the Volkswagen...

Some adorable adaptations of the theme...

Many vehicles had signs with the theme displayed...

Go, girls!

There were many floats and bands. The parade was expected to take three hours to pass by.

The sightseeing trolley buses were being put to good use...

A high school marching band...

These ladies are dressed to the nines. I am not sure what Omar Court is, but these are the head honchos.

This little guy was really cute. The parade route was quite long and he was marching with the best of them.

Lots of songs being sung...

I can't say we saw too many Caucasians. It was really a treat to be able to watch this celebration of freedom.