Quaint Old Spanish City

Last week, Hubster and I hopped on a plane to St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest, continuously occupied European-settled city in the US. Founded in 1565, the city has changed hands three times, and has been owned by the Spanish, the British, the Spanish again, and finally the US when they acquired it in 1819. Got all that? More on the history stuff later.

I arrived slightly earlier than he did, since he was out in Denver for a business trip. I was greeted by the smallest airport I have ever been to, but a beautiful morning for sure.

We were in Florida to visit Hubster’s family, and it was his aunt and uncle who retrieved me from the airport. We went to breakfast at Mary’s Harbor View Cafe, which was super cute and cozy, not to mention they had biscuits the size of pillows.

Since it was a Saturday morning, what else would we have done but go to a farmers’ market? The rather large market had everything from produce and fresh baked breads to BBQ sauce and pickles to handmade jewelry and artwork. Several things you don’t find at Pennsylvania farmers’ markets:

fresh orchids,

pick-up bluegrass bands,

and Spanish moss. This stuff is everywhere! It looks super cool, but it is dirty and full of bugs, so beware.

After a little beach time, I drove up to Jacksonville to collect Hubster from the airport and we headed to his grandparents’ house in Neptune Beach, which is a suburb of Jacksonville. We visited a bit, then headed to the ocean for some fresh Florida seafood. We ended up at a dive-bar on the beach, and we just couldn’t resist ordering some alligator.

Yes, you read that correctly, alligator. Fried up and served with “swamp sauce,” which was some combination of spicy creamy goodness. I’ve had alligator before, and as cliche as it sounds, it really does taste like chicken. It’s a little bit chewier in texture, but it’s just like dark meat chicken. Given all the hub-bub surrounding gators in Florida recently, we were lucky to be the ones doing the eating, I suppose.

Our main course was a seafood boil in a delicious spicy jous: Caribbean lobster, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn, and eggs. Nothing beats seafood that was swimming around in the water that morning, and these little crustaceans were no exception.

Note: yes, we had Caribbean lobster, not Maine lobster. In all honesty, the Caribbean lobster was much much fresher than Maine lobster would have been. Don’t let anyone you know turn their nose up at Caribbean lobster; if you’re near the Caribbean, go for it. It’s incredible!

We spent the night with the grandparents, spent some time on the beach, and headed back to St. Augustine. We hit up old town, which is full of cute shops and awesome eats. We stopped at the Columbia, which I was told was one of the best restaurants ever.

We have about three unopened bottles of Columbia’s signature seasoning in our pantry, and I’m pretty sure you could put that seasoning on a flip-flop and I’d eat it, so I was excited to try some of their signature dishes. We started with mojitos, mixed table-side…

…and served with a piece of sugar cane.

The entire restaurant is decorated with painted tiles, which gives it a really Spanish feel, which pairs fabulously with the food. Hubster had creole shrimp:

And I had red snapper “alicante,” which was served with yellow rice, gravy, and fried shrimp and eggplant.

After thoroughly enjoying our meals, we spent more time with family. We managed to fit in a trip down to Cape Canaveral to visit Kennedy Space Center. We witnessed the SpaceEx Falcon 9 rocket launch, which was truly awesome to see, saw the Saturn V rocket (for which Hubster’s grandfather wrote the plugs-in test), the Apollo 14 module (Kitty Hawk), and the shuttle Atlantis. Very very cool.

Hubster had to work remotely while we were in Florida, so most days I rode my bike the one mile up the road to the beach. One morning, though, I took at trip to the historic Castillo de San Marcos, the 400 year old fort in the heart of old town St. Augustine.

Part of the National Park Service, the Castillo served the Spanish, British, and American militaries faithfully. There’s not a whole lot to see inside, some wall carvings, a few preserved artifacts, but it’s cool just to see a structure that’s been standing for nearly 400 years.

On our last night in St. Augustine, we had dinner at the A1A Ale Works, a bustling restaurant with a wrought iron railing and home brewed beer. We enjoyed their red ale and light lager, as well as an orange-honey-gin martini. Mango BBQ shrimp with pepper jack grit cake, onion rings, and green beans was on my plate:

While filet medallions with blue cheese sauce, mashed potatoes, and green beans were on Hubster’s:

We topped the meal off with a grilled banana split: grilled bananas, vanilla ice cream, pound cake, raspberry sauce, chocolate chips, and pecans. Outrageously good!

The perfect ending to a great trip was a ride on the J&S Carousel at Davenport Park. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a carousel fanatic! I absolutely love carousels, and I try to ride any I can find. I even got on the lead horse on this one….and I absolutely refuse to ride on a horse that doesn’t go up-and-down.

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