On our way from Savannah, Ga., to Kissimmee, Fla., Chris and I made a stop in St. Augustine, Fla.
I expected this stop to only be a couple of hours, but it quickly turned into a six hour stop over!
St. Augustine prides itself in being the first permanent settlement (1565) in American and as the site of the oldest wooden school house in the U.S.
St. Augustine isn’t usually credited with the first European settlement in America because the settlers were Spanish. The U.S., after all, was eventually created by British subjects rebelling against the crown. So, usually, American history only refers to the settlement of Jamestown as the first settlement in the United States, although that settlement wasn’t until 1607.
The historic district, accessed mostly on foot, reminded me of Gatlinburg, Tenn. There were some old buildings (I think 36 are still left standing) that housed shops, so it was possible to get a feel for what it was like back in 1565.
We spent a lot of time in the Spanish Quarter, talking with living history interpreters — a carpenter, blacksmith, leather worker, church scribe and wife of a soldier. St. Augustine was settled as a military outpost so was home to a lot of soldiers.
Most of the homes would have been built without glass in the windows and cooking took place outdoors on hornos, or ovens.
Only after the English took over the Spanish settlement (first time in 1763) was glass placed in the windows and cooking take place indoors.
The admission ticket we bought also got us access to the Mesa-Sanchez House that was home to Spanish, then English and then again Spanish families. The guide stopped in each room and explained when and how each section was added. It began as a one room house and eventually was a two-story home by the 1830s.
We also got to go through the Government House Museum of History and Archaeology.
We could have gotten a discount at the Taberna del Gallo, but we didn’t have time to grab a drink before heading to Kissimmee.
Columbia Restaurant is a delicious restaurant offering Spanish fare. We hid out there for lunch until rains subsided. (It rained lightly most of the day.)
Besides talking with the living history interpreters about life for the Spanish in the 1500s and enjoying the food at Columbia, I really liked the architecture.
It’s worth a stop. Next time, Chris and I plan to stop at the fort, which we didn’t have time to explore but did drive by.