So, I think history is interesting . . . but the male members of my family, not so much. However . . . we are in the oldest city in America, and that constitutes a fair amount of history.
Much of it has been converted into money-generating tourist traps, but a few sites are under the oversight of the National Park Service . . . and we have an annual National Park pass that expires at the end of April . . . so, along with a bunch of 4th graders on field trips, we visited the two forts that were instrumental in protecting St. Augustine from attacks.
Our first stop was at Fort Matanzas,
on the Matanzas River, south of the city.
The National Park Service provides boat rides across the river to the fort. Unfortunately, due to the threat of bad weather, the boat trips were cancelled.
So in place of that, there was a guided Ranger walk through the salt marsh,
to a spot on the beach that provides a good view of the fort. This fort was more of a “guard shack” at the back door to St. Augustine. From this location on the river, the soldiers could see the coast and hold off any attempts by pirates or enemies to sneak up on the city. They did a good job, and no one ever got in this way.
It was a quick little tour, and a brief history of the fort, and then we made our way back along the river to the Visitor Center,
and then headed back into the city for our second fort tour.
Castillo de San Marcos was the northernmost outpost of Spain’s New World Empire. Construction began in 1672, after many attacks from the British and their expanding colonization to the north.
The walls of the Castillo are constructed of coquina, which is porous and compresses under the impact of cannon fire, rather than breaking apart. This makes the Castillo practically indestructible.
We entered the Castillo through the Sally Port, the entrance to the fortress, and into the central courtyard.
The rooms around the courtyard were storage areas. The Spanish stockpiled gunpowder, ammunition, weapons, lumber, tools and food, which allowed St. Augustine to survive during a long siege.
Religion was an important part of Spanish life, and a priest would hold mass daily for the soldiers in the Chapel of the Castillo.
St. Augustine was a presidio, and nobody lived inside the Castillo. The soldiers lived in town with their families, and came to the fort to stand guard in the Guard Towers on a rotating basis.
From this vantage point, the soldier on guard had a view of the entire city and the coastline.
The upper level of the fort – the gun deck and surrounding city wall –was the most important part of the Castillo. By 1740, the gun deck had over 70 mounted cannons of varying size.
For almost 350 years the Castillo has stood guard over the city of St. Augustine and, although the fort has changed hands between countries many times – from Spain, to Britain, back to Spain, and finally the United States – every transfer was negotiated through treaty and agreement, and never battle.
So, after all that history in the company of at least 4 different 4th grade field trip groups, Bryce felt that he deserved a reward for his patience, so we walked over to check out Cousteau’s Waffles and Shakes – now that sounds like an interesting combination!
We studied the menu,
and Tom and I decided to split a Whirlybird,
while Bryce savored his chocolate chip cookie doughlicious milkshake all by himself!
The warm waffle with hot cinnamon apples, topped with ice cream, caramel and whipped cream was heavenly . . . and Bryce thoroughly enjoyed his shake – he said it was the best he’s ever had!
Yep, it was a good way to end the day!