A New Experience in America's Oldest Town - My Family Travels
My First Sight of the Castillo de San Marcos
St. Augustine's Old City Gate
The Columbia Restaurant of St. Augustine
Exterior View of Castillo de San Marcos
The Walls and Previous moat
The Spanish Crest in the Coquina Stone Walls
Inside the Fortress
Another View Inside the Fortress with Cannons at the Top
The Author Standing by Cannons and the Spanish Flag
National Park Rangers Give Information in Period Costume
A View of the Matanzas River from Atop the Fortress St. Augustine with Lighthouse in the Distance
The Beautiful Bridge of Lions

I always found myself falling asleep in history class. Some lessons couldn’t hold my interest. Even when I visited places filled with history, I found myself extremely bored. Summer of 2012 changed my view of history forever.

While planning for our summer adventure, my mom decided at the last minute to stay at a hotel in St. Augustine, Florida to break up the drive from South Carolina to central Florida.  I was tired from the summer heat and just wanted to relax in the air-conditioned hotel.  But my mom insisted we at least get dinner in the “old town”. The moment we drove through the main part of the town, my jaw dropped. This town was unlike any I have ever seen before.  It was charming with its narrow streets and alluring old buildings with unique histories behind them. I heard boats on the river, children laughing with their families, and trollies going by on tours. I smelled delicious Spanish food cooking in a restaurant called The Columbia, so we ate there. The food was delicious and I learned that the restaurant had been established in Florida over a hundred years ago.

The next morning, the tropical sun was beating down on me but I didn’t mind because the Castillo de San Marcos, an old fortress, commanded my attention.  We decided to explore the fortress and see what it looked like from the inside. I felt like I traveled back in time. For the first time in a while, my cell phone wasn’t so important.  As I walked through the fortress, I touched the rough walls of the old building. To my amazement, I learned that the walls were made of coquina stone (compacted shells) that helped make the walls strong against the cannon fire. I found rooms and doorways and got go to the top level that had lookouts and old cannons. As I walked through the fort, I heard people of all ages express their amazement. National Park Service Rangers had so much to teach us about this fascinating place.

During my walk through the Castillo de San Marcos I learned that it’s the oldest fort in the US. The Spanish started to build it in 1672 to protect the town of St. Augustine and the Florida colony from their enemies, namely pirates and the English. The Castillo was controlled by Spain, England, and the United States at different times over the hundreds of years it has been here – but it was never captured.  It only changed possession through negotiation and treaties.  From that, I learned that negotiation can be as powerful as a war. 

I was thankful for the breezes from the Matanzas River alongside the Castillo. There was a magnificent view of St. Augustine and the river with its many marinas. I saw boats of all sizes go by the Bridge of Lions. I could even see the striped St. Augustine lighthouse.

As the sun began to set, I noticed the sky explode with various colors of pinks and oranges and the silhouettes of palm trees that left unforgettable images in my mind.  In the distance, lightning was beginning to flash in the night sky to the north of our nation’s oldest city.

In that moment I understood why history is so important and why people want to preserve old landmarks.  I never really enjoyed going to places that were historic, but St. Augustine grabbed my attention and changed my mind about the value of history.  I have since returned there, and will again later this summer to learn something new about this old town.

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