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A-Z of Northeast Florida: E is for Eccentric

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What do you think of when you hear the word eccentric? A little old lady who hides a fortune under her mattress? A habit of only wearing white or waking at 3am each day?

Now, switch that thinking to locations. And come with me to a few unconventional places.

One of the most outrageous places is the original Ripley’s Believe It or Not “Odditorium” in St. Augustine. Where else can you view a shrunken head? Housed in an 1880’s poured concrete castle, this collection of thousands of oddities opened in 1950.

Just blocks away is a relatively unknown eccentric spot on St. George Street, the St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine. If you didn’t know it was there you might walk right by it. Inside you will find a beautiful fresco filled Byzantine style chapel, historic museum and gift shop. One fascinating thing is a little trick in the architecture. If you face one corner and whisper something, a friend in the opposite corner can hear you clearly. I learned this from my son when he was attending Flagler College. Another interesting find that you‘d probably miss unless you were told about it ahead of time, is a bone from Santa Clause. Creepy, yes, but there is a showcase with bone fragments purported to be from saints and there is one labeled St. Nicholas. Just don’t tell your little kids about it.

Also in St. Augustine you can find one of the tallest crosses ever. The Great Cross, located above Matanzas Bay, it rises 208 feet in the air. It’s there to mark where the Spanish explorers landed in 1565. It’s lit at night, so you can’t miss it.

Just north of St. Augustine lies Castle Ottis. I’ve driven by this many times and always wondered about it. It was built to look like an old Irish castle and to feel like an Abbey, but it was built in the 1980s and is privately owned. It was created as an expression of art. There is no glass in the windows, so the interior is open to the elements. It just happens to be the same latitude as the Great Pyramids of Egypt, for what that’s worth.

You could visit all of these spots in one day. I’d say an eccentric day trip is in order.



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