With September yielding to falling leaves and cooler temperatures, it won't be long before the holiday season will be upon us. The frenzy of Thanksgiving feasting, and the inescapable chaos sounding 'everything' Christmas, makes October the best month to plan that wonderful escape from the winter doldrums.
After the sweltering heat wave of this past summer, the cooling off period between September and October offers a welcome relief. But the frigid months of January, February and March lurk, unremembered, until old man winter dumps snow and freezing rain on the landscape before we know it.
Complaints about heat and humidity will yield to gripes about frozen fingers and tingling toes. The desire for warmth and sun consumes our emotions.
But instead of going to the usual vacation spots like Disney World (albeit a fantastic place), consider exploring historic St. Augustine on Florida's east coast.
St. Augustine promises a host of sites to satisfy all sorts of yearnings.
Long stretches of sandy beaches. Pirates. Forts. And plenty of 'old city' charm.
In the words of St. Augustine himself, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
Historically, St. Augustine is the oldest 'continuously occupied' European-established city in the United States,' according to Wikipedia. As such, it is an impressive site for delving into our country's deep Spanish roots.
With its assortment of bed-and-breakfasts, as well as more elegant lodging, like the Hotel Casa Monica, the city is an ideal romantic getaway.
Taking the kiddies along?
The Pirate Museum and The Oldest Schoolhouse are sure to both delight and educate.
Built in 1887 by millionaire oil magnate and developer Henry Flagler, the college is a National Historic Landmark and was a most desirable, high-end resort for wealthy tourists from around the world in its time.
As an academic institution today, the building retains its elegance and grandeur and is definitely worthy of a visit.
Flagler has an amazing set of Tiffany stained glass windows in the college's dining hall, as well as stunning crystal chandeliers by Louis Tiffany, and an array of other objects on display throughout the building.
The spectacular Rotunda entrance exposes an 80-foot high ceiling decorated with eight ornately carved wooden figures, which reportedly were copied from the temple of Diana in Greece.
But if you're looking for something less 'formal,' The Pirate Museum in the historic downtown area, provides an 'interactive' experience 'aboard' a pirate ship where 'pirate' tour guides spin tales of pillaging and plundering during St. Augustine's formative years.
Another site to explore St. Augustine's Spanish past is Castillo de San Marcos. Constructed in 1672 and sitting on the shore of the Matanzas Bay, the structure is said to be “the oldest masonry fort” in this country.
Learn all about battles fought here and how it served as a fortress when various countries fought to take control of St. Augustine during its long history.
Not to be missed, of course, is an exploration of all that the historic downtown area offers. The Oldest Wooden School House in the United States, built more than 200 years ago, and streets line with quaint gift shops and restaurants for almost every taste, await.
A mention of St. Augustine's attractions would be incomplete without reference to The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park. While St. Augustine was not the only place linked with the magical springs purported to give drinkers eternal youth, the fountain of youth has long been tied to St. Augustine because of Ponce de Leon's supposed search for the 'fountain of youth' and his landing on the shores of St. Augustine.
However, no actual writings by this Spanish conquistador has revealed evidewnce he was ever searching for such mystical waters. It was only after his death that his name became closely aligned with the 'fountain of youth' through an historical work penned by Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, Historia Genearl y Natural de las Indias in 1535.
Regardless, a visit to the archeaological park may just prove to be an opportunity to learn more about St. Augustine's link with this legendary story, as well as the native Timucua Indians.
St. Augustine will celebrate its 450th anniversary in 2015. Congress established a commemorative commission which is charged with planning events to mark this historic event.