Thursday, October 30, 2008

St. Augustine, Fort Matanzas and Castillo de San Marcos, Florida

We've arrived - The Sunshine State

Bob turned the BIG 70 on Wednesday Oct. 29th, and we “celebrated” by driving from Savannah, Georgia to St. Augustine, Florida. I promised to take him to the famous Columbia Restaurant, and am happy to report we made it. Although the original is in Ybor City (old Tampa), there are 5 Columbia restaurants in Florida. The original was started in 1905, I believe, and have been in business continuously all this time.

Bob's favorite - The Columbia Restaurant

While in St. Augustine, we stayed at the beautiful Anastasia State Park, right along the beach. Although we didn’t get a chance to walk the beach the day of Bob’s birthday, we did so the next morning. It was so windy, that even with Bob’s goggles, it was difficult for him. So we went off a short distance to visit Fort Matanzas.

The beach at Anastasia State Park

A very windy morning

Fort Matanzas is 14 miles south of St. Augustine. They ferry us over free of charge & give us a tour. The fort founded in 1740 – 1742 was Spain’s last effort to ward off British encroachments of St. Augustine. St. Augustine was founded in 1565 and is the oldest city in the United States.


Bob, checking out the weaponry

Fort Matanzas

Basically, this was the time in history when the French, British & Spanish were all trying to claim Florida as their own. Adm. Pedro Menendez de Aviles was responsible for removing the French & sailed from Spain with about 800 people, establishing St. Augustine.

Morning after the big day

They ferry us to the Fort

A little history

Memorial Marker

View of Fort Matanzas as we depart

When Jean Ribault sailed from France in September, they were shipwrecked. Menendez told the French Fort Caroline to the north had been captured & urged them to surrender. When the French were brought to the inlet, Menendez ordered them slain. From that time, the inlet was called Matanzas, the Spanish word for “slaughters.”

View for top of Fort Matanzas

After our return via ferry, we walked along the nature trail. A few pictures are included in the slide show at the end of this post.

This picture of a picture shows an aerial view of the Fort

Next, we drive into St. Augustine to visit Castillo de San Marcos. For years, this was the northernmost outpost for Spain. It remains the oldest masonry fort and best preserved example of a Spanish colonial fortification in the continental US.

They certainly don't make them like this anymore!

By 1513, the Spanish had established a wealthy overseas empire in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. They knew the best route for travel was along the Gulf Steam, and thus claimed Florida.

Beautifully decorated canon

Sir Francis Drake attacked St. Augustine in 1586 for the English, eventually going north to Jamestown by 1607. British pirates attacked St. Augustine again in 1668 and then settled in Charleston in 1670. This led to the building of the Castillo de San Marcos in 1672; however it remained incomplete until 1695.

Interior view of Fort

Jumping to 1763, the outcome of the Seven Years’ French & Indian Way, Spain gave Florida to Great Britain in exchange for La Habana, Cuba. The Brits got Matanzas and strengthened the Castillo, holding the two forts through the American Revolution. The war ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which returned Florida to Spain.

Bob walking into fort

The US got Florida in 1821 and renamed the Castillo Fort Marion and used it to house Indian prisoners during the Seminole War of 1935 – 1842. Confederate troops used it briefly during the Civil War & Indians captured in western military campaigns were held there later on. The fort was last used during the Spanish-American War as a military prison.

Another example of artwork

The following slide show contains many more pictures of both forts and of historic St. Augustine.

For further information: Fort Matanzas National Monument and Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ashville and Biltmore Village, North Carolina

The next day we arrive around noon for our bus tour. The hour and half tour takes us through all the historic sites in Ashville. This place is awesome; much too much to see and do in one week. We make mental notes to return to a few sites, but run out of time to do so, Thomas Wolfe house included.

Our tour director

Included in our tour ticket, we never made it through the house

Fabulous Laughing Seed Restaurant

After our tour, we go right over to the Laughing Seed for a fantastic lunch. Per the visitor center, this restaurant is considered one of the top award winning vegetarian restaurants in the country. We are only too happy to indulge.

A peek inside

Lunch bar for fast service

Honey sporting her tour badge on sweater

Bob's yummy lunch

Most elaborate McDonalds in the U.S.

After lunch, we drive over to Biltmore Village. Here we find outstanding shops, galleries, a Mickey D’s unlike you have ever seen, and a great ice cream – latte shop, Biltmore Village Coffee & Creamery, where we meet the owner, Woods McKibbeys and his best girl Virignia, a student of law at the University.

Typical village street

View inside a shop window

Typical shop sign

Example of gallery offering

Village street scene

Sidewalk art

Biltmore Village Coffee & Creamery

Owner Woods McKibbeys & Virginia

We also visit the Cathedral of All Souls, but after 3 attempts, still fail to see the interior. Our tour director said it was really beautiful inside.

Cathedral & Village built by Vanderbilt Family

Spacious entry into Cathedral

Front view of Cathedral & Tower

After another full day, we head back to Popeye to get ready for tomorrow – a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Chimney Rock State Park, Chimney Rock, North Carolina

Chimney Rock State Park is North Carolina’s newest state park. Consisting of 64 acres, the Morse family who owned and operated the park for over 100 years sold the park to the state in May of 2007. Dr. Lucius Morse originally purchased the land in 1902. As a young physician, he came to the area seeking a more favorable climate and was enchanted with the awe-inspiring mountain of stone.

You may be familiar with the scenery thanks to the motion pictures: The Last of the Mohicans, Firestarter, and A Breed Apart. Chimney Rock is 315’ tall and stands at an elevation of 2,280’.

The park is known for rock climbing, rappelling, hikes, children’s events, and great picnicking. The following slide show showcases our visit. Enjoy!

Touring Downtown Ashville, North Carolina

Website Photo from Romantic Downtown Ashville

Finally we escape the madness and visit Ashville, NC. A very popular destination area, but at least not tacky! Our RV Park is right off I-40 at exit 20, although the park lists their address as Waynesville, about another 20 miles away. After getting settled in, we drive to Waynesville and find lunch. The town is cute and obviously a tourist area.

First stop: The Visitors' Center

Historic Bus Tour - worth every cent!

The next morning, first thing we do is find the Visitor’s Center in downtown Ashville, about a half-hour drive away, & spend a couple of hours there finding out all we can. Prior to leaving, we buy tickets for the tour on the Historic Trolley for the next day. But for now, we take our own walking tour and have lunch at Tupelo Honey’s, a fitting name, we think. Actually the name comes, we are told, from a town in Mississippi, yet to be visited. Yes, lunch was good!

Lunch at Tupelo Honey

Getting lunch right!

The town is resplendent with historic interesting buildings. One of the more interesting, the F.W. Woolworth & Company (remember those?) is now an art gallery. They have the old soda fountain inside, still very popular for getting that malted milk & double scoop cone. It was busy; Bob and I didn’t partake of any goodies.

S & W Cafetaria Building

Woolworth, now an art gallary & ice cream parlor

Walking further, we came to Wall Street, home to many shops & restaurants. One four legged resident gets to sleep in the shop’s window – lucky dog! He didn’t pay any attention to us. The next day we had lunch at this nationally acclaimed vegetarian restaurant, The Laughing Seed. Yes, it is yummy!

Wall Street, Ashville, NC

A fortunate local

Honey checking menu at the Laughing Seed Cafe

A little further down Wall Street, we come to Cat Walk, which actually has nothing to do with cats, but rather a cat walk connecting second stories, otherwise called a footbridge. No matter, local artists made good use of the name and we are amused by the sculptures.

Sculpture at the Cat walk which has nothing to do with cats!

Our next find was the inside shopping mall – absolutely stunning. The pictures don’t do it justice. The glass ceiling is magnificent & throws just the right light inside. We didn’t shop, but enjoyed the architecture.

Beautiful inside shopping mall

A ceiling to be proud

How cool is this?

My idea of the perfect mall

Our last stop walking back to our car was the historic brick Basilica. It is a true treasure & we regret not staying longer to get better photos. But, we want to drive out to Chimney Rock State Park before the day is over. Much to do & see!

Sign in front of church

A rare & beautiful brick Basilica


For further information: Ashville, NC