St. Augustine

So honestly, I kind of got obsessed with the idea of geckos getting in the house because I’m that desperate for a pet and I just imagined sleeping as my silent bug-eating army defended me from predators (gnats). In a rare instance of me manifesting destiny, one got in. Of course I immediately recognized despite how cute he/she/zhe was, it would not be okay to scare the shit out of it by trying to pick it up, and then I just couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Can it see itself out? It ended up crawling under a picture frame, but with it’s entire head sticking out. Oh friend, that might be enough coverage to trick the gnats but we can totally see you. I assumed when we left to go to dinner it would… do something, but when I gave the frame a little shake when we got back he fell out onto the couch. He climbed back up the wall and I eventually caught him in a Tupperware and deposited him back outside near a leaf pile I hope provided him some cover. I don’t know, any gecko handling advice appreciated.

St. Augustine is undoubtedly beautiful, but I also found it kind of bizarre, bordering on surreal. Granted I imbibed heavily the entire time, but I think a sober second look would garner the same conclusion. It has this odd smattering of elements all in a small area that do not seem to fit together, on top of the always jarring VAST “economic disparity” of any place where wealth is fleeing to. Which, I’m not going to lie, is exactly what I am trying to do, and I think is a sensible thing to do in general, when you’re getting priced out of your own home lower your frigging expenses. But Jacksonville seems to be a particularly insane climate for this, with houses that are $150-200k sitting next to an identical house that someone painted grey and put some wide-plank flooring and is now (successfully) putting on the market for $750-800k. Jeff Lewis could come to St. Augustine and come in his pants so many times he would never think about Gage again. But I digress. We stayed in Lincolnville, which is part of the Freedom Trail that I can sadly say I had no idea even existed, let alone was so extensive. All the houses are tiny little clapboard bungalows and two stories with little double-decker balconies that feels like you are in an awesome cuckoo clock on a wall at Martin Luther King’s. The high-low aspect is pretty staggering. There were front yard chickens behind a busted chain link fence (did you know they can sort of, not fly, but heave their fat asses up a tree? I didn’t) next to luxury cars behind very high, very well-maintained privacy walls. There’s also what looks to be a very well-used Mission that is staffed all night which is great to see.

Then you head downtown and it’s staggeringly beautiful, staggeringly tall Spanish architecture with elaborate stone and iron gates, covered in crucifixes and statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, many Catholic churches, and the most serene, perfectly landscaped convent I have ever seen, where we met a Sister who introduced us to three of her cats (best. memory. ever.). There was a building called Casa Monica I was particularly interested in, because it had this awesome ground entrance with two spiral staircases but the whole thing was tucked under the overhang of the building, almost like a secret retreat kind of thing. It ended up being a Hilton! Womp, womp. I mean I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there if I had the money but it’s so strange to see a Hilton placard on a historical building (and it was not the last one I saw).

exterior of the Casa Monica hotel in St. Augustine, Florida

Phase three, St. George Street, which is the soulless tourist shopping situated in historically significant building district, but also the really, really great food and drinks in historically significant building district. I am not judging I spent $20 at Tervis. BUT, the thing is, even though I know I am walking through a historically significant building district, it feels so fake. Disney would be the obvious comparison but it is a dead-ringer for any street in Canada’s Wonderland, or Six Flags, or wherever. The Medieval Torture Museum with the stuffed Gimp on the upper balcony did not help. Loved being there, but what an uneasy sight.

Outside St. Augustine Fish Camp
deep fried gator bites served with an aioli and lemon wedge at the St. Augustine Fish Camp, St. Augustine, Florida

Vengeance for Polk Salad Annie’s granny with gator bites at St. Augustine Fish Camp. Never had gator before, but it tasted like crab and chicken combined and that is fine by me.

Jameson bottles surround the bar at Meehan's Irish Pub, St. Augustine, Florida

Meehan’s Irish Pub became an instant favorite. We were only in St. Augustine for five nights and we ended up going there twice. To my knowledge, it is the only Irish pub I have been to owned by an actual Irish person. The first time we went there, an Irish duo was playing songs from my Mother’s childhood. When I asked what Smithwick’s tasted like, the bartender gave me what can only be described as a very healthy pour to try (it was good) and later sent us home with shots of house-made Irish cream. The food was amazing. The first time we were there, I was in such a meat coma coming from the Columbia the night before, I could only stomach a salad, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t the best wedge salad I have ever had.

A bird perched on one of the many colorful flags hanging from the second story balcony of Meehan's Irish Pub in St. Augustine, Florida

The second time I went to Meehan’s, being 48-72 hours wiser and now knowing Meehan’s is on the water, I sat outside, on the second floor patio, where I watched freaking dolphin pods and later when it got dark, the St. Augustine Lighthouse. I still think it’s wild there are dolphins just roaming free, not just being inherited by whomever bought the land on which they built a Sandals resort. Crazier still is how good the food at Meehan’s was, it’s got all the casual hominess of a campus pub but with really really great food and service. It shouldn’t exist. I ate multiple plates of oysters, and I don’t even eat non-crab sea creatures. They had oysters topped with cornbread and a datil pepper sauce that were so good. We also got a visit from a very bold little bird who swooped down to steal a crumb from the floor. I think it is a Grackle?

St. Augustine Celtic Music & Heritage Festival where they had highland games and lots of vendors selling Celtic jewelry and clan tartans and things like that. I think my favorite part was sitting in the food tent watching everyone slide their chairs back every ten minutes trying to dodge the light of the setting sun. There was a great band called Syr from South Carolina. Another band played Despacito in it’s entirety, which I found strange enough to start recording for posterity, but the front man later explained the founders of St. Augustine were Galician and thus Spanish Celts? I think I remembered that correctly. Anyway, the sticky toffee pudding, which had an… ethnic name, was shit. Scotch eggs and chips, however, need to be immediately added to the North American drunk food rotation.

  • St Augustine Lighthouse lit up at night taken during a Dark Side of the Moon ghost hunting tour

Went on the Dark of the Moon ghost tour at the St. Augustine Lighthouse, the only way to go up the lighthouse at night. Pretty view, no paranormal encounters.

I really wanted to see more of Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the U.S., but I threw my back out in the beginning of February, and it was blisteringly hot. By the time we walked back to Meehan’s (a five minute walk while hobbling) the two back braces I had on were sopping and had begun a downward slide. I can say I think in the first photo, you’re looking at what would have been the moat around the fort. They had also impressively built up the area on the coastline at an angle to conceal soldiers, like a reverse trench. I just can’t help but think how differently the Battle of Castle Black would have gone if they had Spaniards and the Army Corps of Engineers.