Friday, March 5, 2010

A Great Winter Vacation Stop with a Nearby Hostel

For those of you who are sick of this winter climate, I just discovered a very quaint and historic Florida destination. It is Saint Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. Archeologists think this city had its beginning as an Indian village called Seloy, in what is now a national archeological park. In the year 1513 the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed near here while searching for the fabled “Fountain of Youth”.

Ponce de Leon was an explorer and named the land for Spain. Other explorers who followed, later concluded that an investment in the land was not worthwhile. It was filled with dangerous animals like alligators and snakes, as well as insects. Also, European agriculture did not prosper on the coasts. Based on these conclusions, the Spanish simply ignored risky Florida.

In 1562 however, French protestants arrived to settle there. In 1565 Admiral Don Pedro Menendez set sail from Spain to conquer Florida and on the feast day of St. Augustine, August 28, he sailed through an inlet and named the area after the saint. The town of St. Augustine fulfilled one of its major roles – serving as a haven for the treasure fleets on their way home to Spain.

Afterwards the English came and started a colony nearby. The city was later attacked by British ships. It was at this point that the Spanish Crown decided to invest in the construction of a massive fort. The Castillo was built and was never captured. St. Augustine remained a Spanish colony until the Treaty of Paris in 1763 when it was given to England.

The Castillo de San Marcos, built 1672-1695, has long protected the city and has been used under Spanish, American and British forces. It was made a National Monument in 1924.

In the city there is also a living history museum depicting the life of
Spanish soldiers and their families in 1740. Visitors will see the blacksmith, carpenter,leather work and other crafts of the 18th century. Houses where the
soldiers and their families lived, gardened and prepared food are also depicted.

The city of St. Augustine is beautiful and quaint. It is a must-see. FYI, it has a hostel near the center of the city as well.

-Marilyn Williams, Hostel Volunteer

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