Friday, May 1, 2015

More Than A Beach

Our return to Saint Augustine kicked off with a bang, literally. We arrived just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve at the pier for Beach Blast Off. Food, drinks, live music and to top it off an amazing fireworks celebration all to say goodbye to an incredible 2014 and welcome in all the adventures that 2015 has in store for us. I know I mentioned in a previous post that St. Augustine and I are kindred spirits, the town even functions on my timeline; up with the sun and to bed with the sun. So imagine my delight when the fireworks happened at 8:00 at night! I was over the moon that I could send an epic year off at a fantastic celebration, still manage to hit the sheets early and wake up ready to take on 2015, fully rested and full of zest!

If Beach Blast Off wasn't enough to kick start an amazing 2015, Tom had concocted this unbelievable birthday celebration for me. That’s right, I turned another year wiser on January 2nd, and Tom managed to outdo himself with a magical weekend escape to the Omni’s Amelia Island Plantation. Not only did we have a great room, but I woke to breakfast in bed, a morning at the spa, lunch in town, upon our return to the hotel the concierge had set up champagne and cake in the room and if that wasn't enough, Tom had one more surprise up his sleeve. He had arranged a private bonfire on the beach for us; more champagne and the makings for s’mores. It was all so dreamy and Tom made me feel like a complete queen, granted he does that on a regular basis, but an entire weekend of it was lovely and so appreciated.

With such an epic kick off to 2015 it got me to thinking about life, our last year and all the wonder that has come with it. I know we are living in this sort of dream world, the travel, the experiences and I am never for one minute not grateful for the opportunities that life and the universe has given us; for taking the plunge and saying what the hell, let’s do it. Life has a crazy way of presenting itself and I feel beyond blessed to live in this fairy-tale that I do and the gratitude I feel for those that have been there for us; to help us make it happen and for those that we get to share it with, our readers! Thank you to you all for growing, learning and living it with us. Okay, enough of my sentimental side, I’ll get back on task and reveal more of our crazy adventures.

Miss Ethel playing on the beach
Saint Augustine takes the holidays to the extreme and then they tack on another month of it, it is the Nights of Lights, which goes from Thanksgiving to the end of January. The entire town is draped in Christmas lights and this year was a little extra special due to the city celebrating their 450th year anniversary has the oldest settlement in the United States. Of course being us we needed to add a little extra magic to an already enchanting experience, we decided to tour the lights by a private horse drawn carriage. We took to The Tasting Tours lobby, procured a bottle of wine and met with the beautiful Leo (our horse) and Laughlin (Leo’s handler) to hop on board our carriage. Seeing the city at a slower pace and a different perspective just added another level of beauty to the city; also, the sound of a horse trotting along the cobblestone streets, the click, clock and clack,  just made it that much more alluring. If you ever need a moment to feel like Cinderella, this would be the city and the mode of transportation to help you find your inner princess.

El Galeon is also parked in the docks of Saint Augustine until summer for the 450th anniversary, the full-size reconstructed Spanish sail boat is open for tours and gives a great perspective of what it would have been like for those that crossed the ocean blue all those 500 years ago. A look into what it would have been like to been part of Ponce de Leon crew and the craftsmanship of what goes into building a man-made ship of this size, all truly remarkable.

We also happened to be in town during the “Enemy at the Gates” at Castillo De San Marcos and to be honest is was probably Tom’s favorite excursion upon our return to St. Augustine; he got to watch cannons fire at night, what manly man wouldn't love that! The staff and volunteers provided a living history tour by candlelight; the fort is dark, lit only by candles and we got to watch actors reenact scenes from battles past. Completely enthralled by the history, seeing the fort without electricity and the loud booms of the cannons echoing within the fort walls all added to that otherworldly experience of what it might have been like to have been there during the battles; minus the fear or our lives of course.

Besides adventures and copious amounts of time on the beach, Saint Augustine has this magical way of drawing family to us. Tom has another long lost cousin, Jean. In fact it is Tim’s sister that you might remember from the Ontario Outings post.
Stole this shot from Jean that she took while we were out walking on the beach
Jean and Tom looking through family photos

Jean and her husband, John, live over in Tampa and took the drive to St. Augustine for the weekend to meet up, get to know each other and share history on really the unknown side of Tom’s biological father's family. Jean and her husband were such a delight and it was so wonderful to spend time with them, getting to know them and hear stories about Tom’s grandmother, aunts, uncles and of course little tidbits about a man that helped bring Tom into the world. Jean was so thoughtful that she put together a photo album of Tom’s heritage and we spent the evening browsing photos, listening to stories and learning what life was like all things Lenny.

Sandi, John, Jean, Bonnie and Tom
And if just getting to meet Jean and John wasn't enough, we found out that Tom has another cousin, Sandy, that actually lives in St. Augustine and she joined us all for brunch the following morning and chimed in her stories and memories. Getting to know family along this journey has been such a great and wonderful experience for us and these moments in time that have made Project #Gonewanderlusting worth every mile.

Gavin, Sherry, Todd and Evie
A few days after meeting Jean, John and Sandy, and just before we hit the road for Texas, Todd, Sherry and the kids flew in to Saint Augustine to show Sherry’s parents a town that captivated their hearts as well when they were here visiting us in October (Click here for that visit). Neither Tom nor I had seen Todd and Sherry’s kids, Evie and Gavin, in over two years, so we were just ecstatic about the opportunity to spend time with them and just admire the young adults that they have grown into. The passage of time is mind boggling, days go by way to fast and before we know it the years have slipped by; thank God for Florida, because I am pretty sure we have seen Todd and Sherry more times since we’ve been in Florida than we had in the last two years in Utah.

Our breakfast send off  crew
Meeting up with Todd, Sherry and the kids made for an exceptionally hard send off from Saint Augustine, every piece of my being was dying to stay, to spend more time with them and also knowing that part of my heart was being left there on the beach. This place has captivated us and we can't wait to return again. Until then we have more shots that we took while exploring Washington Oaks, the museums and of course our time spent on the beach.

Lucky shot at Washington Oaks
Washington Oaks State Park
Coquina Beach at Washington Oaks

Lightner Museum

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