We start hearing Spanish. It’s Florida. It’s also St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement on land that is now continental US.
The settlers happened to be Spanish and promptly built a Spanish city. Which Americans turned into cheesy attraction some 400 year later, after a brief stint as a Spanish-inspired winter resort for the wealthy. Before that the city changed hands couple of times passing from Spanish to British, then back to Spanish and finally to American hands. This is a serious history that can impress even old Europe. And it seems pretty normal to us. Cities that were not conquered, burned and rebuilt at least couple of times still feel a bit fake.
We leave - unintentionally - the best attraction for last. Castillo de San Marcos, a stone fort that was built in 17th century after wooden one it replaced burned 9 times (once by one Sir Francis Drake). Talk about optimism and the learning curve. The fort was in constant use ever since: no ruins here. Castillo’s role was not always military. After 1875 it served as its times Guantanamo, when Americans decided that it would be a great place to intern and reeducate particularly troublesome Indians.
We drive on A1A toward the Keys passing brightly lit Daytona Beach with its beach ramps (tide permitting), its dine in a race car restaurants, its world most famous beach sign, its mini golf parks with pirate ships, planes and volcanos, its countless motels and suites, condos and resorts. Vacancy and low rates abound. Low season or recession? It’s Memorial weekend after all.And if we aren’t tempted yet the marketing kicks in with a full array of double entenderes: bob we love and miss you - condo rental sales or not happy? check us out, and live turtles hooded sweatshirts buy one get one free. Who can resist that?