That DC Trip I Took

In April, I went to Split This Rock. I’d never been to this festival before. I wanted to change things up from the previous AWP conferences I’ve attended. This one was in DC. It was driveable. Also, it was a way to get my mom to go away because when I told my mom about it, she said, “I love DC.” So away we went.

Here’s the rundown about some of the readings and panels I attended and participated in. Not only did I present and pick up some good info for work, but also, I got some good stuff to write about for Book Riot. I’m multidimensional.

Outside of conferencing–or, actually, since Split This Rock is a festival–Outside of festivaling, I took in some sights and sounds of the DC area. One of the first things I did was get caught up in one of the many roundabouts DC has to offer in DC traffic time. On the plus side, getting caught in the traffic and veering here and there allows for a lovely scenic tour of the city and places you can eventually go if you ever get to where you want to go in the first place.

We stayed at a Hampton Inn which meant we got free coffee and hot chocolate ’round the clock in addition to free breakfast. This was fantastic if we could only work the elevator to get to and from the lobby. If you haven’t been to a hotel lately, they’ve been installing fancy secure elevators that work only if you have a room key or that go to only specific floors of your own choosing. All I know is that we rode the elevators mostly with other people so we could make it move.

Outside of the hotel, I saw the White House. I’ve been to DC before, but somehow, accidentally seeing the White House made it a bit majestic. I’m not getting into politics here. I’m not really even talking about architecture. I’m simply talking about pretty things that make me excited. There were flowers. There was the sun. There was a large white building sparkling in the daylight. Then at night, there was the moon and some moonlight sparkle.

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Additionally, I found a place called Wicked Waffle and I took my mom there to eat lunch and it was pretty much my favorite lunch in the world and I wanted to take them home with me. Not just the waffles but the entire place. Alas, they couldn’t fit into my suitcase.

 

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Sugar Iron Anniversary

Eddie gave me a box of those snap things that you throw on the ground that pop and party poppers, the plastic things you pull to make noise, for our anniversary. In turn, I gave him a candy-filled plastic tube with a monkey on top that plays the cymbals if you press down on a banana. Sugar and iron aren’t the best gift ideas for six years.

A great idea, however, is to take advantage of a Hilton Grand Vacations offer to stay in Manhattan for the weekend half price if we agree to sit through their tour about buying a vacation for life. No biggie. I can sit there and say no a lot. Done and done.

As soon as we got into the city, I saw Tesla, who also appeared on tv later that evening. He’s everywhere.

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We arrived and stood on the Hilton Honors check in line which is supposed to be a perk but always winds up taking longer than the regular line. Plus, on a Friday afternoon, there were three people behind the counter in total. On a Friday. When people arrive for vacation. And then I realized I wasn’t going to get a cookie because it wasn’t a Double Tree. Dammit. Still, the wait wasn’t too bad and the guy kindly directed us to the counter across the lobby to ask about where to go to see the tour.

Across the lobby, the Hilton Grand guy told me that it’s a presentation. Every email I have and every person I spoke to called it a tour, and now it’s a presentation. Fine. Then he said that the email should have told me where it is. I received five emails, none of which told me. I told him I was asking because the email didn’t say. He said, it’s on the 45th floor, no worries. Okay, no worries then. Clearly, it’s easy to find the top floor for the not-tour presentation.

Because we did the package thing, we were given a room instead of my choosing a room. The room was nice, of course, but there was no fridge and no coffee maker. This seems like a very nitpicky thing, but I’m a snack person and a tea person and I like to keep cold water and fruit in the fridge and make tea in the coffee maker and then sometimes make coffee too.

We headed out to eat at a place called Burger Heaven. It was an oddly shaped diner. The food was fine. We found some sugar and some iron. Then we headed out to see the world.

Public art is free! We found a large concrete living room complete with pigeon pets. We found LOVE. We found HOPE. We found 6 1/2 Ave, which is not public art but is kitschy, which is for me.

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Best Photobomb

Then we went to Madison Square Park to see an art installation that included dancing. We didn’t realize it included dancing until we saw slow-moving people in the middle of the park. It was slow motion movement but also dance and it was kind of fascinating. (The performers are in the solid colored shirts beyond the red arch.)

We saw basically everything I’d planned to see in the first few hours of our weekend. Because I’m a maniac. Eddie started pointing out all the free art we could see from simply walking down the street.

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We’re not sure if this man was copying the statue on purpose.

Because we’d walked pretty far downtown from the hotel, and because I found that the Morgan Library had exhibits we could see for free that would be of some interest, we decided to hang around outside of the library until we were let in. In the lobby, they corralled us until it was exactly the second free entry opened up. We walked to the special exhibit hall first, taking a look at portraits of Henry James and notebooks of Thoreau. Eddie preferred Thoreau. I did, too. You see one portrait of James, you pretty much have seen them all.

Then on the way back, we met friends.

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I know it’s summer. However, I couldn’t warm up once we were back in our room, so this happened.

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Eddie asked me more than several times if I was sick, if I was okay, and what was wrong with me. This is love.

The next day, as soon as Eddie opened his eyes, I dragged him to the window. I’d somehow missed seeing our grand view when I’d first looked out the window.

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We could see the LOVE statue! Fridge and coffee maker be damned. This was the best room ever!

Soon after, we went to breakfast at Astro Diner down the street. They have a whole menu devoted to Greek Yogurt. I got eggs instead, but the yogurt creations were quite tempting. Then it was onto experience Summer Streets, when the city closes down Park Ave so that riders, runners, skaters, scooterers, and walkers can do those things in the street without being hit by a car, and vendors can vend things. But first, we found Lever House, which is a building I’ve wanted to see for a really long time. It’s an office building, but the first floor always has an art exhibit. This exhibit wasn’t one I’d particularly wanted to see, but I was happy I’d finally found the building itself. The guard was like, You can sit on those if you want. We were like, thanks, but then moved further away. They seemed germy.

Now, onto Summer Streets! Being that we had walked a lot the day before, I was moving much more slowly, which isn’t the best situation to be in when you want to cross Park Ave amid hundreds of cyclists. We stuck with one side first, opting to go to the tents where they were giving away free stuff. My first free thing was an I Love NY sticker. We waited on line to spin a wheel and win something from a booth about the Greenbelt, but there were two kids there hogging the thing so we gave up. (Kids. Seriously. As if they’re the only ones allowed to have the fun). We made our way to the I Love NY booth where we got more stickers and a bag and a map and even more stickers. I was in free stuff heaven. I also got a bike map and glow in the dark don’t run me over tag for my brother for riding.

We crossed the street and found a Botanical Gardens booth where they gave me a rosemary plant seedling. (It lasted a week in my care. This is a triumph, a sad sad triumph). Then we found drummers. They danced and drummed non-stop. Just when we thought it would be over, it kept going. We were mesmerized. A woman was grabbing people to dance. I wanted to dance but was not walking right at that point so dancing seemed to be not the thing to do. Instead, we found some steps to sit on next to a fountain. Fact: children love fountains. Fact: parents are dumb because they let their children run towards the fountain by themselves and let them stay there by themselves as if the water in the fountain cannot cause drowning and children can’t be injured by falling into the concrete basin because it’s a damn pretty fountain and children are so darn cute. Moved by this rush of fountain-love, we took photos of ourselves as well.

Then it was time for the not-tour-presentation somewhere in the large hotel. We asked again at the Hilton Grand counter. The person behind the counter had to pause what she was doing with the people in front of us because it seemed very confusing to give us directions for how to get to the 45th floor, which by the way was not a simple task. When we found the mini elevator to take us there (after several housekeepers directed us without our having to ask) the people who had been at the counter piled into the elevator with us. The elevator was maybe the size of a dumb waiter, so we were crammed and uncomfortable. Thankfully, it was only one floor and then we could see the entire city through the huge windows. There was free food, too. I got cheese and grapes and tea. Eddie got a Coke.

After maybe ten minutes and us thinking we could skip out, one of the sales guys came over to us and so it began. We’d seen other sales people being really aggressive, and I told Eddie that if anyone started talking in my face like one guy was doing to another couple, I was going to walk away without saying anything. Thankfully, this guy was a self-proclaimed non-aggressive type. He was a pretty good salesperson but kept saying that if the product wasn’t for us, he’d tell us. Turns out, the product was for us.

What’s the product? It’s hard to describe. You’re buying a deed to property, but not an actual place, though it is in a building. You’re buying points for a lifetime. You’re also buying a maintenance fee for a lifetime. You’re buying a vacation forever. It’s like buying a house without seeing it first and on a whim.

Because we travel once a year, this was for us. Because we are already Hilton Honors members, this was for us. Because we have no children and don’t see any reason to stop taking one trip a year in the future, this was for us.

The cost never came up until we were deep in the not-tour-presentation on the secret 45th floor after seeing slideshows and talking about Long Island and the stock market and mortgages and some more Long Island (the sales guy was from Long Island and we chatted more about not the product than the actual product and it was like hanging out with some guy we’d met once before and happened to run into again–it was bizarre). We also talked about sports, yoga, his back problems, my hip problems, Eddie’s job, and a lot of very not relevant things all the way up to the time of the price sheet. The guy who I guess was in charge came over and gave us a number and then more numbers and then deals and more deals. We would be buying like so many points they could last a lifetime plus the life time points we were getting for buying anyway. It got so convoluted and I got so deep into it and it was like teetering on the edge of buying into the not-tour-presentation until they both walked away and I was like, Hold. The F. Up.

They kept saying how our vacations were practically paid for by buying into the program. You know what we were buying? Abstract property. So that would be a place to stay, but what about getting there and back? What about eating? What about fun things to do? I’m sure there were some perks, but this was not a full vacation they were selling. Plus, there’s a monthly fee for the rest of your life. I get that we would be saving some money in the long run on hotels, but that’s the perk? A 5 star hotel that I would be sleeping in during my vacation when I’m mostly out? Okay, okay, if we stayed at a resort, we’d be in, not out, but still. This was crazytown. Plus, when you have to keep asking each other, What exactly are we buying, it’s totally not a good deal.

Three hours later.

Yes, three hours later, we were able to leave with the guy in charge being very disappointed in us. Seriously, he dead in the eye told me, You’re making the wrong decision. I dead in the eye told him, Back off, bucko, and nudged him in the shoulder.

Well, that’s what I did in my mind. Out loud, I ignored the comment and said, Thank you soooo much for your time!

Wiped out, we decided to take the $100 restaurant voucher we’d gotten for sitting through the not-tour-presentation to sit down to a nice meal at the NYY Steakhouse. Score! (oh, jeez, that pun was not on purpose). We got enough food to equal up to the voucher, including a brownie dessert that came with long spoons that we didn’t understand until the dessert came out not on a plate but in a long glass. They also gave me a giant spoon for my coffee, the server actually saying as he put it down, Apologies for this incredibly large spoon but apparently all the smaller ones are being cleaned. Ha! He was a great server.

We walked over to the AMC to see Spider-Man afterwards. As we were buying our tickets, it was sold out. Literally, the seats disappeared as we were choosing seats on the screen. We grabbed a cab to take back to the hotel to avoid any impending storm.

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New York bagels for breakfast was the plan. The Sunday morning streets were pretty empty so walking to the deli was delightful, especially since I could move without dragging my leg. Improvement! We got back to the room with our toasty bagels, and the door wouldn’t open. The lock wouldn’t light up. I figured since it was check out day, maybe the keys weren’t working. I used the phone near the elevator to call down to the front desk, and they sent up security.

The guard asked for my ID first–thank you for being good at your job, sir–and then tried to open the door. He said he had to call for the master metal key because the batteries were dead, and the locksmith wouldn’t get there until 10 AM. While we waited, we heard about his time in the military. He was a pretty cool guy. He called to check up on the guy with the key who was somewhere in the hotel doing another job until he understood that the key was needed immediately since we were in the hallway. He appeared in a minute to let us in, and they left promising us vouchers for breakfast.

We ate our bagels we’d already bought and packed up to go. I found the vouchers for breakfast under our door. They were worth $30 each. I wasn’t about to let this opportunity go to waste, so when we got down to the lobby, I asked the person at the buffet if I could simply get coffee and a Coke, explaining to her why I had the vouchers. She offered to re-date them for the next day, and I said we were checking out. She then took me over to one of the servers and told him to get me a decaf and a Coke to go. And he did. A $30 decaf and a $30 soda. Boom.

It was time to go home, ice my old lady joints, and to nap away the Hilton Grand experience. Sugar and iron and pretty city things, that’s what anniversaries are made of.

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St. Augustine: The Place Not The Person IV

The last day of vacation is not for traveling. It’s for seeing more things before we leave! Neither one of us golfs more than mini, but since we were in the vicinity, we went to the World Golf Village to see the World Golf Hall of Fame. Fact: many different civilizations played golf but called it kolf. That’s the main thing I learned about golf. That and Bob Hope was important.

The place was pretty empty so we had the full attention of all the docents. One asked if we wanted to take pictures with a large golf club. I asked how big it was. He said, Pretty big.

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We read all about Bob Hope, whose history in golf takes up pretty much the first floor. There we found the makeshift golf club the astronauts used when they landed on the moon!

Upstairs, we got to pretend we were at St. Andrews and then pretend to play golf in olden times. My ball got closer than Eddie’s ball. Then Eddie stood in a recreation of the hardest hole in golf. Then we hit more balls and didn’t get them into any holes.

Also, we both won a tournament, scored a trophy, medalled at the Olympics, and met Tiger Woods.

This was turning out to be a pretty fantastic day! We took a ride up the tower to see the sights and then spent some time in the actual hall of fame where the plaques are. That’s where we also saw fashion through the ages and a tribute to women’s golf. We found a mechanical swinger thing and Eisenhower’s golf cart. Eddie also took a try at the golf simulator. I did not. Then came the hit-the-ball-over-the-water activity. Eddie hit his into the water. I wiffed it three times and then hit my ball a foot off the tee and it wasn’t even a real hit; it was a trickle. The guy told me to to it again, and I was like, We’ll be here all day, so Eddie hit it, and this time, it went further into the water.

Our golf careers over, we headed to the Riverwalk in Jacksonville. We took a pit stop at the gas station/fresh fruit mart. Then onto the Riverwalk, which we couldn’t find. The address of it conflicts with the sign downtown that has the arrow pointed the other direction. Basically, it should have two addresses, one for each side of the river. The side we found was the park side that had no place to eat anything. I ate the lime coconut things I’d bought at the gas station/fresh fruit mart. Eddie opted to feel faint and hungry until we found food.

We found food at a Wendy’s off the highway on the way to the airport. All the signage boasted their new mango strawberry salad, so I ordered one. The cashier was like, We don’t got no mangoes. Then she asked the manager about the mangoes, and the manager was like, We got mangoes, you mean the drink? And the cashier was like, No the mango salad. And the manager was like, No we don’t got no mangoes. So the cashier turned to me to report, We don’t got no mangoes, so you still want it? I was like, Does it have the strawberries? She was like, Yes, and I was like, Sure. The strawberry salad was good. Eddie had his usual cheeseburger, and then we headed to the airport. It has some stunning windows.

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These are the windows we stared at for the next few hours as our flight home was delayed because of weather. However, we got through what was supposed to be a very rainy few days without much rain affecting us, so since we were done with seeing all the things one could possibly see, fine then. We got home, obviously, with much more knowledge about history than before and hopefully a new-sprung youth.

St. Augustine: The Place Not The Person III

Fact: Drinking from the Fountain of Youth makes you stay young. Here, “Fact,” means myth. You can believe in myths, especially ones that keep you young. After making friends at the Old Jail, Eddie and I made our way to the Fountain of Youth, where we made some bird friends. One peacock was not very friendly; it was attacking its own reflection on the side of a mini-van. The other peacocks seemed unperturbed, simply living the sweet life. Hooray for more birds. We met either de Aviles or Ponce de Leon at the entrance. They are both important people and neither of them has the first name Ponce. See? I learned something.

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My reaction when peacocks attack

The first stop after entering is the Fountain of Youth. You see, there are a lot of other things to do at the park, which we discovered after going inside. It’s not only water that makes you young, but it’s also lots of old stuff because that’s what St. Augustine is, a history lesson.

Then we met Tina Jones.

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I’m assuming you can figure out the backstory on this one.

We then ventured through the original Old Mission (before the guy dressed as a monk got there, so we were pleased we didn’t need to interact), the watchtower, the cannon (we watched them shoot some arrows and then fire the cannon, so it’s safe to say we’ve had our fair share of cannon fire), some Temucua village huts, and the demonstration of fire arms that started out with an accidental flash in the pan (the guy was apologetic, but I was happy it happened because we learned why and that’s what this trip was about–learning and history). You can see how happy we are learning in the loft of the mission.

In our defense, we’d climbed the lighthouse the day before. My calves were on fire with every step, especially down stairs. Also, we clearly love learning.

We also walked out onto the explorers’ landing. The views from the end are really pretty. Fact: a chalupa is a boat. We have no idea what the thingies coming up from the mud are. I guessed some sort of clam or mussel, but they didn’t smell, so I could be very wrong. We also saw an egret / heron / ibis. Despite our time in the bird swamp, I still can’t tell the difference. I do know a cross when I see one, however.

We sat through a presentation that boasted a gigantic globe. The globe was gigantic. Very cool. The presentation was really terrible. The voice over guy boomed without making sense and following the lights on the globe proved to be confusing at best. It lasted only 13 minutes. Like every presentation there lasts about 13 minutes. We didn’t sit through another one. We had more places to go to learn about old things.

Before leaving, we found this but decided against feeding anything other than ourselves.

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We left through the exit because that’s how I roll. Also because that’s a sign for cars and we were on foot.

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We walked across the street to the Fountain of Juice. It’s a real thing. We had to go because it’s the smartest name for a place in the world. Eddie got a lemonade that was so tart he could drink only a third of it. I got a fruit smoothie with berries but mostly it tasted like apple, which was still delicious.

Onward to old things! We found the Oldest House that is, I think, more than one old house. It’s like houses and one is the oldest and one is the second oldest. It had a cool door. We didn’t go inside. Fact: Five Flags have flown over Florida: the old Spanish flag with the red X, France, the new Spanish flag, colonial US, and modern US. I know that from memory.

We then took a glance at the water and visited a goat.

Time for mini-golf. We pulled up to Fiesta Falls to find waterfalls and a ship. Then while playing, we realized we got to go on the ship and through the falls! One of the best mini-golf places we’ve been to! It was incredibly dreadfully hot, so he got ice cream and I got a lemon-lime slushy when we finished. He beat me, but not by much AND I got a hole in one.

Then we went to the beach. Like for under five minutes. We’re probably the only people who go to Florida and don’t bring bathing suits. I mean, the beach is nice but who has time to lay out in the sun with all this learning going on? The sand felt like silk.

And then we went to see Wonder Woman.

St. Augustine: The Place Not The Person II

Sunshine in Florida with the threat of rain but not at the beaches means a day to see as much of St. Augustine as possible, which was the same plan as the first day when we saw a lot of stuff but now there was even more stuff. I like stuff.

We began the day across the street from our hotel at Mission Nombre de Dios and The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. Eddie showed off his mad Spanish skillz by asking more than once, Why is there a shrine about milk–because leche is milk, so why? I didn’t have the answer to that. All I knew was there was a very large cross that I wanted to see up close. I couldn’t get too close, but close wasn’t necessary to take in its gravity.  We also received some mixed messages through the signage, but we quickly got distracted by the lizards. There are a lot of them, and they are adorable.

We drove over the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island, known for its pretty beaches. We didn’t go to the beach. We went to the Alligator Farm, which should be called the Alligator and Bird Farm Where Birds Fly Near Your Head. Too long for a sign, I suppose. The farm is bigger than it seems; every time we thought we’d seen it all, we didn’t. Parts of it smelled real bad.

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Uncontrollable face when smelling bad animal smell

Parts of it had flying birds. The big question Eddie had here: Why don’t the birds fly away? I guessed because they got food here. Along some of the pathways, there were dispensers that looked like those machines that give you gum or plastic crap when you put a quarter in. Instead, they had food pellets. You could feed the birds or the alligators. I don’t know what the pellets were, but when we went to leave, we found a change machine, changed out a dollar, went back into the swamp, and fed the alligators. Eddie caused a frenzy among three of them who crowded around and snapped at the pellets. My main concern was not dropping a phone or camera into the water. My other main concern was not getting shit on by a bird.

Some random snippets: there was incense burning in one part of the park but not the really smelly part. Crocodiles usually have a lower fang tooth that sticks up, and that’s how you know it’s not an alligator.  Komodo dragons see you, bruh, and they aren’t impressed.

Having seen more than enough alligators and crocodiles and birds and reptiles, we went to the lighthouse. Since we were walking everywhere, climbing a lot of stairs seemed like the perfect complement. The lighthouse has a lot of history, yet this is what first caught Eddie’s eye.

After we got through the exciting parking lot, we headed towards the path to get to the lighthouse. We saw boats. We headed into the woodsy trail where we saw more lizards and Eddie got eaten by bugs and I did not. When we came to the end of the path, we found the lighthouse. It was hard to miss.

The bottom floor of the lighthouse has a lot more history, especially about the keeper who had to carry a 40 pound metal jug thingie up and down stairs. Then we climbed the spiral staircase, aware that there were wasps at the top to greet us when we arrived. We make good decisions.

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Fact: the wasps go up there to mate. After getting to the top, we had to get to the bottom. Down and around we went, and then out and up over to the keeper’s quarters, where there were more artifacts and things.  Eddie found a friend.

Once we got back to the front part of the grounds, I wasn’t feeling great. Somehow, I hadn’t been eating snacks or drinking anything. As fit as a person is, when she doesn’t snack and drink, she feels the effects of lighthouse climbing. I sat on a bench and ate almonds, and then we headed to town in the cool air conditioning of the car, which was the remedy for my ails. We drove forever looking for parking, and then gave up, drove to the hotel, and walked back down into town.  Apparently, I’m really into borders because as with the excitement of the gates on Day 1, I was equally excited to see the Bridge of Lions up close along with the Welcome To St. Augustine wall. The walk to the Bridge of Lions was a sunny sweaty mess, but the breeze from the water along the very high wall thingie we were walking on brought a bit of relief. Also bringing relief? Knowing where we were headed for lunch.

Another bit of a walk but we found it. The main reason I had come to St. Augustine: Cousteau’s Waffle and Milkshake Bar.St Aug Day 2 (189)It was like home. It was like heaven. It’s everything anyone needs to live a good life. Also, it’s a nice place to sit when you’ve spent the morning walking and climbing and sweating. He got a plain waffle with whipped cream. I got a waffle with Nutella and strawberries. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Then we got milkshakes. He got vanilla. I got key lime pie. Yes yes yes yes yes.

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Let’s all take a breath and a sigh in recognition of this very important moment in life.

Fueled up, we walked some more. Surprise! We found some cute little shops. We found this.

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Then on one last walk back to the hotel, we stopped by the Old Senator Tree. When I’m home, I’m trying to get rid of trees near my property. When I’m on vacation, I’m looking for them. Anyway, this tree is over 600 years old and very large. It’s in the parking lot of the Howard Johnson. Of course.

 

St. Augustine: The Place Not The Person, I

Everything in St. Augustine is either The Oldest something or The First something. A walkable town, doable in a long weekend, it proved to be the perfect destination.

And so, at 5:50 AM at JFK, with wall-to-wall people in long lines at security, we excitedly hauled our luggage and took off our shoes to head south for warm weather. Every time we fly, I say to Eddie as soon as we get through security, We should have brought bagels, because we go off through the terminal to find bagels and though we’re in New York, no one has bagels. However, we found bagels at a stand that flaunted a menu of very intricate bagel offerings from breakfast through dinner. They seemed to be the only bagel place because the line was long. Still, we had to wait to go on the plane anyway, so waiting here wasn’t a big deal. What was a big deal was asking for two toasted sesame bagels with butter. We caused chaos. When the lady in charge of the panini press got to ours, she put cream cheese on them. The line backed up when we said we wanted butter. Some guy on line yelled out, I’ll take those! Then the lady went to put plain bagels on the grill while simultaneously making a different bagel sandwich stick to the panini press. I called out, We ordered sesame please! She looked flabberagasted. The guy who’d called out that he’d take the cream cheese error grabbed  his daughter and left, saying they didn’t know what they were doing. No one ate the cream cheese bagels, but we finally got what we ordered. By the time we walked to our gate, which is always the farthest gate, we had soggy bagels.

On the bright side, this fiasco kept us occupied so we weren’t waiting around, bored, for our flight. Also, I found a wave sculpture in the airport after we went through security, right outside the bagel place. Off to a good start!

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These ladies liked watching me pose for this.

The flight was uneventful. Yeay! Landing in JAX, we saw clouds but also sunshine. We found our luggage quickly, rented our car quickly, careened around the parking lot looking for our car slowly, and then finally found it. It was a Yaris. Awww! Shout out to Yolanda, wherever she may roam.

Sun shone down on St. Augustine as we drove in. We checked in real quick and then found an elephant in our room.

Towel elephant on bed

Ready to explore and find lunch, we put on shorts! and walked downtown. We saw the large cross right across the street from our hotel. We passed by the bookstore I’d wanted to visit. We saw where the Visitor’s Center was as well as the Castillo de San Marco. We saw everything on my Fun List Of Things I Want To Do In St. Augustine. We also saw trolleys and trains zig zagging across the small streets. Who needs a trolley or a train when you can walk and see everything? Not us! Okay, Eddie may have liked to not walked as much, but that simply wasn’t an option because I was on a mission.

We wound up at a place called Burger Buckets. They serve food in shallow buckets. The food is mostly burgers. They also have a food challenge. You can order a super duper sized burger thingie for like 29.99 but you don’t have to pay if you finish it faster than the last person who did it. I got a veggie burger instead.

Then, I threw away the daily itinerary and decided I wanted to see everything right away. First up, the Castillo de San Marco. They shoot off a cannon! The walls are made of coquina, which contains a bunch of stuff including seashells. The main rule was don’t touch, lean, or sit on the walls. Easy enough. We headed to the top level to watch the men in costume make and take orders in Spanish and then covered our ears when several people yelled, Cover your ears! Then they shot the cannon. I don’t think there was a cannonball in it; otherwise, the ships in the water would’ve been in trouble.

The sky grew grayer. We scooted around the top level to see everything, and then the drizzle turned to actual rain, so we went downstairs. We ran through rain to see each of the inside rooms around the first level, which included climbing through a tiny tunnel to find the most inner room that had nothing but a light in it. When we went through, a guy from the other side called out, What’s in there? I was like, A lightbulb. He was like, Okay thanks, and didn’t climb through. We saw carvings on the walls and learned about the five flags of Florida. Also, Fact: Ponce de Leon’s first name is Juan. Fact: Before seeing the Castillo, I thought his first name was Ponce. I’m a teacher!

The rain let up, so we left the Castillo where I immediately found the City Gate. I don’t know why I was excited about finding them, but I was, and it was old and it was great!

Next up was the Visitors’ Center. They had lots of old things there along with a history exhibit but a lot of the stuff in that exhibit we’d already learned at the Castillo. Like how Juan is Ponce de Leon’s first name. Then Eddie got into a fight! Hehehe.

I picked up some coupons at the center, so we got into the Oldest Schoolhouse for a dollar less than regular admission. Score! The schoolhouse is tiny and has a giant chain that runs around and through it so that the wind doesn’t take it away during a storm. There are pretty gardens outside, and inside are scary animatronics,. The one wearing the dunce cap asks if he can graduate at the end of the presentation. There’s also a rudimentary time-out space that is more of a closet that they locked bad kids in. Also, the teacher’s rules include reading good books after teaching all day and bringing in coal every day. Male teachers can go a-courting. Female teachers will be dismissed if they marry. You know, regular old teacher stuff. Things aren’t much different.

Then I went on a mission to find the Love Tree. It was on a street somewhere. I know, that’s very helpful! We walked up and down streets, backtracking and going in circles. Finally, at the address we’d passed several times without seeing what I was looking for, Eddie was like, Oh, it’s that giant tree. Yes, yes it was a huge tree. We went inside to find out if we could get a copper heart to add onto it, but no one was really inside the store area, which was really a house. It was really weird. So we settled on simply climbing in among everyone else’s hearts.

Then we became pirates! Lookit how thrilled my husband is!

It was starting to get rainy, so I found another inside-thing to do. Wolf’s Museum of Oddities. It was odd and creepy and the scariest thing was thinking that things were going to jump out at me, so I kept making Eddie go first into the rooms.

The rain really started coming down, but this was the first Friday of the month, and the galleries all open up for an Art Walk that I really wanted to do. I had my umbrella and a map, so we went through the streets to find some galleries. We found several along one strip, so we started there. Eddie and I liked the art in the first one, and then it was okay in the others. Only one gallery was serving wine. I saw another one that had a musician. Then it was getting a little sad because the rain was really pounding down, ruining the night for the galleries. Eddie put on the poncho we had and I hugged my umbrella over me, though it had created a hole in itself with one of the metal pieces that broke off in it.

We walked back to the hotel through rivers of rain water. I was pretty sure I was picking up at least seven kinds of malaria. It wasn’t cold, though, so there was that. Plus, we’d been in the sun and wearing shorts and it had been hot. This was the face I couldn’t stop making as we trudged back.

St Aug Day 1 (127)

BUT we got to the room and both cheered because there was a cobra in our room!

St Aug Day 2 (1)

It’s the little things.