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Florida Guide > Days Out

Walking Tour of St. Augustine Part 1

If you wish to take a walking tour around The Old City at St. Augustine, they leave regularly and take about 1-2 hours depending on your pace as well as the number of sites you visit and plaques you stop to read along the way. Even if you decide not to visit a listed site, reading the listing when you reach that point should make the tour more interesting.

The best place to park is i the Historic Downtown Parking Facility adjacent to the Visitor Information Centre which can be found across from the Castillo de San Marcos. Keep in mind that no automobiles are permitted on St. George Street north of the Plaze de la Constitucion.

St. Augustine, compact and full of history, is a great play for a stroll. Influenced by the Timucuan Indians and placed under Spanish and English rule before becoming a U. S. territory, the city retains the flavours of its multicultured past. In the early 18th century, the walled city was entered through the City Gates, and this remains a logical place to begin a walk through Old St. Augustine. The Spanish built the wall surrounding the city in 1739 for defense; this gateway connected the wall, which was constructed of palm logs, dirt, cacti and coquina (soft limestone containing coral and shell fragments, quarried locally on Anastasia Island). The pillars, also made of coquina, were added in 1808. Closed at dusk, the gates protected the north end of the city. A replica of the log wall runs from the gates to the Castilla de San Marcos, which you can see by looking east toward the water. Looking west toward the gates, you can see the Santo Domingo Redoubt, an important defensive position.

The Huguenot Cemetery, just north of the City Gates, serves as a final resting place for many non Catholics, not solely French immigrants. An outbreak of yellow fever coupled with the fact that the Catholic Cemetery inside the city walls would not accept Protestants brought about its founding in 1821.

Begin by heading south on narrow St. George Street, where second-story balconies add interest to simple buildings and whitewashed walls hide courtyards. More than 50 houses and craft shops have been restored or reconstructed on this pedestrians only lane, where it seems there are always groups of school children on field trips.

The first spot the kids flock to is the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, on the right at 14 St. George Street. The cedar building also served as a guardhouse during the Seminole Wars due to its proximity to the City Gates. If you beat the crowds, check out its tabby floors (a mixture of crushed oyster shells and lime) and wooden peg construction.

The major part of the restoration area begins as you cross Fort Alley. Note the National Greek Orthodox Shrine dedicated to the Greek colony of New Smyrna where Greek immigrants were kept as servants. Its St. Photios Chapel is decorated with icons and frescoes depicting Greek Orthodox theology. Gold leaf highlights much of the Chapel’s artwork and sounds of Byzantine music fill the halls. to be continued. . . . .

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Page added on: 9 January 2010
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