Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013. Our Road Scholar St. Augustine adventure begins!

On Saturday Andrea and I both flew to Jacksonville, Florida.  Andrea and I were college roommates back in the 60’s, and we have stayed in contact with each other for all these years.  Andrea retired to Arizona and I remained in Michigan, but we have taken several trips together since retirement.  This trip, our third Road Scholar adventure, is entitled A Journey Through Time:  St. Augustine’s Remarkable History and Heritage and is provided by Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. 

After spending the night at a hotel near the airport, we headed for St. Augustine.  The drive can take just over an hour via the expressway, but we opted for the scenic route along Highway A1A.  South of St. Augustine, the road hugs the Atlantic coastline, with frequent places to access the beach together with views of beautiful large homes that perch on the dunes above the water.  The longer drive is definitely worth the extra time.

We arrived in the city in the late morning, parked in the attractive city garage near the historic district, and headed for the visitor center.  After acquiring maps and some suggestions, we walked through the historic city gates, part of the original defense wall surrounding the city.  The gates lead to St. George Street, lined with original and reproduction homes and shops, with some dating from the 1700’s.  Today the shops along the narrow pedestrian-only street are pretty touristy, with the better antique shops located a short distance away.  We decided to explore a couple of the locations that are not part of the official Road Scholar program.  So we paid to enter and explore the “Oldest Wooden School House” and also the Colonial Quarter attraction.  The latter has two acres of historical buildings, with interactive displays, a watchtower to climb for views of the city, boat building demonstration, and costumed interpreters.  We had fun learning to fire a musket.

At about 3:00 we drove over the Bridge of Lions to join the Road Scholar program at the Hilton Garden Inn in St. Augustine Beach, about a fifteen minute drive from the center of the city.  Our room was reasonably large and very comfortable, with small refrigerator and microwave.  I also enjoyed the hotel location, just about a five minute walk from the ocean, with access to miles of beautiful beach. 

Before dinner we gathered in one of the meeting rooms with the thirty-one participants and our two volunteer leaders.  We were provided with our portable listening devices, an earpiece that is connected to a small receiving unit that can be worn on the cord around one’s neck. These devices are now standard on most Road Scholar trip and make listening to lectures and guides so much easier, especially when walking around outside.  Dinner was in the small hotel eating area, with two entree choices, vegetable and rice accompaniments, and a nice salad bar.  After dinner, we met Dianne Jacoby, our main instructor for the week.  Dianne is a historical re-enactor who came to our program each day in a different costume, representative of the period of St. Augustine history that we will be exploring that day.  Dianne is an enthusiastic, warm, and very entertaining leader who really is the heart and soul of this program.  

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