Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Fountain of Youth is fictional

So we're still the same age today as we leave St. Augustine.

St. Augustine is lovely!
But it sure is a beautiful town and we felt like we were in Spain in the "Old Town" area. There's the oldest house, oldest school, oldest church, oldest drug store, etc. to provide the authentic atmosphere.

We decided to stay at the Municipal Marina for a third night since I wanted to visit the Lightner Museum (in the former Alcazar Hotel) and Pete preferred (anything but shopping) to climb up the Lighthouse and see alligators up close and personal. The Alligator FARM (a real zoo) provided this thrill.

Touring Henry Flagner's Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) was one of the highlights of our trip. It opened in 1888 to much fanfare, and it still awes visitors--and the girls who now experience it as the girls' dorm. The dining room has the largest collection of Tiffany stained windows in the WORLD.

The "gilded age" certainly was an opportunity for the rich and famous to spend money. Flagner required hotel guests to book a suite for the entire 3-month holiday period (Jan-March). Women changed their jewelry 6 times each day. The largest indoor pool, spa, bowling, etc. were available across the street at the Alcazar Hotel (also built by Flagler.)

Today, it's the cutesy pedestrian-only St. George Street that entertains most visitors--plus the great restaurants. We left the Grenada look for an hour for lunch in the French Bistro de Leon. It was the first day for the release of Beaujolais Noveau, so ver y appropriate. Then we again boarded the touristy sighseeing trolley-train to check out the rest of St. Augustine.

Gary and Rita join us for dinner
Pete had called one of his old Bristol-Myers buddies and lucky us, their grandkids had just left town. We hadn't seen Gary and Rita for about 14 years, so we had lots of catching up to accomplish over dinner. We'll catch up some more next spring on our way north. Re-connecting with old friends has really been another highlight of this trip. Time and distance are obstacles we can easily overcome.

On our "separate afternoons" yesterday, I walked all over Old Town, found something I liked for Dave's 29th birthday in a gallery (sorry Dave, but this small frog bronze was priced at $450), and toured the super eclectic collection of the Lightner Museum. Mr. Lighner took advantage of the 1929 financial demise of many rich Chicago folks and bought up their "stuff." Then he bought the Alcazar Hotel here in 1947 or so and started moving this humongous collection here. In addition to the crystal, furniture, Churchill's stuffed lion, artwork, stained glass from homes that were being demolished, and all kinds of other collections, there's even a shrunken head.

Shrunken head in Lightner Museum
How many blogs have a photo of this shrunken head?

Luckily I was there at 2 p.m. when one of the docents shows off the collection in the music room. She wowed us by playing the 1904 nickelodean, 1800s German orchestrarian, and a gizmo that included a violin.
Flagler College

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