What is St. Augustine FL known for

Florida: St. Augustine: The Patriotic Coast

St. Augustine in northeast Florida offers true dream beaches, but Americans come for a completely different reason to experience the discovery of their continent

Matanzas Avenue in St. Augustine is definitely one of the most beautiful cul-de-sacs in the world, as it ends directly on the Atlantic. Their gray asphalt merges seamlessly into pale yellow sand, the cars drive all the way to the beach: a "drive-on-beach", it couldn't be more American. Pull the ignition key, open the door and out onto the beach, which is wider than any avenue. It offers a view that automatically takes a deep breath: the Atlantic waves thunder in several seasons, white spray in front, bottle green behind, ink blue far out. You have to start walking here, there is just too much space under this sky to sit down. Running, always along the edge of the water, past small, tripping birds that peck their dinner out of the sand quickly and almost in unison, past a surf angler who looks out to sea, his feet in the water, the bucket still empty. In the air a white-tailed eagle that has had better luck and holds fat prey in its claws. On and on, the mussels crack under your shoes, your lungs expand like a tethered balloon, the mood takes off. And if you happen to be European, you now wonder where all the tourists are. Augustine in northeast Florida is the oldest city in the United States. That's why the beaches are so empty. Americans come for a different, patriotic reason: St. Augustine ranks high on the hit list of must-see places. Because the year 1513, when the Spanish navigator and conqueror Ponce de León landed here, was just 21 years after Columbus, American antiquity, if you will. And because he took possession of the land for his king during Easter - "Pascua Florida" - it also had a name.

This early episode earned St. Augustine an ancient city pride of place in US history, and its 13,000 residents are proud of it. Most of them make a living from it, because guests and school classes from the other 49 states flock to the city all year round and visit everything that has a historical patina: the oldest residential building, the oldest schoolhouse in the nation and of course the fortress Castillo de San Marcos Drawbridge and cannons demonstrated by costumed gunners on holidays. Such "storytellers" in historical disguise bring 300 years of colonial history to life in the open-air museum "Colonial Quarter".

John Stavely is one of them, a man with a gray musketeer beard and a triangular hat, wearing the uniform of a British soldier from the year 1763. Ten times a day he talks with gestures about the time before the wars of independence, when America was still about Europe was ruled out. Then he asks volunteers to roll call for arms, a cue the American guests seem to be waiting for. Each time, more reports than John can need, because his arsenal only includes four wooden muskets. His own is real, and with gunpowder, projectile and ramrod he demonstrates "how awkward and labor-intensive it was back then to transport someone from life to death". As is well known, the relationship between Europeans and firearms is not so unclouded, and yet it should be easy for guests from the Old World to recognize themselves in the European beginnings of the USA. In St. Augustine you can feel at home straight away. Because the city came into being when you were still traveling by carriages, today you stroll through narrow, car-free streets in a completely un-American way and sit in places under palm trees like in the south of Spain. In the central St. George Street, small boutiques sell gilded seashells and tapas are served outside through open windows. And even late at night, couples, tightly embraced, move from one pub to the next, past the pastel-colored arcades under which a mini brass band made up of three saxophones is playing - it is, in fact: Handel's Sarabande.

Experience

Castillo de San Marcos: The star-shaped fortress on the water is the oldest surviving in the United States - and the pride of the city. The Spanish built the Castillo de San Marcos in the 17th century to assert themselves against the British who ruled the area north of Florida. The shell limestone walls are enormous four meters thick and have withstood several attacks. South Castillo Drive, www.nps.gov/casa; Entry 7US $

St. George Street: The city's central pedestrian zone with lots of shops, pubs and street music for which one likes to stop.

Pirate and Treasure Museum: One of the best museums on the east coast shows the history of piracy and its most famous representatives, such as Andrew Ranson, whom everyone in St. Augustine knows in an interactive and witty way. Castillo Dr 12, www.thepiratemuseum.com

Colonial Quarter: It is easy to spend a whole day in the historic open-air museum; there are quite a few demonstrations and two taverns. St. George St 33, www.colonialquarter.com

Flagler College: The hotel "Ponce de León", built by Flagler in 1888 and designed by the architects of the New York Public Library, offered the ultimate in luxury with Tiffany windows and electric lighting. The hotel was only open for the winter season and could only be booked for the entire period. Today it is part of Flagler College, whose students tour the house. King St 74, www.flagler.edu

Gonzáles-Alvarez House: The oldest house in Florida shows the sparse furnishings of the first settlers and the influences of the various colonial rulers in the extension. Charlotte St 271, www.staugustinehistoricalsociety.org

Fountain of Youth: Pseudo-historical kitsch, excavations of a pre-Columbian village and reconstructed things like a watchtower and an Indian settlement. Magnolia Ave 11, www.fountainofyouthflorida.com

St. Augustine Lighthouse: The 50 m high lighthouse (219 steps) was built on Spanish foundations in 1874, exhibition in the lighthouse keeper's house. Red Cox Dr 100, www.staugustinelighthouse.com, entry US $ 10

St. Augustine Distillery: Vodka, rum, gin and whiskey are distilled in the former ice factory. Funny free guided tour with a test drink - have you ever tried "Florida Mule"? Riberia St 112, www.staugustinedistillery.com

eat

Hot Shot Bakery: Owner Sherry Stoppelbein pulls Datil peppers, which are among the hottest in the world, and processes them in five degrees of spiciness. On the "Wall of Flame" everyone who tasted it can be immortalized. But there are also mild dishes: delicious panini, wraps, soups and oven-fresh cookies. Granada St 8, www.hotshotbakery.com

Ice Plant Bar: The industrial monument with an iron crane arm from 1927 became a cocktail bar that also serves small dishes. In the past, huge blocks of ice were frozen here and then sold in pieces to fishermen who used them to cool their shrimp. Riberia St 110, www.iceplantbar.com

Columbia Resturant: Good Spanish-Cuban cuisine in the heart of the old town. Specialties are paella and fish dishes. St. George St 98, Tel. 001-904-824 33 41, www.columbiarestaurant.com

Michael's Tasting Room: Gourmet cuisine in a classy atmosphere, with mussels, caviar and tuna from the sea. Cuna St 25, Tel. 001-904-810 24 00, www.tastetapas.com, 3-course chef menu for US $ 45

Sleep

Fairfield Inn & Suites St. Augustine: Off Interstate 95 at Exit 318 is the rose-colored "Marriott", which looks like a school building from the outside; free parking, WiFi and breakfast included. Outlet Mall Blvd 305, Tel. 001-904-810 98 92, www.fairfield.marriott.com

Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites: Just half a mile from the historic old town, 56 spacious rooms with work desks, microwaves and refrigerators. Ponce De Leon Blvd 1302, Tel. 001-904-494 21 00, www.ihg.com

St. Francis Inn B&B: Small but cozy rooms, pool, short walk to all attractions. St. George St 279, Tel. 001-904-824 60 68, www.stfrancisinn.com

Bayfront Marin House: Mike and Sandy Wieber are warm hosts, breakfast is served on request, rooms with jacuzzi, parking is one block away and free. Ten minutes walk to the center. Ave Menendez 142, Tel. 001-904-824 43 01, www.bayfrontmarinhouse.com

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