Friday, 2 January 2015

Savannah to Melbourne, Florida

We packed up and left Skidaway State Park in Savannah in the morning, and headed south for a short trip to Crooked River State Park
The drive into Crooked River campsites
just outside St Mary’s. We found the park and a large, level, airy site.
Our site
We were only staying 2 nights, as our plan was to visit Jekyll Island for a day and then move on.

The next day we were off to Jekyll Island. It was further than we thought, but well worth the drive. We drove onto the island and saw a beautiful bridge to Brunswick
An interesting bridge
so we crossed it then drove back and went over to Jekyll Island.
The entrance off the highway
The entrance to the Causeway after you pay the Parking Fee
It costs a $6 parking fee to go on to the Island. It is soooo worth it!  The Island is beautiful. There is a whole section which is the historic district. There are a couple of free parking lots (i.e. already paid for), then it is a delightful walk along pathways, lined with Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss, [which is actually a member of the pineapple family, not a moss]. 

Live Oaks with Spanish Moss [which is neither Spanish nor Moss]

We found the beautiful, old Jekyll Island Club Hotel.

It is huge!
Croquet anyone? or you can sit and relax!
The pool, tucked in behind the hotel

It is exquisite. It was founded in 1886, as a private retreat for a select group of America’s wealthiest families. Some built spacious cottages, which are now part of the hotel.
One of the original Cottages, 1884

To get some privacy, away from the crowds at the hotel, Henry Hyde and his associates built Sans Souci, an elegant building of 6 apartments. Hyde oversaw all aspects of the construction, even choosing the occupants, rejecting those with children or mistresses. The tenants included JP Morgan, James Seymour, William Rockefeller, William Anderson and Joseph Strickney.
Sans Souci

To get to the Island, they had to come by boat [click to enlarge]

We decided to eat in the CafĂ© Solterra, the more casual bakery-delicatessen. It was warm and sunny so we ate outside on the veranda overlooking the courtyard. 
Looking into the Courtyard from our table
Then we walked over to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
Path to Turtle Center

It was fascinating. There are a number of stations where you learn a variety of facts about turtles. There also a viewing window into the vet’s lab.
Vet and assistants checking Cold Stunned turtle

They have received several ‘cold stunned’ juvenile Kemps Ridley turtles. They developed hypothermia when the temperature of the water in their New England home, suddenly dropped below 50 degrees F, and therefore they lost their ability to swim and dive, thus becoming buoyant and floating to the surface. On Nov. 20, 31 sea turtles were flown in a private plane to Charleston SC. Staff from The Sea Turtle Center drove up and picked up 15 of them to be treated and rehabilitated. The main danger a secondary infection especially bacterial pneumonia. Some turtles at the center had propeller wounds on their shells. They are given antibiotics mixed with honey in the wound on their shells. We were able to go into the “hospital area” where there are large tanks, and aquariums for the little ones. The turtles’ temperatures are gradually raised. 

The Hospital

Turtle in his 'bath"

Babies in aquariums at the end

Getting the next turtle to be treated by the vet.
We noticed as we walked around the historic area that many of the trees were covered in lights. It was getting later, so we decided to travel around the rest of the Island and come back at dusk, which was around 5, to see the lights. There are a lot of bike trails around the whole Island. We stopped in at the RV Campground, and drove to the beach on the ocean.
Beach on the ocean

Path at the north end of the Island to the beach
We took the road back past the golf courses toward the tennis complex. There was a group of deer on the golf course. 

We drove back to the Jekyll Island Club Hotel just in time to see a spectacular sunset,

Looking across to the mainland, as many of the original guests might have

and of course the lights on the Live Oaks and the large tree in front of the hotel.

It is a spectacular, elegant old hotel.

We made the short drive south to Anastasia State Park in St Augustine. The roads were excellent and there wasn’t too much traffic so we made good time.
Another interesting bridge

SR 295 bypassing Jacksonville, Florida
The State Park is actually on Anastasia Island over the Bridge of Lions. It is beautiful. The camping sites are cut out of the forest on several narrow loops off the main road.

Many sites are not large enough for big RV’s, but perfect for smaller Class B’s and tents. When we were there, there was a group of sixty small A-Liner trailers, in for a rally. Our site with electric and water, was long enough for our 28ft trailer and the Ram parked on an angle across the entrance. We had to use the board to level the trailer. We were very private, and could barely see the tent on one side. There are also clean washrooms, hot showers and laundry facilities for each loop.

There is wifi at the south end of the Park, at Island Joe’s, the camp store, selling beach sundries, camping and fishing supplies and renting bikes, beach chairs, canoes, sailboards, kayaks, paddleboards and canoes. The beach is beautiful and has lots of parking. 

The dunes and the beach

Walkway to a beach lookout
On the north end of the park is the quarry where coquina, a soft rock made of broken shells,

 Blocks of Coquina used in a wall in St. Augustine
used for the Castillo, many other public buildings and some homes was sourced. It is soft in the ground, but hardens when exposed to air, and the Spaniards learned to waterproof the stone by coating them with plaster and paint.
Florida was originally a Spanish territory with homes made mainly of wood. In 1702, St. Augustine was burnt by the British. The palisade or wall around the Castillo was then extended to include the whole town, and many homes were built of coquina.

The Palisade
Subsequently, Florida came under British rule after Spain was defeated in the French-Indian War in 1763. During the American Revolution, the US and Spain were allies, Great Britian initially prevented the US from capturing St. Augustine, but lost to a Spanish siege of Pensacola. Florida once again came under Spanish rule in 1784. In 1769, 4000 people came to Florida, mainly from Menorca, Spain, but a few from Greece and Italy. They came as farmers, but soon moved to St Augustine and set up a fishing industry. The US acquired Florida from Spain in 1821 and renamed the Castillo, Fort Marion.

We had to go to Camping World to return the surge protector that we had bought in Savannah. [It was an older model without the LED display- in the wrong box!] We discovered right across the road, an outlet mall. It had a Bealls and some nondescript stores on the inside and some of the better known outside- Saks Off Fifth Ave, Ralph Lauren and Gucci. But across under the I-95 was another long, long block of outlets- Here were the rest of the good stores! I was looking to replace my Merrells light hiking shoes, and John wanted a lighter walking shoe.  He got the Merrells! I eventually found a pair of Clark’s. It is too bad we can’t carry much in the trailer….

St. Augustine is a beautiful city. We drove in and parked at the huge parking garage behind the Visitors’ Centre. The Visitors’ Information Centre is a beautiful building.

There is a 'wing' on each side of the  main part of the Center
Staff were very helpful and friendly. There was a tribute Christmas tree to the descendants of the Minorcans in the first lobby.

Notes and pictures from descendants of the original Minorcans

In the larger room is a wonderful gallery of paintings by local artists depicting St. Augustine past and present. This was the start of our walk each day.
Masks given to St. Augustine by its sister city in Spain 

Masks explained [click to enlarge]

Zero Milestone of the Spanish Trail to San Diego

We walked up to and along George St.

This is a narrow pedestrian street with a variety of interesting old buildings, stores and restaurants, with some gardens
Outdoor courtyard between a restaurant and a cafe
and interior malls. The oldest school is one of these buildings.

We walked along a back road,

Many roads are made of bricks

Homes right up to the road

Barely wide enough for one car

across the Historic district of the city to the oldest house.

From the front

We were too late to tour it, but we peeked through the fence at the garden.

Through the fence -the back garden
Then we walked back along the river. Some of the homes facing the river...

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From the large, elegant

to the smaller original homes

The Harbour
The Bridge of Lions

John with one of the Lions

Sue with the Lion
The first day we were there, the streets were packed. It was a beautiful day, but was also the Lighted Boat Parade. At dusk, yachts decorated with lights slowly circled the harbour. We had gone in to see the Castillo de San Marcos for an hour just before it closed, planning to come back the next day. [An entrance ticket is good for 7 days.] We were told by the guard at the gate that the cannon would be fired at 6, and at 6:10 pm, the Castillo would be open for free, for folks to watch the parade.  It was indeed a perfect spot to see the spectacle- from Pirate boats to sailboats of all sizes and a little raft.

The lights in the centre are a small boat

Then we walked along the streets. It was beautiful, the main square at the end of Lions’ Bridge was filled with white lights, the trunks of trees along the main street on the river were wrapped with lights.

The Public Square- Plaza de la Constitucion

Trunks along the River wrapped in white lights

Restaurants, homes, B&B’s and shops tried to outdo each other with their creativity and numbers of twinkling white lights.


We did go back to the Castillo the next day to spend several hours exploring all the rooms and the history of the fort,

The moat and drawbridge

The steps to the ramparts

Looking south to the Ravelin and Bridge of Lions
Looking north from the San Carlos Bastion 
and to watch the cannon firing at 3pm.

Moving the Cannon into place
This is certainly a city we will revisit. We didn’t see nearly enough in the few days we had. We walked, but did not get a chance to visit any other museums.

Since we had a reservation, it was time to move further south to Melbourne, Florida. It was another easy day’s drive. It was a unique feeling to drive into Land Yacht Harbour,
Entrance to Park [photo from Land Yacht Harbor website]
a park with rows of Airstreams!
Looking out our front door
Usually, we get excited if there are one or two staying in the same park. This is an extremely well run park. It is spotless with paved roads and manicured sites! All sites have perfectly level cement pads, with a cement run beside it for your vehicle. Each site has a large shed on a cement pad at the back. There are over 700 sites, set in six rows, with a centre office, post office, recreation hall, kitchen and large library. Most sites are Airstreams, but about 50 or so are set aside for other RV’s. It is essentially a volunteer park, except  for office help, a custodial worker and yard maintenance crew. Lots are leasehold, with some available for rent on a short or long-term basis.

The park is just off the I-95, on John Rodes Blvd. Beautiful long beaches 
We can walk the beaches her without getting numb feet!

Fishing is a common sight along the beaches

Beautiful wide beaches, soft sand
are 14km away, with lots of free parking, washrooms and outdoor showers to rinse off the sand.

There are several Publix food stores, but we shop mainly at Downtown Produce and the Green Turtle.

Downtown Produce is about 5 minutes away and has excellent fresh foods, meats, wines [but not necessarily the cheap ones] and a Beer Cave,

which even has beer from Montreal! The Green Turtle , down by the Beach, has outstanding seafood, meats, baked and prepared foods, and amazing Deli sandwiches and paninis. There is also a small restaurant attached with a ‘wicked’ eggs benedict with crab cakes! Both of these stores have one extra feature which adds to our shopping pleasure- beer on tap! Yes, a beer tap by the meat counter, where the first glass [6oz] at the Green Turtle,

and first 2 glasses [4oz] at Downtown Produce,

are FREE. This makes grocery shopping a whole lot more civilized!!
More about out tours of Melbourne and beyond- Cocoa Beach, Kennedy Space Center, Orlando and Vero Beach in the next post….

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