Well, here we are, four months into ournew home in the country’s oldest city, and I have to say I am lovin’ it! There is so much to do and see! If one wants to be the tourist and take in the sites, the Old City awaits day or night. Or, if exploring is more your thing, the whole surrounding area (and the whole state of Florida and Georgia for that matter!) is teeming with little nooks and crannies full of the interesting and unusual. Whether it is the big city and shopping (Premier Outlet Malls and Jacksonville) or other quaint little burgs (Palatka and Palm Coast and Green Cove Springs) there is always something interesting to do and see in the Northern and Central Florida and Southern Georgia. (People say that Northern Florida is really a part of Southern Georgia, as the Georgian’s say that the Northern part of the state of Florida is too good for the rest of the state; it’s all the “First Coast”, however, and it is all good!)I have never seen so much vegetation except for maybe the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas where the maternal side of my family is from. It is a prolific rain tropical forest type of environment abounding with wildlife of every sort – especially birds! Bald eagles, hummers, spoon bills, all sorts of herons and egrets, many varieties of little finches, buzzards and vultures, split tailed kites, and majestic brown pelicans…just to name a very small few. As a lover of all critters, I am in Seventh Heaven here. Hooty owls can be heard late at night in the woods across the street from our little shotgun style home. I love to lay in bed at night and listen to them hoot and trill! One of my favourite creatures is probably the smallest: the Anoles. They are little guys with great big hearts, doing push ups to impress when one wanders into their territory. And the babies are so very tiny and small, but with a heart as big as any little adult of the species. What do they eat? It’s hard to imagine…
There is always something interesting to see in the Old City. During the daylight hours, one can go down to the King Street/St. George Street area, take a look around, do some shopping and marvel at some of the old and restored deep south style homes. Most of them have been turned into Bed n Breakfasts, or businesses, but all along the outskirts of the central part of the Old City there are blocks and blocks of really old homes that people still live in, either students from the nearby Flagler College or the residents that have been there for quite some time. Vibrant during the day, and quite bucolic, it’s the night time that brings out the spiritual vibrations from the dwellings in the city.
My favourite street to wander in the wee hours is Hypolita Street. The spirit activity on that street is one of the most active that I have ever felt. Scarlet O’Hara’s is down there, as well as the older churches which are not far off the beaten path. But there is something about Hypolita that really retains the vibrations of the old times and the people that lived there…some of them just don’t want to leave this charming place. The Tomolato Cemetery is very impressive. The plaqard states that it is an Indian burial site that was maintained by the Franciscan priests in the then little town of Tomolato. It is fenced and closed most of the time, though I hear that they open it up from time to time to let visitors have a closer look. It is by far the oldest burial ground I have ever seen, dating back to 1737. Though I haven’t been down to this area during the late night hours, I do plan on doing so very soon.
One of the things that impresses me about this city is the care the town takes at keeping the big modern homes and housing developments at bay and on the outskirts of the city. The same goes for big box stores and shopping malls. The only thing you will find in the old part of town are restored and refurbished dwellings and places of business, no modern stuff there, just put back to as close to the original thing as one could get. It really is like stepping back in time. Especially when you round a corner to see a pirate lad and a pirate ladie deep in the middle of a (mock) sword fight duel! You soon realize that it is a pair of the many reneactors that wander the old brick streets, playing parts that bring back the memories of times gone by…and maybe unknowingly stirring up the spirits of the past with their cherade. Or a colonial spanish couple strolling the lanes. Or an uniformed spanish guard patrolling the streets keeping the flim flam under control. (…those were real people…right?! 😉 ) That said, the efforts of the renactors do not go wasted on me. I love that sort of thing!
My favourite watering hole is Green Dolphin Street at 51 Charlotte Street near Hypolita. You can sit outside and listen to the live music. It has great ambiance, but not too pricy. It’s outside and they have all sorts of differet things to drink. It’s a really good time down there – I highly recommend to anyone not wanting to do the average tourist thing but needing a taste of local vibe to check this place out! Another good place to go that the locals love is Finnegan’s Wake out on the Island on A1A. They make the best fish and chips you will ever taste! And if you are into celtic music, they play the best around, from traditional to modern, it will take you back to the Emerald Isle! If you’re into Mexican fare, try Casa Maria just up the road towards the bridge. Carribean you say? Mango Mango’s is the place to go for the best island burgers in the land! Plus, they have live ragae every now and then and it’s like being in the Islands. There are two locations, but the one out on South US1 is a little better priced and not so crowded by tourists. Granted, the location on the corner of A1A and A Street is like 30 feet from the beach, but I can live with that. I think you could too.
Oh…and did I mention that the whole city is haunted?