Bella Vida by Letty

st augustine

Bridge of Lions in Historic St. Augustine Florida

Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine Florida

When visiting St. Augustine, the oldest US city, there’s no way you can miss the grand view of the Bridge of Lions.  The Bridge of Lions connects downtown St. Augustine to Anastasia Island and it’s most outstanding feature of course are the gorgeous pair of Medici Lions made of marble which guard the bridge.  These amazing works were created by the Italian sculptor Romanelli of Florence Italy in the mid 1920’s and donated by close friend of Henry Flagler, Dr. Andrew Anderson.  The bridge is the National Register of Historic Places and has been lovingly restored as recently as 2010 for visitors to enjoy.

I took a stroll up the bridge after dinner one early evening to enjoy the gentle warm breeze rolling off Matanzas Bay.  Don’t be intimidated, it is a very walkable bridge.  It’s not too steep and you can always stop and enjoy the view when you need to.  There is lots of traffic but there are dedicated walkways and stoplights allowing pedestrians to explore every corner of St. Augustine by foot.

el Galeon and the Nao Victoria

During my trip there were two famous Spanish pirate style Galleon Ships docked at the Bridge of Lions, el Galeon and the Nao Victoria.  What is very interesting to me is that these ships are in actual use traveling the world stopping at places like St. Augustine.  When you visit these ships you get to meet and talk to the crew which are real sailors living on board.  If you get the chance you can come aboard and explore the ship and is many exhibits and displays.

el Galeon and the Nao Victoria

On the other side of the bridge you can enjoy the view of the great fort Castillo San Marcos.  From the bridge you can even see the giant cross just beyond the fort.  You can read more about that here:   It was very peaceful watching the boats floating gracefully all along the bay.  I  enjoy taking walks especially after a very filling meal.

Bridge of Lions in Historic St. Augustine Florida

If you enjoy running, marathons or triathlons you will be happy to find out there is an annual Bridge of Lions 5k race.  This year it took place at the end of July.

I’m sure if you’ve visited the city of St. Augustine that you have seen the Bridge of Lions but have you had the chance to walk it?

 

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World’s Tallest Free Standing Cross in St. Augustine Florida

Cross in St. Augustine

The world’s tallest free standing cross can be found in St. Augustine, Florida on the historic grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios and the first Christian church in the US.  I read about it while researching my trip to St. Augustine in the roadside oddities list and was curious to see it in person.  Giant crosses are not something you see every day.

You don’t have to be religious to visit the grounds.  I’m not.  It’s a peaceful place laid out like a park with lots of shade and a winding path where every so often you will find manmade religious relics.  The path continues over a small bridge with a pond on one side and Matanzas Bay on the other leading to a cemetery and the old mission structure.  The church and gift shop are near the street and parking.  You are not required to enter either.

The stainless steel cross is located in the center of the grounds and rises 208 feet above the marshes of the Matanzas River.  It was built in 1965 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christianity and founding of the city.  It is placed where it is said the founder of St. Augustine, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés  placed a small wooden cross.  Pedro Menendez de Aviles was sent by the Spanish crown to drive out the French colonists.  Matanzas is a Spanish word that means slaughter.  These waters were named so because of the amount of soldiers killed by Menéndez and his men.  According to the NNDB database: “His letters prove him to have been a pious and high minded officer, who never imagined that he could be supposed by any honest man to have gone too far in massacring the Frenchmen, whom he regarded as pirates and heretics.”

Cross Collage

The prettiest spot here is the Chapel of the Lady of La Leche in the small cemetery under the canopy of large shade trees.  A lovingly restored building dating back to the 1700’s made of coquina stone, a natural rock formed from seashells.  It is a small Spanish mission style structure beautifully covered in bright green vines.  The chapel houses a replica statue of Our Lady of La Leche.  It is said thousands of pilgrims come to ask the statue for motherhood and other blessings.

chapel

Recent archaeological excavations have uncovered a few other coquina structures on the property.

I recommend visiting this location for a peaceful getaway from the heat and the wonderful breeze off the bay in a park like atmosphere.

Have you visited this historic place in St. Augustine?

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Fort Matanzas National Monument in St. Augustine Florida

Fort Matanzas National Monument St. Augustine, Florida

Located off AIA on Anastasia Island slightly south of downtown St. Augustine is a beautiful national park with trails, large shady trees and plenty of tables and grills for picnicking.  The main attraction here is the Fort which is located across the bay.  A short boat ride is required to get there.  Entrance is free but you must make sure to pick up your tickets at the visitors center.  It is first come, first served.  Boats leave several times a day and the park staff who is friendly and very knowledgeable love to answer questions.

Boat to Fort Matanzas

While waiting for our boat road across the bay we splashed at the sandy shore and watched an enormous amount of tiny crabs do their dance.  It was pretty funny.  I wish I had taken a video.  There are many sandbars all throughout this area making boating and other water related recreational activities the ideal.  We saw many small boats, kayaks and jet skiers too.

Once there the tour guide told us about the Fort’s history and what it was like for the first soldiers to live there.  After that you are allowed to explore on your own.  There’s even a ladder leading to the tip top of the structure if you dare climb it.

Fort Matanzas Collage

About the Fort

This fort is an American Latino heritage site preserved to reflect and engage the diverse stories and communities of American Latinos throughout American History and for future generations.  Fort Matanzas has guarded America’s oldest city since 1740.  It was built to protect and provide advance warning of attacks.  Today it is one of our most treasured national parks.

The word matanzas means slaughter.  The river, bay and fort were all named after the execution of many French Protestant soldiers by Catholic Spaniards.  The founder of St. Augustine’s Ft. Matanzas National Monument was responsible for the execution of over 250 Frenchmen.

The Spanish maintained watch and control until an attack by English forces prompted them to build Fort Matanzas.  The Spanish Crown sent money and skilled workmen and masons were recruited in Cuba. These men were Cuban convicts, Timucua, Guale, and Apalachee Indians.  The material used to build the fort is coquina, a type of stone found on Anastasia Island.  Coquina is a type of limestone formed over thousands of years from the shells of the tiny coquina clam cemented together through time and nature into a solid yet soft stone.  To make the fort as sturdy as possible the walls were built 12 to 19 feet thick.  You will notice a common architectural feature of Spanish forts throughout the Caribbean, garita also known as sentry box.  The garita is usually located atop the walls or bastions at the corners.

Have you climbed Fort Matanzas National Monument in St. Augustine?

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Crescent Beach on Anastasia Island Florida

Crescent Beach

I found my new favorite beach and it’s called Crescent Beach located on Anastasia Island in Florida near St. Augustine.  One of the reasons I travel are the unexpected surprises.  Plan as much or as little as you like but you never really know what you might find or see.  I’ve found so many interesting places because of a small sign or just because I curious to see what was at the end of a dirt road.

Crescent Beach

On our trip to St. Augustine one of our stops was at Fort Matanzas which is located on Anastasia Island.  I had been to St. Augustine before but I hadn’t taken this particular route.  We merged onto old A1A via the beautiful little town of Palm Coast, where pretty houses are tucked away behind large moss draped trees and bright green flora.

Crescent Beach

Approaching Anastasia my eyes feasted on the lovely colors of the beach houses perched up high on the sand blocking the view of the water.  The area is known for its preserved sand dunes.  Once you get close to the bridge that crosses to Anastasia you can see miles water on either side.  It was a holiday weekend so the place was crowded with beach goers, fishermen and women and lots of boats parked on the sandbar while their passengers splashed and played in the water.  St. Augustine’s beaches are such a beautiful sight.

Crescent Beach

I really like Crescent beach because it’s shallow for miles and has super soft compacted sand.  Another special feature are the sand dunes.  They are so beautiful I just had to stop and dip my toes in the water.  This is one of the few areas where vehicles are allowed to drive unto the sand.  Be careful though, you don’t want to get stuck.

We entered Crescent Beach at the entrance which is directly across Fort Matanzas.  There are no showers or bathrooms at this beach.  You can find bathrooms across the street at the Forts visitors center.  This is one place I will revist.

Crescent Beach

Have you been to Anastasia Island?

Have you fallen in love with a beach?

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“Let us accept truth, even when it surprises us and alters our views.” George Sand

“I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” Jack Kerouac (On the Road)

“Life takes us by surprise and orders us to move toward the unknown -even when we don’t want to and when we think we don’t need to.” Paulo Coelho

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Doorways

“Are memories pictures or the secret doorway?” Lynda Barry

St. Augustine Florida Castillo de San Marcos

Since I started this photography/inspiration journal I’ve been able to step back and learn a few things about myself.  One in particular is my love of photographing doorways.  I didn’t realize I did that so often until I spotted it in photo after photo.  Even when the setting is in nature you will be able to make out some type of doorway.  You’ll find green archways, bended trees and wandering paths.

I’m always in search of a mystery so I see these doorways from a positive point of view.  I see them as hopeful, as new opportunities, new beginnings with endless possibilities.

emergence, escape, exit, exiting, opening, outlet, setting-out, way out, opening, passage, passageway, path, portal, way, access, avenue, gateway

Lister’s contribution celebrating 50 years of Sanrio 2010

Can you find the doors in this photo?

What have you learned about yourself since you began blogging?

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“Every doorway, every intersection has a story.” Katherine Dunn

“The world is full of people who have never, since childhood, met an open doorway with an open mind.” E. B. White

“You must not for one instant give up the effort to build new lives for yourselves. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life.” Daisaku Ikeda

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