Saturday, May 31, 2014

St. Augustine Florida–Castillo de San Marcos

This weekend we took a trip to St. Augustine.  If you like historical sites, then this trip needs to be on your “must do” list when you’re in the area.  It’s an easy hour and a half drive from Orlando (almost all interstate), and there is enough to see and do for a full day-trip; if you want to stay for longer, you could easily stay busy for a week.  We left with the plan of taking it easy and staying overnight if we wanted to, but the sites that we wanted to see were all within easy walking distance so we ended up with a full day-trip.

We started our trip at the Visitor’s Center – perfect spot!  They have plenty of parking in the parking garage ($10 per day), and it is right next to all of the sites that we wanted to visit.  At the visitor’s center, you can also pre-purchase tickets for everything.  From a logistics point of view, I have to give them credit for how this is set up.  The tickets that we purchased took us through the shopping area as we walked to each site.  The ticket package includes discounts at local restaurants and bars, so it’s easy to decide what to do for lunch and dinner.  Don’t look for fast food here, look for good food!
Castillo de San Marcos
Our first stop was El Castillo de San Marcos.  This is the oldest masonry fort in the United States; it’s shape of the fort is one that was used during the period to help deflect cannonballs.  The material used for the construction is coquina (a stone that is similar to limestone, but made up of shells).  Because coquina is soft and porous, cannon balls would not shatter the walls like they would marble of other unyielding stone; the cannon fire would either be deflected by the shape, or absorbed into the walls.

Another interesting fact about the fort – though it has changed flags several times throughout its history, it was never taken by force.
Tina-Andy St. Augustine Selfie
Tina & Andy in Castillo de San Marcos
Inside the fort, the National Park Service (and volunteers) provide short tours to explain some of the features of the fort.  In the picture to the right is one of the guides.  The wooden platform with the cannon balls on top of it is the original well that they used for fresh water.  Fresh drinking water had to be tough – since this fort is right on the beach, salt water.

One of the other guides that we spoke with was in front of a table full of medical equipment from the time.  Some of the equipment was recognizable and similar to what is used today, other things… not so much.  One thing that struck me while we were here was how small the beds were.  The guide explained that the average height of the men at the fort back then was about 5’2” to 5’4”.  Compared to the local tribes, these guys were pretty small!
Park Tour Guide
Tour Guide
At the fort, there are also a whole bunch of cannons and mortars from the period, and a few times throughout the day, they even do a demonstration of how the cannons were fired.  Yes.  They are loud. 

Another thing that was interesting about the fort was the dry moat that surrounds it.  If you notice from the areal view of the fort, there are cannon placements around the full perimeter, including pointing to the south where the town is/was.  If the town was under attack, the citizens could be brought into the fort and their livestock moved to the dry moat.  This allowed the cannons to be fired at the town if the enemy was there.  This actually happened at one of the battles!

More photos from Castillo de San Marcos
Mortar Mortar 2 Cannons
Cannons2 Firing Team Prepairing to Fire
Fort Entrance Hot Shot Furnace Tina en La Garita
La Necessaria Beds Cross of Burgandy

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