By Marilyn Baron
My first visit to St. Augustine, Florida, was a field trip with my Florida History Class in college. Now that my sister Sharon lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, about half an hour away from St. Augustine, when I visit, we go there frequently for dinner. But I never really felt like I knew the city until I took a trolley ride.
Sharon and I featured the Old Town Trolley of St. Augustine sightseeing tour in our latest release, a comedic mystery called Murder at the Outlet Mall. To refresh our memories of the city, we took a trolley ride together earlier this month.
I highly recommend the “Green Trolley” http://www.trolleytours.com/st-augustine/ as a way to introduce yourself or even reintroduce yourself to the city. The tour, which leaves every 15 minutes, from St. Augustine’s Old Jail (it’s pink and you can tour the facility), highlights the best St. Augustine attractions with 22 stops and more than 100 points of interest. This Hop-On Hop-Off tour was great. It stops at such attractions as St. George Street, Whetstone Chocolates, the San Sebastian Winery, the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, Flagler College, Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth (where the 1513 discovery of Florida begins), the Bridge of Lions, Castillo de San Marcos (the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S.), the Oldest Wooden School House in the USA, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum, with more than 800 exhibits of unique, unusual, strange and weird oddities and curiosities. We didn’t hop on or off, but stayed on the trolley the whole time. If I had more time, I would have stopped for a complementary tour and wine tasting or toured the Chocolate Factory. The place where the trolley tour starts has some neat attractions, too, including the Oldest Store Museum Experience, the Spice & Tea Exchange, and Gator Bob’s Trading Post.
The city is literally an original. Of course there are 42 miles of excellent beaches and golf courses, but there are many other thingsto do and see in St. Augustine. There are some nice Victorian Bed and Breakfasts, neat shops and art galleries and great restaurants. One of my favorite shops is the Metalartz. http://metalartz.moonfruit.com/. The Metalartz Gallery offers eclectic and unique art and gifts and represents more than 60 local, regional and national artists in a variety of mediums featuring steel and copper sculpture; hand blown glass art, acrylic, oil and watercolor canvas; mosaics, handcrafted crystal, seaglass, glass, and silver jewelry.
One of my favorite restaurants is The Columbia http://www.columbiarestaurant.com/fl_oldestrest.asp, founded in 1905, Florida’s oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. I love their black beans and rice, their Cuban bread and their 1905 salad, which can be topped with turkey or shrimp. In fact, I love their salad dressing so much I buy the bottles by the dozen and have them shipped to my house in Atlanta.
My sister likes the Casa Maya, The Tasting Room, The Gourmet Hut, The Floridian, Mojos Barbecue, The Gypsy Cab, Caps and Meehan’s Irish Pub, and for a fine dining experience she recommends 95 Cordova in the Casa Monica Hotel.
Her other recommendations are: The Lightner Museum and a tour of the Ponce de Leon Hotel.
We stopped by Second Read Books at 51 Cordova Street and were thrilled to see Murder at the Outlet Mall on display in between Agatha Christie and Alexander McCall Smith in the mystery section. Nice company. (904-829-0334).
Another neat experience was going out on a Sundancer Cruises yacht. They have a Wednesday cocktail cruise, a Sunday brunch cruise, a Sunday dinner cruise and they do private cruise charters and weddings. Sundance Reservations (877-446-6465). We went out during the holiday season and got a great view of St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights. From mid-November through January, this spectacular holiday lighting display features more than two million tiny white lights adorning the palm trees and buildings of the city’s historic district. That was the photo that stumped everyone (See April 5 post). St. Augustine Scenic Cruises depart daily from the St. Augustine Municipal Marina for 1-hour-and-15-minute narrated tours (1-800-542-8316).
Then there’s the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park & Rookery, which has every crocodilian species, including the rare white alligator, exotic birds, reptiles and monkeys and a zipline. I really enjoyed Marineland Dolphin Adventure.
A new addition is Colonial Quarter where you can travel through the centuries at St. Augustine’s revitalized signature attraction in the heart of the historic district. Experience 16th-17th -and 18th-century Spanish and British life in the Nation’s Oldest City with interactive activities (blacksmith, carpenter), living-history demonstrations, and you can climb a replica of a 17th-century watchtower, and dine in a British pub and a Spanish taberna.
For a change, take a horse-drawn carriage tour through the city streets, a tasting tour, a gold tour, a ghost tour, a walking tour or a kayak eco-tour.
The Fountain of Youth has some pretty peacocks at the entrance and you can drink out of a sulfur spring. At the entrance isMagnolia Avenue, with beautiful Spanish moss-draped live oak trees forming a canopy across the road. It is one of the most photographed streets in the U.S.
And, of course, there’s shopping at the St. Augustine Outlets and St. Augustine Premium Outlets, where Murder at the Outlet Mall is set. For more information about St. Augustine, visit the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches Facebook page at http://www.floridashistoriccoast.com/.
Next week, I’ll tell you about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum.
If you want to learn more about St. Augustine’s history and fun things to do, read the comedic mystery, Murder at the Outlet Mall at http://www.amazon.com/Murder-at-Outlet-Mall-ebook/dp/B00BGQLOKW/ref=tmm_kin_title_0 (E-Book) or the paperback format at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1482634856/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=1532201582&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B00BGQLOKW&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=08NZZ7T7G0A8DMYGG6EN.
Murder They Wrote
Sharon and I wrote Murder at the Outlet Mall to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of Florida.
Blurb: Things get deadly when three women come to blows over a single Coach bag at the St. Augustine Premium Outlets®. Murder at the Outlet Mall gives new meaning to the phrase, “Shop ’Till You Drop.”
“This story is about three ladies from China who accompany their high-powered husbands on a shopping/golfing excursion to St. Augustine, Florida,” says Baron. “One of them is having an affair with the husband of another. The jilted woman and her friend plot the mistress’ murder. It’s sort of a modern-day Lucy and Ethel tale of how the women plan to dispose of the mistress and distribute her body parts at various tourist attractions around St. Augustine. It sounds grim, but it’s actually very funny and has an unexpected, but happy ending.”
About the Author Marilyn Baron is a public relations consultant in Atlanta. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) and the recipient of the GRW 2009 Chapter Service Award. Marilyn writes humorous women’s fiction, romantic suspense/thriller and humorous supernatural short stories. Visit http://www.twbpress.com/achoirofangels.html to read her Angel Trilogy (A Choir of Angels, Follow an Angel, The Stand-In Bridegroom and Dead Mix). The Edger, the women’s fiction she coauthored with her sister, Sharon, received a 4 ½-star rating in the September 2012 issue of Romantic Times Book Reviews magazine. http://www.amazon.com/The-Edger-ebook/dp/B006Y3P12Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1343336307&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Edger+Sharon+Goldman. Marilyn is contributor to Seasons and Seashells, a Sweet Romance Anthology at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/257449. Her romantic thriller, Under the Moon Gate, and the prequel Destiny: A Bermuda Love Story, will be released in the summer of 2013 by The Wild Rose Press. Her romantic suspense, Sixth Sense, winner of the 2012 Georgia Romance Writers Unpublished Maggie Award for Excellence in the Paranormal/Fantasy category, is also under contract with The Wild Rose Press. She invites you to visit her Web site at www.marilynbaron.com. Visit her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Marilyn-Baron/286807714666748 and follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MarilynBaron.
One commenter will win a copy of Murder at the Outlet Mall.