Postscript – Juniper Springs

Our breakfast at IHOP didn’t materialise, mainly because we didn’t pass an IHOP en route to Ocala National Forest, and we had to content ourselves with sausage sandwiches from the grocery/deli at Salt Springs, eaten in the car. At $1.99 it was value for money, at least.

Juniper Springs, within the forest, was magical. There was a swimming pool cut into the rock. It maintains a constant temperature of 70degrees throughout the year, and only the fact that my bathers were at the bottom of my suitcase stopped me going in.

The swimming pool at Juniper Springs

The swimming pool at Juniper Springs

The pool and the trails had been built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, part of Roosevelt’s New Deal programme. There was millwheel which regulated water in the pool and provided power.

The millwheel

The millwheel

Carolina jasmine growing through the trees

Carolina jasmine growing through the trees


Squirrel

Squirrel

? Indigo

? Indigo


Small fishes and one of the springs

Small fishes and one of the springs


And finally…..
Turtles

Turtles

Turtles!

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Homeward Bound

Almost as soon as we had left St Augustine, it felt as though we were on the way home.
Our first anchorage was at Pine Island, a beautiful, remote spot. The clouds looked as though they had been painted onto the sky.

Pine Island

Pine Island


Sunset at Pine Island

Sunset at Pine Island


Morning light, Pine Island

Morning light, Pine Island

We had a few days to get to Green Cove Springs on the St John River, 30 miles south of Jacksonville, where Carina is going to be stored over the summer. But first we passed north along the Tolomato River, and then through a narrower canal, before docking at Sisters Creek, at the mouth of the river.

Tolomato River

Tolomato River


The canal stretch north of the Tolomato River

The canal stretch north of the Tolomato River

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View from the dock at Sisters Creek

View from the dock at Sisters Creek

But the next few days were a bit grim. We woke up on Tuesday morning to find the temperature had dropped, it was misty, cold and windy, and we decided to stay put for the day, even though there were no shops within walking distance and it meant scraping round the cupboards for something for dinner. Even the egrets weren’t very happy.

Egrets huddling in the wind, Sisters Creek

Egrets huddling in the wind, Sisters Creek

The weather failed to improve, and after a cold wet journey on Wednesday, we had no choice on Thursday but to move 20 miles up the St John River from Ortega Landing to Green Cove Springs, as we had booked an engine service there on Friday. The river is about 4 miles wide on this stretch, and we couldn’t see the opposite bank, so we were navigating on instruments in 25 knot winds, heavy rain and heavy chop. Fortunately everyone else appeared to have had more sense, so there weren’t any other boats about. Emergency doses of stugeron were needed to counteract the effects of Carina’s violent rolling, and I found Ian’s ‘Of couse it’s not going to bloody capsize. It’s got a bloody great iron keel on it!’ quickly followed by ‘Even if it tipped over by 90 degrees, it’d still pop up again!’ less than reassuring.

But we got there, and on Saturday the sun came out, so by the time we had packed everything away it was all nicely dried out, and we’ve even had some time to do a little sight-seeing. We couldn’t resist a last look at the ocean, so we drove over to the beach at Guana River State Park. We’ve now seen several places on Florida’s east coast which claim an association with Juan Ponce de Leon, and in the park the spot is marked where, at 30degrees 8’N, he sighted La Florida for the first time.

The spot where Juan Ponce de Leon sighted Florida in 1513

The spot where Juan Ponce de Leon sighted Florida in 1513


We had another view of the Tolomato River.
Tolomato River, from the Atlantic shore

Tolomato River, from the Atlantic shore


This afternoon, with Carina safely out of the water and covered with tarpaulins, we had a quick look at downtown Jacksonville.
Memorial Park, Jacksonville

Memorial Park, Jacksonville


Great War Memorial, Memorial Park, Jacksonville

Great War Memorial, Memorial Park, Jacksonville


The waterfront, downtown Jacksonville

The waterfront, downtown Jacksonville


A freight train passes over FEC railroad bridge, Jacksonville

A freight train passes over FEC railroad bridge, Jacksonville

We have met with universal courtesy, kindness and friendliness while we have been in Florida, but even though I now remember to ask if there is a restroom, and to specify that I would like milk with my hot tea, it’s probably inevitable that I still feel like a foreigner, and sometimes acutely so.
Last night we went for dinner at Joey Mozzarella’s (‘We let our food do the talkin’), Tripadvisor’s number one recommendation for Orange Park, where we’re staying. It’s a diner rather than a restaurant, and we discovered too late that if you want wine, it’s BYO.
But it’s sufficiently authentic to assume that the customers don’t need explanations of the various dishes on the menu, so when Joey himself, a small, thin, Italian-looking chap came over to check us out, I had no hesitation in asking him what Fettuccine Alfreddo consisted of.
He looked at me in stupefied amazement for several seconds.
‘You don’t know what alfreddo is?’
He walked off round the room, looking up at the ceiling, before returning to our table.
‘Are you serious? You’re really asking me what alfreddo is? What state you from?’
‘Er…..Britain,’ I replied uncertainly, feeling by this time that I had chanced upon Orange Park’s answer to Basil Fawlty.
‘Britain? Britain?’ He was momentarily mollified, but then looked at me with renewed suspicion.
‘But you must have alfreddo, even in Britain!’
I pleaded advancing years, and a failing memory.

But it was just Joey’s way, and when the Chicken Alfreddo came, it was very good indeed.

Tomorrow we have to be in Orlando at 5 o’clock to check in for our flight home, and the plan is to indulge ourselves with breakfast at IHOP, then go by the scenic route via Ocala National Forest to Orlando.
We’ll be returning in September to take Carina up to Chesapeake Bay, and it will be good to come back, knowing Carina, and perhaps feeling a little less foreign.

On a Roll in St Augustine

We decided to have 4 nights at St Augustine (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable), partly because we were a little ahead of schedule, and partly because St Augustine is the oldest European settlement in the United States, predating Jamestown in Virginia by 42 years.

The city is proud of its Spanish heritage, and was under Spanish rule for nearly 200 years, except for a short period of Brtish control between 1763 and 1783. Florida was ceded to the US in 1821 and became a state in 1845, but St Augustine’s Old Town has a very continental feel and there is a lot of Spanish influence in the architecture of the churches and civic buildings.

The Old Town, St Augustine

The Old Town, St Augustine

Castillo San Marco

Castillo San Marco

The roof of the Castillo San Marco

The roof of the Castillo San Marco

Plaza de la Constitucion

Plaza de la Constitucion

St Augustine from the Matanzas River

St Augustine from the Matanzas River

Florida divides into temperate and tropical zones, and this difference has been apparent since moving from Port St Lucie in the south, where the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway starts, and St Augustine, 200 miles north. On Wednesday the overnight temperature dropped to 7C(44F) and on Thursday it was forecast to be even lower. Carina has no heating system, and on some mornings has felt cold and a bit damp. We had tried various places in St Petersburg when we took over the boat, Macy’s, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, and looked online too, but the concept of a small electric fan heater seemed completely alien to everyone we asked. But on Thursday, in Bed Bath and Beyond, a treasure trove of a store which has everything you might possibly ever want or need for your home, there was an array of them. We acquired one for $24.99 and Carina now feels as cosy as she looks.

We hired bikes again, to explore Anastasia State Park, the northernmost part of Anastasia Island, the barrier island to the east of St Augustine. We were just in time to join a walk led by a volunteer ranger with an impressive knowledge of the ecology of the area.

Walk on the Wild Side with Jim, Anastasia State Park

Walk on the Wild Side with Jim, Anastasia State Park

He explained that the beach is constantly changing, with new dunes being formed as sand is deposited and pioneer plants take hold.

Sea oats and pioneer plants on the dunes

Sea oats and pioneer plants on the dunes

A blue-green sea

A blue-green sea

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Heron in the salt marsh

Heron in the salt marsh


Salt run

Salt run


Pelicans diving for fish

Pelicans diving for fish


Another view of Salt Run

Another view of Salt Run


A young Red Cypress

A young Red Cypress


Resurrection fern and lichen on a Live Oak in the hammock

Resurrection fern and lichen on a Live Oak in the hammock

After our bike ride we had walked back into the town to have a drink and a meal at A1A AleWorks. As I sat in the crowded bar, sipping my marguerita, for which I had developed a sudden fancy, I thought I vaguely recognised someone. It was the bike man. He was with his family, but he came over and greeted us like old friends.
‘Say, you guys look a whole lot better without those helmets! You all had a good day?’
I was able to assure him that indeed we had.

St Augustine owes its prominence as a visitor centre not only to its Spanish heritage, but also to the endeavours of Henry Flagler, who was already a successful businessman when he came to Florida in the 1880s with his second wife, and was dismayed by the lack of accommodation in St Augustine. So he built the opulent 450-bed Ponce de Leon Hotel, which was quickly followed by the purchase of the Jacksonville-St Augustine-Halifax Railroad, which he developed to enable his guests to travel comfortably to his hotel. Then, perceiving his guests’ need for leisure facilities, he built the Alcazar Hotel, complete with the largest indoor swimming pool in the world, a Turkish bath, sauna, massage rooms and gymnasium, just across the road. The Alcazar had the additional function of fighting off competition from another hotel, the Casa Monica, on the next block.
But the Casa Monica is the only one to have stood the test of time as an hotel. The Ponce de Leon closed in 1931, and the Alcazar in 1932, casualties of the Great Depression.

The Ponce de Leon became Flagler College in 1968, and some of the rooms are open to the public. We joined a tour led by John, a senior year student. I hope he takes up a career in teaching, because he would be wasted doing anything else. We were a large group, but he managed to engage everyone with numerous anecdotes about the building, Flagler, and the ‘Gilded Age’ to which he belonged. As well as the stunning rception hall, we saw the Ladies’ Parlour, where 19th C wives networked on behalf of their husbands, and the dining room, where the college students now eat all their meals.

Ponce de Leon Hotel/Flagler College from King Street

Ponce de Leon Hotel/Flagler College from King Street

Sundial in the courtyard, Ponce de Leon Hotel

Sundial in the courtyard, Ponce de Leon Hotel

The courtyard was laid out as a Celtic Cross – Flagler wanted to commemorate his Irish roots.

Another view of the courtyard

Another view of the courtyard

The Ladies' Parlour, with Flagler's portrait

The Ladies’ Parlour, with Flagler’s portrait

Fireplace in the Ladies' parlour. The clock was a gift from Edison

Fireplace in the Ladies’ parlour. The clock was a gift from Edison

Dome in the dining hall

Dome in the dining hall

The dining hall

The dining hall

St Augustine’s place in the Civil Rights Movement receives barely a mention in the visitor guides. The Lonely Planet doesn’t refer to it at all, although one of the streets is named for Dr Martin Luther King, who came to the city in 1964, and in the Plaza de la Constitucion,there is a plaque to mark the place where Andrew Young, a friend of Martin Luther King, was beaten up.
But when we went to the The Lightner Museum,housed in the old Alcazar Hotel, we found it was closing early, because of a concert by the local St Augustine Orchestra in the evening to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act. The programe included Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A, and the premiere of Someday, an oratorio commissioned by the orchestra.
We asked about tickets, and the museum lady looked at us a little dubiously. The tickets were $50 each, and included a VIP reception both before and after the concert, as it was a ‘fundraiser’, the lady explained.
Ian cut to the chase.
‘We just want to go to the concert. Is that possible?’ More dubious looks, but she did go off and find another lady who was associated with the concert, and who assured us that if we presented ourselves at the Granada St entrance at 7.30, we’d be able to buy tickets at the door.
We came back at the appointed hour, walked up and down the street, and there was no sign of anything resembling the entrance to a concert venue. Ian, who had not really wanted to go to the concert in the first place, was showing signs of early impatience. In something just a little short of desperation, we walked back into the museum, where through the window of the grand lobby, we could see the VIPs quaffing champagne and nibbling things. Eventually an elderly man dressed in a dinner jacket came out, drawing heavily on his cigarette. Ian asked him where the concert was. He studied us for a moment, swayed slightly and said ‘I.have.no.idea.’
We were rescued by two pleasant young men who had seen us, and not only knew where the concert was, but personally escorted us to the right door.

The concert was in what had been the swimming pool of the Alcazar Hotel, quite magnificent, with columns, balustrades, a high vaulted glass roof, and adorned with palms and flowers. The VIPs sat in the pool area, but we had perhaps a better view from the balcony, facing the pianist. It was moving to hear the theme of We Shall Overcome in Someday, 50 years after singing it at Folk Club in the 60s.
After the intermission the mood lightened as the orchestra played Duke Ellington and excerpts from Porgy and Bess. But the best part for me was the pianist’s encore. He played Martin Luther King’s favourite hymn, Precious Lord Take My Hand, and segued into Maple Leaf Rag. I had never heard Scott Joplin’s music played live before, and from my birdseye view, I could appreciate the phenomenal energy the pianist, Thomas Pandolfi, put into his playing.

Over the bridge from Hidden Harbor marina, where we were staying, was the San Sebastian Winery, and as we passed it on our way to the concert, we noticed that loud funky music was emanating from the top floor. As we passed it on the way back from the concert, the music was still playing, and the urge to investigate, irresistible.
There was no obvious entrance, which was slightly off-putting, but when we ventured furtively round the back, two People Like Us appeared. Ian asked them if it was a private party, or if it was open to the public.
‘Sure it’s open! No cover charge, you just get your drinks at the bar. Go on up, you guys’ll have a great time!’
And we did. Up on the roof, the lead singer looked like Elton John with frizzy hair. The clientele was mostly baby-boomers, but there was also a group of girls wearing satin sashes, celebrating someone’s birthday. We did feel they were a bit tame, compared with their Newcastle equivalents on a hen night in the Bigg market, though.
Elton John played Time is on My Side, possibly my least favourite Stones track, but then the Ginger Baker lookalike took over, with It’s All Over Now. Everyone was on their feet, so I got some dancing after all.

Sunset at Hidden Harbor marina

Sunset at Hidden Harbor marina

The tides are a lot bigger here on the east coast, so we had to time our departure from St Augustine to take advantage of the favourable tide. There was time on Sunday morning to go back to the Lightner Museum, where this proggy mat was certainly not the most exquisite exhibit, but perhaps one of the more memorable.

Proggy mat in the lightner Museum

Proggy mat in the Lightner Museum

After all, it never does any harm to remember your place.