Monday, July 9, 2012

Scary Stuff: St. Augustine, FL

This is my last full day in Jacksonville.  My flight tomorrow is in the early afternoon so I can sleep in a little if I want.  This helps me make the decision to go back to St. Augustine to participate in a ghost walk.  Because it doesn't start until 8 pm, I have a little time to check out one other sight and eat dinner first.

St. Augustine has a lighthouse.  I have always been drawn to them, as I know many other people are.  I haven't had the opportunity to go inside one in the past and so I get on the main highway this time to ensure I get there before they close.

Built in 1874, this lighthouse has been featured on Ghost Hunters.  I do not do the ghost tour here since I have a ticket for the other one later.  Also, they didn't advertise this, I found out later they offer one when I looked at their website - which incidentally is listed incorrectly on their brochure.

The climb to the top requires you to follow this half spiral staircase up 219 steps which they say is equivalent to 14 stories.  Fortunately there is a small landing at each half spiral.  This is quite narrow and not easy to navigate with someone coming down at the same time.

Getting to the top is worth the beautiful 360 degree view.  Unless you are allergic to wasps (I am not) then you might want to skip this since they are swarming all over up here.

The brochure I was given at the visitors center warns you about the wasps and also about spiders, snakes and scorpions on the grounds.  It also indicates that because it was constructed over 130 years ago, it was not built to modern safety standards.  Here are some of their tips:
  1. Don't throw objects from the top of the lighthouse, it can feel like a bullet to the person below.
  2. Don't walk and look up at the same time.
  3. Don't climb the trees. 
  4. Don't leave children in your car, with other visitors or staff.
I am really glad no one tried to leave their kids with me.  I would have been forced to decline and show them my copy of the safety rules if they insisted.

The keepers house is - quite literally - in the shadow of the lighthouse.  This is part of the tour but I ran out of time.  You can also tour the grounds and replica gardens.  They offer an audio tour for no extra charge so I did listen to some of the parts I didn't get to see.

Back across the Bridge of Lions (so named I assume due to the lion statues at the end) to the main part of St. Augustine I look for a place to park at Barnacle Bill's, tonight's dinner destination.  This restaurant was recommended to me by a couple of different people.  I wanted to go back to Cap's on the Water but I am committed to branching out.

After circling the block 4 times, I give up on trying to park at either the restaurant or the mission parking lot nearby and park in the $10 public lot which will be reasonably convenient (and well lit) when I return after dark.

Barnacle Bill's has a number of people waiting in the lobby but I am seated immediately.  While I wait a couple of people come in to buy souvenir shirts.  Several of the people waiting are here for take out and others are large parties.  It is packed.

It takes a long time for my food to come and when it does, I am disappointed.  It is AWFUL.  Having been to such a great place last night, this is a terrible let down in every possible way.  It is noisy, service is slow, the food is bad.  I am not sure what the draw is for this place but there obviously is one from all of the people and the fact that they sell merchandise.

I eat just enough to keep from being hungry and get out of there.  Back in the main area, I walk around waiting on my tour to begin.  There are a lot of shops and restaurants here, most of them still open.

Based on the neighboring establishments, I am surprised to find Saint Photios Shrine here. 

This Greek Orthodox National Shrine is beautifully painted and completely deserted except for me and the gift shop employee who tells me they are closing.  She would already be closed but she is here alone and didn't get a chance to block the door I entered through.

There is a lot of Greek family history on the walls in the foyer.

And this white on white raised copy of The Nicene - Constantinopolitan Creed.  I will have the the song "Istanbul" stuck in my head the rest of the night.   "Every gal in Constantinople lives in Instanbul not Constantinople..."
Sing it with me David!  He loves this song.

A statue of Ponce de Leon stands near where he landed in 1513.

An old waterwheel.

The masks of Fuente de los Canos de San Francisco were a gift to the city by sister city Aviles (birthplace of the founder of the city, Pedro Menendez) in 2005.

The Old Spanish Trail (St. Augustine to San Diego) Zero Milestone

The Oldest Wood School House in the USA.  Built over 200 years ago, the schoolmaster and his wife lived upstairs.

Where she is still being held prisoner.

When I arrive for the ghost tour I find my guide standing outside chatting with some of the other tourists.  I am concerned right away for two reasons.

He is wearing a kilt and he is talking about orbs.

My kilt-wearing guide has a decidedly Italian name - I'll call him Guido here.  He makes it very clear he believes in ghosts and that some of the ghosts on our particular tour don't like him at all.  He also warns us that there will be hecklers, people who honk their horns or yell at us from their cars. 

There are about 25 people (I never counted exactly how many) standing around to take the tour.  I am the only one here by myself.  I am not sure if it is this or something else but there are 4 women who are here together that keep looking at me.  They are clearly talking about me and I am not just being paranoid.

As we walk through the stone gate in the photo, our first stop is a cemetery.

Specifically the Huguenot (non-Catholic) cemetery.  He tells a story of grave robbing and ghost sightings.  It is neither scary nor all that interesting.  It could also be the distractions.  We are standing near a busy corner.  People walk by.  Cars go by.  As promised, we have our first hecklers.

Other tours also go by.  This horse-drawn buggy driver is telling her passengers the same story as Guido is telling us, sans the part about the orbs he has seen in photos of the cemetery.

This tour also goes by and because the driver is using a microphone, I can hear him better than Guido because I am trying to avoid the women who are still talking about me.

There is a restaurant across the street with a patio and they are doing a trivia game, also over a microphone.  The woman gives the question:  Which 4 states have capitals that begin with the same letter as the state?  While Guido is still talking, the woman next to me suddenly yells out, "New York, New York!"  The man with her quietly says, "The capital of New York is Albany".

As we walk on to the next cemetery - the Catholic one - there is much talk of orbs and state capitals.  The woman is still obsessing and naming off random, incorrect answers (Anchorage, Alaska!) so I say, "Oklahoma City, Honolulu, Indianapolis".  She is impressed even though I can't come up with the 4th (Dover, Delaware), but neither does anyone else.

As we approach the Catholic cemetery, we pass another tour outlet.

They offer a lot of these tours here.  There is a real man outside that looks a little like his wax partner who is dancing to Lionel Richie.  Not swaying a little, full on dancing.

At the Catholic cemetery a story is told about the ghost of a child and there is additional orb discussion.  There are a couple of women who take pictures here and see these phenomenon in their own photos.  People gather.  There is a lot of excitement.  I am wondering if anyone will notice if I sneak off.

We continue down the street and Guido tells of some things reported at the bed and breakfast establishments along this street.  However, the bulk of the story is of how the proprietors of said establishments don't appreciate this and how they have come out to directly confront him in the past.  We also encounter more hecklers and Guido obsesses about this each time.  Pouting.  Complaining.  Whining.

As we turn down this street, I let the tour get ahead of me, contemplating my escape.  I eventually catch up when they stop but the last straw is when two girls come up and make a big issue of the group standing across the way.  "People need to walk through here!  JESUS!"  She and her friend proceed to walk right through the middle of our group during the current story that I am not really listening to.  Several people, including Guido, mouth off back.  When the group turns left, I go straight.  I have wasted enough of my evening.

Walking back to the car, I pass an ice-cream parlor that is still open and doing a brisk business.  I go in and, on the recommendation of the girl making the cones, have a sea-salt caramel cone.  It is good and am happy to be free of the ghost tour.  David and I have talked about doing ghost tours before and I am sorry my first experience was so bad because I will be less inclined to try again in the future.

I walk back to my car enjoying the last of the sunset.  Since I am returning to the hotel earlier than expected, I am going to get up and catch a sunrise over the Atlantic.  At least that's the plan...

No moonrise to go with the sunset this week, only a brightening of the "day moon".  If you look back at the photo I took from the top of the lighthouse and the one of Ponce de Leon, you can see it there too.

No comments:

Post a Comment