Five Hours in St. Augustine, Florida

First stop of the morning was the the Hotel Ponce de Leon.  We took the tour of this mansion.  Given by Flagler students, every dollar of the tour fee goes back to student tuition and scholarships.  Our tour guide, Blake, knew every spot to point out, every door to approach, and shared secrets even we can't share here.  So much drama in this beautifully designed space.  Watch the full tour below to get your fill.  Cutting edge architectural features, indoor plumbing, and all the most modern of amenities 1881 could offer.  Look for nautical and religious themes throughout this truly majestic property.

If it looks like gold leaf, it is gold leaf.
— Blake

Gold leaf is everywhere.  From statues to water features to walls, ceilings, chandeliers, floors, and more.  All of it is glowing yellow in 22 karat gold.  There is a moment when Henry Flagler looked at the property and was so in awe of its perfection that he purposely had his masons create imperfections in the tile.  He believed that nothing could be perfect but God. 

We set out on foot from there.  In this supremely walkable historic district, balconies hang over cobblestone streets like they did in the 1600s.  It was easy to navigate up a couple blocks to the St. Augustine Distillery and Ice Plant Restaurant for brunch, which is served Saturday and Sunday from 10AM to 2PM. 

It really is an ice house.  Shaved, rock, sphere, and pebbled ice all happens here.  Carved from slow-frozen filtered water, it's some of the best ice I've ever watched melt into a drink.  On the menu?  Pancakes with fresh blueberries, blueberry sorghum syrup, distillery rum, whipped ricotta, candied lemon peel, and a dusting of powdered sugar. 


We had to grab the potato and grilled sweet pepper hash, and buttermilk fried chicken and hoecakes, collards, giblet gravy, and apricot butter.  TO DIE for.  Going back, I'd also try the fennel sausage, house made English muffin, and watermelon and tomato salad with roasted Shishito peppers. 

A tour of the distillery comes with a varieties of tastings and ends in the shop.  Every tonic, bitter, and libation you can imagine is here.  If you're a mixologist or just really like a beautifully crafted cocktail, this place is a one-stop-shop for education and tools. 

We wandered on into town passing 93 King.  No joke, it really is the smallest hotel in the city and the most adorable.  I can't wait to go back and stay there.  The brochure says it all. "Let's face it  - if you choose 93 King, you're not really a tourist.  More like a traveller.  You're probably not going to pick up 3rd degree burns at the beach, bathe in aloe, then stand in line at some tourist trap for a 'Captain's Platter.'"  Finally finding a place that makes me know I'm at home in a new city is priceless.  Check them out and plan to stay.

And if you do stay and want to get around but not on foot, check out Pedicabs of St. Augustine.  They'll move you around the city without you having to worry about traffic or parking or tripping off a curb.  Just call dispatch and let them take care of you.

Looking for Colonial era textiles, costumes, accessories, or fabrics?  Look nowhere other than St. Augustine Textiles.  It's like an explosion of history in a workshop.  Redcoats and rebels, muskets, leather shoes, cotton petticoats.  If you've ever visited Williamsburg, Virginia it's a bit like that. How,  HOW did women wear all of that in the heat?  HOW?

The next place both awed and scared me.  Wolf's Museum of Mystery was something else.  Imagine a room depicting an alien attack, a room for Lizzie Borden, cases of taxidermy and found items from burial mounds and tribes all over the world.  Some of it humorous, other bits so disturbing I can never go back.  Not for the faint of heart, or stomach.

Needing a treat after the gore, we popped into Cousteau's Waffle & Milkshake Bar.  We opted for the Unpaid Intern - a Belgian Liege waffle, sweet and chewy, topped with powdered sugar.  A classic and a delicious choice.  We also opted for the Belafonte - a Belgian Liege waffle topped with fresh strawberries, Nutella, and whipped cream.  Going back, I'd get the Jaguar Shark - a Belgian Liege waffle with maple syrup, bourbon whipped cream, candied pecans and candied bacon. 

Obviously we stopped for coffee.  Relampago Coffee Lab and Roasting Co. was top of my list and they didn't disappoint.  Delicious roast in a lavender honey latte.  A great pick-me-up before getting back on the road. 

What a day!  A super-neat, history-filled, delicious day-trip.  If you're living or staying in Orlando, consider a quick trip up the East Coast to St. Augustine, Florida.  The oldest city in the entire country.

Pro Tip: Go early in the day to miss the throng of tourists.