Eastern Home & Travel May/June 2017 - Page 32

Our tour began in Oceanside Park, where a flock of pheasants paraded near the first church in the New World and a statue of Father López, a missionary who celebrated the first Thanksgiving on the grounds. The guide announced that this was where Juan Ponce de León landed in 1513, saw flowers and thus named the landmass, La Florida. According to our guide, Ponce de León thought he had landed on an island. We continued walking past Fort Matanzas, equipped with cannons that maintained the integrity of the New World, keeping away any unwanted ships. Firing demonstrations are made every weekend. Pirates once entered the harbor, took hostages and exchanged them for gold, according to our guide. They had kept their ship outside the range of the cannons and slipped in at night on long boats. Before entering the city proper on St. Georges Street, we paused at the entrance to Ripley’s Believe or Not Museum with an imposing full-scale marble statue of Michelangelo’s David standing outside surrounded by bushes. The statue was carved in Italy from marble that came from the same location as that of the original. St. Augustine was founded on September 8, 1565 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Spanish admiral and the first governor of Florida. The name St. Augustine came from the first sighting of the area on August 28, 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine. We continued walking on St. Georges Street along with hundreds of tourists who were leisurely taking in sights. The street is lined with shops, restaurants, old houses, small gardens and quaint courtyards. The street, named by the Spaniards, has retained many of the homes built in the 1700s and one can recognize the Spanish influence. We paused at the Hidalgo Restaurant and, as a primer for lunch, we piled into the crowed restaurant and each had a substantial serving of delicious gelato. 32 EASTERN HOME & TRAVEL N E As we set foot on St. Georges Street, the guide mentioned the street’s slightly curved alignment, made that way “in case someone breached the city wall. You can curve a baseball but not a cannon ball. You can get out of the line of fire real fast.” The curved streets also facilitated ventilation.