Wherever I travel, I am always fascinated by the history of the area I’m visiting. Granted, as we tour the U.S., we may not have the opportunity to visit castles where Kings and Queens reigned, or view ancient coliseums Romans battled, or see the amazingly small but highly efficient ships the Vikings used to explore their world. Let's face it: in comparison, America is just a baby!
But that doesn't mean we don't have our fair share of fascinating history, too. And there's no better place to start than America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Florida. Located near Jacksonville on Florida's east coast, about 70 miles south of the Georgia border, St, Augustine is where Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles established the first and oldest continuous European settlement in North America in 1565.
The best place to soak it all in is the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, which not only marks St. Augustine's beginnings, but also commemorates the founding of Florida by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513, and his search for the legendary Fountain of Youth (which you can sample here!)
The park itself was gorgeous and packed with so many things to explore. For me, the highlights include:
- The Native Timucua Village – Thousands of years before the Spaniards arrived, The Timucua Indians lived here. One of the highlights for me was hearing an Indian man and his daughter talk about their past and how their people thrived for so long. I really felt connected to their ancient past.
- Spanish Cannons – Learn how the Spaniards defended their position with a demonstration on cannons and various weaponry (a definite crowd pleaser). The cannon is fired every hour.
- Juan Ponce de Leon's landing spot – I particularly enjoyed walking out on the long pier where Ponce de Leon landed. It is a long walk, but I found it pretty cool to walk back and come "ashore", just as he did.
- Fountain of Youth – Of course, I just had to make my way to the famed fountain to see if a sip of the water would work its miracles on me. It must be potent because it tasted so bad!
After a picnic under the oaks, watching the beautiful peacocks, I just sat for awhile totally engrossed with what actually happened on this site. I was so calm, relaxed and at peace…Hmm, maybe I did discover the real fountain of youth!