By LARRY VAUGHT
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — If Josh Allen continues to play the way I think he will for the Jacksonville Jaguars, my guess is that a lot of University of Kentucky fans might find a way to see him play.
If you do, why not combine that with a vacation to nearby St. Augustine. After spending almost two weeks here on my second visit to America’s oldest city, I am all-in with this area for so many reasons.
There’s so much to do and see — or you can just relax on the beach. It’s a win-win.
I thought I might share 10 things I’ve done in the last two weeks in St. Augustine that were new for me (and they are listed in no particular order).
1. I never expected to enjoy the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum like I did. It was my first time to be allowed inside a lighthouse to climb all 219 steps to the top where you got a magnificent view. But the history and artifacts in the museum were also amazing. I would highly recommend a visit and allow at least two hours.
2. Never have I seen as many alligators as I did at the Alligator Farm, but the best part was that you could buy food and feed them — and they were as eager to eat as ducks and goldfish I had fed before. The alligators are so big but can move so fast in the water. They also had several white alligators on display along with some gigantic turtles.
3. I have not really played golf in 30 years but loved a chance to visit the World Golf Hall of Fame. Where else do you get a chance to put your name atop a leaderboard above Jack Nicklaus? Not only did I get a chance to see exhibits about every Hall of Famers but there was so much history to read and see.
4. When I am out running, I like to look around for different spots to maybe go back to. I found the Beachcomber restaurant just a few yards off the beach. The restaurant had plenty of outdoor seating and a play area in the sand for kids. But the best part is that I ordered the Shipwreck burger — a hamburger topped with fried shrimp. That was a first for me but it was so, so good.
5. At age 67, I need anything I can to help me feel younger. That’s why I was intrigued to visit the legendary Fountain of Youth discovered by Juan Ponce de Leon when he traveled to Florida in 1513. The Fountain is a spring that legend says estores the youth of anyone who drinks or bathes in its waters. Naturally, I had to have a few drinks — just in case it did work. I thought it would be more of a flowing stream than what it is now but still just being there was pretty invigorating. I also enjoyed the cannon, musket and crossbow demonstrations.
6. Whetstone Chocolate is heaven. We did the tasting tour and got to go through the plant to see how this incredible chocolate that is more natural and healthy is made. The story of the Whetstone family giving up a huge national business to stick to its beliefs of having a healthy chocolate was something I didn’t know. And being in that factory to taste the chocolates — and learn that’s where those delicious milk chocolate Easter Bunny treats I had growing up — was a true treat.
7. Okay, I like to try new foods and found a dandy at the Back40 thanks to friends’ recommendations. The “wet burrito” has black beans, brown rice, roasted red peppers, shredded cheddar jack cheese, tomatoes and lettuce all wrapped in a flour tortilla. Then it is covered in red chili sauce and topped with more cheese, baked and served with sour cream, pickled jalapenos and green onions.
8. If I see a shell on the beach, I normally stop and pick it up. At St. Augustine Beach, I got to pick up A LOT OF SHELLS. Every morning I usually went for a run or walk on the beach and I am taking home so many shells to use in my flower bed near my front porch. And not just little shells — these were really nice shells. Even better, the beach is not crowded and I think there are seven different beaches in a small area here. Everyone is beautiful in its own way and from what I can tell, there is not a bad time of year to visit and enjoy these beaches.
9. Pink Up The Pace 5K was something I noticed on an events calendar here and thought it might be fun. Little did I know that it was one of few runs where the downtown historic district is closed to traffic so runners can run through that area. It was so much fun seeing the unique spots along the route, listening to the bands or just enjoying the spectators, including many in costumes. The event attracted almost 3,000 participants to make it the largest run I’ve ever been part of.
10. I got to try datil pepper sauce for the first time. The datil pepper is a locally grown product and seems to be used in almost every Minorcan recipe. The pepper is used to create hot sauces, jellies and mustards and you can buy them at various locations in St. Augustine. I noticed that most places had a unique version of datil pepper sauce. I used it to dip shrimp and other fish in. I even put it on a baked potato. A friend even told me how good the jelly is with cream cheese. We didn’t get a chance to attend the Datil Pepper Festival that was going on when we were here (and this area has more festivals than anywhere I can ever remember being) but it is now on the bucket list.
11. Okay, I have to throw in one more from my final morning on the beach. There was a youth surfing competition. My first time to see a live surfing competition and fortunately someone explained how to tell which surfers were being judged among the 100 or so in the water. Amazing how talented these kids — both male and female — were and I gave up my walk and shell collecting just to watch.
Actually, I could go on and on about some of the other restaurants we visited — including the Conch House were we ate under a tiki hut — or the scenic cruise we took to the national parks forts. Bottom line, WE ARE COMING BACK TO ST. AUGUSTINE because there’s nothing not to like here.