We want to thank our friend Bob for suggesting we stop at St Augustine to take in the sights. We went down to the complimentary breakfast to find it lived up to the horrors of the room, so we opted to park in the Trolley Tour parking lot and look for a restaurant close by so we could have a hot breakfast. I was getting tired of coffee and bagel for breakfast. The only place within walking distance was a Dunkin Donut…so I had the usual breakfast. At least I could sit down to eat….the hotel provided breakfast but nowhere to sit! That was a first!!!
We bought tickets to tour Ripley’s Beleive It or Not ( Brian’s choice), Flagler College – formerly the Ponce De Leon Hotel ( my choice) and got tickets to tour the jail….I goofed…Brian wanted to tour the pirate museum and I bought the wrong tickets!
I absolutely cannot take photos to do this place justice, nor have time in this blog to tell the fascinating story of builder – Mr Flagler, the interior designer Mr Tiffany…yes that Mr Tiffany and artist Maynard. I encourage you to check out www.drbronsontours.com and check out the various choices provided. It is amazing this huge hotel was constructed in just 18 months. It took well over 1000 men to complete it in that time. It would likely take 5 years now. Thomas Edison personally oversaw the installation of the wiring and lighting in the hotel. The first hotel to have same. In order to provide the electricity they had on site steam generators. In later years Mr Flagler drilled a well miles away and piped in fresh water to provide water for the indoor plumbing. The towers were retro fitted with huge tanks to hold enough fresh water to supply the hotel. The first water source was local and contained a high amount of sulfur so the guests, the linens and the rooms smelled of rotten egg gas.
Mr Flagler felt no one would want to come to Florida except in the cold months, so the hotel was open Jan, Feb and March and closed the rest of the year. He wanted an exclusive clientelle so you couldn’t stay there unless he invitied you. The staff/guest ratio was 1:1. If you were going to stay at the hotel you had to pay for the entire three months and in today’s dollars, the stay would be upwards of $250,000.00.
This tour took about 2 hours but I think I could have stayed all day. At every twist and turn there was another jaw dropping design, feature or piece of art. The Tiffany stained glass windows appear everywhere and one can only imagine their worth. In the ladies parlour are 11 Australian crystal chandeliers designed by Mr Tiffany. I don’t think any hotel currently designed, could stand up to the beauty and granduer of this place, which is now a working College. It was quiet a sight to see the students in the grand dining room sitting on the original Tiffany chairs having their lunch. I would have thought the tuition to attend school here would be very high but in reality it’s half the mean average cost. I hope these kids enjoy and appreciate the building they attend school in.
It was time for lunch and we hopped the Trolley to go to an Irish pub for lunch. I had the sliders ( an appetizer) and got a full plate piled high with brisket cooked in Guiness, topped with mushrooms and a mile high mound of string onions rings. I could only eat a 1/4 of what I received. Brian had a Rueben and the sandwich was at least 4 inches thick with meat, kraut and cheese. His came with a side of hand cut fries. Again, more food than one person could eat.
Next stop – Ripley’s Beleive It or Not. This is his original museum with lots of his artifacts, photos and collectables from around the world. Some of the stuff was just plain weird and other stuff left you in awe. I got a lesson in how to shrink a head. I think this is a skill one wouldn’t use much….I dearly hope. We saw a stuffed cow with two legs sticking out of her back, a lamb with two heads….you know…lovely collectables for your parlour. I think Brian could have spent the day there.
Final stop – the jail. Besides the gruesome displays at Ripleys, this place capped off the demonstration of man’s inhumanity to man. It was a place of torture, starvation and death. A sentence of 5 years usually meant a life sentence as many prisoners did not survive the diet, the rat infested cells, and the filth – a pail for a toilet of ten men, emptied weekly. They have a life sized illustration of the longest serving warden. He was a big guy, well over 6’6″ and 350 lbs. Here I am having a little fun with him.
LATE ENTRY: Upon review of this, I see it’s not clear in this photo where my hand is. It’s on MY KNEE!!!! I’m not sure if these blogs are checked for content…I may be in trouble…but I am innocent!!!!
We ended up taking longer on the tours than anticipated, so we didn’t leave St Augustine until 4 pm. We drove over the Lion’s bridge to catch scenic highway A1A along the outer coast. Bob was so right, this is a beautiful road and we didn’t mind travelling the reduced speed of 45 mph.
Before I sign off I have an interesting story regarding this photo on the right. There are two replica’s of Michangelo’s “David” one is in Vegas and the other sits outside of the Ripley’s Beleive It Or Not Museum in St Augustine. When this piece was placed on the grounds the people of St Augustine were not happy to have this nude David for small children to view so insisted it be removed or shrouded from view. The museum decided to plant tall shrubs all around it, so it’s like a maze to actually get in to see it. You might think people were prudes in those days…but those days were only two years ago!