Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Jacksonville Florida

Jacksonville Florida

 The day after Christmas we left for Jacksonville, Florida. Some sports fans might think we went there to watch UK play GT in the TaxSlayer Bowl, New Years day, but we didn't. We went to explore the Jacksonville beaches, for a little R&R, and for some sun!
 Oh, and I can't forget, Bluebell Ice cream!!!
 Merinda got to share the 12 hour trip there, and 12 hours back, with our good friend Amanda Owens.
 Amanda's mom lives north of Orlando so Amanda hitched a ride with us, and surprised her mom with a 6 day visit. It was also fun for us to see Lisa and David again, who are originally from Kentucky.
The sunset was beautiful on the way into Jacksonville. The only things we actually did in Jacksonville was stay at a Marriott hotel, watch a movie, do a little shopping, and go to the farmer's market downtown.
 Even though it was in the upper 70's the entire time we were there (except for the day we left, it dropped down to 40!), the not tub still felt nice in the evenings.

Anastasia State Park

 Our first day the temperature was in the low 80's so we decided that was the peak day to spend at a beach. However, we didn't realize the whole area, especially the beaches, would get hit with dense fog, so we gave up and tried it again the next day. So the second day of our trip we went to Anastasia Beach, and it did not disappoint!
 In the distance you can see St. Augustine Light Station, which was built in 1874, and is still an active lighthouse today. It is located on the North end of Anastasia Island.
 I loved the little cactus on Anastasia Island.
 The sun and cloud configurations were breathtaking. 
We enjoyed just chillin on the soft, warm beach, and ended up taking a two-hour nap. 
 I then roamed the beach to get some good pictures of the ocean...
 but I couldn't help snapping some pictures of all the kids playing, they were just so cute!
 Merinda told me to stop because it was creepy,
 so I started taking pictures of her (much to her chagrin).
 I don't know if that is a smile or just the sun in her eyes.
 I loved watching the birds fly over the water and then dive head first to catch fish.
 Merinda got into the spirit a little more... 
 when we started taking Boomerang action shots. 
The birds were so entertaining as they flew, ate, and played around the water. 
 The other thing Anastasia Island had was tons of shells.
 Merinda holding a handful of crushed-up shells.
Here is our collection of various types of cockle shells. We didn't take these ones home because they were relatively small, I think most of the larger ones got smashed by the waves, which can get pretty big on Anastasia Island.
 The other interesting thing to see on the beach was a fishing pole, just sitting there.
 I asked the women what she was fishing for, and she said sharks (I didn't know if that was such a great idea with all the little kids playing on the beach!). It was a couple who was fishing together, the husband would swim the line out and secure it somehow (they were using fish as bait). Hmmm, interesting! 
 I don't know what this little flag was made out of, or what it used to be, but it was quite picturesque just floating under the tide.
 Anastasia beach was so wide and vast.
 No experience would be official without a selfie!
 To me, there is nothing more peaceful than walking along the beach.
 Sunset over the beach.

Saint Augustine

 The bridge to Saint Augustine.
 St. Augustine Harbor.
 St. Augustine train and trolley station.
Walking from the parking garage.
Walking the streets of St. Augustine.
St. Augustine had a ton of quaint little B&B's.
Because the holidays were just ending, each Bed and Breakfast, restaurant, and shop, still had up Christmas lights.
Unique architecture and foliage.
Distant views of Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.
Historic Flagler College.
Grace United Methodist Church, constructed by Henry Flager.
Trinity Episcopal Church, the oldest Protestant Church in Florida.
We had dinner on Aviles Street in the heart of Old Town St. Augustine. Aviles street is the oldest platted street in the US. It has been recorded on maps since the 1570's.
We ate Cuban food at La Herencia Cafe.
While eating, we were entertained with a medieval show, in the street.
All the trees in the Colonial Quarter were adorned with beautiful lights.
The Casa Monica Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in the U.S. and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.
The Lightner Museum (1887 Spanish Renaissance Revival style), originally the Alcazar Hotel, houses American Gilded Age antiquities, and a statue of Pedro Menedez de Aviles on the grounds.

Amelia Island State Park

Since our first day on Amelia Island we couldn't really see anything due to the fog, we decided to give it another chance. Here is a flag welcoming our own hometown team!
Luckily, the south side of the Island was nice and sunny, and almost 80 degrees, at least until it started to monsoon as we were grabbing something to eat.
We toured Fernandina Beach's historic downtown district.
The Palace Saloon is the oldest Saloon in Florida. It was the last American tavern to close during Prohibition (surviving as an ice cream parlor), and was visited by the likes of the Carnegies, Rockefellers and other socialites. 
Amelia Island welcome center.
Christmas lights on all the trees in the historic district.
Amelia Island Courthouse.
St. Peters Episcopal Church.
I loved all the interesting trees on Amelia Island. These Oak trees lined the streets leading to the Ritz-Carlton Resort.
This Spanish Moss tree in the middle of the street is named Kate's Tree, after  Kate protected it from being cut down by holding a shotgun while sitting on her veranda. 
Brett's Waterway Cafe on front street.
For lunch, and to get out of the monsoon, we ate at Timoti's Seafood Shak.
We had awesome blackened fish mango tacos.
Unfortunately, the North side of the island, or the side with all the nice beaches, was still foggy.
More beach combing would have to wait another day.

Talbot Islands

A view of Fort George River on the drive to the Talbot Islands. 
Big and little Talbot Islands, along with Amelia Island, are all barrier islands and state parks.
Boardwalks protected the swales, dunes, salt-water plant-life, and various animals (many endangered or threatened). 
There was no swimming on Little Talbot Island due to the dangerous undercurrent caused by the creeks and rivers feeding into the Atlantic.
The opposite currents were really fascinating,
and formed little pools which Merinda is wading through in the picture above.
The interesting water formations provided pockets for millions of shells to accumulate at low tide.
It was, by far, our favorite place to collect shells.
A fisherman - because of the many tidal creeks, Little Talbot Island was ideal for fishing (or learning to surf).
Ocean-liner on the horizon.  
Although it was cloudy, the temperature was a comfortable 78 degrees.
Even Brad started looking for the perfect sea shell.
The Talbot Islands have miles and miles of nature, marsh, and shoreline trails for walking, biking, or hiking. 
Little Talbot Island is also a great place to observe migratory and resident shorebirds.
Migratory birds hanging out on a sandbar.
I guess Brad's presence scared them away.
The beaches on Little Talbot Island were even more vast than the beaches on Anastasia Island.
It's difficult to see in the picture, but the wind had created a crisscross pattern in the sand.
Here I am standing on a bed of sea shells!
Some larger shells we found, but didn't keep because they were chipped or broken.
But then we found the ultimate - a whole sand dollar!!
After narrowing down our favorites, these are the shells we decided to keep.
Brad even found a shell in the shape of a ring!
And it fit my finger perfectly!
A Horseshoe Crab.
As you can tell from the underside, Horseshoe Crabs are more closely related to spiders, ticks, and scorpions than to crabs.
The Horseshoe crabs are now protected due to declining numbers because of their use as bait for eel, whelk, and conch. Their decline in numbers affected the Red Knot shorebirds who relied on the crab's eggs for food, and also threatened the Atlantic Loggerhead Turtles who are predators of the Horseshoe Crabs.   
Picturesque driftwood.
Brad doing his part to take care of the environment. I could have spent weeks on the Talbot Islands alone because of all the unique things to see and do (canoeing/kayaking, fishing, surfing, camping, hiking, biking, birding, picnicking, horseback riding and more).
The last day of our trip was a little cooler so we did some shopping at the outlet malls, watch the movie Sing at the movie theater, and ate dinner at a Thai restaurant where the food was excellent. Here is a picture of our dessert - mango rice pudding! And it was just as delicious as it was beautiful. 

We had a wonderful time exploring the cities and beaches around Jacksonville, Florida, and look forward to our next Florida adventure in the Tampa Bay area!