A week ago Friday, I welcomed my mom and her best friend Jean back to my St. Augustine stomping grounds. If it seems like they were just helping me move here, it’s because they were—two weeks prior.
If you ever find yourself with one night to stay in St. Augustine and are looking for a hotel with historic charm that is situated in the heart of downtown and comes with a direct view of the bay and the Bridge of Lions, I recommend the Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront.
Friday night, my mom and Jean set up camp here. Naturally, I invited myself to join so I could bask in the amenities while enjoying girl time. We had our own private bayfront balcony where we propped our feet up, sipped wine, kicked back and relaxed.
After sunset, Andrew joined us and we walked to dinner just down the street at O.C. White’s. Situated across from the bay, O.C. White’s boasts outdoor seating with abundant lights and foliage cover. This was my first visit to this eatery and the vegans at the table were not disappointed with the Garden Fresh Vegetable Sauté—an overflowing bowl of noodles featuring sautéed carrots, squash, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts. After an extended dinner by candlelight, we returned to the Hilton in time to watch the moonrise.
St. Augustine Saturday
Saturday we awoke to the sun beaming in through the curtains. We began our day with a walk over to the Kookaburra for coffee, before returning to take full advantage of our balcony until time to check-out. I couldn’t let us leave before posing as if we were on a tropical vacation, waking up in paradise, which was not too far from reality.
LIGHTHOUSE STAIR CLIMBING
After saying goodbye to the Hilton, our first Saturday stop was the St. Augustine Lighthouse. This landmark has quickly become one of my favorite tourist attractions. It’s affordable (with discounts for locals, seniors, and children) and conveniently enough, is within walking distance of my house. A trip to the St. Augustine Lighthouse offers you quite the stair workout. Plus, once you get to the top, you are greeted with panoramic views of both downtown St. Augustine and the Atlantic Ocean.
Warning: Watch out as you begin your climb to the top. Belongings have been known to bounce down the spiral staircase or fly down the center. This time it was a giant camera lens. Thankfully no one was harmed.
ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH SHORELINE
After descending the Lighthouse stairs, we took a short drive out to St. Augustine Beach, where we split a hummus-filled quesadilla for a lunch snack at my go-to beach joint, Stir It Up, before venturing out to walk along the Atlantic.
You know those people who manage to take the most glamorous of jumping photos? We’re not those people.
Jumping was followed by a more poised moment with my sweet mom.
EXPLORING THE FORT GROUNDS
Saturday afternoon, the weekend morphed into even more of a family vacation. In the afternoon hours, we returned to downtown St. Augustine where we joined forces with my South Carolina family (my mom’s sister Grace, my cousin Ashley, and her three-year-old daughter Lily Grace), who drove down from where they were staying just north in Ponte Vedra to spend an afternoon with us exploring my new home. One of our stops was the Castillo De San Marcos National Monument (the Fort). Rather than paying the entry fee, we wandered about the exterior walls, which is a picturesque experience.
Sidenote: Whenever I run downtown, I typically find myself running atop the Fort’s greens and along the sea wall.
I’m pretty sure this is what total bliss looks like.
After our time at the Fort, we took a detour, and headed toward a playground known as SWING. After some research, I discovered SWING actually stands for St. Augustine’s Wish (for its) Next Generation and was a community project built in 1997. The playground boasts more than 20,000-square-feet of slides, swings, wooden forts and towers, tire swings and other play equipment. If you have kids with you and are exploring downtown St. Augustine, this playground is conveniently located by the parking garage. As for our Saturday afternoon, it proved to be a three-year-old’s dream.
A FLORIDIAN-STYLE DINNER
Every dinner visit I’ve made to The Floridian recently has been after dark, which has deprived me of opportunities to adequately document the food or the experience. Saturday night, an early dinner in the back garden meant live music and the chance to snap a photo of the seasonal salad I order every single time. My summer salad was loaded with local lettuces, quinoa, chick peas, blueberries, carrots, and topped with delectable tempeh from the The Tempeh Shop.
The Floridian is conducive to ordering quite a number of menu options either vegetarian or vegan friendly. Andrew has become a fan of their veggie burger lately. Unfortunately, I always wait too late to ask him for a bite so I end up with scraps.
I typically avoid labeling anything as my favorite, but I can’t help it when it comes to The Floridian. It also doesn’t hurt that this is the location of my first date with Andrew, during my St. Augustine Spring Break trip.
After dinner, part of our family crew rode away in style thanks to Pedicab of St. Augustine pedaling by at the right moment.
Ponte Vedra Beach Retreat
As our St. Augustine Saturday came to a close, the six girls headed up to Ponte Vedra for a beachfront condo stay for the remainder of the weekend. We watched both the sun and the moon rise. We drank wine. We sat on the balcony. We swam in the ocean. We ran on the beach. We collected shells.
It was isolated. It was serene. But most of all, it offered us an inclusive stay to simply enjoy the time together.
Come Monday morning, we all parted ways.
The more time passes, the more I realize that although weekends like this might take planning, schedule coordination and effort on all parts, they prove time and time again to be worth every single minute. Most people come and go from your life as seasons change, but “family means forever.” To me, this mantra, and this weekend, reiterate the importance of family and reinforce the fact that time with family is treasured time.
Until next time…