Thursday, April 12, 2007

Greetings from St. Augustine
I'm sitting outside at Cafe Cordova, having just finished a day of research and sightseeing in St. Augustine. Let's hear it for free wi-fi!

The morning started with one of my favorite perks of being a writer, putting the top down on the convertible to travel to exotic locales. I drove the winding two lane (most of the way) route from Gainesville to St. Augustine, passing through fields of phlox and towns long gone, and a few like Melrose in the midst of revitalization. Spuds (Yes, they grow potatoes there), Hastings, Florahome and Putnam Hall. I saw Cracker homesteads where Julia and Rand from Smuggler's Bride would have felt right at home. There were pecan groves and roadside stands selling fresh produce and flats of luscious strawberries. I drove beneath live oaks dripping Spanish moss as they arched over the old route to the Ancient City, and enjoyed every minute of it.

When I got to St. Augustine I parked near the old city and stopped for lunch at a Cuban cafe where I had black beans and rice and for dessert, tres leches and black as Hades Cuban coffee. Well fortified, I went to the Historical Society and did some research on old Minorcan costumes and maps from 1817. Then I toured Father O'Reilly House, part of the Convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph and one of the older homes in St. Augustine. This was a new tour for me, and while I knew some of the history of the nuns and their work teaching black children during Reconstruction and after, I learned more about the history of the order, about Father O'Reilly and Father Varela, two early priests in the diocese in the 18th and 19th C. I passed on the opportunity to buy holy cards, but did leave a small donation.

I spent my honeymoon in St. Augustine over 30 years ago and I have to say it's improved in the interim. More history, less emphasis on tacky tourist sites. I walked the old streets, Aviles, St. George, Marine and took time to read all the plaques on the walls. I confirmed that the Plaza was the site of the slave market, and important point in my WIP. Sure, I could have called the historical society to find out, but what's the fun in that?

So now I'm winding up and driving the 70 miles home, having spent a productive work day that nonetheless felt like a mini-vacation. I hope your workday has been equally productive, even if it's likely it wasn't as much fun.

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