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Castillo de San Marcos National Monument #10 Florida

L-R Sierra Gilman, Teddy, Schyeler Gilman

The Castillo is another very special place for our family. Anna was 8 the first time we went to St. Augustine, FL. It was Halloween and she was dressed in her pretty princess dress. She was Trick or Treating on St. George Street, the oldest street in America, across the street from the Castillo. We walked around the Castillo after St. George and admired it in the moonlight and uplights. It was beautiful!

Funny aside story, we live at 8,000' and Halloween is always a challenge. What kind of costume do you make or get that can go over a snowsuit? Because it is either freezing cold or blizzarding on Halloween. So I had sewn this beautiful, gold, warm cape to go over her princess dress, afraid she would be cold...I carried it the entire evening because it was too hot. Live and and learn.

Anna trick or treating on St. George Street. St. Augustine is about 500 years old.

The princess in her horse drawn carriage.

Princess Anna Rose in the Columbia House Restaurant.

Best Cuban food ever!

Checking out the candy procured from Halloween

The next day we toured the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument...

...and other places around town.

Lightner Museum. Used to be a fancy hotel.

Making friends

Colonial Spanish Quarter Living Museum

Harry's Restaurant, from this day pictured, Harry's remained her favorite always. Whenever we would get to town she begged to go to Harry's.

And Flagler College. I will never forget that first night in St. Augustine. We were strolling by the college and she said, "What is that?!?". I replied "it used to be a luxurious hotel in the old days, but now is a college". "That's where I'm going to college!" she replied enthusiastically. Do you know, she never wavered off of going to Flagler until the day came to make the official decision. Basically it came down to the offerings at the school; otherwise I have no doubt she would have gone there.

Anna loved St. Augustine! It was nearly a second home to her. We went at least once a year and she would take her friends and share the amazing history of St. Augustine and the Castillo with them.

Sorry for the detour down memory lane, but I wanted you to understand how special St. Augustine and the Castillo de San Marcos is to her, her mom and her dad.

St. Augustine & Flagler College through eyes of the Castillo

Inner courtyard of the Castillo

The Castillo de San Marcos was built around 1565 when Spaniard, Predro Menendez de Aviles and 800 Spanish settlers declared the area for Spain. I'm certain most, if not all of you, have been taught in school that Plymouth Rock, Jamestown and the like are the beginnings of our country; they are wrong. Our country started in the 1500's in Florida! Oh and the other thing that we have been taught incorrectly is the first Thanksgiving was 1621 by English settlers. It was September 8th, 1565 by Spanish settlers and their new American Indian friends in Florida, nearly 55 years before! Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales officiated the mass and meal that followed, celebrating the 1st Thanksgiving on these shores. So we are celebrating Thanksgiving totally wrong in our country! The things you learn when you go to The Castillo de San Marcos are astounding. I have been going for about 15 years, every year, and always learn something new. That's exciting!!!

The Castillo is built almost entirely of a substance called "Coquina". What is coquina?!? It's basically crushed sea shells and sand that have been naturally compressed by Mother Nature. There were no rocks with which to build a fort in that part of Florida and not that many trees, so the Spaniards were forced to use coquina which they found in abundance on Anastasia Island just to the east. By now you are probably doubting the intelligence of our fearless Spanish forefathers, but it turns out coquina was a brillant product for a fort. It's light and porous and on first look seems like a really dumb idea for building a fort. It was light so it could be transported easily and quickly, but here's the major bonus of coquina, cannonballs bounce off of it or just burrow into the thick walls. The walls could not be shattered. I'm sure the attacking Brits were thinking "Brilliant, bloody brillant!" The Castillo, Fort Mantanzas, and St. Augustine look as good today as it did nearly 500 years ago. Now that's a quality building product! BTW, The Castillo & Fort Mantanzas are the only two forts in the world built of coquina.

Today they still do re-enactments of shooting the cannons. These wonderful volunteers wear around 40 pounds of wool uniforms and gear in very hot, humid weather. They are always happy to share their vast stores of knowledge and history with anyone who asks.

Yes, it's

really loud!

Here are some pictures of what the rooms inside the Castillo would have looked like.

Thank you for letting me share one of my favorite National Monuments with you. I hope I didn't bore you with all my memories, but if you want to know Anna, you need to know St. Augustine and the Castillo.

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