Summer Travel Series: St. Augustine

Back in 2007, my family took a vacation to St. Augustine, Fla. I had never been to the historic city before and was so excited to go to such an architecturally rich location after having studied photography. I was sure I would get some great photographs. Well, on the first day of our vacation, just before we were heading out to do a little sight-seeing, the camera I was using (my dad's) decided to break. If this happened to me today I would be totally bummed and panicked about my camera, but at least I would have my iPhone to capture some memories. On this trip I had no such fancy phone. I didn't even text back in 2007!!! How did I survive???

This past spring I was lucky enough to return to our nation's oldest city, but this time I was only there for one day. When you're that short on time, you have to make the day count. So here are the highlights of my trip (I just realized while putting this post together that they're mostly food related). I guess I'm a bit of a foodie. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a list of fun things to do if you're going to visit St. Augustine. It's a great destination for a summer vacation, whether you're a history buff, foodie, or a family with kids.

St. Augustine: Our Nation's Oldest City

The first thing you should know about visiting St. Augustine is that you'll do a lot of walking. It's an old city, with narrow streets and areas that are roped off just for pedestrians. You will feel like you've been transplanted to Europe. The architecture is beautiful and even though I'm not much of a landscape photographer, I couldn't resist trying to capture the majesty of the city (which is no easy task!).

For me, no trip to St. Augustine would be complete without a visit to Claude's. On the 2007 trip to St. Augustine, my mom, sister and I stumbled across Claude's Chocolates, in the heart of the tourist part of the city. Claude's makes the most delicious bonbons and truffles. There are so many flavors to choose from-coconut, port wine, hazelnut, peppermint and passion fruit (just to name a few)--that I guarantee you'll have a hard time making up your mind on what to put in your box. There are a lot of chocolate shops in St. Augustine, but for me, Claude's is the best, hands down. A definite must stop for any chocolate aficionado. Best of all, Claude's ships nationwide, so you can try their chocolates even if you're having a stay-cation this year. Visit http://www.claudeschocolate.com/ for more information.

A second hidden gem in St. Augustine is a French pastry shop called Bon Ami. We found it by accident and it was such a delightful surprise. I have to confess I've been obsessed with French macarons ever since I visited Paris and tried the confections at the world-famous patisserie Laduree, so perhaps I got more excited about this bakery than the average person would, but I still say it is a must go. If you aren't familiar with macarons, they're meringue cookie sandwiches with flavored fillings. They're a hard dessert to perfect, but such perfection can be found in St. Augustine at Bon Ami. The decor in the shop is adorable and they sell a few gift items (recipe cards, rolling pins, bread boards) that make great souvenirs. If you're not into macarons, Bon Ami also has other sweet treats, such as homemade marshmallows (yum!). Don't be alarmed if there's a line out the door. The place is just teeny, tiny inside!

After a lot of walking and eating, my day in St. Augustine was at an end, but there is so much to do in this city that I could have stayed a week. Planning a trip to St. Augustine soon? Here's a small selection of what the city has to offer:

  • Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Also known as Fort Marion)
  • Flagler College (A stop not just for prospective students. My friend says they have a great tour full of interesting information about the city.)
  • Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse (It was built over 200 years ago!)
  • Dolphin Cruises (Departing from City Marina, a great activity to do with kids.)
  • Ripley's Believe It or Not
  • Cafe del Hidalgo (A great place to eat lunch, or to get a gelato for a snack.)
  • St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum (This is on my list for next time!)
  • Old Town Trolley Tours (Not into all the walking? Take a trolley tour of the historic city and you won't miss out on any of the sights!)