We travelled through what appeared to be the set of Scooby Doo – creeping along the unlit backroads of Florida. Moss hung from the veiny tree branches – like a scary handed monster in the moonlight, we arrived in St. Augustine.
Tourists and beer induced loud-talk crowded the bustling streets. The boardwalk lit the entrance to the sea where boats bobbed up and down and masts waved to us as we walked past. A single metal chain was the only object that kept you from falling into the cold ocean from the concrete ledge. Drunks beware.
It was two days before Christmas and white lights hung from restaurants gleaming in the thick, airy night. We dined on a huge seafood platter of oysters, crab, mussels and shrimp at an Irish pub. We walked the streets and peeked into bars, restaurants, ice cream, jewelry, art and gift shoppes.
Our whisky induced excitement had us hooping and hollering in the streets of my mind, making friends wherever we went. It always felt liberating to be away from home and in full explore mode. St. Augustine certainly didn’t feel like Florida, but nothing feels like Florida as much as Miami.
I admired the cutesy historic homes that ducked in the shadows of the energetic square as I sheepishly peeped through thin curtains from the road. A costly late night horse carriage ride led us through the bumpy streets, passing still graveyards and under colonial architecture. My son sat in complete silence throughout the entire ride.
The next morning we ate breakfast and ran into a local that had grown up in St. Augustin as a child. She came over to our table and advised us to check out the indoor pool and Flagler college, which we did, but not before visiting the market I heard so much about years before.
Not even the holiday garland could hide the shame that happened in the “old slave market.” Largely ignored by locals and overlooked by tourists, the haunting structure faces the waterfront. The denial of the slave market is eerie and pathetic.
A significant civil rights protest had taken place there in June of 1964 lead by Rev. Ralph David Abernathy & Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King where both were sent to the St. Augustine jail. Dr. King said it was the nicest jail he’d ever been in and wrote rabbis from his jail cell about how St. Augustine is the “most lawless” city in America.
My husband refused to give the market the time of day but my curious nature was drawn to it. I scanned every inch trying to recreate the horror but unable to grasp the reality. I walked away letdown.
We toured the rest of the town quickly as we raced against an incoming storm that would eventually catch up with us on our way to Savannah.