My Life and Other Stuff

Our next stop was St. Augustine, Florida. It was the first European settlement in North America. However, it wasn't colonized by the English, like most of the United States. It was colonized by the Spanish.

We started with a visit to a pirate museum. I expected it to be kind of childish, but it was actually very cool. We saw an authentic Jolly Roger flag, a pirate's chest, some gold doubloons and jewels, and privateer's licenses and other old documents. There was a "cat-o'-nine-tails", also known as a whip. Back in the 17th century, whips were called cat-o'-nine-tails because they had many ropes ("tails") on them. They were used for flogging(whipping) misbehaving sailors.

We picked up a sword and a musket, lifted a gold bar, and turned a ship's steering wheel. We learned about famous pirates like Captain Kidd, Calico Jack, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Anne Bonny and Mary Read were two women pirates who fought alongside Calico Jack. Anne Bonny was his wife. One day, their ship was attacked by English. Jack and most of his crew (besides the two women) was drunk, and didn't put up much resistance. They were captured and Anne and Mary said they were pregnant, and weren't hanged. Jack, however, was not so lucky. Before the hanging, Anne told Jack, "Had you fought like a man, you needn't hang like a dog."

Speaking of which, we also learned that back in the 1700's, they called hanging the "Hempen Jig". Hemp is a plant people used back then to make ropes. A jig is a type of dance where you shake and hop. They called hanging the Hempen Jig because the rope was made out of hemp, and when people were hung, they'd jiggle and shake in the air.

After visiting the museum, we took a walk throught the old town. The street there were paved with cobblestones. The houses were very small. There were plaques on most of them saying how old the buildings were - most of them were built back in the 1700s. People walked right on the streets, stepping away to make way for the cars. There were no sidewalks, because back in those days people didn't use them. They also built their houses very small because they didn't have a lot of resources. We saw a very old one-room schoolhouse that people claimed to be the oldest in the U.S. I don't know if that's true, though, because there are a lot of schoolhouses in different cities that people claim to be the oldest. There was a big chain with an anchor attached to the end wrapped around the schoolhouse. The streets were lined with bushes, shrubs, and some very, very, very old trees. There were also tons of stores, restaurants, bed and breakfast places, and cafes. People sat and ate outside in small courtyards, under the trees.

The next morning, we went to the Castillo de San Marcos. It was called a castle (castillo), but it was really more of a fort. Nobody except the guards lived there during peaceful times. During a siege, however, everyone would go to the castle. There would always be people guarding the castle. The enormous square on the bottom floor was used for training guards. We walked around and read about some of the castle's history. Some Spanish colonists built a town there in the 17th century. They were attacked by pirates a lot, so they decided to build a fort. Not just a tall, wooden fence running around the city. A real, stone fort where they could keep guard, where the supplies could be stored and where people could go during attacks. There aren't many 17th century castles in North America, so it was cool to visit one. They built the castle so well, it was never taken. It was passed on from one country to the next, but usually through peaceful contracts. The pirates stopped coming once the castle was built. It was made out of a stone called coquina. Coquina is made of shells and gravel. It is very porous. That means it has a lot of gaps and holes in it. It also means that it's not very good protection against water. The Spaniards living in the castle joked that if it rained outside on Wednesday, it would rain inside on Thursday. They had to cover the walls with plaster. Coquina is also very soft and crumbly (for a stone, that is). The Spaniards didn't have much of a choice, though, so they built it out of what they could find. They built the walls 9 feet thick because they were afraid that when the pirates started shooting cannons at them, the walls would crumble. It turned out, however, that coquina absorbed the impact of enemy fire, kind of like Styrofoam. The cannonballs would get stuck in the walls instead of shaking them. During the night, the Spaniards would get out of the castle and take the cannonballs out of the walls. They'd fill the holes in the wall with straw and put a fresh layer of plaster over it. In the morning, the attackers would see that the castle was now all white again and there was no sign of the cannonballs despite yesterday's battle.

The castle was beseiged a lot. Ironically, after the castle was built, the pirates didn't come anymore because it was too hard for them to get into the city.

Once, during a siege, the barometer started dropping. A barometer measures the air pressure. If the air pressure is low, that means a hurricane is coming. Anything inside the castle would be safe. The Spaniards mocked the attackers, telling them they could stay if they wanted, that they would pick up what was left of them. The attackers ran away as fast as they could.

Another time, the castle was running out of food. They were about to lose to the English, when some Spanish ships docked. The ships were full of not only food, but Spanish soldiers with guns. The attackers decided that their best bet was to retreat.

The castle also had a tidal flush system. People went to the bathroom in deep holes. When the tide came in, it would carry away the people's business. This helped to not spread disease.

While we were there, we saw a lot of cannons. They were all in use at one time or another, and you can see on the photos when some of them were made - some as early as the 17th century! We also learned that the towers there were used to send signals to a lighthouse two miles away. We also saw a musket demonstration.

After we left the Castillo de San Marcos, we went to the Villa Zorayda. The Villa Zorayda is claimed to be a replica of the Alhambra castle in Granada, Spain, but 10 times smaller. Take a look at these photos and decide for yourself if that's true.


The Villa Zorayda

An image of the Alhambra I got from Google

Inside, however, portions of it look a little like the Alhambra. They didn't let us take photos inside the Villa Zorayda, though, so I can't prove it.

This is who waited for us on the doorstep when we got back to our motel that afternoon:

It was at least 3 inches long! We moved it away carefully.

When we entered, the clock on the microwave said 3:42. My mom checked on her phone. The time was correct. Ten minutes later, my mom told my grandma to come over there.

"Have you ever heard that even a broken clock still shows the time correctly twice a day?"

"Yes", my grandma said. "Why do you ask?"

"Because, according to the microwave, it's still 3:42!"

Somebody before us must have left the microwave on 3 minutes 42 seconds, so it looked like it was 3:42. What a coincidence that we looked at it when it was actually 3:42!

The next morning, we went to the beach. It was huge! Despite the fact that the water was very cold, I stayed in it for a very long time. We packed our things and drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee.