This past weekend we took our VERY first family vacation-- just for fun, just the seven of us. All our previous vacations have been either to visit our extended family, or with our extended family. This time, we took off for a long weekend, just our own little family, across the state of Florida to see St. Augustine, the oldest city in the country. Preserving our family memories is one of the main reasons I started blogging in the first place. I figured if I am going to record our memories anyway, I might as well share them.
The kids and I prepared for the trip for weeks ahead of time, reading stories of old St. Augustine and looking at old maps. As a home schooling family, there was no way we could let the trip pass without turning it into a hands-on learning experience. As I hoped, our trip turned out to be part history lesson, part relaxing vacation- and, most importantly, all family fun!
We got to visit the Castillo de San Marcos fort built in the late 1600’s of coquina stone to protect the Spanish settlers from attacks by the British, unfriendly Indians, and pirates. The fort has stood the test of time and the kids LOVED checking it out so much that we ended up there three times- stopping in each day of our trip. The kids were able to earn Jr. Park Ranger badges and certificates, experience the “soldiers” firing the cannons twice, and see where the settlers lived, worked, slept, attended Mass, and more when forced to retreat to the fort for safety when under siege. I have a million pictures but will only share a couple.
|Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, FL|
|Tim and the kids found a place to sit and work on their Jr. Park Ranger packets|
|Firing the cannon!|
We also got to visit the Mission of Nombre de Dios that includes the Shrine to Our Lady of La Leche. Tim and I had visited it once before, back in 2009, just weeks after finding out we were expecting our fifth child. That first time we went, it was a very spiritual experience being there and hearing about the story behind the devotion to Our Lady of La Leche while newly pregnant myself. I felt that going back in 2012, and taking our now three-year-old “baby” along, was almost like a pilgrimage of thanksgiving for the blessing of our beautiful youngest girl. The children enjoyed seeing the 208 foot cross erected at the sight of Menendez’s landing back in 1565 and seeing the rustic altar that commemorates our country’s very first Mass.
We went to Mass at the nation’s first parish in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. The kids got to play on the portion of the town wall that still stands and walk through the old city gates. We spent some time on St. George Street- checking out the touristy shops and the old buildings. We even got a personal tour of one of the old houses- the Pena-Peck house, run these days by the St. Augustine Women’s Exchange. We got to go to the Ponce de Leon hotel built by Henry Flagler and now a part of the college that bears his name. We got to visit the St. Augustine lighthouse and Tim and the older children went all the way up the 219 steps to the top to enjoy the gorgeous view of the city. My children, who have all lived in Florida their entire lives finally got to see and stick their toes in a real ocean (the Atlantic Ocean is not very different than the Gulf of Mexico which we see almost daily but still everyone should get to see an actual ocean!) We toured the Whetstone Chocolate factory (my oldest daughter’s very favorite part of the trip); we swam in the hotel pool, laughed and giggled together over silly little things, and enjoyed and appreciated the fun of being together, seeing a little more of our home state, and having a break from our busy schedules.