Is it really a castle or should it be classified as a fort? There’s some debate about that point with regard to Castillo de San Marcos, but there’s no doubt that it’s a very impressive structure in a very impressive city – or that this city, St. Augustine, is the oldest city in what is now the United States, being founded more than two centuries before the nation itself was founded. We spent the better part of a day soaking up the history and charm that ooze from every crack in the plaster, wood and coquina of this ancient municipality, in the vicinity of where Juan Ponce de Leon supposedly meandered in search of the Fountain Of Youth. He didn’t find it, but people have been happily following in his footsteps ever since.

We traced the footsteps of industrialist Henry Flagler, who was responsible for three of the city’s most magnificent architectural treasures. We strolled down historic St. George Street, the heart of the city, bustling with all kinds of colorful little shops and restaurants and cafes and museums (including a medieval torture museum). And of course we visited the castle/ fort, which was officially closed because of the current government shutdown. That means we couldn’t go inside and see presentations by costumed interpreters. But the exterior in itself quite amazing.

St. Augustine is not a very big city, but it makes a very big impression.