The north of Florida, that is. We’d heard that New Year’s Eve was good in St Augustine, so decided to do a special trip. As it was likely to be busy, we booked accommodation for three nights (one motel, two camping). When the date approached, the weather forecast was not encouraging! But we’d booked, so we loaded the car and off we set, early on December 30.
There was a lot of traffic on the road, not to mention roadworks here and there, so it was a slow journey. The weather alternated between grey and gloomy/bright and sunny. But it was certainly cooler than usual, especially as we drove north. In St Augustine everyone was wearing jeans and fleeces – yet less than a week earlier we’d been on the beach, wearing shorts and t-shirts, watching people in bikinis and santa hats!
Over the Christmas period they have ‘Nights of Lights’ in St Augustine, when all the buildings in the city centre are decorated with millions of tiny white lights – reputed to be one of the best displays in the world. We’d booked a motel on the 30th so we could easily walk around the city. It truly was beautiful, especially all the hotels along the waterfront. There were crowds of people, and corresponding long waits for tables in restaurants, but it was worth it. We particularly enjoyed Flagler College, as we were allowed inside to see the magnificent rotunda. But it was cold: Ian managed to buy a woolly hat, but the shops had sold out of gloves. Not something we normally need in Florida!
New Year’s Eve
Next morning we had another stroll around the city, and then drove south.
The main New Year’s Eve celebration is at Pier Park in St Augustine Beach, so we’d booked a tent site at the KOA there. But first we detoured to Fort Matanzas, a national monument we’d not visited before. The fort itself is across an inlet of the sea, so you need to get there by ferry, and the two NPS boats were out of service, due to hurricane damage. So we could not visit, but we could see the fort from across the water. We enjoyed the nature trail, and walking along the beautiful beach opposite the fort. The weather was bright and sunny, and we even saw a dolphin!
Back to the campground, where we erected our tent – and got a shock. We hadn’t camped since March, but David and Donna borrowed our gear in the summer. We couldn’t believe how clean and neatly packed everything was!!!!! We had our traditional drinks while the mattress was inflating, and made the bed. Then we went down to the beach, and went for a walk along the shore.
In the evening we went back to the beach for the ‘Beach Blast-off’ celebration. This was rather disappointing: several food stalls, a drinks tent, a band playing untuneful music and some attractions for children. The fireworks were supposed to be accompanied by music, but it was totally unco-ordinated. Nevertheless, we had fun. We enjoyed some excellent food, and were highly amused to discover that we had to be ID’d before being given the wristbands which allowed you to purchase alcohol! Nice perhaps, to think we could be under 21 – we wish!
The strange thing to us was that this New Year celebration ended at 10pm – with two hours of 2017 still to go. (The fireworks in fact were scheduled for 8.30, but finally happened an hour later.) We walked back to our campsite and drank red wine as we waited for 2018. It was not as cold as we expected, and, warmly wrapped up, we felt quite comfortable sitting outside.
New Year’s Day
During the night, however, it became much colder. And it started to rain. And there was a strong wind. It hadn’t occurred to us to bring blankets to put on top of our duvet, so we got up, put more clothes on, and went back to bed. Even so, we were freezing. In the morning, we washed, dismantled the tent and loaded the car – all within half an hour. (The tent is, of course, no longer clean and neatly folded.) Then we drove two miles down the road and had breakfast in a convenient Starbucks.
We were due to camp that night in a state park, and there were other places we planned to visit on the way. But the weather was so appalling, we did the only sensible thing and drove home. Even in Sarasota it was cold – and still is – but not quite as bad as in the north.
So – not a great start to the new year! Our current wish is for better weather, but hopefully this cold spell will not last long. There are lots of things we wish for in 2018: Trump impeached and Brexit reversed are high on the list, but we’re not optimistic about either. We hope for continued good health so we can still travel – must start planning 2018 trips soon!
We want to do a lot of walking too. A year ago, we read about the ‘thousand mile challenge’ –it’s supposed to be good for older people especially to walk 1,000 miles a year. Sounds a lot, but it’s less than three miles a day, and we guessed that we probably do that anyway. So, mainly out of curiosity, we equipped ourselves with pedometers. We both passed the 1,000 miles in July, so had to revise our target. We decided 1,500 would be too easy, and 2,000 too challenging, so we compromised on 1,750. And we succeeded: by the end of 2017, Ian had clocked up 1,790 and Sandie 1,850. Whether we shall manage the same this year remains to be seen!
Whatever you wish for in 2018, we hope it’s a happy and healthy year for you and yours.