Florida in its Quincentenary Year

Castillo de San Marcos,  1572, Spanish fortress
Castillo de San Marcos, 1572, Spanish fortress

At best, the European empires who vied for centuries over control of the Western Hemisphere considered Florida a convenient military outpost for protecting shipping lanes to and from the old world. Misquotes, yellow fever, swamps and wars are never good for real estate sales. European empires and American statehood did little for Florida’s economy. It took Henry Flagler – John D. Rockefeller’s  partner in Standard Oil – to create an American Riviera and the state’s first golden age. His entrepreneurial expertise built the Florida East Coast Railroad, a plethora of elegant hotels, the cities of Miami and Palm Beach and revived the oldest city in North America, St. Augustine. From the late 1800’s through 1929, Florida basked in both its sunlight and the glint of a golden age in tourism.

Henry Flagler's Hotel Alcazar, 1888 (now the Lightner Museum) St. Augustine, Fl
Henry Flagler’s Hotel Alcazar, 1888 (now the Lightner Museum) St. Augustine, Fl

More wars, the Great Depression and jet aircraft diverted attention and Florida’s luster suffered from the 1960’s to the end of the century. Yet the 21st century has witnessed a renaissance in interest in America’s sub-tropical real estate and it’s 20th century golden age.

 Vinoy® Renaissance Resort and Golf Club
Vinoy® Renaissance Resort and Golf Club

Florida pink is the color of St. Petersburg grand hotels

The arts are flourishing with the revival of resort destinations such as the gulf coast’s St. Petersburg. The venerable Morean Arts Center (1917) has built a new facility just to feature America’s preeminent glass artist, Dale Chihuly.

Persian Sunset Wall by Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Collection, St. Petersburg, Fl
Persian Sunset Wall by Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Collection, St. Petersburg, Fl

Chihuly illuminates the art scene in St. Petersburg, Fl 

500 years ago (1513) Don Ponce de Leon fruitlessly searched for the legendary fountain of youth and discovered Florida instead. A lot of history and visitors have followed and they all needed a bed. The building that is now St. Augustine’s renowned St. Francis Inn was built while the city was still part of the Spanish empire – 1791. Yet Joe and Margaret Finnegan have never seen Lily even though they have owned St. Augustine’s historic St. Frances Inn for nearly three decades. Of course, Lily’s not a guest…

The St. Francis Inn
The St. Francis Inn

It’s no mystery why Lily stays at the St. Francis Inn, St. Augustine, Fl

An attentive and friendly staff of 14 oversee the many details that can make a guest of the St. Francis Inn forget they’re also visiting one of America’s great historic destinations, St. Augustine, Fl.

Strawberry soup, St. Francis Inn, St. Augustine, Fl
Strawberry soup, St. Francis Inn, St. Augustine, Fl

Recipes from Florida’s oldest B & B, St. Francis Inn, St. Augustine

Bistro de Leon is a husband and wife team matched in their senses, love of food and making people comfortable.

Seafood risotto, Bistro de Leon
Seafood risotto, Bistro de Leon

Jean-Stephane is Bistro de Leon, St. Augustine, Fl, but Valerie sets the style

City walks has tours featuring St. Augustine pubs, ghosts, chocolate and mayhem that should cover anything of importance in the first 500 years.

Athena Cafe, St. Augustine, Fl
Athena Cafe, St. Augustine, Fl

St. Augustine’s Savory Faire walk table hops through history

The first thing you notice when you walk into Meehan’s Irish Pub and Seafood House are the autographed Jameson whiskey bottles that line the rafters of the bar.

Meehan's Irish Pub & Seafood House, At. Augustine, Fl
Meehan’s Irish Pub & Seafood House, At. Augustine, Fl

Meehan’s Irish Pub & Seafood House helps explain the 450 year lure of St. Augustine

Sunset & pirate ship, Clearwater, Fl
Sunset & pirate ship, Clearwater, Fl

You can read all my articles on Examiner.com at:

Culinary Travel Examiner

 International Dining Examiner

International Travel Examiner

Philadelphia Fine Dining Examiner

and

 Food & Recipes Examiner