Escape to the Old City: St. Augustine, FloridaWritten by Nicole Brownfield
As temperature climbs, mind drifts to thoughts of relaxing days spent by ocean – white sand between your toes, a soothing lullaby created by gentle surf, and tranquil azure-blue water that seems to stretch infinitely before you. The appeal of ocean is universal and beach vacations have been a favorite of travelers for generations. As pristine beaches become harder to find, St. Augustine remains absolutely beloved by travelers for one very simple reason - here you feel a sense of renewal and peace that can’t be found anywhere else.
St. Augustine was discovered in 1513 when Juan Ponce de Leon, sailing along Atlantic coast in search of fabled fountain of youth, came ashore somewhere in vicinity and claimed continent for Spain. Nicknamed “The Old City,” it is oldest continually inhabited settlement in America – that’s right, it was settled before Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock – and remains one of most charming and quaint beach towns in America. In addition to its historical ties to Spanish Empire, town also boasts many remnants from Flagler Era, when Henry Flagler’s vision of a luxury resort community added marinas, golf courses, and luxury hotels to landscape in late 19th century.
Each day, area’s delightful historic district, with its cobblestone streets and its quaint cafes, bars, unique shops, and bed-and-breakfast inns, comes alive with locals and tourists setting out on foot to explore multiple landmarks located in St. Augustine. Five you won’t want to miss are:
§The Castillo De San Marcos, a national monument with an elaborate double draw-bridge entrance, has been both a mighty fort and a fearsome prison. An outstanding reminder of power and might of early Spanish empire in New World, it is commonly referred to as “The Fort.” The Castillo de San Marcos is entirely made of coquina, a virtually indestructible limestone comprised of seashells and coral, and took more than 23 years to complete. Since its completion in 1695, monument has remained impenetrable to both enemy fire and violent pounding by hurricanes. §The Casa Monica is once again a luxurious landmark hotel, blending contemporary pleasures with a legendary past. Built in 1888 and restored in 1999, hotel offers visitors an inspired Spanish décor. Both elegant and opulent, hotel surrounds guests with jewel-toned velvet, elaborate tapestries, and luminous chandeliers.
A Florence Hills TourWritten by Suzanne Morrison
Italy, a veritable treasure chest of culture and heritage - with its food, wine, culture and history, is always on top of a European tour list. A tour to Italy would not be complete without going to Florence. This city is in heart of Tuscany and is sometimes considered birthplace of Italian Renaissance. It is a place that is famous for its abundance of fine art and architecture and in modern day, its fashion and leather goods.
If you are feeling a little tired out after a few days of sightseeing in Florence, a Florence hills tour can be a great way to relax and wind down. With a great ambience and an aura of solitude hills of Florence are very popular and ideal for those who wish to take a break from city.
If you only have a few hours to spare and don't want to venture too far from Florence, then a trip to town of Fiesole is highly recommended. Set amongst hills, just 5 miles from Florence, Fiesole makes a pleasant half-day trip from Florence and provides a wonderful view of city. You can get there by bus from centre of Florence in around 20 minutes.
If you're feeling more energetic or have a little more time to spare you can walk from centre of Florence to Fiesole in around 2 hours. Once in Fiesole you can easily spend two or three hours wandering round, taking in sights and views of Florence and valley below. Sights include a Roman Amphitheatre and baths dating from 1 BC, Duomo and a few small museums.
If you have a full day to spare there are numerous tour companies that can organise day trips by bus, walking tours or biking trips. Alternatively you can hire a car and use a map to discover delights of Tuscan countryside for yourself.