It was one of those hot summer days in Florida when you start sweating even before you wake up. By mid-morning, the heat and humidity had become a force to be reckoned with. It was in this climate that we made our way to the center of St. Augustine in order to tour the historic soul of the city, the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
Even from the outside, the ancient fort is impressive. Its walls span a city block and is an impossible-to-miss feature of St. Augustine. The fort is the oldest masonry fort in the United States and was constructed of coquina, tiny shells that have bonded together to make a form of stone. You can actually see the shells in some parts of the fort that have crumbled over time.
Sitting on the bay, it is easy to see why the Spanish chose this location for a military fort in the 16th century. Armed with a map from the National Park Service, we proceeded to guide ourselves around the interior of the impressive fort.
I was disappointed by some of the exhibits though within the fort itself. The placards and descriptions look like they were last updated thirty years ago, and the glaringly obvious typos on many of the exhibit signs is frankly an embarrassment. The National Park Service really should have done a better job of performing its mission in preserving not only the building, but the history it represents.
Forgetting for a moment the poor job the National Park Service has done in interpreting the monument, the most impressive feature of the structure is without a doubt the top of the fort. A short climb leads the visitor to a vast area with panoramic views of both the bay and the city of St. Augustine. On a more temperate day, this would be a lovely spot to sit and relax, soaking in both the history and the sights.
We concluded our tour and quickly retreated to the safety of an air-conditioned café, rehydrating as quickly as possible. Even in light of some glaring faults, the trip to the remarkable Castillo de San Marcos was a historical highlight on our tour of the region.