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Facts Support the Viva Florida 500 Celebration

April 2, 2013 by · Comments Off on Facts Support the Viva Florida 500 Celebration 

Viva Florida 500 Celebration

Viva Florida 500 Celebration

Fact: Juan Ponce de Leon and his crew first sighted and named the land La Florida on Easter Sunday, March 27, 1513, and sailed north. They came ashore on Florida’s east coast in 1513. The exact spot was not documented causing a few municipalities in Northeast Florida to vie for the honor.

 

Fact: Historical documents show that on April 2, 1513, Ponce de León’s navigator logged the ship’s position at 30 degrees 8 minutes — just south of Ponte Vedra Beach and just north of St. Augustine – my hometown.

 

Fact: Florida was then the first place Europeans arrived in what is now the continental United States and therefore, may claim the longest recorded history of any state in America.

With the 1565 founding of St. Augustine by Spaniard Pedro Menendez, Florida settlements predate Jamestown Virginia (1607) and Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts (1620) by a significant margin.

The above historical facts are the core behind the celebration of Viva Florida 500; a statewide initiative to showcase 500 years of Florida’s history and diverse heritage. Viva Florida 500 hopes to reintroduce Florida as the Gateway to the America’s and the first place in the nation where old and new world cultures first came together.

 

Who was Ponce de León?

 

Ponce de Leon Statue St. Augustine

Ponce de Leon Statue St. Augustine

Ponce was born in the village of San Tervás de Campos in the province of Valladolid, Spain in 1474. He became a page to the prince of Castile who later became King Ferdinand of Castile. Ponce was a soldier, a sailor and explorer who lived from 1474 to 1521.

 

Golden Glow at Castillo

Golden Glow at Castillo

Gov Rick Scott

Governor Rick Scott attends Viva Florida 500 Celebration

What did Ponce de Leon do?

 

In 1493, as a young man, Ponce de León was aboard one of the fleets of Spanish ships in what became known as Christopher Columbus’ second voyage. The expedition established a permanent Spanish colonial presence in the New World.

 

As a prominent Spaniard, Ponce eventually was named Governor of Puerto Rico by King Ferdinand in 1511. Then on March 13, 1513, under a license the King granted him to explore and discover lands reputed to lie to the north of Hispaniola and the Island of Bimini.  Ponce set sail with a crew of 200-including women and free blacks on two caravels, Santiago and Santa María de la Consolación; and a galley like craft, the San Cristóbal. They sailed up the eastern coast of Florida before doubling back and exploring some of the western side. They also discovered the Gulf Stream.

 

Ponce returned to Spain, was knighted and given a coat of arms – the first conquistador to receive these honors.. He made a second trip to Florida in 1521. It was on this latter expedition that he was wounded by natives and died shortly thereafter in Cuba. He is associated with the legend of the Fountain of Youth, although it is likely that he was not actively looking for it.

 

I’m Alive in the Dead Sea

October 4, 2012 by · Comments Off on I’m Alive in the Dead Sea 

No splashing. That’s the first rule when you immerse yourself in Dead Sea.  Even a tiny drop in your eyes or mouth burns fiercely.

A Dip in the salty Dead Sea

A Dip in the salty Dead Sea

I wasn’t worried; it was January and I’m a Floridian. Call me wimpy, but I don’t swim outside when the temperature hovers around 40 degrees.  Nonetheless, some do.

Empty beachfront at the Dead Sea

Empty beachfront at the Dead Sea

Israel’s Dead Sea isn’t really a sea; it’s a lake in the Negev desert, about 1,300 feet below sea level. That makes it the lowest point on Earth that’s not under water.

My first glimpse of the glass-like expanse came from Highway 90 (the world’s lowest road) as we drove beyond the Judean Mountains toward Masada. The water looked oddly colored through my camera viewfinder. In some places it appeared neon green and in others, electric blue. Undoubtedly, the water’s mineral content contributes to this psychedelic effect.

Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The bus drove on to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Masada, the ancient mountain top palace-fortress of Herod the Great. Back in 70 A.D. Jews fleeing persecution in Jerusalem joined fellow refugees there. The Romans made violent organized charges and attempted to takeover, but the Jews held out for two years. In the end, they chose suicide rather than be conquered. The site is considered a Jewish cultural icon.

Visitors at Masada

Visitors at Masada

Tourists enter the rather posh Masada Visitor Center and either hike or ride a cable car to the dramatic summit. (Watch the short introductory film first as it helps understanding.) Rising nearly 1,500 feet above the Dead Sea, the hazy views from the plateau seem endless and the 2,000-year-old ruins are impressive and well preserved. Stroll among some original enclosures and other areas and lookouts that have been restored.

Scenic view from Masada.

Scenic view from Masada.

 

On the ride back to Tel Aviv, my group stopped at a seaside resort. Only a few hardy folk felt like a dip, but everyone wanted to see the salty sea up close.

Salt Crystals in the Dead Sea

Salt Crystals in the Dead Sea

As I walked along the near empty beachfront, I passed crusty edges at the shoreline rimmed in white. These salt deposits were created when the water hit the shore and dried in the sun. The Negev gets about 330 sunny days a year, but this day was not one of them.

Nothing grows in the Dead Sea (hence the name) because the salinity is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. The mineral content ranges around 30 percent compared to 3.5 percent in the Mediterranean.  That’s known as heavy water with high viscosity (love that wonderful word I learned in Anatomy and Physiology 101). The surface air is also heavy from mineral compounds in the evaporating water.

Applying therapeutic mud

Applying therapeutic mud

The area’s dark mud or clay is believed to have therapeutic qualities, along with a soak in the briny liquid. The usual procedure is to apply thick mud all over your skin and let it dry for 10 minutes. Then, slowly walk into the water and float on your back. Swimming is not a good idea because it creates a splash. No more than 20 minutes is recommended or you’ll become dehydrated.

 

 

 

Mud Treatment

Mud Treatment

I didn’t partake the treatment on my January trip to Israel, but as luck goes, I made a visit to Jordan five months later. (Jordan is clearly visible from Israel, on the opposite side of the bank.) In May, I whole-heartedly caked my arms, legs and face with mud, chuckled at myself and then sat and baked in the sun.

Laughing at yourself is part of the therapy.

Laughing at yourself is part of the therapy.

 

Feeling rather prune-like, I slithered off the edge of a low platform into the water. I could barely keep my feet down. They wanted to pop up, honestly demanded it, and so, I let them. Floating on my back took no effort because of the buoyant properties of the salt water. As a swimmer, the sensation was strangely different, laughably fun and totally liberating.

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

While in the water, I rubbed the mud off my skin, which then felt rather slimy, but in a good way.  My hands slid over my skin as if gliding over waxed paper. When I came out of the Sea, I could have recorded a commercial for baby soft skin. The experience brought to mind a costly spa treatment, but a free one you give yourself. Some medical experts say a dip helps those suffering with psoriasis and arthritis. Whether curative or not, who cares? I came alive in the Dead Sea.

 

Alive in the Dead Sea

Alive in the Dead Sea

If you go:

Israel: www.goisrael.com

Jordan: www.jordantours-travel.com

A Visit to Fort Mantanzas

March 5, 2012 by · Comments Off on A Visit to Fort Mantanzas 

Fort Matanzas National Monument

The Spanish built and manned Fort Matanzas (1740-42) to ward off British attacks on St. Augustine.
Visitors need to understand that the fort is located 14 miles south of St. Augustine (along A1A). The area, now Fort Matanzas National Monument,  is run by the National Park Service and located on Anastasia Island. The park is situated near the site of the killing of nearly 250 French Huguenots in 1565 by the Spanish, an act that gave the river and inlet the name Matanzas, Spanish for “slaughters.”
Upon arrival (free parking) watch the eight-minute film to learn about the fort and the area’s history. Then, take a Park Service boat over to Rattlesnake Island, a less than 5-minute boat ride. Rattlesnake Island, a barrier island is left to wildlife, except for official trips by the Park Rangers. The public may boat and fish the waterway, but are not permitted to use the fort’s dock.

Costumed Soldiers at Fort Matanzas

Fort Matanzas measures only 50 feet on each side with a 30-foot tower; so a visit becomes a quick exploration. If possible go on a day when the soldiers are in costume.

Here is a soldier near the Garita or sentry box.

.This is the soldier's quarters.The officer's quarters are a level above.Officer's Quarters


A Spanish flag flies from the observation deck. You’ll also find a chimney for the hearth below.The powder magazine was build into the land-based side of the fort’s walls.

A cistern for water storage lies below the canon deck, but is not open to tourists.

When the soldiers fire the canon, all visitors must evacuate the structure.  Park Rangers gather them outside, and then explain the procedure and answers questions. The location allows only a side view of the canon from below, so you can’t see much of the soldiers’ participation in the activity.  As one of the reenactors said, “If you really want to watch a canon firing, go to the big fort- Castillo de San Marcos.”

History
The Spanish landed in St. Augustine in 1565, claimed it and built a settlement.  Francis Drake raided the town in 1586. Afterward,  the Spanish erected Castillo de San Marcos for their protection, a massive coquina fort still standing in the city (completed in 1695). In 1740, Governor James Oglethorpe and his British troops from Georgia blockaded the St. Augustine inlet or harbor. The Spanish held Castillo de San Marco during the 39-day siege, which was halted when hurricane season arrived and Oglethorpe withdrew.
To prevent the British from attacking via the Matanzas River (a weak point in the city’s defense at the  rear) the Spaniards constructed an outpost –Fort Matanzas. Oglethorpe returned in 1742 with 12 ships, but the soldiers drove off the attack with the little fort’s canon. Fort Matanzas was never attacked again.

Like Castillo de San Marco, Fort Matanzas was built of coquina stone and covered inside and out with white lime plaster. Usually, only one officer, four privates of the infantry and two gunners manned the fort. Soldiers were assigned there as a part of their regular rotation among the outposts and missions near St. Augustine. The tour of duty at Fort Matanzas was one month.

What happened to the fort?
As part of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, signed to end the French and Indian War, all property in Florida was transferred to Britain. After the American Revolution, a second Treaty of Paris returned Florida to Spain. Fort Matanzas continued to be staffed but was not maintained. When Florida became a state in 1819, Spain transferred the land to the US. The fort had become so badly deteriorated that soldiers could no longer live inside. All that remained were two eight-pounder Spanish cannons originally mounted in 1793. They remain to this day. The US took possession in 1821 but never occupied the site.
Military personnel were later sent to examine the ruins. They determined that Fort Matanzas had only historical value as the exterior surfaces were overrun with vegetation and its walls had cracked.

History lovers gained Fort Matanzas on July 18, 1916, when $1025 was granted by Congress for the repair of the historical structure. On October 15, 1924, using the power granted in the Antiquities Act, President Calvin Coolidge named five sites, including Fort Matanzas and the Castillo de San Marcos, as national monuments. On August 19, 1927, he issued another order, assigning all the lands around the fort, not included in the national monument to the Department of Agriculture, as a bird refuge.


St. Augustine on Dwellable

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