During an earlier visit to Deer Isle, one of the locals told us that a restaurant was “way the heck over in Goose Cove” — as if Goose Cove was as far away as Mars. The comment made us laugh, but it also made us wonder: just how the heck far away is Goose Cove, anyhow?
Tonight we found out. Goose Cove is about a 10-minute drive on winding two-lane roads. I guess when you live on a little island, everything seems far away. Goose Cove also is a pretty, tranquil place. It’s not hard to see why the geese like it.
On Christmas Day we traveled to St. Augustine, the oldest continuously populated city in North America — or something like that. It was founded in the pre-Pilgrim 1500s by the Spaniards, and it’s well worth a visit.
Our first stop was the Castillo de San Marcos, the fort the Spaniards built to protect their settlement. Although the interior was closed — even the National Park Service takes Christmas Day off — our tour of the grounds showed that the fortress is in remarkably good shape given its age and history. Richard’s Google check indicated that since being founded by the Spanish Empire, the CdSM has flown the flag of England, the U.S., and the Confederacy, and also been used to house prisoners.
We then walked along the harbor road to the old town section of St. Augustine, which features some of the beachfront kitsch you expect in any Florida town, but also some very interesting buildings dating from the Spanish era as well as some fine architectural flourishes added during the Gilded Age. Among the highlights were two facing hotels built by the indefatigable Henry Flagler, a railroad and oil magnate who played a key role in Florida’s development. The one shown above has now become city hall.
But it is the structure across the street that is the real jaw-dropper. Formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel — where travelers presumably could search for the Fountain of Youth in the Florida sunshine — it is a beautiful and sprawling bit of Spanish-influenced architecture that includes lots of remarkable features, like the fierce carved lion head at the gates, shown below.
I don’t know much about how and where Flagler made his money, but I will say this: he used part of it to create a fascinating object of great beauty. It’s fitting that this structure has now become the main building of Flagler College.
Our cruise ship passengers are a diverse lot, from many different countries, but when we hit an island we share one common goal: find an Internet cafe with free wireless so we catch up on our email since the last stop. Amazingly, this is not difficult. Even on the tiny island of Mayreau, population 300, you can find multiple internet options that not only allow to connect with the world but also drink cold local beer — on Mayreau, it’s Hairoun — with Bob Marley playing on the jukebox and views like the one below. Not bad . . . but it is the 21st century after all.
This object on the University of Chicago campus looks like a piece of modern art, with its different textures and markings. Alas, it’s just an incredibly well used sign post, embedded with hundreds of staples that cling to little scraps of paper left by countless signs announcing lectures or dance recitals or rock concerts, leaving an inadvertent design. When you walk past, you can’t help but wonder how old is the oldest shard of paper on the post.
Cheesecake is the state dessert of New York — or at least , if it isn’t it should be. With a cup of black coffee, it is the classic after-dinner repast for visitors to Manhattan.
Tonight I combined it with Sambuca. In the normal course I never drink distilled spirits, but tonight’s meal was so exceptional it needed to be recognized in a tangible way. I chewed the three coffee beans with relish, too.
We spent the morning today fly fishing on The Big East Fork of the Pigeon River, Dark Prong section, in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. It’s stunningly beautiful, and remote — you need to hike for about a half hour down into a gorge to find just the right spot where the water is a fish’s dream. Not surprisingly, we didn’t see anyone else on the river.
Our morning reminded me if the classic Hemingway short story Big Two-Hearted River, where the narrator painstakingly prepares for a day of fishing. It was a bright day, but we were mostly under shade. The water was so cold you could feel the temperature through your waders as you worked your way upstream, in search of the elusive brook trout. I caught an eight-incher, admired its beauty, then released it, and the world of work seemed very far away.