Friday, December 2, 2011

Cannons, Crocodiles and Crepes

Our first tourist stop this morning was the St. Augustine fort, known as Castillo de San Marcos.  It is the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S. 

We arrived just in time to see the demonstration of the cannon being fired (performed in period costume with Spanish commands), which was very interesting. Luckily they tell you when to plug your ears because even though it was a small gun (a 6 pound shot), it was very loud and you could feel the impact of the blast in your ribcage.

There were several groups of school children there when we were there. Apparently they were expecting 45 different groups that day!  A gentleman who gave us a 20 minute talk on the history of the fort (held by the Spanish, French, English and Americans at various times since it was built in the 16th century) also told us that in Florida, all grade 4 students are required by law to visit the fort.

In the afternoon, we visited the Alligator Farm.  We had driven by the entrance several times this week and I was thinking it was probably a major tourist trap but a couple of locals we talked to in the past few days said it was worth a visit, that they take visitors there all the time. We decided to risk it, even though the entry fee was a whopping $21.95 (with 10% off for seniors). 

I've got to tell you, it was money well spent.  We got there just in time for the 3 p.m. feeding. On the way to the feeding area, we passed several crocodiles/alligators (I still can't tell which is which) lying in the sun and we actually thought they were fake.  Until we came back by the same spot afterwards and the whole area was cleared off and we realized they were all in the water!  It happened several times as I walked around the various exhibits, you could look and look at the animal and swear it wasn't moving and then it would blink or you'd see it's sides moving gently in and out as it breathed.  It was only as we were leaving that we saw this note by the albino alligator's exhibit:

I believe there are about 35 of them in this photo, waiting for their lunch:

They are fed a combination of commercial alligator food and - wait for it - dead rats (see white object in photo below):

 They also have a rookery there,

which the bird photographer I'd met on the beach earlier in the week had told me was the place to go late afternoon as it is very popular with several types of egrets, herons and my personal favourite, the roseate spoonbill:

 as well as other animals such as monkeys, lemurs and parrots:

 We got to pet a young crocodile in one of the talks:

and a python:

The alligator felt like the purses do and the snake was much softer than I expected. Very cool!

A quick stop at the local lighthouse as the sun was setting

and then back into town for dinner at a local French restaurant, where we ordered crepes on the advice of the same person who told us to go to the alligator farm.  They were pretty tasty but not as good as the key lime pie we had there for dessert. :)

And so ends another exciting day in St. Augustine, Florida. Here's a bit of advice from the alligator farm that we should all remember:

Of course, I don't always listen to good advice:


Anonymous said...

Roseate spoonbills are rare, so you are lucky you saw one.
Those critters are gators, BTW. :-)

reptile shops said...

Oh my! this crocs are huge. And they are, I should say, over populated in this picture. By the way, nice picture you have there.