Last month I was in Florida for a few days visiting my sister. I had flown into Daytona which is about a half hour from my sister’s house so she picked me up there. Much easier for her than if I had flown into either Jacksonville or Orlando. What a great airport is DAB to fly into or out of if you can find a ticket that fits your needs! Basically, SMALL is what I mean, which generally equals great in my book when it comes to airports. Easy to get to, tucked just next to the famous speedway, parking is all on street level, and you walk right into the one terminal – easy as Florida pecan pie. You go through security and then there is just one concourse with 6 gates, 3 on either side. Sure, dining choices range from minimal to your stash of almonds and power bars, but I’ll take it!
While I flew in, my brother and his wife drove down the same day from their home in North Carolina, so we had a little family get-together for a few days. One of the weekend days, my sister the host stayed home while we 3 travelers did the hour or so drive up to St. Augustine to wander the shops and find some lunch. We took the scenic route up the A1A along the ocean, passing the old Marine World and other bits of old Florida. I like to imagine much of that part of Florida, say the coast between Daytona and north to around Jacksonville, as being like Florida from the 1960’s or 1970’s. Untouched (in stretches anyway,) by huge condo developments and gaudy mansions. Quiet and sort of “working class”- very much NOT South Beach!
So we got to St. Augustine, parked, and started strolling around looking at the quaint little shops. Much of that whole historic center of town is something of a pleasant maze of narrow streets and alleys, many closed to traffic, lined with unique shops, eateries, pubs, ice cream parlors, and all manner of other recreational retail. My brother was on a fairly low-grade mission to find a shop that was run by a couple that he had known maybe 20 years back from some time he had spent in the remote hills of West Virginia. He had only vague information that they had migrated south to St. Augustine and opened some sort of shop selling “crystals and such.” The 3rd or 4th shop he looked into turned out to be the one and his former neighbors were thrilled to see him and to meet his wife and brother (me.) They left the shop to the staffers on duty and we all went across the way to a pub for a cold beverage. Both husband and wife were warm and charming people who radiated a natural interest in others, and it turned out to be an hour very nicely spent. The conversation was interesting all around and got more so.
My brother was there from North Carolina but had known these people from time spent as neighbors in West Virginia. I was there from the Philadelphia area but am New Jersey born and bred and must have mentioned that I had lived in Cape May for some years. As was revealed during the subsequent conversation and to our great amusement, this gentlemen who had been my brother’s neighbor in West Virginia, had also lived in Medford, New Jersey when he was younger and had been buddies with a guy who had gone off to live in Cape May and had become a coach at my high school. Turns out I knew him in passing but had been friends with and worked with his younger sister for 15 or more years off and on at a restaurant in town! So there is my Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon in St. Augustine story! You just never know until the stories come out.
The shop on scenic and historic St. George St. turned out to be the Gypsy Moon Boutique, and had a first-class selection of hand-crafted goods for the house and garden, with a strong focus on colorful Mexican pottery. They have a small clothing section in the back and also a shop of handmade soaps and other bath and cosmetic related items. At our house we have been enjoying a fantastic soap from there that has a “tobacco flower” scent. Very nice but my wife says it is “manly!”
Also worth a mention, on that same street but down a narrow alley between 2 larger buildings, I spotted a place – a small shop – that drew me in like a magnet – “Mustache – Merchant of Man Crafts.” It was the coolest but tiniest little place, maybe half the size of the shed in my yard, but I was pleased to have found it. The proprietor did indeed sport a luxurious ‘stache, and pointed out more quality goods then I would have guessed could fit into the space. Shaving supplies, pocket knives, a few odd tools, and a small assortment of leather goods. Other manly miscellany. I bought some “Refinery Rebels” after-shave moisturizer and have been liking that a lot. (In case anyone thought it was not manly enough, it does come in a cool black tube.) “Mustache” would be worth popping into if you find yourself strolling old St. Augustine, particularly if you are a man or have one in your life!