Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Exploring some forts

Even though it was vacation, I can help but wanting to go on a field trip while I'm in a new place.  LOL  Thankfully there are so many fun things to explore that it wasn't difficult finding a place that was fun for all.  Actually two fun places.  We headed out one day to explore some forts.  What a day it was too!

We headed south and our first stop was Fort Matanzas.  Matanzas is Spanish for massacre as it is the site of a fight between the French and Spanish in 1565 where over 250 French were killed as these two countries were trying to establish themselves on this land.  We arrived just in time to hurry to the ferry OR eat our lunch and catch the next one.  We opted for the second choice.

There were huge climbing trees adjacent to the picnic area.  The kids were up in them before we could all unload.

 It was also a great spot for hammocking.  A favorite pastime of Christopher's!

 A yummy picnic lunch on this pleasant and overcast day.
 The site of the fort is a short distance from the picnic spot and visitor center.
 This is what it looks like on the sign.
Can you see it?  In the distance?  We even saw dolphins swimming in the river while we were waiting!

We took a ferry boat over to the island.
 The fort was built in 1740-1742.
  I loved the details of the fort.
 We were able to roam about the fort and explore as we wanted too.
 Two of the original cannons are still at the site today.

 We listened to a wonderful and informative Ranger talk while inside the Soldier's quarters.

Eliana made herself at home on the beds.
 Joe helping Eliana to get a better look out of the window.

 The room where the soldiers cook, ate and slept.  Seven to ten men occupied this space for a month at a time.
 The Rangers were great about answering questions.
 We learned that you needed to be as tall as the rifle before you could serve.  Daniel doesn't quite make it!

 We climbed stairs to reach the officer's quarters.

From here you could climb a ladder up onto the Observation Deck.

We paused for a Family Photo here!
 The Spanish flag.
 Even while exploring a site that is hundreds of years old, we find evidences of our time ... electronics.
 Eliana joining in the McDonald family photo.
 A view from the observation tower looking down on the gun deck.

 If you want to take a virtual tour of this site, you can go here.

We say good-by to this fort as we leave for another adventure.

Our next stop ... Castillo de San Marcos.  Another Spanish Fort.

 This is a much larger fort that was built to defend Spain's claims to the New World.  It was never defeated in battle.  Construction on this fort began in 1672!
 Eliana is not so sure of this man greeting her at the entrance.
 Group photo ... well, most of us.
 As we entered the courtyard, there was a costumed interpreter telling stories about this fort.
 The courtyard.
 Staircase leading to the top of the fort.
 Isaiah and Daniel are working on the Junior Ranger program.
 Meanwhile Eliana is exploring with her Daddy.
 Christopher has made his way to the top of the fort.
Then comes back down to help his brother.  It was a very sweet thing for him to do as I was finding it hard to help the two younger boys at the same time and Christopher worked really well with Isaiah!

Just loved this picture.  Daniel was drawing the fort and really took his time in putting in the details.
 Eliana looking through the Junior Ranger book.  This is a very detailed and well done book if you are interested and in the area!
An aerial look at the fort.  It is the bastion system of defense which proved quite successful.
 The view from the top was beautiful!  Can you see the lighthouse in the background?  (I love lighthouses!)
 Here's a better view of it.  Its the St Augustine Lighthouse.
 Time for some photos of people.  Janey and Keaton.
 Janey and I.
Daniel and Keaton.
 The area at the top of the fort was huge!

 The narrow alleys leading to the towers at the corners of the building.
 View from one of the "windows" or gun holes.
 Its about time to leave.  If I had realized that the gift shop closed before the fort, I would have headed down too.  I missed getting a badge and magnet for our collection - and a stamp for our passport book too.  *sigh*  Guess we'll have to come back!
 Daniel and I stayed up to look around a little bit longer.  We had gotten to the top later due to working on the Jr Ranger program.

 Checking out the cannons.  There were lots of different types and styles up here.

A view of the walls around the fort.  (And some of my children playing out there if you look closely)

 Near the entrance to the fort Daniel poses under the Coat of Arms.
 Daniel and I talking with one of the rangers.  I enjoy talking with Rangers as they generally are very helpful, friendly and encouraging to children who want to learn.  This one was no exception!
A fun day full of learning and adventure with family and friends.   One of my favorite ways to spend a day!