Romance in St. Augustine & Ponte Vedra
Restaurants and Inns Help Make The Old City A Romantic Destination
We arrived at the Old City House Inn & Restaurant just as the setting sun began casting a warm glow over the city, highlighting St. Augustine’s distinctive rooflines, centuries-old oaks trailing Spanish moss, and couples strolling through narrow brick streets. Only minutes into a romantic weekend alone with my husband and the Ancient City was already working its exotic charms.
An enticing mix of history, culture and landscape unmatched in authenticity awaits couples on a getaway to the Ancient City. Romance begins at home here, with a range of historical inns and B&Bs ready to cater to your every whim. Old City House Inn’s elegantly appointed rooms are filled with rich wood antiques in an exotic African motif. The Bayfront Marin House offers couple’s spa packages that let you unwind together, while sweeping views of the glittering bay. For an all-encompassing weekend of amour, stay at the Carriage Way Bed and Breakfast and indulge in one of their special packages for lovers.
Eager to explore, we stepped onto Cordova Street. As the moon rose overhead, the city gates, arbors and arches came alive with twinkle lights, and the towering spires and turrets of Flagler College cast dramatic shadows. A tour inside the College the next day would reveal to us lavish examples of Spanish Renaissance design, from murals depicting Greek myths to Tiffany stained glass and Austrian crystal chandeliers. But at night, the campus afforded glimpses of 19th century resort lifestyle as conceived by Henry Flagler: Soaring rotundas gave way to hidden paths and secret benches in what was originally the Hotel Ponce de Leon.
Our first evening in St. Augustine ended over candlelight at a cozy window table in the Old City House Restaurant. A medley of award winning, intimate restaurants serve original dishes in casually elegant settings. At Costa Brava, each plate is a masterpiece of gourmet proportions inside the equally opulent Casa Monica Resort & Spa. Upscale Continental dining amid friendly and comfortable surroundings reign at Le Pavillon. For dessert, the Raintree Restaurant’s Dessert Bar will tempt you with goodies from Bananas Foster to ice-cream crepes.
Energized by a gourmet English breakfast the next morning, we immersed ourselves in the Spanish and British Colonial architecture of downtown. Navigating close byways and low buildings, we found ourselves transported: Wrought iron balconies and coquina edifices, Moorish exteriors and Victorian gardens surrounded us. Fountains large and small, full of glittering pennies-turned-wishes, posed next to delicate statuaries and wood-shingled cottages. Chocolatiers and wine purveyors set up shop next to domestic villas with opulent fences.
After traversing 400 years, we gave ourselves over to the relaxation professionals of the sophisticated spa at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, where facials, wraps and manicures are tailored to suit you.
Rejuvenated, we chased the muses of romance to the art district at San Sebastian where the artistic talents of the oldest city were on triumphant display. There we perused Rembrandtz and Butterfield Garage galleries for fine prints, glassware, jewelry, pottery and oil paintings. For craftsmanship of a different kind, stop at Southern Lights Candle Studio for hand-dipped pillars and elegant tapers.
Our own flame heartily rekindled, we later found ourselves in The Cellar Upstairs at the San Sebastian Winery, watching the river from the open-air deck with a glass of local wine and plotting our return in December for "Nights of Lights." Envisioning the Ancient City dressed in thousands of white twinkle lights, the historic inns open for holiday tours, and the red St. Augustine Sightseeing Train chugging through the streets like Santa’s sleigh, we toasted our new favorite city.