Sailing away the stress in St. Augustine

Life sometimes gets away from us as we struggle to keep up with work and family. Sometimes it takes a little nudge to remind us that we should stop and enjoy it a bit more. For my friend Lynn and me, it was more of a push than a nudge, but we found a place to help us remember how to enjoy life a little more – St. Augustine, Florida.

I have never been to St. Augustine and I was immediately blown away by the quaint beauty. This is the oldest city in the country, dating back over 400 years. We have the privilege of staying at the St. Francis Inn, which is not only the oldest here, but it’s an incredible place. The room is a perfect mixture of antique (a roll-top desk adorns the living room) and new (the bathroom has a whirlpool). We were created with cookies and iced tea in the lobby, just one of the little extras here.

After enjoying a little wine, cheese and fruit in the Garcia Suite, it was off to the marina, where the real relaxing began. It’s been years since I’ve been on a sailboat and I couldn’t have picked a better one to be on. Zach owns Eco Tours, a boating company that takes life in the water very seriously. Every move his boat takes is carefully navigated to disturb the sea turtles, manatees and dolphins as little as possible. We had a private two hour tour with Zach, through the Intercoastal and into the Atlantic, listening to his vast knowledge of the creatures below us, as we relaxed on the trampoline, enjoyed the sunshine and even got to watch some dolphins come up for breath.

By the time I got back to shore, I had clearly remembered what relaxing was all about. I contemplated leaving the IPhone off a bit longer, but didn’t quite go that far. We strolled slowly back to the hotel where we enjoyed the rest of the St. Francis Inn bottled Sonoma Chardonnay before getting dressed for Social Hour at the St. Francis Inn. I could have enjoyed Joe’s stories about St. Augustine and the Inn for hours, but we had dinner to get to.

Our dinner had also been arranged by Leigh Cort, an expert when it comes to all things St. Augustine. She told me I would love Bistro de Leon and she was certainly right. From the moment I saw the sign and the Eiffel Tower drawing on the window, I knew this was not going to be just dinner out in Florida.

Jean Stephane Poinard and his wife Valerie came from France to St. Augustine to build a real French bistro and they have certainly succeeded. With the exception of the missing outdoor seating (town ordinances won’t allow it) this restaurant is the real deal. Valerie personally picked out our meal, living up to the challenge of two women allergic to shellfish. Chef Jean Stephane prepared a feast for us starting with of one of the best French Onion soup’s I’ve ever had (sweet, not salty, the way it should be), and Poultry and Tarragone Terrine, a chicken pate-like dish with a tasty onion marmalade.

Valerie continued our feast with a Duck Filet roasted in apple cider and served with a potato cheese soufflé and tender lamb chops with a potato and tomatoes pie. Both were delicious, but we managed to save room for dessert – a fresh baked Napoleon and a chocolate lava cake served with a mint sorbet. I left feeling like I was still in Paris, and hoping I could get back to
Bistro de Leon
soon.

Lynn and I ended the evening with a nightcap at Columbia, where we ran into Marsha and Karen, two more women enjoying a girls' getaway in St. Augustine. After a good night's sleep, we enjoyed a St. Francis breakfast of Vegetable Strata, Country Ham, Spanish Potatoes and fruit (with Mimosas and Bloody Marys) and are getting ready to head off to our tour and tasting at San Sebastian Winery and then some more exploration of the city. Until tomorrow….

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