When you live in South Florida like we do,
the only way to get out is obviously north hence our options are kind of limited. A good
part of the trip involves a tedious, boring mostly flat highway, no matter which option
you take. I-75 is not the worst, but it goes along the west coast, so is no good for us
this time. State route 27 and US1, are a little more interesting because they go through cities
and small towns but it takes forever. Florida’s Turnpike is a horribly boring drive I refuse
to take ever again and to ad insult to injury they actually even charge you for it. My route
of choice north is usually interstate 95, pretty boring as well but at least it is toll
free, and the quickest way. We finally make it to Daytona Beach at around
9:30pm. We find a hotel to spend the night, using
the Hotels.com iPhone app. It is called La Playa, and it was pretty cheap, 60 bucks for
the night. Good morning from Daytona Beach, Florida.
We wake up at the crack of dawn to this breathtaking sunrise.
Good morning, it is 7:20 in the morning and we have waken up in this near freezing temperatures
to photograph the sunrise. Today we continue due north on the east coast of the United
States. We’re going to visit Saint Augustine, America’s oldest city, er, what else? Jacksonville,
and eventually we’ll arrive at Savannah Georgia. Meanwhile enjoy the sunrise.
Sorry if I seemed a little slow, I was still half asleep and nearly frozen, but…
It is time to say “Good bye” to la playa, as we continue due north. It wasn’t the greatest
hotel, but for one night, a comfy bed, and the beautiful and frigid oceanfront sunrise
we just witnessed, it was more than adequate. We continue driving north here on A1A and
our destination, next destination is the Fort Matanzas. As you can see I’ve been demoted
to copilot, but that’s OK, I’m taking a break. Moving along.
The A1A runs almost parallel to the Atlantic Ocean coast and we are going to be driving
on this road for a while. It is a refreshing break from boring I-95. We pass by Flagler
Beach, near Palm Coast. This coastal area in North East Florida is called the first
coast, for two main reasons. It is the first coast you see as you enter Florida through
Jacksonville. More importantly, this was the first part of Florida colonized by Europeans,
namely the Spaniards, as we are about to find out by visiting Fort Matanzas.
Fort Matanzas is a National Monument and the National Park Service gives us a free ride
on a boat to the fort, which guarded the southern mouth of the Mantanzas River, which accessed
Saint Augustine. The fort eventually became a ruin, as the Spaniards lost Florida. It
it was restored in the early 20th century, one major flaw of the restoration; the watchtower
was originally a little narrower and some other historical discrepancies. Two of the cannons are actually the original
ones from the fort, the rest are just replicas. When they chose the location of the fort the
chose this position because that was the original entrance to this body of water. Today you
can see that nature took care of it. Eventually that whole area unless the army cores of engineers
come over and dredge it out again is going to completely get covered by sand… Made
with coquina which is a stone made of crushed shells its actually a fortification that used
mortar from lime. Inside we can see how life would have been
for the poor Spanish soldiers stationed here. How they cooked, how they slept…
how they prayed. A ladder gives the only access to the observation
deck. Here we can get a commanding view of the Matanzas inlet.
One can only imagine the poor Spanish soldiers seeing the British ships offshore
Our quick excursion to the fort is over, and I must say kudos to the National Park Service,
as this whole experience was informative, pleasant in spite of the unusually cold weather,
and totally free. There is also a nature trail, but it is not
so great, not worth it really . Time to go but before we do it is time to
fulfill a childish whim of mine. I’ve always wanted to drive on the sand, on the beach
actually, and over here they let you do it, well also back in Daytona, if you noticed
the speed limit signs at sunrise, earlier today. Here we go. We drive a few miles north to historic Saint
Augustine. Saint Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United
States, founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. However, Juan
Ponce De Leon was around here before, in 1513, and he claimed the region for the Spanish
crown. After a short drive we arrive. The pretty building in the background is the Flagler
College. I 500 feet, at the roundabout… What… Yeah, the GPS sucks sometimes.
At the roundabout… What! What’s up with Waze, that’s it, we’re using
Google Maps for the rest of the trip. We pass by the San Marcos Castle, built in 1668, after
a British attack, and still stands today as the nation’s oldest fort, now ran by the National
Park Service as the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The GPS directs us to the
closest parking lot. Saint Augustine is famous for having the oldest
drug store in the US. I often question the authenticity of these places. Apparently they
sold liquor, tobacco, medicine and Indian remedies.
We continue exploring this touristy town. We are walking along Saint Georges Street,
Here in Saint Augustine. This is the main drag, St. George’s street, the tourist trap
if you will. Here is supposedly the United States oldest wooden school, from 1716, although
there’s an older claim in Staten Island, New York from 1696, so I have a good conspiracy
theory that all this is fake. Who knows. The Cobblestone streets, the Cuban flag… I was
born in Cuba so whenever we see the flag, we usually take a picture. The beautiful intercostal
view is a must do photo opportunity. Well, we’ll visit Ponce de Leon’s fountain
of youth some other time, because we are kind of pressed for time now, so we must go on.
It’s 1pm time to leave North we go. We decide to take scenic coastal
A1A instead of the faster I-95 once again. We drive for 45 minutes through Ponte Vedra
Beach, which is mostly ocean front residential neighborhoods with multi million dollar homes,
and golf courses, very lavish. We are approaching Jacksonville, Florida’s
most populous city in the state if you only count the people living within city limits
and not the suburbs. Also quite musical as popular bands Lynyrd Skynyrd and Limp Bizkit
both originated here.They all came from here. We are now arriving at Jacksonville, and we
are super hungry so we are not going to waste time with any nonsense. We are going straight
to this place called Jacksonville Landing. They are having some kind of Christmas show.
So we decided to break one of traveler’s rules and have lunch at the tourist trap, namely
at Hooters. Sometimes you need something familiar. And the show goes on.
I would imagine that a place like this would be more full of people on a Saturday afternoon,
but I guess not. Maybe everybody was indoors due to the chilly weather. The Jacksonville
Landing was designed and built by the same company that built Miami’s Bayside and some
other similar places… and one can sort of see the resemblance. Crossing the bridge we
visit the Friendship Fountain, on the other side of the river.
The water jets move to the rhythm of the music, Bellagio style, but in this case a more bouncy
music would definitely enhance the effect I think. City of Jacksonville Saint Johns
River Park and Marina. Well, time to continue, not before driving
through the historic Riverside Neighborhood. One cool thing about this trip going north
is the change in vegetation. As you can see there are no more palm trees. As we continue
north the trees will have less, and less leaves. And after a few miles we are in Georgia! Or
should I say Georgia is on our mind? We are quickly approaching the city of Savannah,
Georgia, we’re about an hour away. And I-95 seems endless. I have no idea what I;m gonna
say. Bye. We finally arrive at Savannah. We have should
I say Waze, the GPS gets a little lost finding the Hotel, but we do end there eventually.
We have gotten a great deal using the Hotel Tonight app on the iPhone, a must if you are
traveling like us with no reservations. We landed the Hyatt in the historic district. We have arrived at the Hyatt. It doesn’t really
get any better than this, it was less than a hundred bucks, and of course when you get
this great deals they nickel and dime you for everything else, but I believe it was
worth it. We have a great view of the river from our room.
Later that night we take a stroll along River Street, which has a bunch of shops, restaurants
and bars. They have a Wet Willie’s, which used to be one of my favorite bars in Miami
Beach before it got too popular. We really want to walk around but were exhausted
from the long road trip, so we decide to finish the night at the Bohemian Hotel next door,
which has a roof top night club, Rocks on the Roof with live music and great ambiance. From Savannah, Georgia, good morning.
We walk around this historic and beautiful city we see City Hall from Bull Street, which
is right next to our hotel, and then enjoy the beautiful vegetation of Johnson Square.
We walk up to Ellis Square and City Market, which is a touristy pedestrian street with
a bunch of Bars and restaurants. At the end of City Market, across Franklin Square we
see the First African Baptist Church, which claims to be derived from the first black
Baptist congregation in North America. The do have a museum. As you’ve seen, the historic
district is dotted with a grid of all this charming squares, such as Chippewa Square,
where they filmed the movie Forest Gump. The actual bench in the movie was a fiberglass
prop and doesn’t really exist. Bummer. Passing by the First Girl Scouts Headquarters
in the United States we arrive at Clary’s for breakfast.
We are having breakfast at Clary’s, the place has been here forver.
This has been a Savannah hangout place since 1903, and it was made even more famous after
it was portrayed in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
By Lafayette Square, as we head back north on Abercorn street, we see the Cathedral of
Saint John the Baptist, it’s congregation was founded in the late 1700’s by French immigrants.
A little further down the street we pass by Colonial Park Cemetery, the oldest one in
Savannah. It was established in 1750 and is a popular destination for Ghost tours. It
was vandalized by the federal troops during the Civil War, but it has been restored ever
since. We are back at Bay Street, which runs parallel
to River Street, where the Hotel is. There’s a bunch of quirky shops, right behind the
riverfront shops. This is the oldest continuously operating
English Freemasons’ Lodge in the western hemisphere. Yeah, amazing the stuff you learn on the internets. OK, time to leave the comfort of our riverfront
room, as we must continue on the road, but not before seeing a little more of beautiful
Savannah. Grabbing a tip from travel writer Pico Ayer,
we turn off the GPS and try to reach our next destination on pure instinct and sense of
orientation. In this case I’m trying to find Forsyth Park, which is just south of the historic
district. And here we are. Lets go around the park, what the heck.
Savannah, by the way, is the historical birthplace of Georgia. It was settled in 1733. The city
maintains its antebellum charm, antebellum meaning ante: before, bellum, war. Basically
it was spared the devastation of the civil war. The mayor gave Sherman’s men run of the
city in exchange for leaving it untouched, pretty much like the French did with Paris
during World War II, that’s why that cemetery got all messed up, but everything else was
left pretty much intact, so we can see it today. Smart guy that mayor, not brave but
smart. OK enough of that, we pass by Mansion, which is a very luxurious hotel with a very
nice nightclub where I played with my band a few years back.
Well, let’s see Forsyth Park. The iconic overhanging trees, the Forsyth fountain which dates back
to 1858. The Spanish moss draped oak trees. There’s a bronze bust of Major General Lafayette
McLaws in front of the confederate monument back there.
We walk back to the fountain, which is similar to those in Place de la Concorde, in Paris.
And we make sure we are observing the sidewalk rules of course… and with that we almost
say goodbye to Savannah for now. Lastly we cruise along historic Jones Street,
it’s a very picturesque luxurious residential area. Of course the cobblestones don’t help
with the camera’s stability, but who cares. We pass by Clary’s once again, and the place
where I stayed when I came to Savannah with the band back in 2006 or 2007, it’s the blue
house. Time to hit the road as we continue relentlessly
on our journey north towards New York City. The Talmadge Memorial Bridge spans the Savannah
River, between the states of Georgia and South Carolina. We are driving on US 17 towards
Charleston And we are now in the great state of South
Carolina. After a while on US 17 we move over to I-95,
in order to save some time. Our time here in Charleston is very limited,
so we’re just going to walk along Market Street, see the waterfront and have a late lunch.
The historic downtown, where we are, is located on a peninsula formed by the Ashley and the
Cooper rivers. The City Market on Market Street dates back
to the 1790’s. The indoor market begins at the historic Market Hall, at the corner of
Market and Meeting streets and stretches for four blocks ending at East Bay Street. This
is where the also historic Custom House is located. From the dock we see the Arthur Ravanel
Bridge and the Charleston Harbor, and Castle Pinckney on tiny Shutes’ Folly Island. We
have a late lunch at this place called Magnolias, which was recommended by roadfood.com. It
is fancy, delicious southern cuisine. But time flies when your having fun, and in the
winter it gets dark way too early. We want to reach New York by Christmas day so we must
say hasta la vista to Charleston and continue due north. Revisiting this pretty town is
a must. We will spend the night at North Myrtle Beach,
but before checking in at our hotel we are going to cruise along South Ocean Boulevard,
the heat of Myrtle Beach At this time of the year is, not surprisingly, deserted. It is
late December, and the temperature is pretty low. It is very much reminiscent of our own
Miami Beach. This is another place we must revisit, in the summer, when it is at its
prime, but this time we’re just here to sleep. We are actually staying at a place a little
further north. So we’re staying at the Bay Watch, in North
Myrtle Beach. This place is like a ghost town. Good morning.
Today we continue north towards Wilmington, North Carolina. “Keep right at the fork”
Wilmington’s historic downtown sits on the northern bank of the Cape Fear River. The
city is mostly famous for its beaches, the seafood, and historic plantations. Some antebellum
houses and other buildings survived the Civil War, as the city didn’t see much action. The
port however was very important to the confederate side, as supplies from England arrived here. We have breakfast at this place called The
Dixie Grill, one of the few places we found open this early on Christmas Eve.
After breakfast we walk towards the river. There have also these historic tours on horse
drawn carriages, which seem to be very informative but we don’t have the time on this particular
occasion. We must content ourselves with a stroll along
the riverfront, and the sight of battleship USS North Carolina moored here, once considered
the world’s greatest sea weapon, and one of the most decorated battleships of World War
II. Wilmington was also the filming location of
the fictitious town of Capeside, from the late 90’s TV series Dawson’s Creek. This is another place that definitely deserves
a less rushed visit. What else is new? Back to the car! We drive around a little
bit on this historic downtown area and then it is off to our nation’s Capital, Washington
DC. We continue driving towards New York.
Three hours and over 180 miles after we leave Wilmington, North Carolina we enter the state
of Virginia, and naturally we stop for the photo op.
We are driving almost non-stop all the way to Washington, DC. And we are about halfway
there. We pass by Richmond, Virginia
… and Fredericksburg. And no matter where you are, traffic will
always slow down by the site of an accident. The weather deteriorates gradually. When we
arrive we would have driven for over 6 hours along 370 miles nearly non-stop.
As night falls, we arrive at our nation’s Capital. Washington, DC.
“Continue on I-395 North…” Our hotel is the Capitol Skyline, very well
located. Actually, you can kind of see the Capitol building from our window.
We do a little bit of sightseeing under the cold rain.
The Washington Monument, the Capitol Building. With this nasty weather I actually give up
on the video camera and just take a few pictures. There’s me and my nine-year-old car, which
has brought us, safely, all the way here. This is the Jefferson Memorial with its famous
view of the Washington Monument and the White House.
We’ve had enough of this rain. Let’s enjoy Christmas Eve Dinner at this place in Georgetown
called Farmers Fishers Bakers. After a full day of driving and the horrendous weather
we’ve endured it is a nice break. In the morning we take the Baltimore-Washington
parkway. It is a beautiful drive in the early morning mist. It is a shame we couldn’t see
much of DC this time, but don’t worry. Eventually we have to drive back south, so we’ll revisit. We arrive at Baltimore. The M&T Bank Football
Stadium… and the Oriole Park. As we reach the Hilton we turn right onto
Camden Street towards the Convention Center. We drive east on Pratt Street and continue
roaming the deserted streets. It is Christmas morning after all, so I assume everybody is
opening presents. Making this trip is present enough for me.
We continue driving along the Inner Harbor, and venture into Canton Park, but there’s
really, not a whole lot to see here so we say: “enough wandering”. Let’s head east on
O’Donnell Street towards I-95 north. We cross the Susquehanna River, the longest
one on the east coast. And pretty soon we arrive to the state of
Delaware, and the city of Wilmington, largest city in the state.
Off to Philly we go and guess what another state line crossed. Welcome to Pennsylvania.
As we get of on 15th street one of the fist things we see is the City Hall to the left.
We continue south on 15th street into the district of South Philly, the birthplace of
the Philly Cheesesteak and not exactly the most touristy part of the city so we turn
back north on 16th. This mural called “Children of Philadelphia” is one of the many Murals
Against Crime. These murals are all around the city and they have become a symbol of
Philadelphia. South Street is the invisible border between South Philly and Center City.
We’re just driving around aimlessly. It is not our intention to see Philadelphia today,
everything seems to be closed on Christmas Day, so we just want to take a quick look
around and continue on. And after a few miles we are in New Jersey.
Sorry, no pull out to take a picture. We have it on good authority that the best
place for brunch on Christmas Day is Harold’s New York Deli. Don’t let the name deceive
you, they are located in Edison, New Jersey, and they are famous for the gigantic portions.
We definitely ordered too much food. A shake, soup, chilly fries, a meat loaf sandwich,
a hotdog. What were we thinking? We are getting outta here.
Start spreading the news. I’m arriving today. This is it; we are approaching our final destination! Coming up next, we spend Christmas in New
York, and then some more. Meanwhile enjoy the Lincoln Tunnel as we cross underneath
the Hudson River. Send you comments or questions to my Twitter or my email, or leave a comment
in the YouTube video or the blog. Until ned time, thank you for watching and see you on the road.