Tuesday 2nd December. Gainesville, Florida, USA
My sore shoulder has only been getting worse over the last couple of days. I'm wondering if it was brought on by the way I sling my backpack over one shoulder if there's only a short distance to walk. Rosemary gave me some pain killers, and I've been munching them down like m&m's. Thus, the thought of dragging my backpack halfway around the state didn't appeal, and I boarded the smelly dog once more, bound for Gainesville.
Aphrodite in Gainesville has been in contact with me several times since I first started planning this project. Mostly, she would write to tell me to hurry the f* up and sell my car and start travelling! You might remember that it took me four months *sigh* to offload my prized Calibra, a sacrifice that had to be made in order to pay off my debts and leave me free to travel. Finally I was on my way to Gainesville to tell Aphrodite what I think about her giving me a hard time about my car. But it seemed I would have bigger worries in Gainesville than giving Aphrodite a piece of my mind.
Aphrodite picked me up from the smelly dog terminal. She and the dog were both half an hour late, so that worked out just fine. No time for me to go back to her new apartment and freshen up, Aphrodite was keen to grab a drink. First we visited the Round Bar, which is round. Then we stopped at Bistro 1245 for a chicken sandwich and a bottle of Chilean wine, both of which were delicious. Finally, Aphrodite took me to Dirty Nelly's, an Irish bar where she appears to be quite a regular. Once there, Aphrodite proceeded to kick my ass at pool, and drink me under the table...quite literally!
The next morning's anticipated early start didn't really work out as planned. I would've still been sleeping now if it hadn't been for the relentless knocking on the front door. Aphrodite manages a huge sprawling apartment complex, and has recently taken up residence on site. Moving onsite, while an economical option, may prove to have been a bad idea, as this morning's rude awakening suggested. At the door was one of the cleaners. She'd tripped the alarm in the office or some such palava, and of course came running to Aphrodite's apartment. Since I was now awake *kind of* I might as well get up. I attempted to take a shower. The water was icy cold. Aphrodite had literally just moved into the apartment the day before, and the gasman had neglected to turn on the gas. Brrrr....
If we were to undertake the planned road trip, copious caffiene and a big greasy cooked breakfast were essential. We stopped at Aphrodite's favourite cafe, and when some sense of normality returned to the universe, we hit the road. The day's destination was St. Augustine, about an hour and a half away on the east coast. St. Augustine is not only the oldest city in America, but is home to the fabled 'Fountain Of Youth'. Aphrodite had promised months ago, to take me to the Fountain Of Youth, and here I finally was.
The fountain itself, of course, is in the middle of a commercially operated tourist trap... I mean attraction. It was six bucks, but it kind of seemed like a 'must do'. I'd kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland, and that hadn't worked. Perhaps youthfulness would be my gift, not eloquence. The water tasted like it came from the swimming pool at Southbank in Brisbane. Our pimply faced guide warned us that the power of the water shouldn't be underestimated. I guess there could be something to it, if he really is a hundred and seven!
The story behind the fountain of youth is an interesting one. Apparently, when the Spanish explorer Ponce De-something-or-other arrived about five hundred years ago, he was confronted by a tribe of natives over a foot taller on average than the Spanish, and with a life expectancy of twenty years longer. Ponce *unfortunate name* figured that the secret to their incredible stature and longevity must be the sweet water from the local spring. Well, it may've been that... or it might've been the healthy diet that the natives had. The local tradition of marrying the tallest men to the tallest women may have contributed to the six foot tall natives, too!
St. Augustine itself, is a gorgeous little town. The historic Spanish influence is obvious, although I'm always suspicious as to how much has been recreated for the benefit of the tourism industry. It's a pleasant spot for a walk or a cup of coffee- ginger spiced- and a slice of pecan pie. Yummy...
The cafes, bars and restaurants looked inviting, but we were both tired, and the afternoon was quickly disappearing. Aphrodite showed me around the stunning building that was once a high class hotel, and now houses Flagler College. What a campus!
Due to a combined lack of direction between Aphrodite and myself, the trip back to Gainesville took a little longer than it should've. We ended up on the northern side of a lake that we should've been south of. Oops! It was a big lake too, but the drive around the banks at sunset was spectacular. If I could've been bothered to drag myself out of the car to take a photograph, you could see for yourself. As it is, you'll just have to take my word for it.