Astral Nomads

One man, one woman, one rabbit......traveling with the stars.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Decorative Arts & Spanish Cuisine

Cold, damp, and misty today in St. Augustine. A good day to check out the Lightner Museum. Otto Lightner, like Ripley, was an obsessive collector of things. Unlike Ripley, whose tastes ran to the bizarre and grotesque, Lightner collected mostly antique objets d'art, so visiting this museum was a lot less stomach-turning than Ripley's, but still astounding, given it's large collection of the decorative arts. It was not hard to believe anything in the entire collection, which was a relief after yesterday's constant challenges to doubt everything. The Lightner Museum is housed in the former Hotel Alcazar, another one of Henry Flagler's over-the-top Spanish Renaissance monuments of the gilded age. Otto picked up the museum for a song during the Great Depression and started packing it full with his stuff. As great as the collection is, in someways the building itself is the star of the show. Just look as these terracotta fantasy towers. At the time, it had the largest indoor swimming pool in the world. It's spectacular. As a bonus, good old Otto Lightner is buried in the courtyard.

The lobby has the shiniest floor I have ever seen. 

Whoa! Bear! 
(life-size carved from a single piece of linden)

This actually was kinda hard to believe: a blown glass
decorative folly driven by a small steam piston. Why?

I love Jasper!
I love Wedgewood!
I love Mythology!
(And I made Wendy take this photo.)

Otto collected a fair amount of stained glass. Here's
a nice cherub.

This part of the musuem used to house the hydrotherapy
wing (steam baths, Turkish baths, cold pools, etc.) Now there's
a lovely formal dinner setting for six. A curatorial curiosity?

I think it would be hard to focus on your meal
eating off of this table-top.

Here's Astral Wendy checking out a gigantic decorative urn.

Well, hello. Wait a minute, there's a bird
on your head.

This spectacular shot is from the third floor
ballroom, looking down onto the floor of what
used to be the swimming pool of the Hotel Alcazar.
It now is the location of the museum cafe.

 I've always had a fascination with stairwells so I grabbed
Wendy's camera and took this shot to savor later.

 Out in the courtyard where Otto is buried, there's a 
little bridge over this Koi pond. I grabbed twenty-five
cents worth of fiskefoder from a vending machine so
I could get the fish to congregate. Wendy did the rest.

 They don't build tower's like these anymore.

 For lunch, we went to the Columbia, a Spanish/Cuban
restaurant in the historic district just a few blocks north
of the Lightner Museum. These guys have been in business
in Florida since 1905, so we thought we should check it out.
To stay in business in the restaurant game for that long, you
must be doing something right. We were not disappointed.

 I continued my tradition of ordering, and attempting to eat,
things larger than my head. This serving of eggplant in a tomato.
olive, and caper sauce topped with melted cheese was not as
large as the epic Bocce Ball but it was still more than I could eat
in one sitting. I got almost half-way through and took home the rest
to split with Wendy for dinner.

 Wendy wisely ordered this thin-cut sirloin, marinated
in lime juice and onion and sizzled on a flatiron. Served with some
plantains and "good" rice. I quoted the good because
that's what it said on the menu. Served with "good" rice.
It was good too.

Here's the entrance to Flagler College. Looks like
a pretty sweet campus.

Tomorrow, we're checking out of St. Augustine and beginning to head west. First stop is Tallahassee. Why? It's west of here, we've never been there, and we're not in any particular hurry, so we figured we'd nomad through and see if there's anything worth seeing there. Report to follow.


  1. I love St Augustine! Always something to see and such history. It was one of my favorite places to go when I lived in Florida.

  2. @MMH: We be digging the vibe here too Mama, but I sure wish it was a little bit warmer. But, at least we ain't in NJ wearher anymore.

  3. you guys make me hungry with all those cuisine pics. vicariously enjoying your journey...ellen

  4. Be careful in tallahassee if you plan on sportin' the gators. Also, i just heard that 49 out of 50 states are getting snow, which means florida is the only state that is still cold without the snow.

  5. @Dylan: Yeah, we know the semiHoles suck, but we'll keep our Gator Nation allegiance on the down low while we're behind enemy lines. It's snow crazy in this country but we're determined to find someplace warm. Sure hope it doesn't take until summer time. Be well my friend.