St. Augustine » Flagler BeachDay 1: Setting out from St. Augustineis an occasion in itself as I cross the newly restored Bridge of Lions. After some five years of renovations, the scaffolding is gone and the marble lions, cleaned to a glistening shine, are once again standing guard as I depart from this venerable Old City. Giving a nod to the Castillo de San Marco, a glorious fortress of coquina block — a type of limestone composed of seashell fragments, sand and clay that’s mined on the other side of the Matanzas Bay that I’m crossing — I coast onto Anastasia Boulevard (aka Highway A1A).
Almost instantly, my mood changes from history buff to beach bum, giving me reason to make a sharp left turn into Anastasia State Park. A stop at Salt Run, a wind- surfing and paddle-boarding spot, is perfectly timed. The show is about to begin. No, not windsurfers, but brown pelicans. Just beyond the puffy sand dunes, I spot two pelicans afloat on the bluest of waters. Suddenly, the birds take flight, lifting off at the same precise moment, moving to the left and then to the right almost as one. When they reach the ideal height, they plunge headfirst into the water just like synchronized acrobats who have practiced the performance a million times. To my delight, the crazy birds repeat their performance again and again until I’m laughing aloud.