castillo de san marcos
You might think that the oldest masonry fort in America would be somewhere in the Northeast United States, but it’s actually a Spanish fort in Florida: El Castillo de San Marcos, constructed in 1672 to protect the critical Spanish port city of St. Augustine, itself the oldest city in America, dating back to 1565. And what a fort it is!  The Spanish built it out of a local stone called cocina, which is a sedimentary rock made up of compressed seashells.  It was available locally and easier to cut and shape than regular stone, and it turned out to have a unique defensive benefit: when cannonballs hit the fort, they bounced off, rather than absorbing the impact like stone and shattering. Repeated attacks by the British did little to damage the fort, while the defenders would simply bide their time and take carefully aimed shots at the attacking ships.  Unique among forts in the…Continue Reading
Castle Rheinfels on the Rhine River
We took a train from Paris to Germany to meet Grandpa Dennis!  We met in the Frankfurt Airport and then headed to the cute town of Sankt Goar on the Rhine.  We were all tired and hungry but so excited to see Rich’s dad! Germany is beautiful in the fall.  It’s all fall colors, but the air was warm and the sky blue.  We took a Rhine Cruise downriver to the city of Boppard.  The cruise was nice and the sun was out.  We sat on top of the boat and enjoyed the views of cute little villages and large castles that line the river.  The boat had a slide on board, which the boys loved. In Boppard, we took a little train ride through town and then shopped and dined in the town square.  The food in Germany has been wonderful!  Harrison and I love the schnitzel and Rich…Continue Reading
It was a little rainy so we decided to drive to Monaco for the day.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was really blown away by it.  It’s so clean, so picturesque and so friendly.  It’s surrounded by mountains (and France)  and built up around a harbor full of the largest yachts we have ever seen. The streets are so clean and every intersection has a smiling and helpful police officer.  Monaco has 1 officer for every 60 residents! We toured the Palace, where the Prince resides.  It was fun to tour a real palace after visiting so many ruins.  The kids enjoyed the throne room, which Prince Albert II still uses, and Rich and I loved all the amazing artwork.  Harrison was enthralled by the Arms Room, which showcases guns from the 1600s right up to the present, including actual machine guns from World War II. After the palace tour…Continue Reading
For the past 3 days we have stayed in the most wonderful place that we, as a family, have ever stayed.  It’s called Augill Castle and it is truly a special place. Augill Castle is in the Lake District of Cumbria near a small town called Kirkby Stephen.  Fifteen years ago, the current innkeepers purchased this country home, built in 1841 and restored it from disrepair to an amazing inn.  It’s everything an English Country Inn should be: it has cozy beds, and sherry in your room, and a drawing room, and high tea, and croquet on the lawn, and an honor bar where you can make your own drinks anytime. Our favorite part is that they completely cater to children!  They have tennis courts, a playground and fort.  They have boxes of toys, costumes and games.  A screening room with a projection TV, a great choice of movies and popcorn. …Continue Reading
Near the pub, Warwick, England
Today we ventured out to Warwick Castle.  The castle is a national monument and is a kid paradise.  Originally built as a Saxon fortification in 914 to defend against the Danes, William the Conqueror started to turn it into a castle in 1068.  The Earls of Warwick owned it up until 1978.  The castle features prominently on the BBC show Merlin, which is a popular show in our house.  Naturally, the kids were thrilled. We explored the castle, complete with wax figures.  We climbed the 530 steps to the Guys Tower, which took so long that we missed the firing of the World’s Largest Trebuchet, measuring 18 meters high and weighing in at 22 tons.  But we did make it in time for the jousting tournament, which was a lot of fun.  Our 7-year-old twins tried their hands at archery and went to Knight’s school.  The boys toured the dungeons…Continue Reading