Samantha Brown knows a good travel destination when she sees one, and St. Augustine checks all the boxes for her.
Brown is the host of the PBS travel show, Samantha Brown’s Places to Love. An episode of St. Augustine airs at 11 a.m. Saturday on Jacksonville’s WJCT. She spent four days exploring the city, its waters and beaches last May to record the episode. She had visited the city before, about 20 years ago, but this is the first time she has put on a show for St. Augustine.
Here are five things she loved about her visit.
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St. Augustine is widely promoted as the oldest city in America, so it was an obvious place to start with the show. She toured the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in the heart of the city’s historic district, talking with park rangers about its time under Spanish rule, when escaped slaves who made it to the fort were granted Spanish citizenship. She visited Fort Mose State Historical Park, the site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement.
She also spent time learning about St. Augustine’s pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement.
“The rich colonial history is just the beginning,” Brown said. “For me, it’s the real entry point to learning the city.”
Brown has done previous episodes of “Places to Love” for the Naples area, the Florida Keys, Miami and Fort Meyers.
“Whenever I do Florida, I always try to find the people who are trying to protect its beauty,” she said.
This prompted him to make a trip to St. Augustine Eco Tours in Matanzas Bay, learning what is at risk and what is being done to protect the fragile ecosystem.
With this episode, she said, she wanted to show visitors that there’s more to St. Augustine than just “the oldest city.”
“You go to St. Augustine and there are a lot of travelers there,” she said. “It’s nice to get away from us and support local institutions.”
In the show, she visits Urban Asado, which now has a location on Riberia Street in St. Augustine, but was operating as a pop-up when she visited. The company makes high-end barbecue grills and now has a restaurant.
She also talks to photographer Lenny Foster, who runs the One Forty Four Gallery on King Street, to learn more about the role of St. Augustine and Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights struggle, something she said she was never taught in school.
Brown said she was surprised by the diversity she found in St. Augustine, racially, culturally and otherwise. “It’s the most diverse city I’ve ever been to in Florida.”
When travelers think of Florida, beaches are one of the first things that come to mind. For this episode, she visits the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Estuary National Research Reserve, which has miles of undeveloped beaches between St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach. She hunted shark teeth with Rob and Chris Taylor, who live in St. Augustine and run the 2TravelDads blog aimed at LGBTQ family travelers.
In addition to Urban Asado, Brown visits the restaurant St. Augustine’s Llama, which specializes in Peruvian food. She sits down with chef Marcel Vizcarra, who trained at the best culinary school in Peru, at the Anastasia Boulevard restaurant. “They’re adventurous, they’re fun, they’re delicious,” she said. “It’s a really great dinner.”
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