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Florida With Flair

by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer

You'll fall in love with St. Augustine. Unlike other Florida cities, this centuries old village has everything the other locations offer, but with a great deal more personality. The Spanish moss, lofty palm trees and cobble streets give St. Augustine a romantic atmosphere unique to the region.

St. Augustine was founded in 1565, some 42 years before the English colonized Jamestown and 55 years before the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock. It's been continuously occupied since that time. As you might expect, the city has no shortage of historic structures, including a massive stone fort, wonderful for an afternoon's exploration. Walk the rampart walls to catch a refreshing breeze and a view of the surrounding area.

For your honeymoon in St. Augustine, don't miss the opportunity to stay at the Casa Monica. Like the city itself, the Casa Monica hotel has a long and varied history. It began life as a hotel in 1888. Back then, rooms sold for the price of a cup of cappucino, at least by our modern day standards...$3 a night. Photographs in the guest rooms, depict that turn-of-the-century period when the Casa Monica was the destination of the nation's wealthy and elite. Her elegant ballrooms hosted charity functions, social events and grand balls. It's not difficult to imagine those simpler days, when ladies in their voluminous skirts and sunshade hats walked the grounds.

The passing of time has not always been kind to the Casa Monica. After it was forced to close in 1931, the building sat vacant for thirty years. No doubt local residents wondered if this classic structure was destined for the wrecking ball. Somehow she survived and was later renovated for use as the St. John's County Courthouse.

Fortunately for us all, an enterprising gentlemen by the name of Richard C. Kessler recognized her virtues. He restored it to the original purpose, (no small endeavor), a world-class hotel. In 1997, Kessler purchased the property and construction began immediately. The hotel re-opened in December of 1999. Lodging at the Casa Monica, you'll be in good company, as movie stars and politicians are frequent guests.

On the exterior the Casa Monica resembles a Moorish Revival castle with balconies, arched windows and five stately towers, topped with a red-tile roof. From the minute you step into the lobby, you'll quickly sense the era of grandeur has been thoughtfully renewed. Extraordinary antiques and a splashing fountain welcome guests. The decor is accented with Victorian touches of velvet and tapestry fabrics in rich colors of deep red, gold and cobalt blue.

For a truly memorable stay, request one of their two or three-story suites or the bridal suite. The hotel's second story opens to a large outdoor deck with pool and whirlpool, where you can begin or end your day refreshed. Room amenities include a coffee maker, safe, make-up mirror, ironing board and iron, with King or Double Queen four-poster beds.

At the Casa Monica, you couldn't ask for a better location. Sitting adjacent to the Lightner Museum and Flagler College, the property is an easy walk to historic St. George Street, where you'll find shops, attractions and restaurants. Leave your car behind and enjoy this engaging city on foot or use the convenient sightseeing trains. Better yet, opt for a horse-drawn carriage ride.

Gourmet cuisine awaits in 95 Cordova, Casa Monica's 164-seat restaurant, featuring Moroccan tile tabletops.  Local seafood and international specialties are served.

Finally, for sun worshipers, this section of Florida has a total of 42 miles of unspoiled beaches. Golf, tennis and year round fishing, are also available. St. Augustine hosts a number of festivals featuring historical re-enactments, so you'll find activity no matter what month you visit.

Your honeymoon deserves the magnificence of the Casa Monica and the ageless appeal of St. Augustine. Learn more at www.casamonica.com.


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