Casa De La Paz
St. Augustine, Florida
The heart or “main drag” of St. Augustine Florida is Avenida Menendez, which curves around the bay-front as it cradles this historic town.
Not far from the city gates and the old Castillos de San Marcos and overlooking Matanzas Bay is an elegant and homey inn, Casa De La Paz. The inn is very close to all of the wonderful and interesting attractions of the oldest city in America; only a stone’s throw away from shopping, restaurants, art galleries, antique shops, museums, and the many historical “must see” venues.
The first owners of the property were the Pullers, who in 1915 made it their private home.
J. Duncan Puller was a prominent banker and a member of the upper echelons of St. Augustine society. During the grandeur of the Flagler era, it was not uncommon to build opulent homes. The Puller’s residence did not disappoint St. Augustine’s sophisticated society with the building’s arched doorways and windows, mirrored fireplaces, leaded glass bookcases, red tiled roof, and hand carved moldings.
Over the years, depending on who the owners were, the property served as a private home, kindergarten, restaurant and even residential apartments. Only in 1986, after extensive renovations, that it was converted to a charming bed & breakfast.
If you suffer from the common malaise of burn-out, there is life beyond the corporate world. I can appreciate why its present day owners, Sherri Crews and her husband Marshall, believed that owning a B&B would be a welcome change of pace. As she indicated to me, [it's] “a dream come true!”
Sherri and Marshall purchased the Casa De La Paz in 2000 after moving to St. Augustine from Jacksonville, Florida. Sherri regards the inn as her “baby.” Although her husband, Marshall, still maintains his regular job for insurance and retirement funding purposes, he nevertheless collaborates with Sherri as web-master and chief accountant.
Sherri has contributed her amazing talents to gradually changing the inn’s appearance and recapturing its original personality. When they first became owners of the property, Sherri and Marshall found the house too Victorian, with its Mediterranean Revival architecture. Since Sherri stepped in, every room has been changed, and there is now more of a European style of décor, evidenced by seven distinct bedrooms named after famous individuals.
Be sure to ask Sherri for a personal tour of the inn. You will be amazed at the many surprises that await you, from the antique furnishings, heart-of-pine floors, and richly upholstered sofas to the armchairs and rockers.
If you should be seeking an extraordinary romantic delight, request a room with a jacuzzi tub and a decorative fireplace, or a room with a breathtaking panoramic view of St. Augustine’s Matanazas Bay. It is little wonder that the inn has been listed as a top five inn in Kiplingers Retirement Report.
Breakfast at the Inn
Sherri’s two course breakfasts can only be described as triumphs. You are in for a real treat with the eggs Benedict, raspberry stuffed French toast, ginger pancakes with honey-maple-pecan syrup, and delicious quiches. All are served in the dining room or in the inviting wicker-furnished sunroom.
The Inn as a Wedding Destination
The inn offers three types of wedding possibilities; “just the two of us” (only the bride and groom), a small intimate wedding up to ten persons, or the whole house accommodating up to twenty-five people.
Sherri can offer catering services when the whole house is rented. She has indicated to me that she has produced everything from the hors d’oeuvres to five course dinners. The tropical lush courtyard is in bloom year round and provides the ideal setting for that special and intimate wedding ceremony.
While visiting the inn, Lily and I had the good fortune of witnessing an intimate brunch reception for a party of twelve. Prior to the couple tying the knot on a nearby beach, the guests were treated to an elegant sit-down brunch in the dining room around the 10-foot mahogany table. Sherri and her competent staff did a masterful job of setting out the most beautiful plates and cutlery.
Do you Believe in Ghosts?
One last feature of the inn, Sherri informed me that the inn is haunted; initially she found the idea of the house being haunted absurd. Since then she has become a believer. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, Lily and I did not have the pleasure of meeting the ghost in residence when we last visited the inn. Perhaps, it is because we don’t believe in ghosts.
We were informed that when the Pullers owned the house, a young honeymooning couple had stayed with them. On the last day of their visit, the young groom had decided to go fishing and told his wife to wait at the house until he returned. Unfortunately, there was a terrible storm that day and the young man’s boat capsized. He never did return to pick up his young bride. The young woman was so sad that she remained in St. Augustine for several years and eventually died of a broken heart. However, the story goes, her spirit never left the Casa De La Paz, awaiting the return of her husband.
When the inn was converted into apartments it was reported that some of its occupants, from time to time, heard a knocking on the doors and a voice murmuring, “is it time to leave yet?” There have been other sightings, such as a young woman walking down the hallway or at the top of the stairs with her bag packed and ready to leave.
Lily and I never did meet the ghost, although we did work up enough nerve to participate in one of the nightly ghost tours offered by Ancient City Tours Inc (3 Aviles Street). This is one tour you will not want to miss. The guides certainly have a knack of stretching their imaginations! Did we encounter any sightings? Perhaps!
Aia Ale Works
1 King Street, St. Augustine, Florida
Here is one restaurant you will have to loosen your belt. The wide choice of menu is utterly scrumptious and the portions are humongous! You have to try the beer the restaurant brews. What more can you ask for? The restaurant is ideally located overlooking the City Marina and the Bridge of Lions, making for an ideal romantic location.
46 Avenida Menendez
St. Augustine, Florida
This landmark restaurant has a definite New Orleans flair to it, and they certainly live up to their Cajun philosophy – Lagniappe (pronounced Lan-Yap) that translates – “to give a little something extra.” If the weather is right be sure to sit outside in the courtyard, particularly during the evening hours when it is all lit up with beautiful lanterns. Menu includes fresh fish, seafood specialties, Bourbon Street favorites, pasta, fried platters, steak, New Orleans po’boys, burgers, & more.