[Blog Post] North Florida Surprises

Surprise Weekend Away in North Florida 

In November 2012, my boyfriend Matt, surprised me with a weekend away. The only details he gave me involved renting a car and heading north of our current residency in Jupiter, Florida. We set out one early weekend morning, in our black Toyota Hybrid Prius car rental, grabbed our usual at Starbucks and headed north.

Our first destination on the list of surprises was Orlando, which we have of course visited before being that I’m a Florida. We stayed with some dear friends of ours and went out that night in Downtown Orlando, hitting up trendy spots; the type that hipsters would love. My favorite spot of the night was the BBQ Bar. Fairy lights scattered the ceilings in strands that lead your eyes to the vintage posters and abstract trinkets spread out on the walls. Hallways at the bar led to outside bars; stairs led to rooftop bars. This place was beyond a feast for the eyes and great for adventure.

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BBQ Bar, Downtown Orlando [November 2012.]

After a couple days in Orlando, we hopped back in our Earth-friendly mobile to the next surprise destination on Matt’s list. We traveled about 45 minutes north to the town of Lake Helen, a town that I did not even know existed here in Florida, with a population of less than 3,000 people. We drove through the town past old homes and untouched land. It didn’t feel like the Florida that I knew anymore. Intrigue filled me, as we arrived at a small wooden cabin home named Cabin on the Lake B&B. I squealed a little, not realizing that my boyfriend was capable of surprising me with such an adorable little getaway.

Inside the Cabin, a little English woman greeted us, making us feel as though we’d known her forever, but at the same time on the contrary, a little peculiar. Matt had chosen the B&B on the basis that they served a complimentary full-English breakfast in the morning, therefore regarding what the town was actually famous for. The English B&B host, filled us in on the quaint details of this tiny town. There was one cafe, a couple shops and a Saturday morning market; a market that we headed straight for and ending up buying some old English books. She also informed us of a neighboring town, not even 5 miles away, the reason that people come to Lake Helen, a little spiritualist town called Cassadaga. Weird, we thought, but we had to check it out!

Cabin on the Lake, Lake Helen.

Antique Room at Cabin on the Lake B&B

Lake Helen

Lake Helen

The B&B was adorable. Matt chose for us to stay in the ‘antique room’ which he knew I would love. There were old books and catalogues, jars filled with chocolates, a mini fridge and an antique table filled with DIY coffee & tea. It was a cross between shabby chic and antique, with a dose of American vintage. The only hallway in the room led to the bathroom, had no door for privacy but an old fashioned pair of ice skates on the floor and an antique typewriter (as can be seen in the picture on the right). It was movie-esque, picturesque, and just super super esque! In the hallway that lead downstairs were board games including scrabble which we played until early hours of the morning.

Thursby House originally built in 1872, Bluesprings State Park.

Thursby House originally built in 1872, Bluesprings State Park

Bluesprings

Manatee at Bluesprings State Park.

We explored everything we could in the town and further beyond it’s imaginary walls that locals could not seem to go past. We found a beautiful Florida state park, Bluesprings, which is home to over 200 wild manatee and a fresh spring that was discovered by Louis P. Thursby in 1872. We strolled for hours, capturing images of the magnificent sea cows and wondering around the Old Thursby House. There was a rural feeling of peace and harmony here; truly inspirational.

The most peculiar and interesting spectacle of the entire trip was the town of Cassadaga. Up until this point in my life, I had thought that Salem was the must-see place if you are into the spooky little things in life; well, I was wrong.

The small town of Cassadaga, has one restaurant that felt as though you were trapped in the Twilight Zone – bizarre!

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Spiritualist Town of Cassadaga

Every other house was inhabited by a medium or psychic, whom had their telephone numbers listed on signs outside along with their certifications of ingenuity. Streets were named things such as Spiritualist Street and Mediumship Street (as can be seen in the photo on the left). Black cats followed us around the town while whispers of mediums could be heard every where we went, announcing reminders of “appointments only please” to strangers that pestered them. There were crystal balls in neighboring yards, witch signs, statues of the original spiritualists who founded the town, a spiritualist camp, and even a meditation garden. Shops offered tourists opportunities to join ghost tours and sold spiritualists books, trinkets, horoscope products, crystals, stones and more unusual goods; However, nothing out of the ordinary to Cassadagians! If you are planning on making a visit to Florida and want to see something unique, that doesn’t require you to wear Mickey Mouse ears but perhaps a hat of sixth sense, than this is the place to throw in your bucket list.

Real Certified Medium’s Home in Cassadaga

spir·i·tu·al·ism    noun. 

1. the view that spirit is a prime element of reality

2. a : a belief that spirits of the dead communicate with the living usually through a medium

b : a movement comprising religious organizations emphasizing spiritualism

Just when I thought it was all over, Matt had one more surprise stop up his sleeve. He took me to the oldest town in the United States of America; Saint Augustine. The college campus was beautiful and the fort Castillo de San Marcos was fun to explore. There were breweries, quirky cafes and bars, handmade goods galore, sweet little shops, icecream and chocolate shops; you name it! Saint Augustine also plays host to the oldest school house in the US (seen in the picture below), built over 200 years ago. Building after building seemed to be a B&B, which added to the town’s character, not forgetting the historical street that hosted the Colonial Spanish Quarter. Overall, North Florida is not to be forgotten as it hold secrets and surprises that you’ll regret not seeing if you visit this state! Feel free to re-blog into your travel blogs or share your thoughts/experiences of North Florida.

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The Oldest Schoolhouse in the US

All photos taken by me.

© AEAPhotography

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