After a quick check-in at the Holiday Inn, I headed over to Flagler College, where the Other Words Conference would be held, and into the adventure of parking in St. Augustine. I easily found the college (after a quick detour to a boatyard :), and as for parking...let's just say a good workout was in order anyway, after the 6-hr. car ride.
I registered and looked for the Finishing Line Press peeps, who were nowhere to be found, and spent the few minutes I had left photographing the incredible rotunda and decoration of the front hall. Architectural ecstasy. (Yankees, picture a Newport mansion...even the bathroom had a fireplace in it!)
One elevator ride later, to the 4th floor of Ponce de Leon Hall, more goodness awaited: the newly opened, newly renovated Solarium, the crown jewel of a National Historic Landmark. I confess it held my attention longer than the opening poets. More photos, a few sketches, and jottings of thoughts inspired by the arrival in a coastal town.
The building was one of two posh hotels Henry Flagler built in the 1880s—an incredible Spanish Renaissance–revival structure with towers, turrets, and
stained glass by Tiffany. When we moved from readings to nibbles, I followed some out onto the terraces, where St. Augustine twinkled by Matanzas Bay. Magical. "I get to spend four days here?!" I marveled. With only my iphone with me at the time, I quickly filled my camera roll with dozens of shots of the panoramic views (none of which I can download at the moment unfortunately--but do follow the links above).
The renovation completed this summer, to mark the 125th anniversary of construction of the hotel. Ponce became Flagler College in 1968, and the Solarium was used as a library, occasional classroom, writing lab, and offices for the college newspaper. It was closed off in the 1970's for safety reasons. What a shame. What joy for me. Writing, talking about writing, learning about publishing, editing and the digital convolutions going on in all of the above, in a national landmark, surrounded by beach, boat and salt marsh...can you spell B.L.I.S.S.?!