Today I left the beach for space, the Kennedy Space Center to be exact. The centre itself wasn’t as big as the map suggested so it didn’t take me long to get through everything I wanted to, which was a lot, I was really excited about visiting it! My first stop was the Shuttle Launch Experience, a simulation of a real shuttle launch. I was strapped in to a seat and turned vertically as I waited for lift-off. With lift-off, the shuttle shook and rocked slightly, and as the shuttle reached outer space, the roof opened up revealing an enormous Earth and stars – it was really cool!
After my exhilarating space flight, I took a bus to Launch Complex 39, the rocket launch site of NASA. From the observation gantry, I had a clear view of Pad A, where Atlantis was stationed to be launched in a month, the final space shuttle mission as NASA’s space shuttle program is retired.
I hopped on another shuttle to my next destination, the Apollo / Saturn V Centre. I watched a short video about the history of space exploration, then went into the Firing Room, a control room fitted with actual machines used in space missions. The last part of the centre took me to a gigantic, real Saturn V rocket – it was pretty awesome! On my shuttle ride back to the main centre, I saw a bald eagle’s nest, but no bald eagle unfortunately, but sightings are rare anyway.
Upon arrival back to base, I walked through the Astronaut Memorial, a memorial dedicated to the men and women who lost their lives in space. Following that, I checked out the Rocket Garden, a garden of real rockets! I also walked along the gangway used in the Apollo 11 mission.
The last part of my tour through the Kennedy Space Center, took me to the Early Life Exploration exhibit, an exhibition highlighting the Mercury and Gemini space programs and containing Neil Armstrong’s actual spacesuit – it was cool! Finally, I visited the Eye on the Universe: The Hubble Space Telescope exhibit and saw images taken of the cosmos by the Hubble Telescope – it was out of this world!
It was now time to head for my destination for the night – Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and is the oldest continuously-occupied European-established city in the United States. Its historic Spanish architecture was really pretty and the fortress was nice, although I only saw much of the city from the bus.
Tonight I went on a ghost tour on a boat down the Matanzas River, Matanzas means ‘killings’ or ‘slaughters’ in Spanish. The tour guide told some cool ghost stories about how ghosts have been seen on the fortress, in the river and around the lighthouse. I don’t believe in ghosts but I enjoyed the stories nonetheless.
Following the ghost tour, I explored Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the United States. It is made of a stone called coquina, Spanish for ‘small shells’. With Natalie, Kelly and Tia, we wandered around the dry moat of the fort in the dark, although there were lights located intermittently around the fort highlighting the vast walls. We were searching for ghosts because in the past many slaughters had occurred at this site and people had claimed to see ghosts in recent years, unfortunately we didn’t see any. Nevertheless, it was exciting walking around a haunted fort at night.
Before heading back to our hotel, we visited another haunted site – a cemetery. Huguenot Cemetery was a Protestant burial ground between the years 1821 and 1884 just prior to a yellow fever epidemic which claimed the lives of a third of the residents in St Augustine. We were told that three young men who fell captive to yellow fever and buried in the cemetery flirt with young, beautiful women who pass by the cemetery, touching their hair, face or even legs – the girls were a bit jumpy about this.
Today was my final day in the state of Florida. Florida is renowned for its production of oranges and offers a range of fun options for the traveller, from amusement parks in Orlando, nightlife in Miami and sun and beach in Cocoa Beach – you can’t go wrong! The average temperature during my week-long stay in Florida was about 30C but it wasn’t stinking hot, but quite pleasant. Florida is a state I would like to spend more time in and explore, particularly Saint Augustine which I didn’t spend enough time in – I could even live in Florida one day!
First time activity:
• Taking a ghost tour on a boat down the Matanzas River