Fort Walton Florida is laid back, low key and very family oriented. It has none of the flashy highrises or gated communities that are found on some of the other Florida panhandle beaches like Destin.
The water is always a turquoise color which is a result of the white sandy beach reflecting the blue of the sky. It is one of the first beach towns after you cross the Florida Alabama border and the beach section is located on the beautiful Santa Rosa Island, across from the mainland and downtown area. US highway 98 passes through Fort Walton beach and extends along Santa Rosa Island down to Destin and then traverses further south through Florida.
Fort Walton consists of a few condo buildings that line the beach and are surrounded by small residential neighborhoods with Florida style bungalows covered in sea salt. The downtown area is located on the mainland and the atmosphere is even more low key with tiny retail stores, yacht marinas, parks and honky tonk beer drinking establishments. The town atmosphere is a typical laid back beach town with canals and boat docks running parallel to the city streets. You do not go to Fort Walton for a sophisticated nightlife nor to dine in fancy restaurants or hob nob with the rich and famous. You go to Fort Walton to take your family to the beach and do nothing but read a book and enjoy watching the sea gulls.
Part of Fort Walton is located on Santa Rosa Island which is a long barrier island that stretches down to Destin. The area surrounding Ft Walton is beautiful and relatively undeveloped because it is located within the Gulf Islands National Seashore. This protected area means that there is plenty of herons, egrets and sea gulls that can be found searching for food along the beach. During high tide the shallow wading pools trap tiny fish where these birds take the opportunity to stuff themselves with an easy catch for dinner.
On one side is Anastasia Island, which is a barrier island where you will find white sandy beaches, lots of funky beach restaurants and stores. The island is separated from the mainland by the Inter coastal waterway. The town stretches from the beach across the Inter Coastal Waterway and the uniquely historical Bridge of Lions to the narrow cobbled streets with horse drawn carriages, and sidewalks lined with art galleries and artists.
The Inter-coastal waterway is a haven for boaters and wildlife. Birds, alligators and numerous wildlife species love the protected marshes and parks that dot the landscape and as you drive along the main highway each day you get to enjoy not just the scenery but the local wildlife. Flocks of egrets and birds perch on the tall sea grass waiting for their daily catch of fish to swim past them. The tides ebb and flow changing the scenery depending on the hour of the day. All the elements blend together to form the experience that is St Augustine.
Once you reach the city, or rather the historical center, the atmosphere changes. You are surrounded by the history that was created by Henry Flagler, partner with Rockefeller, when he decided to develop St Augustine into a top tourist destination and cultivated artists to come to St Augustine and they formed an art colony mainly for the entertainment of the tourists. However, St Augustine history does not begin with Flagler as the city is surrounded with remnants from when the Spanish first colonized the region and established a fort on the inlet. And so today, St Augustine has the moniker of being the” oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement” .
Old historic church in Montalcino Italy
Southern France is lined with ancient stone villages that have existed for centuries. Most villages are surrounded by wineries and vineyards creating a woven tapesty that change colors with the seasons. In the valleys of the Pyrenees Mountains the roads wind along rivers, vineyards and villages.
Life is simple in the villages and most industries focus on the wine industry. Each village has their own wine cooperative where the smaller vineyards bring their current grape harvest. The local cooperative then processes and bottles the wine. The local wine is then sold through the local wine cooperative.
The larger vineyards market and sell their own wine under a private lable. And as you travel through the villages in the Maury Wine area you will see huge vats on porches or inside the doorway of warehouses waiting for that moment when the wine is ready for market.
Harvest season everyone has a job. The local vineyards will hire anyone who wants to work and the roads are filled the sounds of laughter and families handpicking the grapes.
Although there are several types of wines found in Languedoc France, one of the most famous is the Maury AOC. This wine is noted for its strong sweet taste similar to Brandy. There are rigid requirements for a wine to be granted the Maury AOC label. One of the well know wineries in Maury is Mas Amiel and as you travel along the Maury Wine Trail, you will see the logo in the vineyards.