The moment I arrived at the Pirate Haus Inn, I knew I was in for a real treat. THIS PROPERTY PROTECTED BY PIRATES, read a sign on the front door, which opened onto a set of steep stairs, upon which the lyrics of Yo Ho A Pirate’s Life For Me were embedded. “You checking in?” a fellow in his sixties asked me as I took a breather at ‘Drink up me hearties, yo ho!’. His grey hair was tied in a short pony tale at the nape of his neck, and a small gold hoop earring shone to the right of his cheery face. On his khaki t-shirt was a skull and crossbones, above which said ‘The Pirate Haus Inn’, and underneath, ‘Treasury Street, St. Augustine, Florida’.
St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest city in America and quite possibly the most pirate-obsessed, too. Not only is it home to a pirate-themed hostel, but a replica pirate ship and a pirate and treasure museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of pirate artefacts. The museum wasn’t exactly the best $13 I’ve ever spent, however I did see one of only two remaining original Jolly Roger flags and the only surviving real pirate’s treasure chest in the world. The universe, even. I also learned a few interesting facts I can whip out next time I’m trying to impress someone. Like, did you know that Blackbeard had 14 wives, lived in North Carolina and added gunpowder to his rum? Impressed? I thought so.
Once I’d done the pirate museum, visited the original Ripley’s Believe it or Not! and taken a hop-on hop-off Red Train tour (I was the only one aboard for nearly the entire loop, yet the driver/guide still spoke to me like he was carrying a full load), there wasn’t much else to do in St. Augustine. Nevertheless, I couldn’t have been happier in my decision to stay three nights there, because this meant three nights in the Pirate Haus!
The Pirate Haus was covered wall to wall in pirate paraphernalia and occasionally music that inspires one to swashbuckle would drift down the hall. Each morning, Dennis, the pirate with the pony, would serve up pancakes in the kitchen. He was uber creative, decorating the pancakes with designs like flowers and treasure maps. On my final morning in the hostel, I was their only guest and was given extra special pancakes – one that read ‘G’day Mate’, one of a shrimp on the head of a Barbie doll (boom tshhh) and one of a coolabah tree. No, Mother, I did not eat them all, despite Dennis and his fellow pirate pals (employees) attempting to force feed me. “You won’t grow up big and strong!” he told me.
“Thanks, Dennis, but I think I’m big enough already,” I replied.
As delicious as the pancakes were, they were not the only culinary delight I indulged in whilst in St. Augustine. I found a popcorn shop with 100 flavours of popcorn, ranging from the sublime (maple pecan) to the ridiculous (cucumber), and a store selling wines made from a variety of fruits and vegetables, again ranging from the sublime (coconut) to the ridiculous (tomato). This same store also offered a product for making wine smoothies… I retreated very quickly, before I could hand my credit card over and shout, “I want it all!”
But by far, the most pleasurable thing to pass my lips was neither popcorn, nor wine. It was a taco. Inside a burrito. Look, I know what you’re thinking. Especially you, Mum. But seriously, guys, if you walk into a Mexican cafe and you can’t decide between ordering tacos or a burrito and then you see the UFO on the menu, you order it. It’s like the Pert 2-in-1 of Mexican dishes. Why buy shampoo and conditioner when you can purchase one product that will cater to both your needs?
Just as I was feeling like a local in St. Augustine, and becoming a part of the furniture at the Pirate Haus, it was time for me to
walk the plank leave. As I peeled myself off the sofa, where I’d spent several hours watching Top Gear next to a life-sized pirate statue, Dennis told me I’d be sorely missed. “Arrrrrgh, fair winds!” I replied. “Until we sail again, Cap’n.”
And with that, this wench set sail for her next port of call – Tampa, Florida.