Quick question: What’s the oldest European settlement in the United States?
Forget about Jamestown, Santa Fe, or even St. Augustine.I was amazed to learn that it’s Pensacola. The Florida panhandle city was first settled in 1559 by Spanish explorers. (Read the fascinating details in this Smithsonian magazine article). This year Pensacola’s celebrating its 450th birthday – and its first party guests: Spain’s King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía, shown above.
The royal pair visited in February, and now you can follow in their footsteps using a new map and brochure. (Pick one up at the visitors information center on Gregory Street.)
During their 18-hour stopover, the couple visited the city’s white beaches, saw artifacts from Spanish shipwrecks, and even spent the night at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front in what now can always be called a royal suite.
Other stops on the Royal Tour of Pensacola include the historic Galvez monument at Fort George park, the city’s new park Plaza de Luna, the Pensacola Historic Village and (to add a modern touch) the National Naval Aviation Museum.
No word if the royal couple got any real beach time, but it's awfully hard to resist the sugar sand of the Florida panhandle.