Eco-friendly Nights of Lights tours are bargain

After dinner last night, my wife and I decided that we would spend some time touring the many light displays that are staged around St Augustine.

By 7:00 p.m., we found that the traffic was in gridlock and the only parking spaces around the plaza were either occupied or available from scalpers wanting $7 – $8 to park.

My wife was ready to call it quits rather than fight the crowds, when I remembered seeing a blurb about Peter Gold (no relation) offering eco-friendly tours via battery-operated cart and we decided to check it out.

The St Augustine Gold Tours pick up and drop off at the parking lot adjacent to the Authentic Old Drug Store at the corner of Cordova and Orange Street. We pulled in thinking “what a perfect place to park” and it is — except that there was an attendant with his hand out wanting $7 for the privilege and the tour itself only cost $7.

When it became clear to the attendant that I was not willing to pay what I considered a high price, he gave me a “good luck finding something else — the town is full”. Just the answer I did not want to hear. Then, I remembered that I was directly across the street from St Augustine’s Historic Downtown Parking Facility. Armed with my ParkNow card, I was able to secure well-lit, covered parking for only $1.

We met Peter and his wife, who operate the tours themselves, and learned a little more about how they found their way to St Augustine. Peter and his wife were lawyers in the United Kingdom before retiring to Florida in 1998. They said that they became “bored” with the Sarasota area and that there really was nothing there to keep them interested.

With a daughter graduating from Flagler College, they became familiar with St Augustine; and two years ago, they relocated here. Their son, also in college, is working as a server at O.C. White’s restaurant. In February 2001, Peter became a Florida licensed real estate sales associate; January 11, 2011, he became affiliated with St Augustine Team Realty LLC.

Peter, who turned 61 years-old this year but claims he still feels 41, previously conducted walking tours in the city. Gold is a history buff and told us that he wanted to show visitors more of the interesting sites than a walking tour could allow. He got the idea for the unique, environmentally friendly vehicle and has catered to private parties and special events tours for small groups of six or seven passengers ever since.

The size of the vehicle allows the tour to travel the narrowest and quaintest streets of the city — Gold easily avoids traffic jams and can travel streets not accessible to the trolleys or sightseeing trains.

The vehicle is unique, comfortable and quiet, with individual seat restraints and armrests, and ample legroom. Every tour is intimate with a maximum of 7 passengers.

Last night there were lines that stretched from block-to-block; packed with visitors waiting to re-board other sightseeing tours. Trollies and trains were blocking traffic, adding to the congestion of an overtaxed network of 16th century streets, but, Gold was able to slip through, changing his route to avoid traffic jams when necessary, and gave us an entertaining 45-60 minute tour of what National Geographic has dubbed one of the top 10 destinations for holiday light displays.

A chauffeured excursion, entertaining banter, and hassle-free on-and-off made this choice exactly what we were looking for — a fun and relaxing wind-down to a busy holiday week. Make your reservations with confidence — the Gold’s offer something different that I would expect you to enjoy.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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