The French are back 450 years after Jean Ribault’s two vessels, known as carracks, arrived on Napoyca. This was the name given to Amelia Island by the Timucuan Indians. Once Ribault claimed the island for France he called this refuge “Isle de Mai”. The French Flag was the first one of a total of eight throughout its history.
Eight Flags you ask? Well let me see, the first one was obviously France (1562-1565 and 1795); number two was Spain (first Spanish period 1565-1763, second Spanish period 1784-1821); then came England (1763-1783); number four was Patriots’ Rebellion (1812); the fifth, Green Cross of Florida (1817); then the Mexican Republic (1817); the seventh, US Territorial Period (1821-1845) and finally the eighth through statehood, the United States of America. So as you can see there is quite a vivid history here and that probably explains why we still have very active Pirates here. (Don’t worry they carry plastic swords.)
But coming back to the subject , only 450 years later… give or take a day our friend Philippe Boets convinced the French Navy to dock the two sister ships “l’Etoile (the Star) and “la Belle Poule” (the Pretty Hen) at the Harbor Front on Amelia Island. The schooners came to Florida in honor of the anniversary of Jean Ribault’s arrival to the new world. The idea was to reward the 54 sailors to a well deserved weekend of R & R after their 7 week voyage across the Atlantic. I think, given the history it really made sense that they arrived on the island first. They’ll have a chance to relax at the oldest operating Saloon in
Florida, the Palace Saloon complete with ghost, plus some other great historical hangouts. I am sure they’ll have the time of their life, after all, this is a very friendly island.
Of course unlike back then, taking over the island and flying a new flag is out of the question but they’ll have a chance to take on the locals at the Petanque tournament on Sunday. Watch out, the local teams from Amelia Island, Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Tallahasse are quite good and know how to play this French bowling game well.
Most likely the crew that stepped off their vessels in 1562 and was welcomed by Timucuan Indians had it a little tougher than this one. Their journey will continue after celebrations in Jacksonville on May 1st. Then they will be heading to Savannah, Annapolis, Philadelphia and New York.
Amelia Island is a great place! There is always something fun going on and people here enjoy living on island time. I already look forward to seeing some of you next week at the Shrimp Festival. I sure am glad Caroline found this Paradise.