After arriving back in Sarasota on 26th July, we had a little over two weeks before returning to the UK. We did consider the possibility of doing a short trip up the coast, just two or three days, as we now have a tent and all the camping gear. But it didn’t work out, as we had plenty of other things to do.
Busy at home
There was unpacking, of course (and packing again to go home). Ian had some work to do for NFER (where we both worked for years, prior to retiring in 2008). He worked 3½ full days, and was ‘on call’ some other days, waiting for access to data or responses to enquiries. Meanwhile, Sandie took the opportunity of getting up to date with lots of emails. We washed/cleaned our camping gear and stowed it in Jane’s shed.
The condo search continues
Sadly, our ideal condo has not yet come on the market. We looked at three (two of them twice) during this time, but none met our exact requirements. But we are even clearer now about what we would (ideally) like, and have decided on a strategy which we hope will enable us to have our own place by the end of this year.
There are several beautiful beaches in the Sarasota area. During our stay, we spent time (mainly in the evenings) on four of them: walking, swimming or just sitting with our toes in the water. The garden chairs we bought (from a yard sale) for camping proved to be useful for the beach too!
We particularly enjoyed Manatee Beach on Anna Maria Island. There is a café where you can sit right on the beach, and enjoy the sunset while you eat. On Friday evenings they have music and a ‘drum circle’ for the children. We happened to be there on Friday 1st August, and decided to go again the following week. There is a free trolley bus which runs the length of the island, with several stops on the way. So instead of walking along the beach and having to retrace our steps, we took the trolley to City Pier (at the northern tip) had a drink there, and then walked back to Manatee Beach along the water’s edge. We had no idea how far it was, but it took us two hours, so we estimate at least four miles.
One day we visited the Red Bug Slough Preserve, described as ‘a remnant piece of natural Florida nestled in the midst of suburban Sarasota’. We enjoyed walking among the trees, clad in Spanish moss, and around the small lake, where we saw blue herons and other birds.
Another day we walked from Central Park (where we hope to buy a condo) down to the Bayfront. We had a drink at O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill (!) and sat watching the boats, and a dolphin playing in the water. We then walked the full length of Main Street, before circling back to Central Park.
Sarasota seems relatively quiet in the summer. Many people are ‘seasonal’ residents, or ‘snowbirds’, who live here in the winter and go to the cooler north in the summer. Accordingly, there are fewer summer performances at the local theatres, although we did go to see Cabaret in Venice. That was an excellent production, with brilliant dancing, and a powerful, shocking ending. It was the only stage play we have ever seen where the actors did not take a bow at the end – presumably because that would have created an anticlimax.
A day trip
Although we did not manage to go camping again, we decided we would have at least one full day out, and go beyond the Sarasota area. We had no other commitments on Thursday 7th August, and decided to head for Tarpon Springs (which we’d visited once before, at the end of 2003) with a couple of stops on the way. First was St Pete Beach, and a touch of nostalgia, since we spent two Christmases there: 1982 when we were living in South Carolina, and 1999 when we celebrated the millennium at Disneyworld.
We found a quiet beach, and enjoyed a swim before walking along to the more crowded (and familiar) area. We decided to eat our picnic lunch on the beach. Ian had just started on a peanut butter sandwich when a seagull dive bombed, grabbed the sandwich and made off with it! It happened so fast we were sadly unable to get a photo.
Next stop was Clearwater, about 20 miles further up the coast. We strolled along the pier and round the Marina, where we saw a sunset buffet cruise advertised. It sounded good, and after some discussion we decided we would stay. So we never made it to Tarpon Springs – but hey, it will still be there next time we are in Florida. And we really enjoyed the sunset cruise.
While in Clearwater we bought some drinks at a beach bar. Looking at the receipt later, we were amused to see the following warning printed on it.
!!!! ALERT !!!!
PLEASE PROTECT YOUR FOOD
WE’RE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR FOOD TAKEN BY BIRDS
Obviously Ian is not to only one to be attacked by evil seagulls.