Our time in Sarasota confirmed that this is where we really want to spend our winters. It combines all the attractions of city, country and coast, making it a perfect location for us. Finding a winter home has sadly not proved easy, but we have used our time here on this brief trip to enjoy some of the delights that Sarasota has to offer.
We looked at a number of other condos, in Sarasota itself and also in Venice, but decided that Central Park was where we really wanted to be. So we made an offer for the condo there – a low offer, to take account of all the work that needed doing. The property was a bank repossession, and the procedure for making an offer was quite complicated, involving sealed bids. But sadly our offer was rejected. We are now contemplating what our next step should be.
There are miles and miles of beautiful white sand beaches in the Sarasota area. The sea temperature at this time of year does not make us inclined to swim (though some do) but we really enjoy walks along the shore, and the recent sunny weather has encouraged us to go for several, starting at a different beach almost every time.
Some beaches are popular; for example, there were plenty of people on Siesta Beach (claimed to be the #1 in the USA) on the morning of Thanksgiving Day – although with so much space it was never crowded. Along other wilder stretches we saw hardly anyone at all, but we did see lots of seabirds, ranging from pelicans to tiny sanderlings. On one walk we were fascinated to watch a heron trying unsuccessfully to swallow a whole plaice it had caught. It was also amusing to see egrets taking up their positions near fishermen, hoping for scraps from their catch, or trying to break into their bait boxes!
Myakka River State Park, one of the oldest and largest in Florida, is only a few miles from Sarasota. It has great scenery, and lots of birds and alligators! There is plenty of scope for walks (long or short) and you can take an airboat ride on the lake. We visited Myakka River for the first time, and had a great day out there.
Urfer Family Park is actually in Sarasota, in fact it is within walking distance of Jane’s house! We must have driven past it lots of times, without even noticing. One day we spotted it on a map and thought it would be somewhere to aim for. We saw some great children’s play equipment and thought that was it. But then we discovered that the park extends quite a way, and includes an exercise trail, nature trails etc. We went for a walk and found it hard to believe we were still in the city.
While in Urfer Park we picked up a leaflet for the ‘Legacy Trail’, which we had not previously heard of. This is a converted rail track that runs from just south of Sarasota down to Venice. We walked a section of about three miles each way. The trail is flat, straight, wide and tarmacked; it can therefore be used by cyclists, who far outnumbered the walkers on our excursion. (That was a Saturday morning, so maybe it would be quieter during the week, when the young cyclists are at work!) We saw some interesting plants, but few animals: just a lot of small lizards, and two turtles, one of whom was intent on crossing the trail, but wisely decided against!
Sarasota has lots of cinemas and theatres; it also has an Opera House and a Performing Arts Center, though we haven’t been to either of those yet. Recently we’ve seen two films, My Old Lady (despite the great cast, we were not impressed) and The Theory of Everything (which was brilliant).
At the Players’ Theatre, we saw A Christmas Story – the musical which was based on an old American film. We went to the Players’ twice last year, and thoroughly enjoyed their productions, but this time we were rather disappointed.
We were in Sarasota for the ‘holiday season’, beginning with Thanksgiving on Thursday 27th November. We went for a morning stroll along Siesta Beach, and later joined Jane and Phil for drinks and a wonderful dinner in Phil’s beautiful house on Longboat Key.
After Thanksgiving, the emphasis everywhere (shops, TV etc) is on Christmas. This is much the same as in the UK, but in Florida it’s warm enough to have outdoor events at this time of year. Some gardens and parks are lit up in the evenings, and the atmosphere at the Ringling Museum complex was magical. The courtyard of the Art Gallery (impressive even by day) was illuminated, and a series of groups sang, played or danced on the outdoor stage. Other groups performed under an open-sided marquee by the bayfront. The Ca d’Zan (spectacular Italianate mansion on the waterfront) was alight with Christmas trees and decorations, and carols were sung to the accompaniment of the grand piano.
There are also Christmas parades; we’ve seen them advertised in every town and village around here. We went to the one in Main Street, Sarasota. As might be expected, there were lots of bands, dancers and floats, representing many of the schools, churches, charities and clubs in the city. It took an hour and a half for the procession to pass us. Great fun, and obviously much enjoyed by the crowds of spectators.