During our last full week in Florida, the weather turned (relatively) cool, and some days were cloudy, though there was no rain. But as usual, we found plenty to do. The house hunt continued, but without success. We were tempted by some beautiful houses close to Jane’s, but finally decided to keep waiting for somewhere downtown. With Christmas and the New Year approaching, we were kept busy sending off greetings by email, and making arrangements for future travels.
Sandie was delighted to find a tap dance class in Sarasota, and put on her dancing shoes for the first time in nearly four years. We explored Rothenbach Park, not far from the city. We saw the film Interstellar: Ian was rather disappointed, Sandie less so because it wasn’t her scene anyway! And we saw a great production of the musical Black Nativity, performed by the West Coast Black Theatre Troupe at their theatre in Sarasota.
A great weekend
We flew home on Monday 15th December, but really enjoyed our final weekend with friends in Sarasota. On Friday evening we met up with Jane and Phil at the Ringling Museum. We had dinner in the Treviso restaurant and then saw South Pacific (another great production) at the Asolo Theatre.
On Saturday we were off to Venice to meet up with Sue and Ed and discuss plans for the second half of our home exchange. We had lunch in a nearby café and then drove out to Snook Haven, a very attractive spot which we intend to explore further. In the evening we went down to the bayfront to watch the Boat Parade of Lights. This is another traditional event: boats of all sizes sail into the bay, each one illustrating Christmas themes in hundreds of lights.
On Sunday we went over to Anna Marie Island, one of our favourite spots. We looked at the weekly craft market in Bridge Street, and walked along the sand to Coquina Beach. There we found another craft market, and had lunch at a beach café. By then it was really warm again, and we made the most of the opportunity to eat outside in the sun. On our way back we stopped off to visit Doloris; we met her husband Dom, saw her beautiful condo and were guests at their association’s Christmas party.
Back in Wycombe
We landed at Heathrow soon after 11am on Tuesday 16th. We were met by Claire, Oscar and Maggi. They had spent the morning at the school; Claire and Maggi had watched two nativity plays, the first by Year 1 and the second by the nursery department. Sadly we arrived just too late. Fortunately, however, the Year 1 production was repeated next day, so we were able to see Charlie’s starring performance as Chief Elf. He sang a song solo; we were pleased to discover that he has inherited Claire’s musical talents rather than ours! In the evening we all returned to the school for a carol service; when it ended, Santa’s sleigh was parked in the playground, and the children queued to talk to him and receive gifts.
In the following days we were busy with the usual Christmas preparations: writing cards, wrapping presents, putting up decorations – and masses of shopping! But we found time to join the local gym, something we were keen to do as we are putting on weight again, and really need some exercise. Claire had already joined, and was enthusiastic. Sandie accompanied her to a Zumba class, but the Pilates one they intended to try was cancelled. Ian prefers the gym itself. We experimented with their newly-installed sauna, but improvements are definitely still needed.
On Saturday evening we went to see The Battle of the Five Armies (final part of The Hobbit) at the local cinema. Next morning Claire was off to Dubai, so the boys came to stay with us. On Monday we took them up to London for the day. We started off in Covent Garden, watching street entertainers and looking round the craft market, which has changed since our last visit – a lot of the stalls are now selling antiques.
From Covent Garden we walked through to Leicester Square, where there was a small Christmas funfair, with rides and stalls selling food. The weather was quite mild, so we were able to eat outside – although compared with Coquina Beach there was less sun and more clothes!
In the afternoon we went a live production of Stick Man, based on one of the boys’ favourite books. Then we took the tube to Marble Arch, and walked through the West End – Oxford Street, St Christopher’s Place, Regent Street, Carnaby Street – admiring the Christmas lights and shop windows. We ended up in Trafalgar Square, to see the giant tree, although Charlie was disappointed – he didn’t think it was really that big!
The not-very-big Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square