We took off from Guadeloupe on 2 February, in a very small plane that took us to Puerto Rico. There we went through US immigration (very quickly!) before catching a larger plane to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The journey was uneventful except for a few slight delays and the fact that Sandie’s laptop (fixed on Dominica) stopped working again!
Knowing we would arrive late, we’d booked a hotel near the airport for the night. The plan was to spend the next day on the east coast (32 years since we were last in Fort Lauderdale!) before heading west for our home exchange in Venice. We arrived even later than anticipated, grabbed a bite to eat, and had a drink in the hotel bar while getting information from the chatty lady who served us.
We got back to our room about midnight, checked emails and found a message to say that a condo had become available in our absolutely ideal location! We were very excited, so next morning we changed our plans and rushed back to Sarasota.
The condo hunt
The condo was indeed ideal, just what we wanted, in the perfect location. But sadly it didn’t work out, mainly because it was overpriced. We made a couple of offers which were rejected. The owner was not in a hurry to sell, the place had only just gone on the market, so she was hanging on for the asking price. We were not prepared to pay that as it was much more than other places in the development have sold for.
Another day we looked at a different condo which was very nice (and much cheaper!), but smaller and in a less ideal location. Unfortunately it too was greatly overpriced.
Friends in Venice
We stayed for a week in Venice, 20 miles south of Sarasota, living in a large and comfortable mobile home owned by Sue and Ed. This was the postponed half of a home exchange arrangement: Sue and her sister Alice stayed in our flat for a week last April. While we were in their home Sue and Ed stayed in a house just around the corner. Alice (who lives in Atlanta) was also in Venice, staying in a house opposite! So we saw quite a lot of them during the week, which was really nice.
On Saturday we were invited to a ‘sock hop’ at the clubhouse. We had no idea what a sock hop was, but it turned out to be a dance with a 50s theme, music and dress (if you had anything suitable to wear – we didn’t). There was lots of jiving, twisting and smooching, plus some entertaining party pieces by club members. And pizza to eat – all in all, a lot of fun.
On Sunday afternoon Alice invited us to wine and nibbles in the home she shares with her friend Dot. Sue and Ed were there too, and we had a great afternoon, with good food, drink and company. On Monday we all went to lunch at the Upper Crust, a favourite café in the centre of Venice.
Work and play
Ian managed to get Sandie’s laptop working again, so she was able to get up to date with emails as well as washing and ironing. Ian also had a problem with his laptop: it was functioning fine, but he kept getting messages about his Windows licence running out. It took hours on the phone to Microsoft to get the problem sorted. Just as well, though, because he had work to do. ERA (our consultancy partnership) had been awarded a contract by the Department for Education in England, which meant a lot of statistical work: Ian was able to make a start on it while we were in Venice.
But we had time off too. One morning, while Ian was working, Sandie went to an Orchid Show in the Venice Community Centre: she was dazzled by all the beautiful flowers – and amazed by the crowds of people there. One evening we went to see the film Black or White, with Kevin Costner: it was interesting and thought-provoking.
Having failed to get his camcorder fixed, Ian bought a new one, and was keen to try it out. On our last day in Venice we walked along the Venetian Waterway Park trail, a path that follows the Intracoastal Waterway around Venice. We walked up one side for about two miles, crossed a bridge to look at the old Venice Train Depot (now a bus station) and then walked back on the other side. The path links with the Legacy Trail, part of which we walked from Sarasota in December. We were rather disappointed as there were few boats on the water, and the landscape was industrialised in places and rather bleak, in contrast with the Legacy Trail where we were surrounded by all kinds of trees. Still, it was good to be out walking in the sun.