We are settling into our condo and enjoying the Floridian lifestyle. The weather here has been consistently hot and mostly sunny, although there have been several showers or thunderstorms, usually late afternoon or evening. It is nice to get up every morning and put on shorts and t-shirts, knowing that nothing else will be needed (except for a sunhat when you go out). Here everyone, regardless of age, wears shorts and t-shirts (or ‘strappy tops’), not just for the beach but for shopping and everyday life.
Ian’s birthday was on Tuesday 19 May. He had several birthday greetings via email, Facebook or skype. He had already had his main present from Sandie (his easel and other art equipment) but as a surprise she gave him a mug she’d spotted in Disneyworld. By coincidence, he was wearing the t-shirt Claire had bought him last year – a good match. What are people trying to say to him?
He opted to have his birthday dinner at Sharky’s on the Pier, down in Venice, one of our favourite restaurants. The plan was to have a drink there, go for a walk along the beach, then return to eat. However, while we were on our way, the heavens opened. Luckily we found a table which was outdoors but under cover. So we had a drink and stayed to eat. By then the rain had stopped, and it was just the right time to walk along the pier and enjoy the sunset.
Setting up the condo
We spent a lot of time that week in the condo, waiting for things to be delivered. They did not all arrive at the expected time, but by Thursday evening we had received a TV, a TV stand, a DVD player, a desk, a bookcase and a patio set (small glass table and two rocking chairs) for the lanai. Everything was fine, except that the TV had no signal – we discovered we’d have to wait a week for an engineer to come and set it up. But we could watch DVDs (from thrift shops) while we waited.
The only thing that had not arrived was our box spring. The saga continued! When we ordered it, we’d been told it would be in the store on 19th May and delivered to us next day. But by Friday 22nd there was no sign of it, so while out on a shopping trip we called at the store to enquire. The guy there said his deliveries always came on Tuesdays, so he had just assumed it would arrive on the 19th. Since it didn’t come then, it would be some other Tuesday, but he didn’t know which. Given that it was almost the weekend, and Monday was a holiday, he agreed it was unlikely to arrive on the 26th. There was no point in asking the suppliers to hurry, because they would not change their manufacturing schedule to suit just one customer. And so on. We complained, said it was urgent etc etc, all to no avail. Or so we thought.
Two hours later, while we were still out shopping, we had a phone call to say the box spring had (mysteriously!) arrived, and would be delivered to us that afternoon!!! Sure enough, we got back around 3.30 and the box spring was delivered 5 minutes later. So now we are sleeping in our own bedroom, which we think looks really nice.
Ian has also put things up on the walls, so the place is really looking like home. This includes two composite photo frames with pictures of family and friends. There are also souvenirs from our travels, most notably Ian’s collection of (mainly silver plated) teaspoons. These are now displayed on racks going all the way up the stairs – on plain white walls, the ideal location. Some were badly tarnished after their long residence in Andrew’s cellar, but they are much improved after Sandie cleaned them with some magic goo. The collection has been augmented by spoons collected since our retirement, and by ones inherited recently from Aunt Margie – a grand total of 197 with a few spaces yet to fill.
Life at Central Park
We really love life at Central Park II. We spend a lot of time on the lower lanai – our favourite location for breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and sundowners! We have a great view of the lake, fountain, trees and clubhouse, and we enjoy watching the wildlife: squirrels, turtles, lots of birds (herons, ibis, egrets) and hundreds of small lizards. (The only downside is that we do get some traffic noise – we thought our particular condo was far enough away from the US41 to avoid it, but sadly that’s not the case.)
The swimming pool is beautiful and we go there for an hour or so most days. In the clubhouse there is a library and a gym, which Ian has started using. There is also a tennis court – we haven’t played since schooldays, and were bad then, but may summon up the courage to have a try.
The pool is a great place for meeting people, and we have made lots of friends here already. Central Park is quiet right now, as some of the residents are ‘seasonals’ or ‘snowbirds’ who by late May have migrated to the north. The permanent residents include people who work all day, and don’t have time to go to the pool, but many are retirees enjoying the laid-back lifestyle.
The main thing that attracted us to Central Park was the location – there’s a supermarket opposite, and it’s within walking distance of the Bayfront, Main Street etc. One evening we walked the triangle we’d long planned: down to the Bayfront, drink at a bar, up Main Street, dinner in a café and back to Central Park. It was delightful, except for one thing: just after we’d finished eating a heavy storm blew up out of nowhere, so by the time we got back to the condo we were soaked through!
Since Ian’s birthday we’ve been to four different beaches, enjoying the sun and the warm sea. We’ve also been to the theatre twice. May is off-season here, so there is not so much happening, but we managed to catch a production of The Miracle Worker (about Hellen Keller), the last production of Venice Theatre’s 2014-15 season. We went back the following week for a one-off concert by Lotela Gold, based on music from the 50s and early 60s. Very nostalgic!
One particularly enjoyable evening we drove to Anna Maria Island, parked the car at Manatee Beach and took the free trolley to City Pier. We had drinks there while watching the pelicans. Over the road we sampled delicious home-made ice creams, which we ate while walking along Pine Avenue which crosses the island. Reaching the beach we saw an arch and seats, obviously ready for a wedding. We decided to have drinks in a nearby bar so we could watch – the first beach wedding we have seen. Then we followed the water’s edge back to Manatee Beach, laughing at an egret trying to sneak up on a fisherman’s catch. We had dinner at the Manatee Beach Café, where there was music and a drum circle leading up to a beautiful sunset.
We have now been in Sarasota exactly three weeks, and it has just occurred that we have not been more than 20 miles from the city in that time. Unusual for us! But now the condo is in shape, we are thinking about venturing still further afield.