We posted our last blog at the end of May. By that time we’d been in Sarasota for three weeks and had bought or installed all the things we needed for our condo. So we were thinking of going on a short camping trip during the first week of June.
In the end we decided not to go, for two reasons. First, a lot of rain was forecast – not ideal for camping! Second, contrary to our hopes and expectations, we had not exchanged contracts regarding Claire’s house move. Of course, our cellphone would work anywhere, and a lot of campgrounds these days have wifi, as we discovered last year. Nevertheless, we decided we would feel happier staying somewhere with guaranteed email contact, until contracts had been exchanged – and that still has not happened!
To peninsula or not…..
It was probably just as well that we did not go away. We love our condo, but there is one thing we have never liked. In the dining area, there is what we understand is called a peninsula: a granite top, with cupboards underneath, attached to the wall. It’s big enough for six people to sit around, but you need bar-type chairs or stools – we bought these from the previous owner. And it matches the kitchen cupboards and worktops. But we don’t like it! Being old-fashioned, we would much prefer a wooden dining table and ordinary chairs.
We wondered from the start about having the peninsula removed, but were afraid it would damage the wall. However, one of our neighbours, David, who is a handyman, assured us it would be a relatively easy job – in fact, he offered to do it for us. We got very enthusiastic, especially as it meant we could have the wall repainted a colour that would go better with our other furniture. So we embarked on another round of shopping, looking for suitable dining tables and chairs! But we didn’t find any we really liked – and meanwhile people kept telling us how nice the peninsula was, and how it had been installed only recently at considerable cost. So we started dithering – were we really doing the right thing?
Finally we decided yes, we definitely wanted to go ahead. By then we’d seen some tables we liked, although the only ones that exactly met our requirements were on the Internet, and ideally we like to see things in the flesh (or wood, in this case). We’d realised, though, that even if we ordered immediately, the furniture would be delivered – at the earliest – just as we were setting off back to England. So we’ve agreed that David will demolish the peninsula while we are away, and we’ll buy a table and chairs as soon as we get back in the autumn.
One of the things that attracted us to Central Park was its location – within walking distance of the Bayfront and Main Street of Sarasota. We’ve made a number of evening excursions to sample the bars and restaurants. On June 1st (the day we didn’t go camping!) we decided to walk to Main Street during the morning. Our two chief aims were to get a (preferably cheap!) haircut and to join the library. We were successful in both. The library is a beautiful building, inside and out; as well as a vast collection of books they have lots of DVDs which can be borrowed without charge – a great boon for us as we have still not discovered much we like to watch on American TV! So this has now become a favourite place, and we are exploring some of the different routes between our condo and Main Street, getting to know the town even better.
Another discovery was the Friendship Center, which is just across the road from Central Park, but we didn’t realise it was there until Grace – one of our neighbours – persuaded Sandie to join her for an afternoon dance session. This turned out to be ballroom dancing, which Sandie enjoys but a partner is really needed, and Ian is less keen. However, Sandie was impressed to find that the Center offers a wide range of activities for people aged 50+, including two tap dance classes. She tried one on Monday, which was great because her usual class is currently closed following a fire at the YMCA. We will try out other classes when we are back in November.
Bradenton and beaches
Bradenton is only about 15 miles north of Sarasota, but we tend not to go there very often – mostly we end up going south towards Venice on our shopping trips. However, one day we went to Bradenton for a change (and because a particular shop there had been mentioned to us). Although our main aim was to hunt for dining tables, we stopped in the town centre, walked down to the riverside, and had drinks on the pier. Later we stopped at the Neal Preserve – there are lots of parks around Sarasota, including several we have not yet visited. We continued to Anna Maria Island, decided to stop at Manatee Beach for a drink, and ended up staying for dinner and sunset – just for a change!
We usually go to the beach two or three times a week, since we enjoy swimming in the warm Gulf of Mexico and walking along the white sands. There are lots of beaches to choose from near Sarasota; some tend to be busy, others practically deserted. Sea oats and sea grapes are common sights, and there are usually plenty of birds to watch: herons, egrets, pelicans, sanderlings, sandpipers, ibises, skimmers… the list goes on. May to October is turtle nesting season, and the rangers put up orange markers so that they are not disturbed. In areas where the baby turtles are at particular risk of predators, cages are placed around the nests. At South Lido Park, close to the beach, we saw an osprey nest, some rather weird trees and various interesting fungi, including some that were bright orange!
Although our camping trip was abandoned, we were determined to have at least one ‘day out’, going further from Sarasota and doing something other than shopping for the condo. We succeeded, up to a point. We decided on Englewood, which is just south of Venice and so not really that far from Sarasota. We went first to Manasota Key, which is just offshore from Englewood. We drove down the island, stopping en route at three different beaches. The weather was rather cloudy, so at the first two beaches we went for a walk, rather than sitting in the sun. At the third we got our chairs out, and Sandie ventured in the sea, although the waves were surprisingly rough.
Our final stop was Stump Pass Beach State Park, where we ate our picnic lunch and then followed the 1.3 mile footpath to the southern tip of the island. This means walking along a narrow tree-lined sandspit, with the Gulf of Mexico on the right, and the Intracoastal Waterway on the left. There was a dramatic sight at the far end, with lots of dead trees standing in the water. We walked back along the beach, by which time it had become very grey and there was some light rain. With the waves crashing, the wind blowing and very few people around, it was a wild scene – reminiscent of New Zealand rather than Florida!
Leaving the island, we stopped in Englewood itself, but were a disappointed with the town. And while we were having a drink, there was a heavy rainstorm, so we got back in the car and headed home. But we did do some shopping on the way – we could not escape altogether!