In the run-up to Christmas we had lots to do – shopping of course, writing letters and cards – but still plenty of time to enjoy ourselves.
Beaches and birds
In the past two weeks, we’ve been to four different beaches. We love strolling along the water’s edge, watching the birds (and having lunch at a beach bar). On Siesta Beach, we were fascinated by a seagull making several attempts to pick up the remains of a large fish. A little sanderling stood nearby, waiting to take its turn whenever the seagull beat a temporary retreat. Walking south from Turtle Beach, we found the beach almost deserted – the pelicans definitely outnumbered the people. We’ve now discovered that our favourite birds (seen on Lido Beach and elsewhere) are called royal terns: to us they are the birds with orange beaks and crazy swept-back hairstyles.
Yesterday we went to Anna Maria Island – the beaches there are still our favourites. We parked at Manatee Beach and took the free trolley to City Pier, where we had coffee before walking back along the beach back to Manatee. On the pier we saw a cormorant sitting on a wooden pillar, and while we were drinking our coffee a heron wandered past the window.
Theatres and cinemas
All of the theatres in this area put on musical productions pre-Christmas, and we’ve enjoyed four very different shows in different theatres. First was She Loves Me at the Players: we’d never seen the show before, but the theme song was of course familiar and we’d seen the film You’ve got mail, which is a modern adaptation of the story. At the Venice Theatre we saw Hair, which was a real nostalgia trip as we first saw the show in the West End in 1971.
Next was West Side Story at the Asolo, a brilliant production of what is probably Sandie’s all-time favourite musical. Finally, we went to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center to see the Sarasota Ballet perform John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker. This was the traditional Christmas ballet, music by Tchaikovsky, brilliant dancing – but the story structure placed within a circus setting, in homage to the Ringling family whose winter quarters were in Sarasota. A clever idea, and it worked very well.
We’ve also been to three different cinemas since we’ve been back in Florida, to see a variety of films: Spectre, Suffragette and Brooklyn.
Several places in the Sarasota area have special evening opening hours in December, and light up the trees, grounds etc. On Thursday 10th we went to Historic Spanish Point, between Sarasota and Venice. We’d never been there before, but we could not have chosen a better day to visit. We arrived in time to have our first look round in daylight. The sunset that evening was glorious, and from Spanish point we had a perfect view. We walked round again after dark, enjoying the lights in the mangrove trees. We sat for a while looking out across the bay, sipping wine, and listening to Christmas music played by a guitarist in the sunken garden. A wonderful atmosphere!
Two days later, there was a Christmas dinner in our clubhouse, with lots to eat, a Secret Santa game and the opportunity to get to know more people. As the dinner was very early, we walked down to the Bayfront afterwards and saw the lit-up boats remaining from the parade which had taken place that evening.
There are a number of social events in Central Park II, including ‘pickleball’ (a variant of tennis) played every Thursday evening. We watched for the first time last week, along with a camera crew from the local TV station. We have not yet been persuaded to play, which is just as well – with our sporting skills, it would be a disaster! The post-game session – sitting by the pool for drinks, nibbles and natter –suits us rather better.