By December Ian was much better, so ‘normal’ life resumed. On the 1st we went to the ‘Holiday Splendor’ evening at the Ringling complex. This is an annual event which we really enjoyed two years ago. Watching sunset on the bayfront with Christmas music and aglass of wine in hand is a magical experience. The Ca d’Zan mansion is beautifully decorated, and we were able to visit the circus museum too. We were a bit disappointed that there were no dancers this year, but music in the museum courtyard was atmospheric as ever.
Off to Key West
Next day we set off on our postponed trip to Key West. First stop was Cape Coral, where we visited our friends Robert and Kathy. We had lunch at a waterfront restaurant and then visited some of the highly decorated arts and craft shops in Matlacha nearby. Most things were far too expensive for us, but we bought a Christmas decoration for our collection, and had some delicious ice creams.
In the evening we all went to Sanibel Island for the Luminary Festival, something we’d discovered three years ago. Sadly there was no trolley this time, and not so many choirs. But the shops were open, the decorations were good, and there was plenty of free food and wine!
Next morning we said farewell to our friends and drove down to the Keys – a long journey, so we had another overnight stop in Key Largo. On our way along the Keys we made various stops, including Anne’s Beach (narrow and not much sand, but we saw lots of impressive mangrove roots and watched the kite surfers) and Sombrero Beach on Marathon, where there is more space to walk or just sit in the sun.
We stayed two nights in Key West itself. As we’d visited nearly all the historic sites on previous visits, we spent most of the time relaxing. We did visit the enormous cemetery, and although the mausoleums were not too elaborate we were impressed by the large iguanas there. In any case, the highlight of Key West is the nightlife: watching the sun set at Mallory Square and sampling the numerous restaurants and bars.
On December 6th we set off on our return journey. We spent some time on Bahia Honda, the most beautiful of the Keys in our opinion. Overnight this time was a motel in Homestead, the first town you reach when back on the mainland. Next day, driving along the US41, we stopped briefly at the Oasis Visitor Center (to say hi to the alligators!) and then detoured to Marco Island. We’d never been there before and were curious to see what it was like. It appeared to comprise mainly flashy hotels with private beaches: the only public beach was tucked away, and was actually on the edge of a lagoon, which you had to skirt in order to reach the Gulf coast. Nice when you got there, but there are plenty of other beaches in Florida which are just as good if not better, and less effort to reach!
Our final stop was in Venice, just 20 miles south of Sarasota. We’d seen a coffee table we liked in a thrift shop there about three weeks earlier, and decided afterwards that it would be useful. We were lucky – reached the shop just before they closed, and the coffee table was still there. It joined all the other things in the back of our car, and we went on to visit our friends Sue and Ed, with whom we had a meal in a new local café.
Christmas is coming…..
Just in case you hadn’t realised! The morning after our return from the Keys, we went out to buy cards etc, and on the way back we bought our (real) Christmas tree. In the afternoon we decorated it and Ian put up the Christmas lights on the lanai.
On Friday 9th Sandie did her shelving at the library, but had a mid-day break for the volunteers’ Christmas party. She was amazed to discover how many volunteers there are. That evening we both attended the Christmas party for Central Park 2, where we live. The weather that day was not so good, so we were inside the clubhouse rather than out by the pool, but the food, drink and laughter was just as good.
Next day we went down to the Bayfront for the annual Sarasota Boat Parade of Lights. There were lots of people, but we managed to find a good viewing spot. When we watched the parade two years ago, the evening was chilly (by Florida standards) and we got quite cold waiting for the boats to arrive. This year we timed it better, so we did not stand around for so long. And we took warm clothes – but fortunately they were not needed this time!