Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sarasota, FL

Dick and I set off on Monday morning for two days in Sarasota, about 137 miles south of Crystal River.  I was able to get a hotel room for frequent flier miles.  Our plan was to see what Sarasota was like and to visit the Ringling Museum complex.

Entrance to the Ringling Complex

We arrived in the Sarasota area around lunch time.  Right off the Interstate we noticed a Starbucks so we stopped to have sandwiches.  Then it was on to the museum.  On Mondays the art museum is free so we spent our time there, enjoying a Norman Rockwell exhibit organized by Kevin and Michele Rivoli.  Each Rockwell print is juxtaposed with a modern day black and white photograph by Rivoli.  What is most striking in both the prints and the photos is the capture of expression and emotion.  The museum also has many paintings and sculptures by the old masters.  When we became foot weary, we set off to find the hotel.  It was a bit further from the museum than we had realized, about five miles, but only a ten minute drive.  We checked in, rested a bit and then returned to the Ringling to have dinner at Treviso.

Entrance to the restaurant which is located in the gateway building.

We had a wonderful dinner of crab cakes and scallops followed by blueberry bread pudding and creme brulee.  We really appreciated the inclusion of "small plates" on the menu which made it possible to have three courses without feeling we had eaten too much.

The hostess was kind enough to take a photo

The next morning we had a light breakfast at the hotel and checked out.  We headed to C'est la Vie, a French restaurant and bakery located in downtown Sarasota.  There we enjoyed tea, baguette and eggs.  

It was lovely to dine al fresco.  Notice that the waiter is waving for the camera.  The staff is French speaking and while the baguette was not up to Parisian standards, it was very good.

You can see that it's a popular spot

Following breakfast we went back to the Ringling to explore the mansion and the two circus museums.  We spent a wonderful day, including lunch on the terrace at Treviso.  The Ringling mansion is modeled on a Venetian Palazzo.   It has been meticulously restored.  The back terrace includes steps right down to Sarasota Bay.  We stopped to explore Mable Ringling's rose garden before checking out the other museums.  One circus museum contains an extensive miniature depiction of the circus as it was set up when the "big top" was still in use.  It brought back memories of the book, Water for Elephants.  it is amazing how many support staff it takes to put on 'the greatest show on earth.  From setting up the tents to caring for the animals to cooking for the hundreds of employees, it is a huge operation.  The other museum has numerous circus carts, posters and the railroad car that the Ringlings used when they traveled.  It also is in the process of restoration.  

By 2:30 we had enough and made our way back to the Interstate.  We made a short shopping stop at the Outlets at Ellenton and then drove home.

The Ringling Mansion, Ca D'Zan

Sarasota is a very cosmopolitan city, very different from Crystal River.  There are theaters, concert halls, film festivals, interesting restaurants.  I think we will be making more visits down that way when we return to Florida next winter.

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