Our Winter Vacation

Robin and I were able to take a break from the brutal Midwest winter in December. The busy wedding season was due to end and the opportunity to take a weekend off presented itself. Our Aunt Mary and Uncle Clyde, who winter in the Sarasota area, had always wanted us to come and visit, and this looked like the year to make it happen.

With no Black Tie events scheduled for the weekend before Christmas we decided to leave town on Monday, the 15th of December after my graduation from Blackhawk College Travel and Tourism program. Robin witnessed me receiving my certification, along with my 8 other classmates, and we literally headed straight for the airport after that. There was a new fresh coat of ice and snow on the ground from the night before, so it wasn’t difficult to board a plane for Florida.

We flew Air Tran airlines from the Quad City Airport to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta to Fort Myers Florida. All flights were on time and we arrived in Fort Myers at 8PM. We were greeted at the airport by Mary and Clyde and we stepped outside into glorious 70 degree temperatures. It was time to shed the coat and sweater.

Mary and Clyde drove us to where they live in a quiet, gated retirement community in Nokomis. They had graciously arranged lodging for us only a short walk from their home. It was just wonderful to be able to sleep with the windows open slightly and enjoy some tropical air.

Our home away from home

Our home away from home

For those of you who considering a winter retreat, there are many things in the Sarasota area we can recommend. We discovered that there were many excellent bike trails and other scenic areas for biking in the Venice/Nokomis area. We rented bicycles from a place called Bicycles International, 1744 S. Tamiami Trail in Venice Florida. In exchange for a very reasonable fee we enjoyed a couple of almost new Raleigh touring bikes for an entire week. These bikes were extremely comfortable as we rode up and down Casey Key and viewed some extraordinarily beautiful Gulf Coast homes.

Riding in Captain Bob's Boat

Riding in Captain Bob's Boat

We also biked along the southern area of Venice and discovered a delightful place along the Gulf called Sharky’s on the Pier. They serve a spectacular Jambalaya and I can attest to the fact that the homemade key lime pie is to die for. Go there if you can.

In Sarasota we visited the Ringling Museum. Although time did not permit viewing all the attractions there we made a mental note to return sometime to see everything this marvelous place had to offer.

We also spent some time in St. Armand’s Circle of Sarasota. St. Armand’s is a circle of fine shops and gourmet restaurants on St. Armand’s key in Sarasota. While there we enjoyed dining at Columbia Restaurant. I enjoyed the “Filet Salteado” which is a Cuban dish featuring tenderloin tips, chorizo, onions, peppers and mushrooms sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Very tasty indeed!

Kilwin’s Chocolate and Ice Cream in St. Armand’s Circle is not to be missed either! It’s the perfect way to top off a day of walking and sightseeing. The Christmas lights in the center of St. Armand’s Circle were also delightful, and I could never completely wrap my mind around the sight of all the Christmas lights while enjoying balmy temperatures.

The Grounds at Ringling

The Grounds at Ringling

One day, Mary and Clyde’s friend Bob took us on a day long boat ride. Bob is an excellent boat captain and under his guidance we enjoyed viewing the sights and sounds of the inland waterways of the Venice area. Of particular interest were the dolphins that seemed to appear at regular intervals; one even swam right next to our boat! Bob briefly took us out of the inland waterway into the Gulf of Mexico, and for that moment our 16 foot boat suddenly seemed very small indeed. One interesting feature of the area is the complex maze of inland waterways, which made it possible to pilot the boat everywhere, and then return to a very handy dock contained within the retirement community. It kind of reminded me of the real Venice (Italy). I’m not a real big fan of boating, but I actually enjoyed that day out on the water.

On the beach at Sarasota

On the beach at Sarasota

Wildlife seemed to be everywhere. We especially enjoyed seeing many different varieties of birds that we are not used to seeing here in the Midwest. One thing we are not accustomed to seeing are alligators sunning themselves near golfers on the putting green! (See photo)

Golf Course Gator

Golf Course Gator

The week went by all too quickly and soon it was time to head back to the frozen tundra of the Quad Cities. Those of you who plan to fly to the area will definitely enjoy the Fort Myers airport, which is bright, airy and spacious. If you need a hotel near the airport we can recommend the Comfort Inn on Intercom Drive near the airport. They have a prompt airport shuttle and a great breakfast. The property is only about one year old and is beautiful and reasonably priced.


St. Armand's Christmas Lights

St. Armand's Christmas Lights

We will miss the fresh squeezed orange juice that our Aunt Mary made which we enjoyed every single day. We will miss the beautiful warm weather and the palm trees and the new friends we made while in the area. The Sarasota area is beautiful and we can certainly see why people choose to winter or retire there. And for sure, Robin and I know that one day we will pay a return visit!

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