Friday, March 23, 2018

Visiting Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota is about 65 miles south of Clearwater Beach and is well known for its beaches, resorts, and cultural activities.  The city is on the Gulf of Mexico and includes several barrier islands, including Lido Key and St. Armands Key, both destinations themselves.  Sarasota was also the summer headquarters of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily Circus and the Ringlings and the circus were large influences in the town.

The Saturday Farmer's Market in downtown Sarasota fills the streets with stands selling all kinds of food and other items.  Occupying several blocks, it is a great opportunity to wander, admire the merchandise, and view old Sarasota.  The market is just a block from Five Points, considered the heart of Sarasota and the hub from which Sarasota was laid out, starting in 1886.

Five Points

Main Street leads from Five Points to the Farmer's Market and is full of shops, cafes, and restaurants, with people out enjoying themselves.

Main Street

Sarasota Farmer's Market

And, oddly enough, at one end of the market is a booth featuring bomb disposal robots and a bomb suit, the heavy body armor designed to withstand the pressure and fragments from a bomb explosion.

Bomb disposal robot and suit

From the Farmer's Market, we head over to St. Armands Key, originally purchased by Charles St. Armand in 1893 and acquired by circus owner John Ringling in 1923, intending to develop the key as an area of fine residences with a central park circle surrounded by shops.  Although the Great Depression in the U.S. (1929-1933) slowed his plans, his vision was realized after 1945 with the development of residential areas, beaches, and shops.  Now, the central district has over 130 stores and restaurants and is a destination for tourists and locals alike.

 St. Armands shops and restaurants

The St. Armands area also includes sculptures originally acquired by John Ringling and displayed in the parks and landscaped medians along the boulevards.

Sculptures scattered around St. Armands

St. Armands Key is next to Lido Key, which has a great park, South Lido County Park, at the bottom of the key.

 South Lido County Park

Above Lido Key, Longboat Key takes us up through more beautiful beaches.

 Longboat Key

Across from the upper section of Longboat Key is Cortez Old Fishing Village, founded in the 1880s and still an active fishing community.  At the edge of town, Star Fish Company has some of the best fresh fish tacos around.  We wait in line to order at the window and enjoy the meal at the picnic tables on the deck or on the dock.  And, we join everyone in watching the pelicans swoop back and forth, especially following fishing boats as they return.

 Star Fish Company

 Views from the picnic tables on the dock

 Fish tacos and seafood salad

Pelicans everywhere

The fishing here is done with gill nets, where the mesh size is selected to target a specific size of fish.

Fishing boat pulls in, stowing the nets

Cortez is clearly a hard-working fishing town, but they tolerate a few tourists and we can visit, enjoy the charm, and experience some incredibly fresh seafood

Motto to live by

Between downtown Sarasota, the beaches, and Cortez, we've covered a lot of territory and great experiences.

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