"" Writer's Wanderings

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Ringling - Ca' D' Zan And The Gardens

Along with visiting some friends on the way home from Florida we wanted to stop in Sarasota and see The Ringling where the Circus Museum is. The Ringling is the name for the acreage that contains the home of Mable and John Ringling, the Ringling Art Museum and the Circus Museum. We arrived at the gate about 9:15 in the morning and were one of the first in when the grounds opened at 9:30.

The gardens are available for viewing early but the museums don't open unti 10. We wandered pathways that were peacefully shaded by huge banyan trees. Banyan trees develop roots that actually grow from their branches down to the ground. They are called prop roots because as the tree spreads out, the roots keep the branches from breaking off. The roots become so numerous and large on the older trees that sometimes it's hard to figure out which is the original trunk.

On to way to the mansion called Ca' D' Zan or House of John, we happened upon Mable's rose garden and I stopped to take a few pictures of the blooms glowing in the morning sun. Mable loved roses and the garden is well kept in her honor.

A secret garden bordered a walkway nearer the mansion and behind the garden that bedded a variety of blooming plants, were the graves of the Ringlings. I would have lingered a bit to read the headstones but a two foot long black snake slithered across the walkway and ruined my appreciation of the secret garden. I gingerly walked back to the main walkway.

The Ca' D' Zan sits on the water's edge and its resemblance to Venice and all things Italian is no accident. The Ringlings, and mostly Mable, loved Italy. They visited often and searched for the things they wanted to include with their mansion. While it was called the house of John, it was really Mable's and if I remember correctly, was deeded to her.

Our time there would not be long enough to tour the mansion but we walked around the outside and admired the stained glass windows, the huge terrace overlooking the bay and across from the city of Sarasota, and the magnificent entry doors and facade. Mable spent years decorating and putting the finishing touches on the thirty-two room and fifteen bathrooms. I'm sure it was quite spectacular inside. Unfortunately Mable would only get to live there a few years before she died.

The story of John and Mable Ringling is fascinating and deserves more exploration. I did not realize he was an art collector and a real estate developer in addition to having a diversified collection of investments as well as the famous circus begun by him and his brothers. The death of his wife and the stock market crash of '29 all but wiped him out. He continued however the construction of the art museum the couple had wanted to leave as a legacy and even though he was counseled to sell the collection when he fell into debt, he managed to finish the museum and in 1936 upon his death, the museum along with the other property was willed to the state of Florida.

If we ever get back to Sarasota, we need to put the art museum and the mansion on the schedule to visit. This trip, though would be dedicated to visiting the Circus Museum.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Migrating Back Home

The trunk of the car was packed without an inch of free space and the back seat of the car was loaded with what didn't fit in the trunk. It didn't seem like we had collected anything extra and actually had eliminated some things when we had Christmas with our Florida kids. Somehow it just didn't all go back in as easily as the first time. But the trunk lid closed and the doors all shut and so we started out heading north. Our trip home will take us on a different route than usual to allow us to visit some friends along the way and see a couple of spots we want to explore. 

Our first stop was Marco Island. We took the Tamiami Trail route (Route 41) west to Marco. Along side the road for much of the way is a canal and I started counting the alligators I could see. I know there were a lot more than the six I spotted in the water but they are hard to see as you are moving along. The Miccosouke Indians have a large reservation in that area. There is a village you can visit that I'd like to come back to some time and see. 

In about two and a half hours we were entering Marco Island. The landscaping was beautiful. When we met our friends for lunch, they told us that the town had received an award for all their trees. It was not quite as populated as I expected but then we didn't really spend a lot of time looking around. We enjoyed lunch and catching up with each other since our time together on our 2015 World Cruise. 

From Marco Island we headed up I-75 to Sarasota for the night. We arrived around 4:30 and checked in. After looking around on TripAdvisor and Google Maps, we settled on going out to St. Armands Key to find a place to eat. In some ways it reminded us of Fernandina Beach but a lot busier. We found a nice place called Tommy Bahama's and enjoyed a great light dinner. 

A stroll was in order since we'd spent most of the day in the car and we headed west to the beach. We lingered long enough to catch the sunset over the Gulf. The event was shared with several hundred other people who gathered on the beach to watch. A Florida sunset is an event every night. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Last Look At Mama Osprey

Two weeks ago we made a pass by the osprey nest we watch each year near Key Largo. Mama was sitting on the nest but we saw no little ones. We'd heard there were some in the nest but it was raining and I think she may have been sheltering them from the rain.

As we made our way past the nest on our trip north heading home, we stopped for a last look at the nest and were rewarded with at least one young one. It looked to be a osprey teenager, still in the nest but looking over the side wondering when it was going to fly. Mama was nearby, still vigilant, still protective. Not too unlike a human mom with a teenager.

Hopefully the osprey couple will be back next year too and building a new family. We'd love to watch them grow again.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Rose By Any Other Name

As we rounded the corner of our condo unit, we noticed it immediately. Beautiful red blooms on a plant we'd never seen bloom before. They were gorgeous and I wondered how they had developed and bloomed so quickly. I'd not seen any kind of buds on the plant but not being a native Floridian, I had no idea how the plant cycled. We admired it a moment and took a picture.

The next day we passed by the plant again and I was disappointed to see that the blooms were already fading. Well, I thought, it must not bloom for long and with the warm days and no rain perhaps the blooms just couldn't survive long.

The next time we passed the plant, it was blooming again. I marveled at its resilience and fortitude. Maybe someone watered it, I thought.

Then on my way back to the condo, I saw the answer to the resilient plant. The couple whose door is right next to the plant were putting blooms on the leaves of the plant. They were caught in the act! They were taking blooms from the bottle brush tree near our parking lot and putting them on what they said was a yucca plant.

"Shhh!" they said together, a finger to their lips. "Our friend has never seen a yucca plant with these kind of blooms before."

"Neither have I," I said. "And I took a picture! I thought it was a beautiful blooming plant."

We all laughed and I went on my way shaking my head. Duped! Wonder how long their friend will believe it?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Florida Keys - A Little History

It was a Sunday afternoon. We finished our last Sunday brunch at our favorite place, Snapper's, and instead of heading back to the condo, we decided to drive down to Islamorada to the museum we had been told was there featuring a history of the Keys. Halfway there we wondered if it had been such a good idea. Traffic heading south on US1 was backed up as often happens on weekends and then we remembered there was also a seafood festival going on down the way as well we took a deep breath and kept on. It took twice as long to get to the Islander where the museum is located but we finally made it.

There was also an art show going on at the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center and much to our delight because of it, the entry fee to the museum was waived. We smiled, thanked the receptionist and began our self tour.

There are not a lot of artifacts but there is a sampling of items from the very earliest inhabitants right up to the modern day. Tales of tribes, then Spanish fleets (many of which were shipwrecked in a hurricane), then the settling of the area and the real expansion as the railroad came to be.

That was what interested us the most, the building of the railway. The man largely responsible was Henry Flagler who we discovered had a connection to Ohio and Cleveland with his association with Rockefeller and Standard Oil Company. The railroad was finished in 1912 and was followed by an overseas highway that was finished in 1928 that allowed travel to Key West without having to ferry your car.

What I did not expect were the tales of destruction and stories of survival of the Cat 5 hurricane that came through the Keys in 1935. Between the winds and the storm surge much of the area was totally devastated. It compared in force with 1992 's Hurricane Andrew which was also a Cat 5 but because of the area around Miami and Homestead that was affected cost much more in damages.

All in all it was worth the traffic jam and sparked a lot more interest in the history of the area. I have some reading to do.

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