"" Writer's Wanderings: Exploring Venice (Florida not Italy)

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Exploring Venice (Florida not Italy)

 Entering our villa in the Gran Paridiso community was relatively easy. We arrived a little early but when we contacted our leasing agent, she quickly gave us the entrance information we needed to move in. Gran Paridiso is a gated community in what we thought was Venice, FL but it turned out to actually be in North Port. The zip code assigned is for Venice but they pay their taxes to North Port who provides the city services. 

It took a little organization in learning what was and what wasn't in the villa as far as supplies went. In Key Largo's condo, there were always some condiments and lots of cleaning supplies. There was only a small smattering of cleaning supplies (no rags to use) and absolutely nothing in the super clean refrigerator/freezer. Oh wait! There were ice cubes. 

Lake Jervy

Wellen Park is a developing community only about a mile and a half away and has a Publix, as well as several restaurants, a Great Clips and a nail salon. And for Bob, the all important Ace Hardware. He can always find something to tinker with. We hit the Publix and did a major shopping trip for the absolute necessities. Over the next week, we'd find more things we needed and hopefully will get all used up before we leave in March. If not, our kids who are not far away can expect a windfall of leftovers. 

The all important pickleball courts were our next adventure. Gran Paridiso has six permanent courts and two that are flexible. It's not much different than back home where rules are a bit loose for rotation time on the court but for the most part, it works well and we were welcomed in. Pickleball people are usually very friendly no matter where you play.

Always smiling

The pool is huge but it does have to serve a community of 2,000 homes. We could only look at it for the first week since the temperatures were not conducive to swimming. Getting in would not be bad. It's heated.  Getting out would be a chilly run for cover. 

There is a nice gym with saunas as well. In the same center, there is a craft room and card room with two billiard tables. We found a group that plays hand and foot cards (Wisconsin style) every Tuesday and learned a few new rules and strategies. In the building that houses the offices and a huge lounge area, there is also a library full of books. 

Sharky's pier

The beaches of Venice are about twenty-five minutes from us. We found a place called Sharkey's that has a pier reaching out into the water where many people stroll and/or fish. The beach is known for finding shark's teeth and one warmer day we saw lots of kids with screen scoops searching the sand for good finds. 

Next to Sharkey's however, was a beautiful park and we enjoyed exploring and finding places where we could watch sunsets in the future. Our first couple of weeks were a bit cloudy, rainy and some days, downright cold. But it didn't snow!

Before leaving home, we had done a little research online to find a church to attend. We happened upon a group called The Church at Wellen Park which is five minutes from our villa and is a start-up church that meets at a small college campus. When we were first married, we were members of a start-up church. This has brought back fond memories. It's a nice congregation who are very friendly and welcoming. 

The campus of the college has a natural habitat in the middle of the acreage. It is a large lake named after a professor, Lake Jervy. There are some herons and other cranes that can be observed as well as a few alligators of course. The trail around the lake is pleasant to walk and we've visited several times already.

Gran Paridiso is not without nice places to walk and I have often walked from the community center back to the villa (about a mile) past several ponds. The interesting walk however is when Bob and I go the other direction to the two ponds by the back entrance near our villa. There are a couple of resident alligators there who come out when the sun shines. Oh and some very brave birds that dot the shoreline.

Big Hank

While the villa does not have the beautiful view that the Key Largo condo did, it is close to lots of interesting places, not to mention about twenty minutes away from our kids. We've already had a football watch party, a swim excursion, an evening with the conservatory they are part of that educated us on sawfish. One evening we were able to join them for a play at their high school and look forward to going to an open house for the marine lab they are involved with at their school. 

We are finding great places to eat including two that are on the Myakka River not far from us. One of them features BBQ and the best brisket I've had in a long time. Not sure about the alligator meat although they do have two very large stuffed alligators that decorate the indoors. Then there's the restaurant that we ate at just by chance with a spaghetti sauce that outdoes Olive Garden by far. Of course we had to find a Saturday breakfast spot. We found two. One which is similar to our favorite back home and another that is a pleasant alternative.

Sandhill crane

On Sundays, there is a farmer's market at what's called Wellen Park Downtown. It is a cluster of restaurants and big central area where live music is scheduled on weekends. My guess is this will be the center of all the development planned for the area. So far at the farmer's market we've found some nice veggies, strawberries and Bob's favorite bread and butter pickles and my favorite, soft pretzels.

A big find for Bob is a local ham radio club and they have invited him to join in on their winter field day. 

One of the things unique to this area are the sandhill cranes. They are about four feet tall when they stand up straight. The ones in Gran Paridiso don't seem to be afraid at all of people. The one I managed a picture of walked part of the way next to me on my morning stroll back  to the the villa from pickleball. 

We have only made a dent in the places to explore around here. We have plenty of time left for more great finds.

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