Saturday, January 17, 2015

Anna Maria Island and The Ringling

Day 102
Miles today:  0    Total miles: 2,537.5
Hours today:    0
Locks today: 0.    Total locks: 34

We borrowed a friend's car to explore the Bradenton area. It was a tight fit for the six of us- Kathy and I rode in the back on the first day, then Glenn and Mark gallantly volunteered to trade places with us. They did not fit quite as well as we did, but they cheerfully endured the cramped backwards ride while John served as our chauffeur.

These two find humor in every situation.

Thursday afternoon we drove over to Anna Maria Island, a tourist spot famous for its white sand beaches. The beach was lovely, the weather not so much. But our intrepid group had fun anyway!


Glenn, John and Mark

We capped off the day with dinner at friends' lovely home on the Manatee River. We love the seafood here, but the steaks we grilled were every bit as good as the filets from Fareway at home!

Young at Heart and Serenity had planned to leave us on Friday, but the gusty winds changed their minds. So we hopped back in the car and headed for Sarasota, just a few miles away. Our destination was the Ringling Museum. What an extraordinary place! It's a circus museum, an art museum, an incredible mansion, a ballet theater, lovely gardens, and a breathtaking location on Sarasota Bay. Our Iowa friends may recall that the Ringling brothers were born in a humble home (i.e., shack) in McGregor, Iowa, and went on to circus fame and wealth. John Ringling decided to establish winter quarters for the circus in Florida, and built a not so modest house for himself and his wife in 1924-26. Today this house would cost over $20 million to build.
He named it Ca' d'Zan, meaning John's house.

Mable wanted a home in the Venetian Gothic style of the palazzi in Venice, Italy, with Sarasota Bay serving as her Grand Canal. Construction began in 1924 and was completed two years later at a then staggering cost of $1.5 million. Five stories tall, the 36,000 square foot mansion has 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms.
The inside of the house resembles a castle with a great hall and crazy-ornate furnishings. Its more posh than Downton Abbey! When the house was built, there was not much going on in Sarasota, so the Ringlings chose prime real estate for their compound. The view of Sarasota Bay is amazing.

Of course there is  circus museum, which to me was the least-interesting part of this complex. There are many miniature exhibits and a few of the old circus wagons, along with other memorabilia.

Soon after the completion of Ca’ d’Zan, John built a 21-gallery museum modeled on the Florentine Uffizi Gallery to house his treasure trove of paintings and art objects, highlighted by his collection of Old Masters, including Velazquez, Poussin, van Dyke and Rubens. The result is the museum and a courtyard filled with replicas of Greek and Roman sculpture, including a bronze cast of Michelangelo’s David.

After getting our cultural fix, we met Dan and Angie at Marina Jack's. Sea Horse is docked in this beautiful marina.

Then it was time for dinner with our land-based friends, Peter and Sparkie, at the Sea Hut in Palmetto. After a night cap back at their home, it was way past Looper Midnight. Another marvelous day!

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