I spent this past weekend entertaining my good friend, C-Lo, and her friend Mamey. They both flew in from Virginia, C-Lo Friday afternoon in Ft. Lauderdale, and Mamey Saturday morning in Sarasota, where our adventure starts. Whenever C-Lo and I get together, we usually fly somewhere to meet or I’ll visit her at her home in the Virginia mountains. So I was really excited about her coming down to my neck of the woods, the first time she’s been here to see me in 8 years. Even though I’ve shown her quite a bit of Florida in the past, she’s never been to Sarasota, so she told Mamey to fly into there and we’ll pick her up. It worked out great as the airport is five minutes away from our first stop, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (of the famed Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus).
Even though I had been here before a couple years ago, I couldn’t wait to go back. And it didn’t dissapoint the second time around. After walking around the beautiful gardens that are interspersed through the grounds, we toured the incredible mansion, Ca d’Zan, which translates into the House of John. An immaculate masterpiece dating from the 1930′s, it is heavily influenced by and beautifully decorated with European architecture and artwork. But the highlight was the miniature circus. Created by Howard Tbbals, and taking 50 years to complete, the 3,800 foot marvel is a replica of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus from 1919-1938. As you walk around it and and relive your childhood to the sights and sounds of the Greatest Show on Earth, the lights quickly start to dim and day becomes night, as the lights on the Big Top glow throughout the room. Then the sun rises, and its another glorious day at the circus.
I then took the gals to downtown Sarasota, where we enjoyed the sunshine and water at Bayfront while munching on some gator bites. After a casual stroll around Bayfront Park, we headed to Siesta Key for dinner and the sunset. Siesta Key has some of the whitest sands in Florida, and is my favorite place to watch the setting sun. A great day indeed; another one was in store for Sunday.
Since Mamey had always wanted to go to the Everglades, I was more than happy to oblige. As we made our way to the famous ‘swamp’, we stopped to see my relatives…at Monkey Jungle! Their slogan says it all – ‘Where Humans Are Caged and Monkeys Run Wild!’ You walk along a caged path where there are monkeys everywhere above you running around and begging for foods. Yes, you can feed the monkeys here. There are several cups dangling on chains, in which you put nuts and raisins in the cups and the monkeys pull the cups up to them and enjoy an afternoon snack. Home to 30 species of primates, Monkey JUngle just celebrated its 75th anniversary, and is one of Miami’s oldest attractions.
After a tearful goodbye to my family (I got something in my eye), we headed into Everglades National Park, where we hiked along the boardwalk at Royal Palm and saw quite a few gators and other wildlife, and had lunch by the lake at Long Pine Key, where we luckily didn’t see any gators. Since the Everglades are so big and really require a full day to take in, we spent just a few hours there and then headed out to the Everglades Alligator Farm. Yeah, they have a few (thousand) gators there, and they also offer airboat rides. The girls had never been on an airboat ride, and judging by their reaction afterwards, they wanted to do another one immediately. They also got to hold a baby gator, but his gator bites are not too pleasant – that’s why his mouth is taped shut.
On the way to the Everglades, we passed by a fruit and vegetable market called Robert Is Here that also had a great selection of fruit shakes. Since we didn’t stop on the way down, we definitely had to stop on the way back, where we thoroughly enjoyed a few delicious shakes (I had a blackberry banana one, while Mamey had a Mamey strawberry – where did you think she got her blog name?).
We were further enticed by the marquee at the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming for a $6.95 lobster and steak dinner. And yes, we got our $6.95 value in both quantity and quality – very small and very bland. But after winning a few bucks at the slots and reminiscing about our day, we all agreed it was a great weekend.
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