By: Michael Melville
Two Weeks ago I posted a travel article called “8 Things I won’t miss about Sarasota Florida”. So now that I got the bad out of the way, I am posting the second part in this short travel series where I will talk about 8 Things I WILL miss about Sarasota Florida.
With the book that is family, sometimes chapters come to an end. With mine, our chapter of having a “home” in Florida is closing. For the last 10 years, I (and eventually my wife and son) have spent a lot of time in Sarasota Florida. I’ve gotten to know the town, the area, the people and a few friends along the way. Over the last ten years, Sarasota has become a second home to me. When I am there I feel just as comfortable as I do in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I actually live and sometimes even more so.
Now, with my mom relocating back to Michigan those times in Florida will be few and farther in between. What we do and where we go when we head to the sunshine state in the future will more focused and more specific and less free and unscheduled. The days of me feeling like a pseudo local there are ending and the days of feeling like a typical tourist will be back. Different adventures and new memories are heading our way for our family over the next several years until who knows who relocates for who knows what reason. The idea of that is exciting all on its own. I will remember the great times I had alone and the ones with my family while hanging around that town and its barrier islands. I’ll always remember the things I’ve learned while spending time on the “sunshine coast.” I’ve learned some of its quirks, high points, and low points over the last ten years.
You never have enough time in one place to see and experience everything. Having spent most of my life in Michigan there are many places in this state I have never been too yet and should have by now. The same holds true for Oregon and Idaho where I lived for a while and now also Florida. Ten years isn’t enough time to experience the all great things there is to do around Sarasota let alone in the rest of the state.
The Beaches – If you read the last article you might be confused because in that article I said I won’t miss the beaches around Sarasota. If you know me personally you might be even more confused since I don’t like beaches usually. There are a few beaches that will miss, a lot. I will miss them because I actually like going to these. I will miss them because my wife and son like them and I will miss them because of the memories of the last 10 years, some of which involved them. Beaches like Melville Beach AKA Beer Can Beach on the north end of Long Boat Key. For me this one of the most perfect places in the world. There is a tiny amount of (hidden) public parking and it’s a walk to get to the good and more secluded part near the end but it’s worth it. Other that I will miss are Old Midnight Pass Beach, the south end of Lido Beach and Coquina Beach on Anna Marie. The last one I like but only at certain times. I don’t dig crowds.
Mote Research Center and Aquarium– I think I’ve been here on almost every trip down especially since my wife was pregnant and my son was born. Yes, there are some things that never change because this is a research center but sometimes they do. Like on out past trip when we found out they had a brand-new permanent otter exhibit which is one of my favorite aquatic mammals. I like seeing progress in places like this. I’ve seen turtles which couldn’t live in the wild pass away and baby animals (grown at Mote) released into the wild (I didn’t actually see it). I’ll miss the fat manatees which always seem to be moving.
The Smell – My wife and I talked about this a few times since her first trip to Sarasota. At first, I thought it was unique to the area where my mom lives but it’s all over Sarasota, except downtown. I don’t even know how to describe it really but it’s this sweet, almost flowery smell but not super flowery and mixed with the smell of a new rain. It’s a nice clean smell and I know it sounds ridiculous but it’s one the things I always end up missing the most when I head back north. Other places in Florida where I have been like Orlando, Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Cocoa Beach don’t have this smell. Venice might but I can’t remember since it’s been a few years since I’ve been down there.
The Amish & Mennonites – I never really spent much time talking to them but they seem really nice despite the congestion they live around. They always seem happy and helpful and almost always have a smile on their face even as they walk home from a long day at work. Oddly I always look forward to seeing them walk or bike their way around town in their bright outfits. In a city where newer and shinier is often viewed as better, the Amish and Mennonites and their lifestyle is always a nice sight to see. It’s a nice break from the congestion and madness that can be Sarasota. The 3,000 residents have built themselves a community within an even larger community where you might not expect. If you’re in town and driving down Bahia Vista you will find the village of Pinecraft near the intersection of Bahia Vista and Beneva Roads.
The Sunsets – The sunsets are amazing and that is why they call the area Florida’s Sunshine coast. Even while sitting in my mom’s pool 2 miles from the beach or in her driveway while holding a cup of coffee they are amazing. On the beaches, they are even more spectacular and peaceful. This is coming from a guy who grew up in West Michigan on west Michigan beaches with pretty alright sunsets who has also seen sunsets on the west coast in places like Oregon, Washington, and northern California. Oddly enough and for reasons, I cannot explain on our past trip we never actually saw a sunset while on the beach and I wish we did one last time.
Dolphins – There is nothing like being at a beach and seeing a small pod of dolphins make their way down the shoreline and them only being 20 feet away from you while the water is gently lapping at your feet. On this last trip, we saw 2 baby dolphins swimming with their mom not far behind. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen baby dolphins in the wild. When this happens, especially on a busy beach you can watch the beach goers notice, stand up and point while taking pictures. It’s like a wave of movement going down the beach. This is a pretty common occurrence as far as I know along Floridas West Coast. Just don’t touch them if you see them.
Picking up Shells – I know, it sounds simple and mundane but I love it and I love doing it with my wife. It never gets old and boring and seeing my wife get excited about new finds always brings a smile to my face. Here in Michigan, we don’t really have shells on our beaches and more in the way of stones. So, needless to say wandering the beaches, holding hands with our eyes locked on the sand or in the surf will be missed. My wife was always really happy doing this. My son is a little young to really enjoy this yet but maybe in a few years.
St. Armands Circle – Yes, I know its a super touristy thing to do in Sarasota and yes, I know the parking is horrible. However after the years going down there I have learned the cheats and how to get through without sitting in traffic for half an hour. I’ll miss the shops; both the ones I can afford to buy from and the ones I can’t. I’ll miss looking through Alvin’s Island and buying shirts that shrink and gifts that break before they ever get home but I do it every time. I’ll miss the gelato shops and Ben and Jerrys. I’ll even miss the Italians (who I think are all related) trying to get tourists and shoppers inside their stores with quick talking sidewalk promos. I’ll miss the people watching all hours of the day and the sidewalk cafes. I’ll miss wondering what shops have closed in between trips and wondering what I will find that took their place when I come back. Most of all I’ll miss walking around the circle at night with my wife, holding her hand as we took it all in while looking at things and watching others do the exact same. Whether you buy anything or not St. Armands Circle has a certain amount of romance to it even withe all he ritzy and not so ritzy shops.
The quiet – The thing I will miss, perhaps the most the is quiet at night around town and this might have something to do with how late Sarasota starts closing in the evening. It didn’t matter if I was walking around St. Armand’s Circle alone at midnight or with my wife or walking down a lonely beach at 11 pm on a weeknight. Even just sitting in my mom’s driveway in a generally quiet suburban area and writing there was an amazing amount of quiet and calm. Where I live, there are always urban noises until 3 or 4 am, car horns, trucks passing, sirens, trains moving and other people’s voices. Down there in Sarasota, late at night, there wasn’t much of that and it was nice.
There are a ton other things I will miss that I can’t write about or this will never get posted. Places like my favorite coffee shop on Anna Marie Island and the Art Muesum among many others. I’ll miss the home we had in Florida but I’m excited about the future as well and whatever it bring. However now I realize that will miss Sarasota more than I thought I would.