Monday, March 19, 2012

Bradenton / Sarasota / Venice, Florida

The 25 acre lake in the RV campground we stayed at in Bradenton, Florida.

There were lots of birds in residence including this cormorant who was drying his wings in the warm sun.

We drove up to Bradenton, FL, to check out the sites.  While here we visited the Ringling Brothers Museum, De Soto National Park, saw a baseball game, and spent time in Venice.  

Acres and acres and acres of orange trees were visible along the way.  

Semis were hauling the oranges to processing plants.  We saw a few oranges drop out of the trucks along the way.
 The first place we saw was the De Soto National Memorial Park.  In 1539, Hernando De Soto arrived in Florida with nine ships laden with men, horses, cannon and muskets, to conquer and populate the land for King Charles V.  They spent four years traveling the Southeast as far north as North Carolina and west to the Mississippi River.  De Soto had encouraged the locals to consider him a "sun god" so when he died his troops hid his corpse in blankets weighted with sand and sunk it in the Mississippi River.  They were hoping the local natives wouldn't find out he was dead.  The expedition turned out to be a failure and most of the Spaniards perished or started new lives in Mexico and Cuba.  Many Native Americans also died from battling the Spaniards or from diseases brought from Europe.

A view of Tampa Bay from the park.

The area was very peaceful and quiet. 

Colors of blue in the water.
A stand of Gumbo Limbo trees.
Thatched huts didn't do much to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

An Indian dugout canoe.

Gumbo Limbo trees are native to Florida.  In De Soto's day, the resin was used to control gout and make varnish.

We also visited the Ringling Brothers Museum and John Ringling's home in Sarasota.  One of the most magnificent items on display is the world's largest miniature circus created by Howard Tibbals over a period of 50 years.  He is a master builder who is still working on his display.  The circus model is called the Howard Bros.Circus because John Ringling would not let the builder use the Ringling name.  Below are some photos of the miniature circus.....the workmanship is incredible and these pictures don't come close to doing it justice.

Outside the Big Top.

The circus parade before the big show. 

A view of the circus from a distance.

Under the Big Top. Everything was built to scale with unbelievable detail.

Even the vehicles and the workmen are included in the miniature circus.

Other displays along the side show the animals with their handlers and equipment.

A close-up of one of the elephants. The builder's wife helped him by doing many of the costumes.

The miniature circus has thousands of performers and animals in it.

Even a band playing on top of a tiger cage.
 The rest of the museum had a collection of artwork that John Ringling had acquired when he was wealthy.  If you are into art you would probably enjoy it more than Brett and I did :)

John Ringling is the most well known of the seven Ringling brothers, five of whom merged the Barnum & Bailey Circus with their own Ringling Brothers Circus to create a monopoly of traveling circuses that traveled throughout the country and internationally.  The first show was started in 1870 and over the years it grew by absorbing other smaller circuses.  In 1905, he married Mabel Burton and John Ringling took the advance position of traveling ahead and booking the appearances for the show.  Over the next few years the brothers started dying leaving John Ringling one of the wealthiest men in the U.S. His wife loved to travel in Europe and they eventually built a mansion in Sarasota overlooking Sarasota Bay that is now open to the public. 

This is the John and Mabel Ringling mansion.  He named the house in Venetian dialect, Ca' d'Zan, or The House of John.

It was inspired by the Venetian Gothic palaces and has 30 rooms.

The outside is designed with intricate tiles and a family crest.

This is the terrace overlooking Sarasota Bay.  All the tile work was brought in from Venice.

Another view where you could walk out to your boat, or should I say yacht.

This is the side of the mansion facing the water.

One of the side views showing the tower that company could walk up to.

Another view showing the steps up to the tower.

Inside the mansion the main entrance hall had imported brocades hanging on each side of the front door.
This is a ceiling in one of the rooms with gold inlay.

The main drawing room.

Another intricate ceiling.

The tap room where the men went after dinner.

A stained glass scene on another side of the tap room.

The dining room ceiling.  It looks like wood but was actually painted and stained with tobacco juice to give it a wood veneer look.

Refrigerators in the kitchen.

The cooking area.
The home was completed by the Ringlings in 1926.  Mabel Ringling died in 1929.  In the same year John Ringling purchased the American Circus Corporation for $1.7 million dollars which consisted of the remaining circuses in America.  With the Depression, this was a financial blow he was unable to overcome.  He lost his entire fortune but was able to retain his home, the museum, and his extensive art collection.  When he died in 1936 he had only $311 in the bank.  At his death, he willed the Sarasota mansion, the museum, and his entire art collection to the state of Florida.

Lush flowers on the grounds of the Ringling mansion.

Lots of sculptures on the lawn.

Sitting under a banyan tree.

Another view of the banyan trees.  Can you see Brett sitting under them?

We also drove down to Venice to check it out.  It is a fun town with lots of bike trails and beaches, a wonderful dog beach, and many dog friendly restaurants.  The one we went to even had a Canine Cuisine menu for the pups. They each feasted on two all beef hot dogs that only cost us $2.   They also received numerous dog treats from the waitresses and a big bowl of water.  What more could you ask for......  

A normal day in downtown Venice.

We biked 15 miles on the Legacy Trail.  This is one of several bike trails weaving all throughout Venice.

The trail goes up and over intersections.

It starts at the historic Venice Railroad Station and follows the path of the old CSX railroad line.

The sky started looking dark although there was only 30% chance of rain.

Trying to dry out in one of the rest areas.

We spent  another day in Venice going to the dog beach.

Lucy swimming with a new friend who stole her toy.

A lady taking her dog out to surf.

The dog got into it pretty well.

And a dolphin started tracking them in the water.

Even little dogs got into the act.  This little fella tried to lay down in the water but had to retreat with each new wave.
All the dogs appeared to get along well.

And, of course, there are always a few super dogs.
We also went to a local farm and picked strawberries.  They were only a $1 a pound so we got a lot of them.  The farm has been around since the 1950's so everyone was older.

Even the horses were showing their age.

After another hard day of retirement someone needed a nap!

We also took in a spring baseball game in Sarasota between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The stadium was full and it was a gorgeous day.

We sat in the sixth row by third base.

A Philadelphia Phillies player running the bases after hitting a home run.

Keeping the crowd entertained with a water gun.  Felt good.
 The Phillies won 2-0. We had beers and a sausage sandwich and a cheese steak sandwich and other goodies.  It was great fun.

One other photo........I know work can be a pain sometimes but how would you like to drive this around everyday..........

The ears flop up and down as the car drives.

There is so much to do and see in these three cities.  We had a great time and plan on coming back again.  Now on to Mims, FL, and the Kennedy Space Center.  Peace to all!

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