Friday, January 27, 2023

The Ringling, Sarasota, FL

Four buddy boat friends - Jim, Renate, Heather & Scott at the Ringling Museum

In my last post I explained the saga of our former buddy boat cruiser friends on Emerald Seas and their quest to make it up from Guatemala. In an amazing coincidence Jim and his brother Gerry arrived in Cortez, FL at the same time as we were in the area. We rearranged our schedule and stayed nearby for 2 nights to visit with Jim and Renate. Jim's brother managed a immediate flight home to Canada and Renate flew in to join Jim the day we arrived. 
This panorama shows the scene under the "Big Top" but this was only a small part of the amazing
scale model of the circus that Howard Tibbais started in 1956 and he's still adding to it!

Emerald Seas was all tied up at the Seafood Shack Marina in Cortez when we arrived - but where was Jim? Phone calls and texts all said "We're (I'm) here, where are you?" Finally, light dawned - we were at the boat and he was out front of the Marina. Hugs all around!!! After catching up (with a beer) with stories of the trip up from Guatemala through Mexico, we took Jim with us to the hotel to check in. We chose the Springhill Suites Sarasota Bradenton to use our Marriott Points and thank goodness we didn't pay cash - what a dump! It was too late to change plans so we just made do. The corridors had automatic scent sprayers plugged in to try and cover the mildew smell, our room was musty, and the breakfast quite awful. The rack rate was $340 - imagine, there were people who paid that!
A close up of the medical tent

And a section of the Menagerie

Dinner however was a great success - we kind of accidently chose the Maemi Peruvian Restaurant and it was a small inexpensive gem. The couple who ran it were so friendly and the food was delicious and very reasonable. I have to say it was the first time we ran a restaurant out of Cabernet Sauvignon (in 3 glasses) but I don't believe they get a lot of call for wine. We spent 2 months in Peru so we can speak for it's authenticity. 
You can get an idea of the scale here but this is 
only a tiny corner of the whole!

A section of Ca' d'Zan, the Ringling mansion
on Sarasota Bay

We returned Jim back to Emerald Seas and he settled in to wait for Renate who was arriving at midnight. By settled in I mean he ended up carousing with the big motor yacht next to him. The cruising life is a social one! Next morning we came over to greet Renate and plan our day. The Ringling Museum was our destination. The John and Mable Ringling Museum is the 14th largest in the country. It was established by John Ringling, the last of the Ringling brothers, in 1937. After a rocky start over many years due to the Depression, his bankruptcy and the reluctance of the State of Florida to take charge, the Florida State University took over and it is a huge, impressive place today. There are a number of individual museums on the property but we visited only 3 of them, and that took most of the day. 
I had to resort to a stock photo as we didn't get a good photo ourselves. This is the courtyard at the Art Museum! It really shows you the scale of this enormous place. The museum's art collection currently consists of more than 10,000 objects that include a variety of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, and decorative arts from ancient through contemporary periods and from around the world.
The first and to me, the most fun, was the The Circus Museum which has the Howard Tibbais 3/4-to-the-inch scale model of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus from 1919 to 1938. Renate and I especially were fascinated by it and took over an hour to do it even a bit of justice. I loved it! The rest of the museum was great too. Ca' d'Zan was the home of John and Mable Ringling and built in the Gothic Venetian style (the name means House of John - poor Mabel came second here and probably always). None of the five Ringling brothers had children, only their sister (who is buried with John and Mabel not her family!). That probably explains why they had the money to build all of this. The art museum is enormous - one of my favorite parts were the 2 19th C historic rooms moved there from the Astor Mansion on 5th Avenue - Wow! 
Renate took this photo of my attempt at high wire,
half way successful. I'm sorry I didn't get a better
shot of her - she made it all the way across!

Ca' d'Zan from the Bay side

We broke up the long day walking around the huge property by enjoying a late excellent lunch at their on site restaurant, The Grillroom, on the terrace overlooking the gardens. We did justice to this amazing Museum but still missed several of the individual museums for lack of time!
Dinner at the Bonefish Grill

Another section of the scale model Circus

After naps and time off we met again for dinner, our last night together. The Bonefish Grill near their boat turned out to be an excellent choice. It's a chain but very upscale and the service and food was top notch. It was hard to say good-bye - too short a time! But we'll see them again, hopefully this summer at our Second Annual Tortugeezers reunion, probably in Montana. 

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