Florida 2012 – day 9 – Siesta Key, Sarasota

Now that we’ve gotten all the parks out of the way, it’s time to do something different again. I can’t really say that this is new as we’ve done two beaches already on this trip, but we’re doing another beach today.

I should mention that a few things have been happening during this holiday which I haven’t covered. I’ve mentioned that we did accidentally run the battery down in the car, and a kind bloke across the way jump-started it for us. I did remember to take note of that. However, I haven’t mentioned three things, which I can’t honestly remember when they happened – I just know they did.

On one of the days we arrived back from visiting parks to find that the water in the villa wasn’t working. Not good. This was late one evening and we left it until the next day, and it still wasn’t working then. We phoned the villa company just before heading out who must have fixed it during the day as, when we came back, all was good.

Secondly, on another day we found that the cable had seemingly gone. We had no TV, no phone and no internet. Which, to be honest, isn’t so bad – you’re on holiday to see places, not spend all your time in front of the TV – but we called by a local tourist shop to phone the villa company again (as our telephone wasn’t working). Surprisingly the shop was run by some more Brits. They let us ring out and all was fixed whilst we were out for the day.

Thirdly, the villa did get a few phone calls from some very nice Americans asking for someone we’d never heard of. I can only assume they’ve racked up some bad credit or something (they did sound quite official) but we said that we’d never heard of them (they didn’t sound like the names of the people we were renting the villa off) and they left us in peace.

I honestly didn’t really mind the people running the villa coming in during the day – whilst we leave most of our money and travellers cheques in our suitcases (locked of course), they didn’t go rummaging or anything – not that we can tell anyway.

Our villa was equipped with wifi, though the WEP key wasn’t provided (it was supposed to be) so we couldn’t use our own devices. Fortunately there was a PS3 (which, of course, has in-built wifi) which was set up to use it already. Admittedly they only had two games (though we didn’t actually play it), but this allowed us to surf the internet, which meant we could find some new things to do.

Which we did.

So we fancied a beach day, but wanted somewhere new. After a bit of searching (using the internet through games consoles is a complete pain and makes you long for a PC or a smartphone) we found a good little area – Sarasota, and Siesta Key. Or Siesta Beach. I can’t remember which. Either way, it’s located to the south of the Tampa / Clearwater area, so with directions noted down (handy holiday hint – always take a notepad and pen) we head off.

And promptly get lost.

Okay, the I-4 we can do find. We can mostly do turnings off it onto different freeways and roads and stuff. But inevitably we get lost, and end up going along some roads we shouldn’t have.

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But in doing this we come across some very nice houses. VERY nice. Definitely a case of “how the other half live”, they look like what we would imagine celebrities living in, with huge imposing-looking gates, all sorts of balconies, huge houses all done in different styles with decorative columns, fountains and so on. Alas, we didn’t get any photos of these. Probably a good thing – guards may well have descended on us if we had.

Eventually we found the small town of Siesta Key and headed through it, before finding a tiny car park offering free parking and access to the beach. We leave the car (and our swimming gear) there and walk back into the town to get some lunch.

Now, the town of Siesta Key, or at least the bit we were in, was pretty much a single street with some bars and the odd occasional shop on it. There are a few more shops and a tiny shopping centre area further up, as well as a few smaller streets leading off with some houses, holiday homes etc on them. We stop by one of the bars for some food, a pretty nice and quiet place, and get some sandwiches. Honestly can’t remember what we had but they were HUGE!

And the town, at least at this time of day, is nice and quiet – very peaceful. Definitely a very nice little community, on a par with Kelley’s Island and Put-in-Bay.

We head back to the car park and grab our swimming gear from the car, then walk along one of the wooden walkways to the beach. The beach itself was actually rated America’s best beach a few years back and it’s not hard to see why. Whilst it’s nowhere near as active as Clearwater Beach, it has a nice sandy feeling – probably something to do with the sand, but it is a nice texture and without any sharp pointy bits that I recall. There are a few reeds near the buildings, and fortunately the buildings themselves are only low ones and are nowhere near as rubbish-looking as the ones over at Ponce Inlet / Daytona area.

Getting changed on the beach is always a pain, for some reason moreso for me (a man) than for my wife (a woman). One would have thought that it would be easier for men as they’ve less that need covering, but for whatever reason that never seems to be the case. Maybe I’m just rubbish at it.

After a swim and relax and making various sandcastles (again, I’m rubbish at this but my wife isn’t – check the pictures) we get changed and, after dumping our stuff back at the car, walk back to the town area for a bit of a look around and some dinner. We head down one of the streets leading towards the sea, and after passing a few holiday homes and condos we happen across the sea, where a few people are milling around waiting for the sunset.

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At this point we get our picture taken by a local man. I do have his name but won’t say it here as the internet is a scary place and people would probably start stalking him. In any case, we get chatting with him.

Apparently this guy has lived in Siesta Key for a good few years – most of his life in fact, and he seemed to be in his sixties or seventies. Every day he comes here and sets up his chair to watch the sunset. For some reason he believes that London *is* the UK, or at least that everyone lives in London. This seems to be a common misconception, though you can sort-of understand why – a lot of us Brits think Orlando *is* Florida, but Florida itself is actually about the same size as England. We compare stories about how much things cost, local food (he seemed quite interested in what the British ate for breakfast, thinking we all eat cereal – well, mostly, but then we told him about our Full English Breakfasts – bacon, sausage, beans, egg etc) and weather. Allegedly it has snowed once in Siesta Key. I’m not sure whether I believe him.

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The sunset comes and goes, and it really is quite spectacular. Keeping an eye on it, as well as chatting with the man, we can actually see it moving down, growing smaller and then vanishing over the horizon.

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The night sky comes just as quickly as we head back into the town to try and find something to eat. We do look at a Chinese place but it seems to be take-out only. After looking round for a bit we eventually decide just to get a sandwich from a local supermarket – as well as ask if we can use the toilet. To our surprise they let us and direct us into the back office area, seemingly entrusting us not to steal anything.

The sandwiches aren’t bad – usual quick and cheap supermarket fare – and there’s also an ice cream shop over the road which seems quite popular. Well, we’re never ones to miss an opportunity for good ice cream, so we go in and order our own full of various flavours (most of mine being different varieties of chocolate – well, if it ain’t broken etc).

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After this we meander back towards the car, mindful that we got lost on the way there and it’s a long trip. As we get to the car park we notice that the sky here, slightly away from the small town of Siesta Key and any artificial lighting, is absolutely clear – a star-spotter’s dream.

Previous – day 8 (Busch Gardens Tampa)

Next – day 10 (US and IoA again)

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