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Published: March 4th 2014
We arrived here last week in Sarasota and were at first a bit disappointed. This is a huge park, very densely populated. However, the pools, hot tubs, and other amenities make up for the tight un-landscaped sites. The people are also very friendly: we were warmly welcomed into the shuffleboard games held each morning.
Our first venture out and about was to Siesta Key Beach, named the #1 beach in the country. The sand is indeed white and soft.
Yesterday we visited the John and Mable Ringling estate, a beautifully landscaped 66-acre complex. We first toured his extravagant Venetian style mansion overlooking Sarasota Bay. All the furnishings are originals as John and Mable were the only owners. After their deaths the house was gifted to the State of Florida, so every thing we saw was as it had been in the 1920’s and 1930’s when they lived there. The architectural details were stunning.
After a delicious lunch at the on-site restaurant, Trevisto, we toured the Circus Museum. The old posters, costumes, wagons, and even part of an original circus train really captured the era when the arrival of the circus train in
small towns all across the country was a huge event. Also in the museum is the largest miniature circus in the world. Master model builder Howard Tibbals created this replica over a period of more than 50 years.
John Ringling was more than just a “circus man”: he was an entrepreneur and land developer. In the 1920’s he was one of the wealthiest men in the country, and like many of his time, he invested in art. The museum he created to house his collection is the 16th
largest in the country and houses one of the finest Baroque collections. Most impressive are five huge paintings by Rubens entitled “The Triumph of the Eucharist”. Only two other paintings from this series exist elsewhere. Thanks to a knowledgeable volunteer who guided us through the many galleries, we learned a lot about Baroque and Renaissance art. The two wings of the museum enclose a formal garden with replicas of Greek and Roman Statues. It was a lovely day.
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