A Day in Venice (Florida, not California, and certainly not Italy)

IMG_5563My grandparents discovered Venice, Florida in the 1950s.  It was a sleepy town on the Gulf coast, frequented by snowbirds, driving down from New England, the Midwest, and Canada for the winter months.  I visited there almost every winter when I was growing up in the 1960s, getting horrific sunburns that peeled for weeks, collecting black fossilized sharks’ teeth on the beach, and ogling the tattooed circus people around town.  Venice then was the winter home of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  The Flying Wallendas and Gunther Gebel-Williams, the “lion tamer,” were local celebrities.

The sun and sharks’ teeth remain, but the circus is long gone.  Of course, Venice is much more developed and crowded now.

A 1959 view of Snake Island near the Venice jetty.

A 1959 view of Snake Island near the Venice jetty.

What is left of Snake Island today.

What is left of heavily-eroded Snake Island today.

But it retains some of its former charm.  It has a palm-lined downtown area, with 1920s architecture, full of shops, restaurants, and well-off retirees.  Even though I now am retired, I continue to view Venice as a place full of OLD people, just as I did when I was a child.  Everyone seems to be in some stage of old age, from the fit, tennis-outfitted newly-retired, to bent-over ancients holding up checkout lines as, with glacial slowness, their arthritic, shaking fingers pick out each penny and dime for exact payment.  Sightings of children are rare.

We headed to Venice this week for a quick visit with my 91-year-old mother, who has lived there for many years.  It was a six hour drive each way from St. Simons and we only had three days (between physical therapy sessions) for the trip.  We arrived to a sunset, with blue clouds massing over the Gulf, resembling a distant mountain range.

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The next day—our one full day there—was glorious and sunny, with a mild breeze.  My mother doesn’t venture too far afield these days, but every morning takes a leisurely walk down to the jetties, picking up litter as she goes.

The Venice jetty usually has power walkers, fishers, and a variety of birds.  This day was no different.

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That’s Nokomis on the north side of the inland waterway, with its own jetty

The most striking birds were the anhingas perched on the jetty rocks drying their wings.  They are amazing underwater swimmers, but their feathers become waterlogged, so they spend a great deal of time drying and grooming them.

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IMG_5557Their eyes develop bluish green rings in mating season, which must be in full swing given these colors.

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Neither people nor birds were catching many fish. Instead, the birds seemed to be taking advantage of the sun and wind for extensive grooming.

This pelican did a thorough grooming

This pelican went through huge grooming contortions

and then settled in

and then settled in.

Egret

Egret

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IMG_5626IMG_5613On the way home we watched this big pelican perched very high in an Australian pine. He looked like a pterodactyl.

IMG_5685Back at the house, we watched the birds in the yard and the ospreys nesting on a nearby channel marker.

Doves perched high in a palm

Doves perched high in a palm

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Osprey nest with the twin jetty in Nokomis in the distance

Osprey nest with the twin jetty in Nokomis in the distance

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We toured the yard and its flowers.

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And sat and watched the boats go by.

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Zoe napped in the shade

After dinner out, we returned to the tail end of another glowing sunset.

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It was followed by the appearance of the moon—just a sliver—and Venus, lingering over the marina.

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34 thoughts on “A Day in Venice (Florida, not California, and certainly not Italy)

  1. Thank you for the generous compliments. I am happy to hear that you are enjoying the blog. Writing it has made me more observant of my surroundings where ever I go–and the splendid photo opportunities. From the wonderful details in your blog, I suspect that is the same for you.

    • You’re not alone! Most people visit the Tampa area and the Fort Myers/Naples area and miss the area in between. Venice is still a nice little town and has one of the loveliest beaches on the coast, Caspersen Beach, which has about 7 (?) miles of undeveloped shoreline.

      • And thanks for your compliments on the bird pictures. George gave me a new camera for Christmas and it’s fantastic on the close ups.

  2. Wow, your mother is still alive…and just 86 miles from where my mother retired to: Tarpon Springs. As an old counter culture person, I fully expected to detest Florida; however when I went there, about 20 some odd years ago for the very first time when my mother was ill, I fell in love with that sponge fishing community. And Loved swimming on the Gulf Coast…very different from the Northern California coastline and ocean.

    As always, I love your photos and observations. Mourning doves are some of my favorites. Cannot wait to meet you and speak about all your wonderful adventures!

    • Yes, my mother is still going strong. I haven’t been to Tarpon Springs for many years, but remember it as a really unique place–a bit of Greece on the Gulf.

      We also are looking forward to meeting you and your husband. Not sure when it will be, though, our travel plans are evolving a bit and it may be a while before we get to California. I’ll fill you in more later.

    • Thank you Ingrid. You always have such beautiful bird shots on your blog that I really appreciate your comment. The camera is a Canon Powershot SX700 HS. Compact, light, amazing zoom, great IS, true colors–I love it. Actually, I’m blown away that such a small, relatively inexpensive camera can take such photos.

  3. Hi, great post, we managed to stumble across venice and Casey’s point whilst holidaying in sarsota about 8 years ago, it is now one of our favourite places to watch sunsets, so much so, we have now bought a condo in Bradenton. Love finding out about other places to visit. Thanks

  4. I sure miss my Zo Zo! Zoe looks so peaceful in that photo. 15 years ago I used to live in Indian Shores and volunteered for 6 yrs at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. Thank you for the wonderful photos of the sea birds. I miss them more than I could imagine. We were visiting there last Feb and I got choked up when I had to leave. I got wonderful shots of a great blue heron throwing a fish around and situating it just right to go down its gullet. The anhingas are amazing with their beautiful spotted feathers. Your camera did quite a fantastic job and so did you!

    • It’s good to hear from you. I suspect that Zoe is missing you and all of her friends at day care. She wants to befriend everyone we meet. She is slowing down a bit, but is in love with the beach and heads straight there when we set out for a walk.

      I can understand why you miss the birds on the Gulf coast–they are really spectacular creatures. I imagine that you had a lot of birds at the sanctuary–so many get in trouble with fishing lines and plastic. There was a newly dead pelican on the beach here today.

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the photos–we follow you guys on facebook and you have had some sweet pictures of your own!

      Brenda

  5. What a beautiful area your mother lives in. I smiled at your description of the “old people” I wonder at what age we will place ourselves in that category??? Your camera and you are doing a wonderful job, the close-up details are superb. I have a Cannon Powershot and have had it for a couple of years it is “only” a 35mm zoom that I thought fantastic, but now Jack has a 50mm zoom. Camera technology has come a long way since the box brownie.
    Will you be moving on again soon?

    • The area where my mom lives is quite lovely and has many of the same plants that you have. I know I should count myself as one of the old people now, but don’t suppose we ever consider ourselves to be as old as we are.

      Camera technology continues to surprise me. The one I just got is about to be upgraded, which is why the price was so low. But, to me, this version is quite extraordinary enough. I’m happy you like the photos.

      We will be here another month and then hitting the road again.

      • I suppose while we are still active we do not consider ourselves as old. I imagine your Mom finds it hard to believe she is 91.
        Are you looking forward to being on the move again?

      • I accept that I am aging and am more curious about the changes it brings than anything else. But I am just on the cusp of old age so it’s easy to be glib about it. I picture some difficult day sitting down and acknowledging, “Okay, now I have really reached old age.” Let’s hope I can do it with some class.
        We are looking forward to being on the move again but we’re also thinking of where we will settle next. We only intended for this trip to take a year and we are both bipolar when it comes to travel and nesting. We love both. Our future plans are taking shape and it looks like we will travel for a few more months and then look to buy a new home and travel in the winter.

      • My Mom aged gracefully into her 90’s and I looked at her as an inspiration. Now I am in my 70’s I hope to have 20+years ahead, but certainly need to make the most of what I have left however many years I have to go.
        After our full year round Australia we now go away in shorter bursts. It is NZ in April. Have you decided where to settle, or are you still looking?

  6. The first picture really had me guessing for a while – took me several seconds to realise it was not a fury animals ear but a bird! Funny! The anhingas are really beautiful:)

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting. The first photo is kind of a tease. I’m looking forward to your series on Alaska in your blog. If you go back to some of our earliest posts, you will see some of our Alaska pictures. We have lived there for years but didn’t blog until leaving on this trip. Our blog header is our dog Zoe on Bird Ridge, a wonderful hike on the drive down Turnagain Arm between Anchorage and Girdwood.

  7. Pauline,
    I think we will be adopting your pattern of traveling in shorter bursts from a home base where we can indulge in our love of gardening, boats, and other fun stuff. We are looking to settle along the coast of Maine. Are you still going on a cruise this year? Is that your trip to New Zealand?
    Brenda

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