The Traveling Steve's

Steve DOS’s Birthday in Sarasota

For Steve (DOS’s) birthday week, we took a leisurely five day trip back to Sarasota for a fun stay.

We left on Sunday afternoon, and ran into a bit of rain, as well as the Disney World traffic on the way, which set us back a half hour or so. No worries though and no rush. Plus it gave me time to take a photo of the Disney “mouse ears” power pole along Interstate Four. The “mouse ears” power pole is the last Disney exit, and lots of traffic was merging in as people were no doubt heading home from the weekend visiting the Mouse.

The drive took a little less than three hours this trip due to the 1/2 hour delay, and we got to the hotel around the 4pm check-in time. We stayed once again at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, located downtown by the Bay. Steve (DOS) had sold his house there recently, but we still love going to Sarasota to visit. We always enjoy staying at the Hyatt Regency there, and the staff there are wonderful. We once again had a nice 10th (top floor) suite which overlooked the Bay.

We were welcomed back to the Hyatt hotel, and shortly after arrival we received a complimentary welcome gift tray consisting of a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, and three packages of various chocolate-covered nuts and treats. We love Hyatt; they really know how to impress, and their loyalty program is tops! Being a Globalist member also entitled us to a complimentary breakfast each morning, waiver of resort fees, and at this property, complimentary self parking as well.

We were both a bit concerned with eating out every meal now that we were out of town, as we both have been eating well at home, and going for twice daily 1/2 hour walks. We have both lost weight since I was in the hospital in September for open heart surgery, and didn’t want to lapse into fast food for lunch, and ignoring our calories and walks. Fast forward to when we got home five days later; we maintained our same weight (within a few ounces) as before we left, and our weight gaining fears turned out to not be a worry! It also helped avoiding the brewskis at the bar!

We didn’t take twice daily walks as at home, however we did take a longer morning walk along the nature trail next to the hotel, of approximately 40 minutes. This was a great walk by the water and along the paved trail, much of which had a softened, ‘cushion-like’ pavement to it. Here is a view from the room on our second day overlooking the bay and the Wiezel Theater. The cleared-out area in the foreground is not for future development; rather it will be a public park when completed. For now, the walkway goes from the hotel and marina area all the way past the theater along the waterside and meanders thru some scenic marsh lands; a really nice and enjoyable walk even with the construction still going on.

Here are some photos of the nature walk we took as seen from ground level.

Coincidentally when we got back to the hotel, I ran into a friendly gentleman at the elevator who noticed my “Aortic Valve Surgery Survivor” T-shirt DOS had given me when I got out of the hospital. It turns out the man (named John) was a former Cardiologist (retired) from the Orlando area! We had a nice conversation regarding the procedure, and he seemed genuinely interested in hearing about another heart patient (me) and his progress and recovery. John was really a down-to-earth Doctor and gentleman like the others that had treated me, and even took my pulse as a heart check! I later met his wife as DOS and I lunched down by the pool. I don’t have a photo of them, but did give them our card. The lunch itself was heart-healthy, as I had a Cobb salad (a bit to huge but mine without egg, cucumber, onion), and just a bit of dressing. Lunch with a view!

As we did on our last visit, we visited some of our favorite restaurants for dinner, from simple casual seafood at Amelia’s Oyster Bar to upscale Conner’s, Libby’s, and Fleming’s. We have been eating more fish lately and less red meat which no doubt has helped with the weight loss and overall health, but it makes for a nice splurge when we do have a steak such as on DOS’s birthday at Flemings. More on Fleming’s and other’s further below.

Steve DOS at Amelia’s Oyster Bar Sarasota
Steve UNO at Amelia’s Oyster Bar Sarasota

For Steve (DOS’s) birthday, we again did our morning nature walk, but got even more exercise by visiting the John and Mable Museum of Art. On our last visit there in October, we purchased an annual membership and were looking forward to returning there as we enjoyed the Circus part of the museum so much. Here is the official link to the John and Mable Museum website, while the Wikipedia description is further below in the post.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (link via Wikipedia) is a MUST see if you visit Sarasota, as it is offers a fascinating look at another era; i.e. circa mid to late 1920’s of the winter estate of John and Mable Ringling. On our last visit we spend the better part of a day touring the Circus Museum (two buildings) and some of the grounds which feature the extensive gardens with life-size sculptures. Another day we visited the home (Mansion) of John and Mable Ringling, which sits directly by the Bay, quite a walk on their grounds from the Circus and Art Museums.

On this visit, DOS and I went to the John and Mable Ringling Art Museum. I must say, even if you are not a connoisseur of fine (or even any) artwork, you will be in awe of their collection! We went on a weekday off-season, so the museum was fairly empty; almost like having a private viewing, which gave us plenty of opportunity to chat with the docents working there.

When we first entered the museum, we walked through these giant wrought-iron gate doors that literally weighed a ton, but could easily be opened due to their quality craftsmanship and installation. The docent who greeted us at the door explained these doors were actually once the doors on John Astor’s Manhattan apartment back in the day, just to give you an idea of the collection we were about to see. John Astor if you’re a ship or movie buff, went down with the Titanic in 1912.

The art work, sculptures, furniture, pianos, tableware and china is absolutely stunning and literally larger than life. The first room we enter had floor to ceiling paintings that were brought over from Europe on cargo ships totally intact; i.e. frame and all, instead of being rolled up due to their size. The paintings all had plaques describing the painting, artist, and year, however at first in my naiveness I thought the paintings were depicting the period shown, such as the 16th century. But no! These were originals throughout the museum from the 1500’s and beyond!

As I took so many pictures, I will create a gallery of the museum artwork, and post later, but for now here are just a few of the many rooms, paintings, and exhibits we viewed at the John and Mable Ringling Art Museum.

As we wondered thru the museum, I kept wondering how the artwork and collection remained in such incredible condition over the years (there was no glass covering them) and they were mammoth in size! Not to mention how anyone, even Bill Gates, Bezos, Musk etc could amass such as a collection today even with their billions of dollars – it took Ringling a lifetime to acquire this rare collection and I can’t imagine how anyone could get this many historical (and many Biblical) paintings today from these various periods, regardless of price – like fine and exquisite aged wine or precious jewelry, there is only a finite number of specific items produced from a given era.

After heading thru the first wing of the building, we walked outside into the Versailles-like courtyard. The courtyard had many beautiful sculptures, including this replica of David, as well as beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers.

We were starting to get hungry by the time we got to the second wing of the museum, so we breezed right through it, stopping for a only a couple things that really caught our eye, before heading to lunch. Like the Circus Museum, there is so much to see that we will have to make another trip to see more of the exhibits.

After touring the Ringling Art Museum, I took Steve (DOS) to a birthday lunch at The GrillRoom Restaurant located on the Ringling estate. We ate there last month and really enjoyed it, and the food and service were consistent with our last visit – excellent! It was a nice leisurely walk over to the restaurant, and on the way we passed over this pedestrian bridge where we could see some giant turtles swimming around.

And here are a couple photos of our lunch at the The GrillRoom Restaurant, conveniently located on the Ringling Estate.

After lunch at the GrillRoom, we went back to the hotel to relax bit, before we went out for DOS’s birthday dinner. I also had some things to set up for his birthday festivities for after dinner when we got back to the room.

I wanted to recreate for DOS one of my favorite childhood birthday memories I had growing up; a “treasure hunt” birthday! As a family when I was growing up, almost every year we were traveling on a vacation as my birthday is August 2nd, while my Mom’s was July 30th, and this was summer vacation for us. One year we had taken a 2 week road trip out west, and on my birthday had stayed at an A-framed cabin in Colorado Springs. My parents had bought and wrapped several small gifts for me, and my Dad had cleverly created clues for each gift and hidden them about the two-level cabin. It was then my job to find each gift! It was really a lot of fun and I always remember that birthday event, even though I can’t remember what year it was.

So with DOS, however, it was a bit more challenging to recreate the treasure hunt. I had purchased the gifts and gift bags before I left, but hadn’t had a chance to wrap them, much less hide them in the hotel suite. I enlisted the hep of my sister Jenni from Maryland, who phoned him and kept him occupied for a while, while I got the gifts wrapped, placed half of them around the bedroom where is was wrapping them. I wanted to place the others in the suite living/dining room where DOS was on the phone, which made for a challenging quest. I waited until he was showering for dinner and put the others in places ranging from the safe, behind the sofa, in the guest closet, in the fridge, and on the balcony! We will return later in this post for the after dinner treasure hunt, but for now it’s time for DOS’s birthday dinner at Fleming’s. I even had my sister Jenni call DOS again right before we left to distract him one more time for the last gift! LOL!

We Uber’d to Fleming’s Sarasota, and had a wonderful and relaxing birthday dinner.

DOS does not like any birthday recognition; i.e. that tacky group waiter singing to him or similar, but was ok with a simple birthday table layout Fleming’s had decorated with simple silver, quarter shaped glittery circles, and a birthday card for him.

I then added my personal birthday touch of some (I thought cute and colorful, he thought tacky and inappropriate) mini streamer pom-poms for the table. I thought it looked happy. I think he was embarrassed. We then removed the pom poms, so this is the only photo of him with them. LOL!

I then gave DOS a custom photo birthday card I had made for him which he liked. I would have like it if he had opened it with the pom poms still in the photo, but I digress. LOL Two.

Fleming’s had an “Uncorked Wine” promotion going on, which was $28 and featured four red wines. The promotion is priced the same as Capital Grille’s summer “Generous Pour” promotion, although Capital Grille’s promotion features 8 wines and only runs during the summer. Fleming’s had four red wines (3 Pinot Noir’s and 1 Cabernet Sauvignon), and all were excellent. We’re not usually Pinot diners, but these were full-bodied and wonderful Pinots. One of the wines was even served from a fancy magnum bottle!

Once again we did a calorie splurge and shared a bone-in ribeye, but reminded ourselves how much walking we had done during the day, both in the morning, and later at Ringling Art Museum! Although the steak looks charred, it’s actually a delicious medium-rare, with a crusty exterior. I achieve this at home on the grill to a lesser extent by adding just a little bit of clarified butter to get it crusty and hot like this, but still delicious medium rare internally. We also split a HUGE baked potato, although we didn’t use all of the high fatty and caloric toppings they brought with it on the side!

Fleming’s was really outstanding, and our waitress was fantastic. At the end of the meal, she brought DOS a birthday treat of a box of chocolates, with a single candle lit on the dish beside it. She also took a photo of us with her phone, which I initially thought was a bit strange (in addition to taking photos with our phone), yet 10 minutes later when she presented the check, she also presented us with the photo she had taken in a complimentary 5 x 7 photo in a Fleming’s cardboard frame! Nice and classy, and unexpected touch!

We really had a wonderful night of dining at Fleming’s in Sarasota, and the service and pace of the meal, not to mention the food quality were all excellent! We then Uber’d back to the hotel, and we continued DOS’s birthday celebration once again, this time with the in-room Treasure Hunt!

DOS carefully followed the clues one by one, and really enjoyed the hunt last well!

I think I wore DOS out by the end of the day with the visit to the Ringling Art Museum, lunch, sitting by the pool, big dinner at Fleming’s, followed by a Treasure Hunt where he had to search to find his gifts. It was all in good fun, and I think despite this tired-looking photo, he had a great birthday!

The rest of the week in Sarasota was enjoyable and relaxing. We met a couple friends and a former neighbor for dinner the last two nights we were there. We met our former neighbor Kenny for dinner in Venice, Florida one night (about 25 minutes south of Sarasota), as he was there on business for a few days. We went to a nice steakhouse but ended up sharing a trio of appetizers (2 Ahi Tunas, a huge cheese, fruit and charcuterie platter, and mini Beef Wellingtons) with some nice Bordeaux wines (one in mini bottles from the right bank, and one full size bottle from the left bank for comparison. Both were great!

It was great to see Kenny once again, and we look forward to visiting him and his wife Mary in Vero Beach again soon.

On our last night we had dinner with our new friends Chuck and Tom. DOS had hired them recently as contractors when he was having his house remodeled. They did such an outstanding job, and we all became friends in the course of the project. We went to Libby’s restaurant the last night we were in Sarasota, and had a nice evening out with them as well.

On Friday morning we checked out of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and headed back home to Orlando after being gone for five nights. We had a fun and relaxing weekend, and DOS had a Happy Birthday.

I’m feeling much better everyday, and am so blessed and thankful that we can travel once again!

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