After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, I’ve returned to my annual winter writer’s retreat on the island of Venice in Florida.
I missed everything; from the turquoise waters, tropical flowers to Mahi Mahi and Mango Bango at Sharky’s.
This year’s stay was very special because we had an unplanned family reunion that just happened when Doc Chavent and Ludek decided to join us in “Paradise.”
Since it was sort of a reunion, mom Ella slaved in the kitchen and made some tropical goodies like open-faced sandwiches with mango chutney and blue cheese spread. We bought cold cuts at the International Food deli in nearby Northport owned by Ukraine owners.
I admire these Ukrainian women who have been running the store sine 1989 with little knowledge of English, but with a lot of gusto for life and preserving the old country traditions by carrying foods such as sproty, smoked mackerels, Russian champagne, Alexander II black tea and loose tea packed in Russian nesting dolls.
Venice on the island with sandy beaches and pelicans is better known as “Paradise.” The temperature in the winter months is around mid 70F. We lucked out it was in the 80s all week long, and sunny.
We all met on Sunday, Feb. 20 by the beach at Sharky’s, the only restaurant on the beach in Venice. Ludek waited for us by the picnic bench and surprised Doc Emma and the grandkids, as well as Vincent by his unexpected presence. Our daughter didn’t recognize him in his beach attire and hat, and her new friend Vincent didn’t stand a chance, since they’ve never met.
However, the grands eventually realized that it was their own grandpa sitting underneath the palms drinking beer, even though they were jet-lagged after the long flight from Paris.
We all enjoyed the sunny tropical afternoon on the beach in February. Usually, we spend Sunday afternoons at home shopping after the Sunday mass.
This was a much-needed break from the winter drill of taking care of the house and our new business. But I also had to somewhat break away from my usual retreat routine except for the morning yoga on the beach with Elin.
My dad Vaclav gave me a ride every day for the 9 am yoga session on Venice Beach. The class is always well attended by close to 200 participants from all over the USA. But most of us are from either the Midwest or from New England.
I enjoyed the morning conversations about how many inches of snow was the northeast getting and how many flights have been canceled. The last yoga class before my departure was dedicated to Dotty of Michigan who was celebrating her 100th birthday and until two years ago did yoga with Elin on the beach, a definite testimonial to the overall benefits of yoga.
“Dotty wouldn’t want us to do any balances today,” said Elin holding a poster of Dotty. “ So we’re not going to do them.”
Elin offers plenty of tips on how to maintain balance, good posture, and fall correctly, if necessary. We often do executive stretches and airplane balances. Plus there’s a lot to do in town including Farmers Markets on Saturdays.
I love downtown Venice with palm-lined streets, boutiques, Ciao Gelato shop, Coffee and Wine Co., and restaurants. This year, colorful sculptures of mermaids and seahorses adorned the street corners and storefronts.
We only made it once to town for coffee with mom, and a few times to Jetty’s Jack for ice brewed latte with Ludek. However, we indulged in a fancy tropical lunch at Finn’s on an unlimited budget sponsored by the Docs from France.
You should never tell a Czech person that he or she can order whatever they want from the menu. Because they will. LOL
Mom ordered filet mignon, while dad went cheap and ordered fish and chips. We all shared octopus for appetizers. I have yet to acquire a taste for that.
The North and South Jetty located on the north side of Venice are wharves with marinas, kayaks, and boat rentals such as sailvenice.com and the Freedom Boat Club.
We enjoyed a sunset cruise with Captain Paul Aquaholic Charters starting at the Venice Marina by the Old Salt Dog. Marine patrol officer Paul for Sarasota County during the day turns into Captain Paul at night. Barefoot Paul took us out to sea via the Venice waterways past the dockside restaurants on the waterways.
We saw dolphins playing by the docks. They chased our small boat in the waterway and Paul even lent the Captain’s bridge to the grandkids to steer us toward the setting sun.
The journey into the sun that lit the gold and orange waters on fire to see the Gulf sunset lasted more than an hour, and created memories for a lifetime.
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