Greetings friends! We’re all caught up after our time away. Laundry done, fridge is stocked, house is clean and last but not least, I managed to fit in a massage, mani pedi and a desperately needed haircut. Priorities, you know?
I am anxious to tell you about our adventures, and there’s no better place to start than at the beginning. But not the beginning of our trip mind you, but back to when we first bought the cabin and why we are considering potentially relocating.
Back in 2005, we purchased our cabin in the foothills of the beautiful Berkshires as a weekend getaway. We had owned a business for nearly 8 years by then, and it was difficult for us to take vacations without worrying about how things were being run. Our solution, which worked out great, was to get a place we could get to easily on weekends from our home in NY. While it didn’t take the place of a trip to Italy or New Zealand, it was a great change of scenery and provided us with much needed relaxation.
When we first saw the cabin, we were sold. I’ve always liked log cabins, and although it needed a lot of work, we actually liked that. In the years that followed, we spent many weekends fixing it up…adding two baths, finishing the basement, changing some of the flooring, adding a deck, and tons of other improvements too numerous to mention. Recently we’ve turned our attention to the outside, adding a fire pit, a small rock wall in the front of the house, stone steps, a storage area under the deck, and a rock garden.
It’s been rewarding, but here’s the thing: the community is primarily a recreational community. In other words, most of the people who live here are doing what we used to do. They come up on weekends, and typically not every weekend at that. More importantly, we are at least 30 minutes to anything, and that includes a supermarket, a hairdresser, a gym, a Dr., a bank or any of the other necessities of every day living. The nearest city is an hour away, and ditto for any major hospital. Although we are thankfully both healthy, as we get older that can change, so good, accessible health care is a concern. Where we are now is NOT a good place to be elderly and ill.
I think you get the picture.
Last year when we were staying in BAM at a resort in Venice, Fisherman got a mild case of bronchitis and wasn’t feeling well enough to do much, so I needed to keep myself busy. The resort had SO many activities that I was interested in, and they were all right at my fingertips. I got a taste for what life could be like. At least what my life could be like, and then I surreptitiously saw this quote:
‘You’re allowed to leave a city that has dimmed your light instead of making you shine brighter, you’re allowed to pack all your bags and start over somewhere else and you’re allowed to redefine the meaning of your life.’
The cabin was never supposed to be our retirement home, but somehow it became just that. I suppose the reasons for that are numerous and fairly complicated, including but not limited to the economy, the fact that the cabin hasn’t appreciated one iota in all these years, and we weren’t sure we could afford to move. Also, in spite of the areas limitations, there are several good things about it and I wanted to give living here full time my best shot.
This past trip to Florida and Asheville was a fact finding one, to see if we could afford a community and a home where we could be happy and live the kind of lifestyle we want.
And what exactly is that lifestyle you might ask?
Well, together, we both enjoy biking (on fairly flat terrain) and playing pickle ball. Separately, Fisherman enjoys tennis and surprise, surprise, fishing. He used to play golf and may want to take that up again in the future. As for me, I enjoy learning new things, which includes (but not limited to) painting, photography, jewelry making, pottery, gardening and pretty much anything that’s not too techy ;). We’d like to be able to do the things we’re interested in more often and not be hampered by poor weather or inaccessibility, so off we went to find our version of Shangri-La! Here’s some highlights and lowlights of our trip.
We started our hunt in Naples, although I never really thought we’d end up there, I wanted to look at some homes nonetheless. Naples is a lovely town, particularly the downtown area, and almost every night when they light up the streets with little white lights you’ll feel like you’re in a fairy tale.
The beach is a short walk from downtown, and sunsets like this are a fairly common sight.
Naples is, not surprisingly, quite pricey, and it didn’t seem to have the amenities we were looking for (more on that later).
The resort we stayed in while in Naples was fairly decent, although the sites were a little close together for our liking. There was an active pickle ball community there so a few days a week we played, mostly in the mornings, until I sprained my ankle. But it was enough for me to figure out it was great having an organized activity we enjoyed so close by.
Ok, let’s move on…
After spending the month of January in Naples, we hopped on over to Venice (well, I hopped, Fisherman walked). And since you can never have too many whimsical maps of Florida, here’s another one so you can get your bearings. It’s not labeled, but Venice is between Sarasota and Ft. Myers on the west coast.
Some of you may remember this Beetle covered with over 20,000 shells from IG. We saw her in Ft. Myers at an art festival. That day, I lost my driver’s license. Sometimes I just take my license and leave my wallet behind because it’s too large to fit in my bag. On this particular day, I happened to have a bottle of water in the bag. I think the condensation from the bottle caused it to cling to the license and when I took the bottle out of my bag, well, you know the rest. Happily, a good samaritan found it and sent it back to me, so now I have two since I ordered another one before finding out someone found it. Probably a good thing ;).
No trip review would be complete without a fav restaurant (or two) thrown in, right? If you find yourself in Venice and you’re hungry for breakfast, I can’t recommend a better place than The Breakfast Cottage. It’s located in Nokomis, just minutes from Venice. They have an outdoor area, which is where we sat, but the inside was adorable, with its colorful decor and homey vibe.
Now back in Venice, one of our favorite places for a killer Margarita is Mi Pueblo. You can’t tell much from this blurry photo, but they have a lovely outdoor area that’s a great place to be on a warm night, so if you’re ever in the area definitely stop by, and spring for the deluxe Margarita. I promise you won’t regret it ;).
A couple of people have asked us what was the highlight of our trip. I have to say the day we took a day trip to Anna Maria Island tops the list. You can read about that here, but suffice it to say I loved it there. So serene and beautiful!
Another town fairly close to Venice is Boca Grande (pronounced Grand), a beautiful community of upscale homes, a great bike trail and a cute, albeit small, downtown.
I found myself continually drawn to what is known as ‘low-country’ homes throughout our visit down south, and this one was a particular favorite.
Of course, what self-respecting resident of Boca Grande would not have their own private plane??
Now, about those homes. These next two were in a very new community just being built between Boca Grande and Venice and we snuck in without going to the main sales office :). I knew we wouldn’t be interested in purchasing one because the location seemed a bit too remote, but I love to be nosey anyway.
This next one was probably our favorite home of our entire visit, and let me tell you why. Yes, the outside is charming (although I like the outside of the yellow one a bit more), but the inside! OMG! Ok, you see those windows on the right? They’re to a guest room and bath. When you open the doors to the entrance of the house, the first thing you see is an indoor pool and beautiful fountain. If you make a sharp right you end up in the ‘guest quarters’, but to get to the owners living areas, you have to walk through the pool area. Now, I imagine as an owner you would normally enter the home via the garage, but having that pool right there when visitors come is a big ‘wow’ factor. Trust me, it was gorgeous. (Sorry I didn’t take photos, but I felt guilty because we didn’t go to the office and wasn’t 100% sure it was permitted).
If that house was our favorite, I think these next homes qualify as being in our favorite neighborhood, in a town called Osprey, about 10 minutes north of Venice. The area is called ‘The Cottages At Ravendale’, and I was completely enamored with it!
I think I must have used the word ‘cute’ about a dozen times when describing these homes. This next one completely stole my heart. How cute is this? There I go again…
Here’s a shot of one of the streets. Love that they have sidewalks and mature trees. Oh, and no visible utility lines! That makes such a difference!
There are a total of 84 homes in this neighborhood, and a few were for sale. The only issue we had was there weren’t enough amenities in the immediate area, and it’s about 30 minutes to the beach. It had a clubhouse and a pool, but with only 84 homes the activities were limited, but oh, it was sooooooo tempting!
Coming back down to earth, when we first arrived at the resort in Venice, we decided to look at some park models there, but what turned us off is we wouldn’t own the land and the rent for JUST the land is over $800 a month and continually goes up every year. Not only that, but I don’t want to live in an area, even part time, that also allows RV’s. Sorry, BAM. Nothing personal, but that’s just too transient for my tastes. We did, however, see a couple of very nice manufactured home communities where we would own the land that were close to the beach. The homes seemed to be lovingly maintained, with somewhat of a retro feel to them (I kept thinking Don Draper was going to walk out of one any minute) and it’s a viable option for us should we decide to keep our cabin and winter in Florida.
Ok, so remember what I had mentioned about the amenities, or lack thereof, in Naples? I think you can tell by now we prefer Venice, and here’s why: in the time it takes for us to currently get to the grocery store, we can almost be in Sarasota, a medium sized city with tons to do and lots of culture. Venice also has an AMAZING art center, with current offerings of over 365 courses, many of which I would love to take. There’s also a boat club for Fisherman, which is perfect for anyone who wants to go boating but doesn’t want to own a boat.
Naples is large and very spread out, but we didn’t find a counterpart for the art center or boat club. Maybe they’re there, but we couldn’t find them. Also, there isn’t as many accessible bike trails in Naples as in Venice, the later of which boasts easy access to The Legacy Trail, a wonderful dedicated bike/walking trail.
To sum it up, here’s the pros and cons of each:
- Upscale feel
- Lovely downtown with great restaurants and shops
- Warm during the winter months (typically in the 60’s-70’s)
- Beautiful beaches and sunsets
- Accessible to Marco Island, a great place if you enjoy collecting shells!
- If you enjoy nature (and gators!), it’s about a 45 minute drive to the Everglades.
- Hot most of the year
- Parking for the beach is difficult and you have to pay to park. Sometimes you can get lucky and snag on-street parking in the nearby town though. We did more than once, but again, pure luck.
- Not as many dedicated bike trails as we would like
- Can be a bit crowded in the peak winter months
- Small town feel with amenities you might expect from a large city
- Close proximity to Sarasota
- Fabulous bike/walking trails
- Wide range of housing/prices
- Free and easy parking at beaches, even during the winter months
- Hot most of the year
- Can be a bit crowded in the peak winter months
So not surprisingly, Naples is off our list and Venice is on! If you’re wondering if we looked in Sarasota, the answer is yes, briefly. We felt it was a bit too busy and crowded. Next up will be Ft. Pierce and St. Augustine, located on the east coast.
In other news…
It took more than a week, but we’re finally caught up. We’re decluttering like crazy too. I figure if we move, it’s that much less to deal with. If we don’t, no harm, no foul. Some things are being donated, while others we will try to sell. Anyone want snow shoes and/or big fuzzy boots? Don’t think we’ll be needing them anymore ;).
P.S. If you would like more specific information, such as names of the communities I didn’t mention, housing prices, etc., feel free to leave me a comment or email me directly.