Medieval Time in Sarasota

My friend from Florida passed through my town on the Fourth of July of last year, and she and her family stopped in to see some fireworks. Because we’re online friends, it was the first time we had met in person! How could we pass up the opportunity?

Well, she convinced me to travel to see her that fall because she had a bit of a break at the time of the medieval fair that was going on that month. I had never been to a medieval fair, so how could I say no to that chance?

I rented a car and planned my trip to avoid even skirting Atlanta traffic. That took me an extra hour or two, and I had to split my journey up anyway because I left in the afternoon. I tried to stop by and take a peek at Charleston (in South Carolina) because it’s on my bucket list of U.S. destinations. However, after about eight hours of near-constant driving, and given that I got to Charleston when it was pitch dark, I opted to grab fast food and keep heading south into Georgia where I had booked a hotel. We’ll meet again one day, Charleston!

 

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Taking a break at a North Carolina rest stop.

 

The next day, I took a miserable trip the rest of the way to my friend’s town. Well, it was miserable for one seemingly endless stretch of highway that had red lights everywhere and constant speed changes to boot. At any rate, I made it down there in the early afternoon the day after I left home.

Turned out, my friend suddenly had more to do for the medieval fair than she originally planned, so we spent some time each day at the fairgrounds so she could take care of whatever matters arose. In between, she showed me around town and even took me to one of her college classes where she had a presentation. During our down time, we hung out with her family and even had a couple of friends over for a game night.

Before stopping at the great Goodwill store in her town (the one where I am is shabby by comparison), we walked around the marina. She pointed out the Ringling Bridge, though–thank goodness!–I didn’t go on it. (I used to be terrified of bridges, or, more specifically, of them collapsing and me drowning in the car. Now I’m much better about it, but long or high bridges can still make my insides shudder.)

What I didn’t know, and what my friend told me, was that Sarasota County has a historic circus culture. Apparently, John Ringling, of Ringling Bros. fame, moved his circus’ headquarters way down south back in 1927, and Sarasota County has been home for them ever since. To show me this, my friend took me to a nearby neighborhood where circus families lived. We only drove through as it was a small area and we were outsiders in a tight-knit community. It was still interesting, though.

One day for lunch, a bunch of us went out to an Amish restaurant, Der DutchmanMy friend raved about their food, and when I finally got to taste it, I wasn’t let down. In fact, she may not have hyped it up enough. Fantastic! Afterward, we looked around upstairs at the clothes, home items, kids’ toys, holiday decorations, and more; then we went back downstairs to the bakery, and I never wanted to leave. If you get a chance to visit this restaurant, DO!

The medieval fair opened on Saturday and Sunday. Because I helped my friend work there (we hung out with the kids and helped them with crafts and dress-up; and, yes, I had to dress up, too!), I got in for free. I didn’t get a lot of opportunities to walk around on my own, but I had been off and on throughout the other days I was there, so it wasn’t an issue. I got my henna tattoo, kettle corn, crepe (should have gone sweet instead of savory, though), funnel cake, and loose-leaf teas, though. I was all set.

I left the next morning around the time they headed back out for the medieval fair. This time I braved Atlanta–or, rather, I braved skirting Atlanta. I was only in Atlanta traffic for two or three minutes, but they were terrifying. (I’ve never much liked driving and, in fact, was scared of it for the longest time.) My GPS tried to re-route me right as I entered traffic, too, but I ignored it and it was fine. Overall, the drive was far less strenuous than the trip down. Atlanta was the first exception, and the other was when I hit my own state and it was smoky outside. This was around the time our area of the country had a lot of forest fires. Luckily I didn’t see any flames, only some smoke. I did have to reroute then, but it didn’t add much time to my journey. Obviously, I made it home safe and sound.

 

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