With its highbrow culture and low-key seaside charms, Sarasota, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, persuades a choosy Parisian to make it his home-away-from-home

By Alexander Lobrano - Wall Street Journal

Sarasota Beaches Snob Appeal

It’s always given the natives a good chuckle—how, that is, middle-aged Americans, of every generation, fall in love with Sarasota as if they were the first to discover the small Florida city an hour south of Tampa. The best way to understand the reasons for this continuously renewed cycle of affection is to do what I do on nearly every trip to Sarasota: Head for Lido Beach, a 10-minute drive from downtown, at the end of the day.
As the sun sinks into the horizon, hungry pelicans dive into the warm dark-green waters, while the beach’s almost talcum-fine white sands cool. If the joggers and walkers who animate the water’s edge assiduously suggest an interest in exercise, other members of the same tableau, seated in folding beach chairs, demonstrate their commitment to well-being by clinking glasses of chilled rose.

But it’s the city’s indoor attractions that give Sarasota, on the Gulf of Mexico, a distinct edge over other Florida beach towns. Circus impresario John Ringling built Ca’ d’Zan, a Venetian-style mansion, on Sarasota Bay in the 1920s, and it remains a fascinating time capsule of a certain Great Gatsby lifestyle. The art museum that contains the Ringlings’ collection features works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens and Francesco Guardi, among others—hardly your typical beach boys. “Ever since [the museum] opened in 1927, Sarasota has continued to invest in culture,” said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, the local tourist office. The city boasts a number of other art institutions, including the Van Wenzel Performing Arts Hall (built in the late 1960s), the Sarasota Opera (launched in 1973) and the Sarasota Ballet (1987). And the Ringling itself keeps growing—a 25,000-square foot Asian Art wing opened in 2016.

Read Complete Article at the Wall Street Journal

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