Thursday, December 8, 2011

In Florida's Friendliest Hometown

Where to begin? I dislike being secretive, but for security reasons, I didn't divulge that we've been away from home for almost three weeks. We left very early in the morning on November 19 to make the long, 24 hours-plus drive to Florida. First we visited our son and his little family, spending two nights with them in their downtown Tampa condo.

We sure have missed being around this guy, 18 month-old Austin. He definitely prefers Bapa to me, but when Bapa isn't around, Austin is content to come to me. Second-best is acceptable.

On the Monday before Thanksgiving, we went here for the next two weeks.


The Villages is a city of approximately 86,000 people comprised of 55 small "villages" - neighborhoods full of similar-aged people, 55 years and older, who're like-minded about retirement, wanting to live their senior years. The Villages is located next to the city of Lady Lake in central Florida. It's little over an hour northwest of Orlando (home of Disney World, Epcot Center, Universal Studios, Sea World, and the like), and about a half hour southeast of Ocala.

It's a beautiful, idyllic place that has been called "Disney World for adults." Someone else likened The Villages to "being in eighth grade, without the homework!"
Photo taken while driving in a golf cart, on the golf cart road
View of Lake Miona from Market Square boardwalk.
Dan and I first visited The Villages one day last May. He attended a simulcast John Deere retiree meeting while I strolled and shopped the retail shops in Market Square. After his meeting we went to the sales office to learn more about The Villages. We were delighted with what we heard and left there with a strong desire to learn more. Hence our return visit these past weeks.

Just as we did, anyone 55 years or older is invited to make a "lifestyle visit" to The Villages, staying four to fourteen days in a furnished home. We were privileged to stay in the Lakeshore Cottages village, in this fabulous three-bedroom, two-bathroom, furnished house.

Hogan, our dog, came with us.
Our stay included use of two bicycles and this, a golf cart! Whether you're a golfer or not (we are not), this is the primary mode of transportation for anyone living in The Villages. After a lesson and some practice, I found it an excellent way to get around and enjoy the beautiful scenery and gorgeous weather. A golf cart gets about 45 miles to the gallon!

During the two weeks of our lifestyle visit, we had every opportunity to enjoy the amenities and we tried very hard to do so! Every single night of the year (except Christmas), there's free live music in both of the city squares - Spanish Springs Square, and Market Square, the latter of which was within short walking distance of our house. We took advantage and attended each evening except two, sitting outdoors listening and dancing! We don't dance often, and certainly don't know formal dances, but when the music played is mostly from the 60s and 70s, we couldn't resist.

Depending on who's performing, the Market Square can be a hoppin' place! Rocky and the Rollers are a particular favorite.

As well, every other night vendor booths are set up to sell things: jewelry, outdoor signage (residents of The Villages often display their names in front of their homes), designer soap and sporting goods. 

On this particular evening, Thursday, December 1, the square was especially busy because it was the annual Christmas Tree lighting, the most well-attended event of the year.

Check out the hundreds of golf carts parked along the streets!

Many of them just made me smile.

You can see here that we enjoyed our golf cart too. Our Tampa family visited us, staying for four nights over Thanksgiving and the weekend. This is how we went to church Sunday morning!

With more than 1,800 groups within The Villages, there is no shortage of opportunities to share interests and be active. While we didn't try out any of the 504 golf holes in The Villages, we found activities that interest us. Dan got to play cribbage, a card game he's loved since being taught by his grandfather and that he hasn't played for years. He also played badminton, platform tennis and tried pickleball, the most popular sport in The Villages. I think I could hear his creaky knees after that week.
Dan, on the right, at platform tennis lessons.
As for me, well of course you know I visited quilt groups. The Villages boasts 12 groups that meet weekly! All of them meet on Tuesdays though, so I couldn't attend many of them - only two: Laurel Manor Quilters and Allamanda Quilters. Then, once a month all of them meet as the Quilting Guild of The Villages and have about 500 members. I met some pretty nice people - Honestly, are there any not-nice quilters? I also visited a needlework group and they were just as nice. The Villages isn't called "Florida's Friendliest Hometown" without reason. (In future posts I have more to share about attending those groups.)

We made sure that Hogan would be comfortable riding in a golf cart. He was!

Suffice it to say we had a fabulous time, one that has instigated serious discussions about how we'll spend our retirement years. During our long drive back home, we spent considerable time accessing our living situation and lifestyle. We agree that we're ready to make a change and this may be it.

Dozens of neighborhood heated swimming pools are open year-round. 

Streets and properties are well-maintained with gorgeous landscaping.
Even though we don't golf, these course views are impressive.

 

Lots of planning lies ahead, and God-willing, we'll find ourselves spending the next 20 years living like this. Factored into decision-making is my unwillingness to physically further distance myself from young grandchildren. I've been praying earnestly about everything (Can we sell our house?), and will continue to do so. 

As I've been pondering, I do find it serendipitous that I like palm trees so much - that my blog name and my favorite Bible verses (Psalm 92:12-13) are about palm trees. Doesn't it seem right that someday I might live where palm trees do? Linda

9 comments:

  1. Your last line made me smile. It made me recall, about 2 months after moving to FL (where I lived for 6 years) looking at a palm tree and saying to my husband, "I have never desired to live where palm trees grow. Visit, but not live." There is a climate for everyone, isn't there?
    MR's parents looked at such neighborhoods when they retired. Although they liked the idea of how well everything was maintained they also found some neighborhoods had very restrictive rules. One they found unacceptable was No Visitors for more than 6 days. To me it translated to Parents can not come on Friday or Saturday, leave your grand children with you, and then come back to spend the next weekend and leave on Saturday or Sunday. It seemed to be quite restrictive to me. Members of my family who lived far from my parents use to send/bring their children to my parents (Grandma and Grandpa's) for a long period in the summer. If it had not been for one such summer visit to my parents my son would have missed out on really knowing his Grandpa. My father died 7 months after my son came home from his only summer visit. His death was quite unexpected.
    I guess there are families who wish to live without the noise of children around. Make sure you read all of the fine print before making such a decision! It does look lovely...for a place where palm tress grow, lol. I just prefer my fall leaf color. Blessings

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  2. Thanks for your comment and concern, Debbie. Yes, I'm glad there are places for all of us, even people like you who don't want to live where palm trees grow! LOL

    I'm very happy to tell you that The Villages is VERY grandchildren-friendly. You should have seen all the kids joining us for dancing in the Market Square over Thanksgiving. In fact, enough grandkids come to visit over the summer that The Villages have programs design for just them and their grandparents! Also, there are family-friendly swimming pools and adults-only pools, for those who prefer not to be around children. To me it seems The Villages is about the best place to live.

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  3. Looks like fun and seems to have everything! Especially warm weather which we don't have right now in Kansas.

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  4. Wow! It looks like you and your husband are going to be more active than ever!

    Do all the quilt groups meet on Tuesday by design? Too many the days aren't staggered so you could actively participate in more than one. I can easily see you starting your own group!

    I'm looking forward to seeing more about any future visits to The Villages...

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  5. Yes, I think that you should live where there are palm trees.
    I think we saw a show on PBS about this place which featured all the fancy gold carts. I told my husband that is where his parents should move to. Praying God will answer your prayers.

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  6. What an amazing place and so huge. I'm sure you'll come to the right decision for yourselves. It looks like it caters to every need.

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  7. I'm so glad you had a great time on your visit. Just keep praying, God will tell you what to do!

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  8. oh wow! What a great place! It looks absolutely gorgeous, and seems like a great set up! Just gorgeous! I wish you all the very best in exploring this new adventure in your life! :)

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