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Trip Report Caffe Corretto from Calle to Calle - Statia "Wings It" in Venice

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As I sit here nursing a caffe corretto with grappa (a late afternoon occassional delight that we picked up in Venice and brought home with us), I am fondly recalling the details of our trip. I didn't do nearly as much journaling as I usually do on our European adventures, so I am going to have to work more from memory this time. I am typically very much a planner when it comes to travel so I have never really winged it on a trip before, especially not a trip to Europe. However, this was our second trip to Venice and we saw all the "must sees" on our list the last time we were there, so this time we figured we would just decide what to do and see as each day came along. I had originally planned on exploring a sestiere a day in this magical city on the Adriatic Sea, but with only 5-1/2 days left after travel time this idea didn't pan out as I had hoped. However, we were still able to see and do a lot in that short time, yet could continue to return again and have plenty to accomplish that we have yet to, in two trips. Although Venice is small, there are so very many charms about her and I wonder if it might take a lifetime to fully experience every one of them.

October 23, 2005

"We're Finally On Our Way!"

We arrived at our tiny, island airport an hour prior to our 10:30 a.m. scheduled flight and were told that the earlier flight to St. Maarten was just arriving and we could get on it if we wanted to. Yes! The trip was already starting out well with only having to wait at our first departure point for a few minutes before boarding the nine-seater aircraft for our fifteen minute flight over the Caribbean Sea to endure our first layover of the journey. When we arrived, the Air France desk had yet to open, so we had an early lunch and then eventually got checked in for our continuing flights. We then spent the next few hours at an Indian restaurant and bar owned by a friend of ours, which is located just across the street from the airport. Luckily the time passed rather quickly and by 5:00 p.m. we were taking off towards the mountain on St. Maarten enroute to Paris. We usually loathe the eight hour journey over the Atlantic, but this time it went by surprisingly fast. A little dinner, a little wine, a rum punch, a couple of movies, some snoozing off and on and voila...we were at Charles de Gaulle before 7:00 a.m. the next morning.

October 24, 2005

"Pinch Me....Are We Really Back?" or "Sleeping with the Wild Beast"

In order to be comfortable on the flight, not to mention six hours in the heat of St. Maarten, I wore a skirt and sandals on the flight, figuring I could change into wamer clothes when we arrived in Paris. I did not count on having to deplane on the tarmac and board a shuttle bus outside in the cold since we have previously always had a jet bridge when arriving that particular airport. So, I looked a bit out of place in the 50 degree temps with my summer clothing while everyone else was bundled up as we boarded the shuttle bus that would take us to immigration. Thankfully my jacket was easy to get to so I wasn't too terribly chilled.

I always notice everyone complaining about Charles de Gaulle and how difficult an airport it is to transfer at. DH and I have never had a problem with finding our way around as everything is well marked. I will admit, however, that it is not the most organized airport in the sense of the amount of maneuvering one must to do get gate to gate. For instance, the shuttle bus took us from the aircraft to terminal 2F where we went thru passport control only to turn around and get right back on the same shuttle bus to go to terminal 2C. When we arrived at 2C, we went thru passport control yet again. This all just seems that it could be a little better organized, but that's just my opinion. It was even crazier when we connected on the return flight but I'll get to that later.

We looked up our flight to Venice on the monitor after going thru passport control a second time and were shocked to see there was an earlier flight that we could probably make since we had only carry-on luggage. We hurried to the security check point for the gate we wanted, yet once we saw how long the line was we realized that we would never make it. Oh well....we just had to wait as planned. After my changing into something warmer, we had a light breakfast and did some browsing. I made it a point to seek out the pharmacy in order to purchase some Lidene Doxylamine that so many of you Francophiles recommend for jetlag. We planned to get some at the French pharmacy in St. Martin before our departure but couldn't because of it being a Sunday and the pharmacies being closed. My DH will be forever thankful to your recommendation for this product because he works nights once a month and after using it in Italy he has begun using it when he has to sleep during the day. It's changed his life and he's tried many sleep aids over the course of 20 years in his line of work.

We then spent some time outside the airport terminal enjoying the crisp, cool air (something we just don't get here in the tropics) and were shocked to see that it had yet to become daylight at 8:00 a.m. Sunrise where we live is always before 6:00 a.m. so the daylight hours in Europe always throw us off track. It's even stranger when we are in Europe in the summer and it stays daylight so much later than here in the islands. When we finally decided to head to our gate, we stumbled upon a different security check point which had NO LINE whatsoever. Darn it! Had we bothered to look for that security point earlier we might have made the earlier flight to Venice. Once inside the gate area, it was time to let the shopping begin! :D In our Parisian tradition, I had to buy myself the "next size" Eiffel Tower statuette as I do each time I go thru Paris, as well as some chocolates and an Eiffel Tower key chain for DH's "new driver" daughter, Little Statia. Before I knew it, I had racked up quite a little bill purchasing all sorts of odds and ends for family and friends who collect various things, so I figured it best I get out of the stores before we had no money left for Venice. :)

We finally took off for Venice at 10:30 a.m. and I slept quite sound from before take-off, thru the hour and a half flight, and didn't wake up until we landed. I couldn't keep my eyes open for the life of me! The rest did me well, however, because I felt fit as a fiddle when we arrived Marco Polo airport about noon. It was so wonderful to look out the window and see the grey, misty, foggy weather. Ahhhh. That is something we were hoping for in that it would be such a nice change from the constant sunshine and warmth we have here at home. We called our rental agent upon our arrival, after finding somewhere to purchase a local phone card, and then found the ATVO bus to Piazzale Roma just outside the arrival hall. We arrived by train from Florence on our last trip, so the bus was a new experience for us. We had been told by various sources that we could purchase the 3.00 euro tickets from the driver, but when the bus arrived a few minutes later he told us that we had to purchase them from the machine. Thankfully the machine was located right there at the stop. Some local people were even very helpful in assisting us with how to use the machine. Or, perhaps they were thinking "darned tourists!" and helping to hurry us along so they could purchase their own tickets. :)

We had been concerned about heavy rain upon our arrival since the forecast had called for rain during our entire stay, but the weather was a perfect 65 degrees. It was a pleasant 20 minute drive into Venice and we disembarked the bus and began looking for the water and a vaporetto stop. We found the nearest canal, but had a bit of a time finding the vaporetto. However, after walking around a bit we finally stumbled upon it. I guess we were a bit tired by this point and didn't quite have our wits about us. We bought a 72 hour vaporetto pass for 22.00 euro each this time since DH said we were not going to rely solely on walking this trip. We only rode the vaporetto twice the last time. Of course my argument with his theory was that we would miss seeing so much with not walking everywhere. However, I have to say that he was right in the end. We still did a ton of walking and saw a lot, but it was certainly nice to jump off and on the vaporetto at our leisure in order to get to places more quickly this time.

We then boarded the vaporetto (and got it right this time in knowing the difference between the vaporetto landing and the actual boat) and headed to the San Marcuola stop and our apartment in Cannaregio. We rented our apartment from Venice Rentals, just as we did the last time, and were very pleased with everything once again. We didn't get to see our rental agent, Denise, this time but she did send her assistant, Julie, to meet us. After a quick walk from Chiesa San Marcuola, across a small bridge, and around a corner to a small campiello, we were officially "home" at our apartment on Calle Columbina, practically next door to the Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi Casino, a mere 19 hours after we left our other home behind. As we hiked it up to the fourth floor we were glad that we could indulge in guiltless eating on the trip since we would be getting plenty of exercise. ;) We had a double bedroom, a single bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and a wonderful little terrace overlooking the Venetian rooftops and the bells of Chiesa San Marcuola. Julie was wonderful in showing us around, marking all nearby attractions and necessities on a map, giving us emergency phone numbers, and answering any questions we had.

Once Julie departed, we immediately headed out to find the grocery store in order to stock up on a few items for the apartment and check out our new neighborhood. We previously stayed at Campo San Aponal in San Polo, so we were looking forward to enjoying a totally different neighborhood this time. We found Billa, the local grocery store, very easily with Julie's directions and were shocked to see such a large grocery store in Venice. Previously we have only shopped at very small stores. We picked up some vino (of course), some caffe, fruits, bread, cheeses, gnocchi, ravioli, salad, bottled water and the likes. I had brought along a rolling bag as you see so many Venetians using for the sometimes long journey home from shopping, but had forgotten to bring it along in our haste to get out and about. So, it was quite a workout lugging the groceries home, up and down bridges and along Strada Nova, not to mention up the four flights of stairs. So, after we arrived back home we had some well earned Pinot Grigio and Asiago formaggio on our terrace for our efforts. ;)

After unpacking and getting organized, we ventured out again to just relax and get reacquainted with magical Venezia. We decided to make use of our vaporetto pass and went to San Polo to pay a visit to the old neighborhood. Everything was just as we had left it two years ago....imagine that in a city that is over a thousand of years old? :D I have to admit that there was one change. The net cafe we previously frequented was no longer in business, but otherwise it was as if we had stepped back in time. We wandered into Biancat, the infamous florist from Donna Leon's novels, as well as our florist for our vow renewal on our previous trip, and the florist actually remembered us from two years ago. Aside from providing the flowers for our vow renewal, DH had purchased roses from him to have in our apartment on our arrival before. When we walked in, he looked at DH a little funny and said, "You're the one with the wedding suit.... from a couple of years ago!" Wow. I was stunned. He had been so gracious to us for our ceremony, but we had no idea he would remember us two years later.

We continued wandering around past our old apartment, into Campo San Polo, back through Campo San Silvestro, up and down the Ruga, and finally settled down for a vino and spritzer at one of our favorite little outdoor wine bars from our previous trip, Ruga Rialto Bar. Ruga Rialto is nothing special, but it holds special memories for us since we had previously sat there on most evenings to take a break, people watch, journal and look at our photos from the day. It was so amazing to be back considering we never really thought we ever would be since we have so many places on our "trip wish list."

After doing a bit more wandering and passing through the Rialto fish market, we took a traghetto back across the Grand Canal and headed back to Strada Nova. We had never taken a traghetto before and thought it might be a bit tough to stand, rather than sit, in a gondola as it crossed the slightly choppy waters, but it was actually quite easy. We vowed to use the traghettos often this trip, but never really had the need to again after that, so I was glad we got to experience it at least that one time. I asked DH, "Don't you think the gondoliers get bored going back and forth in the same passage all day long?" He suggested that maybe it is the "gondoliers in training" that run the traghettos. ;) Perhaps they get used to the same route back and forth across the Grand Canal before they start traversing the smaller, more narrow canals. I know that it takes a great amount of skill to be a gondolier, so this was just a joke, but it does seem that it would get very monotonous doing the same route back and forth all day long.

When we got back to Strada Nova and Rio Terra San Leonardo, we walked up and down the area window shopping and people watching and just enjoying the atmosphere. We also found Planet Internet with its adjoining laundromat that was recommended by several of you, and sent an email home that we had arrived safely. DH found a wonderful little cichetteria right next door where the patrons were mostly local Venetian men enjoying their evening spritz. He joined them quite often during our trip while I checked my email daily and we both enjoyed the delightful and very local cichetteti that they offered. I think that DH tried virtually everything they had on any given day or evening, and he loves nothing more than conversing with older local men of any city/country that we visit. "The wise ones" as he calls them. The name of the place that he enjoyed so each day is da Luca & Fred, located at Ponte delle Guglie, Cannaregio 1518.

By this time it was dark out and we decided to take the vaporetto back toward Rialto. We got off at the Rialto stop and walked our way over to Piazza San Marco. In our meandering thru the various small calles, we eventually happened upon the Burger King that DH had sworn didn't exist in Venice. I got a good chuckle of of that one. Hummpph! I was right! When we finally entered the piazza with the evening glow of lights and the dueling orchestras playing in the enormous square while people danced under the darkened sky, we were mesmerized. The basilica with its glowing gold mosaics, the grand stature of the campinelle overhead, the pure boldness of "The Drawing Room of Europe," as Napoleon called it. The scene was so surreal. I don't think it is something one can get used to, or take for granted, no matter how many times you visit Venice.

We strolled around for awhile, stopping here and there to take in the scene and the music, continuing to pinch ourselves at the thought that we were back. We then strolled along the waterfront and past Harry's Bar where we boarded the vaporetto at San Marco Vallaresso and headed back to San Marcuola. It was such a lovely night with the cool breeze as the vaporetto lumbered up the Grand Canal and we peered at all the lit up grand palazzi along the water's edge. Upon our return to our own neighborhood we figured it was getting past dinner time so we settled on something simple near the apartment. At the end of our calle was Ristorante Serenissima and we figured that since we were getting quite tired after our long journey it was nice and convenient for dinner close to home.

Much to our surprise, dinner was very good and the service was excellent. The restaurant is located right on Strada Nova between Calle Columbina and Calle Larga Vendramin, and although that is a busy thoroughfare, the immediate area of the restaurant was pretty quiet. It was so nice to sit outside in the cool night air. We started with an antipasti platter and gnocchi formaggio and then went on to have calf's liver with onions and polenta, as well as veal, for our main courses. I know, I know.....we should eat seafood in Venice, but I'm quite honestly not a huge seafood fan and living on an island we don't get good meat very often so we have to take advantage of it when we can. Our meal also included salad and potatoes, along with tiramisu and a fabulous dessert wine afterward. We also shared a half liter of Classico red wine with dinner and the total bill was 85.00 euro after all was said and done.

As we were sitting there enjoying dinner I got a big smile on my face at one point and said to DH, "Gosh, we just can't get away from it, can we?" He looked at me and couldn't figure out what I was referring to. I said, "Listen." Then, he started laughing himself. We are so accustomed to it at home that we hadn't noticed the music coming from a pizzeria a few doors down. It was Bob Marley we were hearing all the way over in Venice, Italy. Go figure.

We were thoroughly stuffed and down right tired when we returned home. We were glad we had only to walk a few doors up the calle to our apartment and after getting ready for bed we were glad to each have our own Donna Leon novel with us in order to continue following Commisario Brunnetti on his crime solving adventures in Venice. DH was smart enough to take one of those little, blue French sleeping pills before bed and was fast asleep by midnight, but I was afraid it might make me feel groggy the next day so I passed. A decision I would later regret.

It was such a nice treat to sleep all bundled up with the windows wide open and the cold night air coming in the room....that is until my DH began his nightly earth shattering snoring. Although my BIL once commented while we were staying at his house "I could hear you snoring at the end of the driveway!," DH's snoring honestly does not affect me at home or when we are traveling (I guess I'm used to it). This time, however, I woke up about every fifteen minutes all night long closing the windows and opening the windows; closing the windows and opening the windows. I guess I was afraid the neighbors across the calle might think I had hidden a wild beast in the apartment and I was desperately worried that his snoring would awaken them, but when I would close the windows it would get warm and I would then eventually have to open them again.....until the beast started up and I had to shut them once more. Every time the wild beast started up again I don't know who might have been more or the neighbors. :) So, needless to say, I didn't finally fall into a deep sleep until 7:00 a.m. the next morning....once "the beast" was up and it was quiet. :)

Next....."Exploring Cannaregio" or "The Wild Beast Strikes Again"

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    I really liked my hotel near the San Marcuola vaporetto stop on the Strada Nova, and I can just visualize exactly where your apartment is. I hope the sleep issue got better, but otherwise it sounds like a great trip so far!

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    This is lovely....perfect accompaniment to my (rather late today) morning coffee & memories of my first Venice trip many moons late December. Looking forward to the rest!

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    Brava, Statia! I think I'll go pour myself a caffe corretto (Aurelio Zen style). Love the literary references. Just think, in a few short months you'll be back in bella Italia!

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    Lovely, Statia, just lovely!

    As I'm still checking into Venice apartments, I'll look into the one you stayed in. Four floors up, hmmmm? As you say, though, good for the diet!

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    Hi Statia :)

    Very much enjoying your trip report. It was interesting to me to read about a journey that began somewhere other than here in the states. Also, I can understand your affection for another climate, it must have felt wonderful!

    Looking forward to reading more...

    Thanks for taking the time, Tiff

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    SRS -- there's a great website that has info about Donna Leon's books and lots of others. Also, if you can't find all her books on Amazon, check your local library online (if they offer that); that's how I found the older ones.

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    Thanks so much for the nice compliments. As you know, I thoroughly enjoyed many of your recent reports, as well. :)

    Sally, if you are a Venice fan you will love the Brunetti series by Donna Leon. We have all but five now and I've ordered those rare ones from used book dealers via I had to have them sent to a friend in the US and hope to have them all here by the new year.

    On to the next installment....

    October 25, 2005

    "Exploring Cannaregio" or "The Wild Beast Strikes Again"

    DH had closed the bedroom door after he was up in order to allow me finally get some much needed rest. I woke up at 10 a.m. and lept out of bed not wanting to waste any of our time in precious Venezia. Although I only had about 4 hours of solid sleep after such a long couple of days, I felt pretty good. DH had caffe ready when I got up and had already done a small load of laundry when he told me of his first "traveler mishap" with his initial cup of caffe earlier that morning. He said that he put "sugar" from the sugar container in his caffe and nearly spit it out immediately when he realized he'd put salt in his cup instead. I looked at the condiment tray in the apartment and said, "You dork....THIS one is the sugar, THAT one is the salt." Well, my theory was shot down pretty quickly because both conatiners were filled with salt. So, it turns out DH isn't dim after all. :) He did eventually find a bag of sugar in the cabinet, however, so I didn't have to endure salt in my own first cup of the day.

    We enjoyed our caffee and a light breakfast on our terrace and discussed what we should do that day (by this time the whole winging it idea is already feeling very odd to the well planned traveler in me) and we decided to use our guidebooks and explore the Cannaregio area more in depth, since we never had the opportunity to venture into this area once on our last trip. Our first stop, however, was the pharmacy to buy some Breathe Right nose strips and whatever else we could find to tame "The Wild Beast."

    The pharmacist was very nice and helpful in showing us various products and we bought pretty much everything that might work because I HAD to get some decent rest that night, as did the neighbors. I honestly don't think the neighbors actually ever heard the beast since I was busily up and down closing the windows all night long, but I try to be a considerate to others, so we were buying these products not only for myself, but for them as well. :)

    After the pharmacy, we headed back to Billa for some necessities such as a razor for DH and shampoo and conditioner for me (I have NO idea how I negelected to pack these two essential items....must have been that "winging it" thing) and then to the local TIM store located on the corner of Strada Nova and Rio Terra San Leonardo, just off Campiello dell Anconetta. The staff at the TIM store didn't seem to understand that I just wanted to purchase a local TIM card for my phone (rather than add minutes to my own SIM card), but after DH explained the scenario further, they understood and all was well. The staff weren't overly friendly, but they were helpful nonetheless, and we eventually got squared away with a local Venetian phone number and time on our phone. I know cell phone questions come up often, so I will add that I have a European model Nokia phone that is unlocked for which I have bought SIM cards in the US, but wasn't certain I could get a card for it in Italy. But, the TIM card we bought worked just fine. We paid 10 euro for the card, which included about 5 euro call time on it, and then we bought another 30 euro in call time. The calls to the US were about 50 cents per minute, so we ultimately had 70 minutes in call time. What I didn't factor in, however, was that calls to the West Indies were much more expensive, so that used our time up a bit more when we occassionally checked in here at home. So, if you are pricing for calls to the US from Venice, you can figure that a TIM card with 70 minutes on it will run about 40 euro. Incoming calls were free, much to my surprise, so it was kind of nice to get the occassional unexpected call from my mom, sister or best friend while we were there, not to mention being able to be reached in case of emergency since our apartment had no phone this time.

    We finally got going on our exploration of the Cannaregio sestiere at 1 p.m. We started out on the far west side at Chiesa degli Scalzi and followed my Knopf CityMap Guide to the various sites to see in the area. Next on the list was Ponte de Guglie and Palazzo Labia (which we had a bit of a time trying to locate). We then ventured up Fondamenta di Cannaregio to the Ponte dei Tre Archi, which is very unique. One area I really wanted to see this time was the Jewish Ghetto. Being raised a Catholic myself, I do not know all that much about the Jewish faith, but have a close friend who is Jewish and the culture simply fascinates me. So, this area was on the top of my list. We ventured into Camp Ghetto Nuovo only to find the museum and tours closed for the day. We were disappointed but vowed to return when they were open on another day. We then headed over the iron bridge, and farther east, to Fondamenta della Sensa and Campo dei Mori, admiring the statues of the infamous three Arab merchant brothers. Next stop was Tintoretto's casa, which took a bit of time to locate, but we did eventually find it. The casa was very simple and rustic, and it was later interesting to think of him painting there while we were viewing his infamous works at Scoula Grande di San Rocco. Next stop was Chiesa della Madonna dell'Orto, home of Tintoretto's last remains and some works of both he and his son.

    By this time it was already getting to our usual "take a break, have a vino, journal and people watch" time. We normally fit a lot more in one day of exploring in Europe, but we got a late start due to the wild beast in my bed the night before. So, after a quick stop at the outdoor San Leonardo market, which has a wonderful array of fresh fruits and vegetables, we went back home to find that the clothes washer door had STILL not yet unlocked. We finally called our rental agent and as always, she was very gracious in explaining a couple of ways to remedy the problem and DH had it figured out in no time. Then, it was on to the laundromat to dry the clothes. With the cool and moist air in Venice at this time of year it would have taken days to dry anything on our terrace, so we opted to just throw everything in the dryer at the laundromat while I checked my email and DH went for his daily visit to da Luca and Fred next door.

    By sunset we were enjoying vino, bread and cheese on our terrace and discussing what to do for the evening. I have heard and read a lot about Ristorante Da Raffaele, so we decided to have dinner there, We are not reservation types so we were hoping we could get a table. Although we usually have an itinerary, we still tend to go with the flow and hate having to be somewhere at a specific time. So, we took the vaporetto to the Giglio stop and easily found Da Raffaele hoping for the best. It was rather crowded, so we decided to go to Piazza San Marco and have a drink while enjoying the dueling orchestras and wait for the earlier diners to clear out. After all, everyone says you must experience sitting down for an expensive drink to watch the dueling orchestras in St. Mark's Piazza at least once in your life, and the experience did not diasappoint.

    We walked up and down the piazza trying to decide whether to sit at Quadri or Cafe Florian. DH said it was my choice and I ultimately decided on Cafe Florian because of it's history After all, it is the oldest (since 1720) and Casanova himself drank there. I had a Kir Royale and DH had a Florian Cocktail. The waiter pointed out on the menu that there was a 5 euro per person music cover charge, as well. The total bill came to 35 euro for two drinks and a half hour of orchestral enertainment, but the experience was well worth it. Our elegant drinks came out on a gleaming silver tray with some small snacks of olives and chips. The scene was so beautiful with the lights dancing off the gold mosaics of the basilica while we listened to the orchestra play familiar tunes. As we sat there enjoying the moment and relishing the beauty of the piazza and music as we sipped our drinks, we commented that we have certainly come a long way from being young and dating, with our splurge night consisting of a couple of cheap beers and dinner at Red Lobster. :)

    We finally decided to head back to Da Raffaele and see how crowded it was. On our way back, we passed by the small canal behind Museo Correr where we previously had disembarked the gondola after our vow renewal ceremony for the traditional wedding walk through the piazza. It hadn't changed a bit! Even the flowers by the gondola stop looked just the same as in the photo we have in our living room. When we arrived back at Da Raffaelle there was a table available by the canal, so we sat down to dinner. I must admit that I expected this to be a wonderful dining experience since several people have recommended the restaurant to me. The service was very good, but the food was quite mediocre, which was a dissapointment to us both. DH started with shrimp soup, in which the shrimp tasted frozen, rather than fresh. He also had a mixed seafood platter that was alright, and I had liver and onions with polenta which was quite soggy. The liver also did not compare to that which I'd tasted of my DH's the previous night. The couple next to us didn't seem too pleased with their meal either by the expression on their faces when they asked, "How was everything?" :( We decided to skip dessert and pick up a gelato later on, although we never did. Total bill for one first course and two second courses with wine was 100 euro. I have to add that we might have just caught Da Raffaelle on a bad night, as I know happens sometimes.

    We had planned to head to Campo Santa Margherita for some evening action, but never made it that far. We ended up at a newer, quiet little wine bar called Altrove 360 Bar, located at Campo San Silvestro, instead. This was my first foray into Italian Caffee Corretto with Grappa, and I fell in love with it. DH had it numerous times before, but I had never tasted it. We sat outside and watched the small amount of people come and go in the campo and reslished the peace and quiet after being in the busy San Marco area. After our caffee's, we ventured over to another favorite place of ours, Osteria Bancogiro located at Campo San Giacomo. This is the first place where I fell in love with Venice on our prior trip, after having been there only a few short hours. It's so nice to sit outside, along the Grand Canal, watching the lone gondola glide by on occassion and enjoy the sight of the moon dancing off the water. There were only two tables available and one waiter seemed to be trying to keep up with the amount of locals there, and wasn't succeeding all that well. We were quite surprised that he never even wiped off our table, yet proceeded to wait on local people who arrived after us before he gave us so much as a glance. I was dissappointed, but enjoyed this place so much the last time that I chalked it up to one person's actions, and as I said he was very busy and quite honestly might not have noticed who arrived when. We eventually each had a glass of locally produced vino blanco and loved it. The service was so slow that we didn't stay any longer, but did request a bottle to take home, if possible. The waiter at that point went out of his way to get us a bottle and explain everything about the particular wine and where it is produced, which was very nice of him. Unfortunately, I accidentally tossed the bottle in the trash a few days later before I jotted the name of this fine specimen. :( Thanking the waiter, we were off on our merry way, heading back home to Cannaregio. Before we headed there, however, we found a quiet place on the Grand Canal to call DH's teen daughter, Little Statia, at home in the US. She had just gotten out of school, although it was very late in Venice, and was so excited to be getting a call from us "RIGHT on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy?!?!" She was tickled pink. We have plans to take her on a ten day/two city tour of her choice in Europe for her gradutation in the future and Venice is at the top of her list, so she was thrilled that we called her from there.

    We got to bed about 1 a.m. and NONE of "the beast inhibitors" that we'd purchased at the pharmacy worked. So, needless to say, I went through my routine again of opening the windows, closing the windows, opening the windows, closing the windows. By 7 a.m. DH felt so bad that I'd hardly slept all night AGAIN. He closed the door to the bedroom and went in the kitchen to read, and told me to get some rest. I finally fell into a sound sleep at 8 a.m. I have never had this kind of a sleeping problem on a trip (actually I never have a sleeping problem anytime), so it was getting quite frustrating by this point. I slept solid until 10 a.m. and then got up so that we wouldn't have too late of a start on our day. It was at this time that DH made note of the fact that when I finally fall asleep it is about bedtime at home. Perhaps THAT is why I wasm having such a hard time getting rest at a decent hour.

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    Hello Statia,

    I will have to try the Caffee Corretto with Grappa when I'm in Venice. Something new for me.

    I can also tell that I will have to put aside a few more $$ for my meals and drinks. Seems a bit more pricey than I remembered.

    Happy holidays! (And a very happy birthday to your mother today!)

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    Statia, I ALWAYS think that a week is a hard trip duration because it's impossible to adjust to the time change. Like you, I'm awake from about 2 AM til 5 AM, then I want to sleep. Sleeping pills are the only thing that works for me.

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    Statia, you're inspiring me to write my trip report. DH and I spent 6 nights in Florence from Nov 19 to 25th, then 6 nights in Venice returning home on Dec 1st. We, however, had awful weather (cold and rainy) but hey, it was Venice so it was perfect!

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    kopp, it can be as pricey or inexpensive as you wish, honestly. There are plenty of affordable places, as well as those that are splurges. And, of course, there is always pizza, calzones and the likes for lesser expensive meals from time to time. :)

    I also find that staying in an apartment saves on meal costs with being able to have things in the fridge and pantry for breakfast or snacking. Then, we can splurge a bit with what we save.

    Catbert, we also found another reason later in the trip for my being awakened so often. :)

    Margaret, I'll be looking for your report!

    I'm still editing the next installment and hope to get it posted soon.

    Next....."Murano, Burano, Torcello & the Slow Boat Back" or "Taming the Beast"

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    Wednesday, October 26

    We had decided to do the outer islands this day so that we didn't leave them for the last minute and possibly not get to them, since we missed them on our previous trip. I got everything together and we were out the door by 10:45 a.m., even in light of "the beast" and my not getting into a good sleep until 8 a.m. We headed down Strada Nova, toward Castello, and then took some of the smaller calli, past Chiesa Gesuiti, and ended up at the Fondamenta Nuove vaporetto stop. It was a foggy, chilly day and in our opinion, perfect weather for a boat ride around the lagoon to the various islands. We planned to stop first at San Michele, but the vaporetto continued on past it. After the fact, I thought that maybe we should have told the captain that we wanted to stop off there, and perhaps the boat doesn't stop if no one is on the dock and no one asks to get off there. But, it was too late by that point. So, we continued on to the island of Murano, about 10 minutes away.

    Murano was a small, but pretty island. I have to admit that it wasn't quite as quaint as I was expecting, but we enjoyed our limited time there, nontheless. We basically strolled up and down the main canal taking a look in various glass shops. I was specifically looking for seashells, since my household theme is tropical. And, I found EXACTLY what I was looking for at Domus Vetri D'Arte on Fondamenta Vetrai. The shells were so colorful and intricate, and I even bought some sea coral and starfish, as well. They were all just beautiful and were carefully wrapped for our travels home. I also want to say thanks to Jocelyn and moldyhotelsaregross for getting some Murano glass shopping info to me while I was in Venice. That was very thoughtful of you both!

    After taking in Murano, we boarded the vaporetto for the 20 minute further ride to the island of Burano. We heard the deck hand yell "Buraaanooo" at the first stop, so we got off there and that was a mistake. We were wondering why only a handful of people disembarked with us and the rest stayed behind. We soon realized that we must have gotten off at the wrong stop, but figured we were just seeing Burano "through the back door," as Rick Steves would say. We found our way to a bicycle path that overlooked a small lagoon with colorful houses and fishing boats moored before us. So, we headed in that direction and after crossing a bridge, realized we were finally in the right place. Once we entered the main canal area, it was as if we'd been dropped into a box of crayons. Wow! I figured that coming from an area of the world where the homes are all painted various tropical colors, Burano wouldn't be that big of a deal to see, but I was pleasantly mistaken. It reminded us of a little Italian Saba, which is an island just north of us that captures the same quaint atmosphere and is also known for lace making. We wandered up and down the various canals on the island and ventured into various shops, just taking in all the color and relative quiet once we were off the main canal. It was truly a gem of an island.

    After passing thru the campo and wandering some more back canals and calli, we finally ventured back to the vaporetto stop and took a well needed break on a park bench while we waited for the next boat. When it finally arrived, we boarded and headed for the island of Torcello, "the Mother of Venice," about another 5 or so minutes farther. We got quite a chuckle that while embarking, the deck hand continually shouted out, "TORCEELLLLOOOO! NOOO MURANNNNOOOO!" By this point we had asked to be sure we were embarking the correct boat, and I guess that clued him in that others might be as clueless as we were. :) When we disembarked at Torcello, we were surprised to see the island so calm and quiet with hardly a soul on it. I've read since then that the total population is 20. I guess that would explain it. I knew that the island was pretty much uninhabited, but the quiet was still a nice getaway from the crowds on the vaporetto and other islands we'd been on that day.

    We walked the narrow canal down to Locando Cipriani, planning to have lunch there, but knowing that it was getting late. Turns out that the terrace was closed and we prefered not to eat indoors, so we decided to forge ahead to the church and have lunch after our touring, at another place that had outdoor seating which we had passed along the way. Onward we ventured to Santa Maria Asunta and marveled at the ancient church, which was founded in 639 A.D. There was a bit of a line to get in the church itself and I was rather tired and brain dead by this point with having less than 8 solid hours sleep in three days, so we settled on seeing the Sacristy instead and we were very glad we did. It was small and peaceful inside and we witnessed a stunning impromtu event. We were sitting there in the silence with a few other visitors when a small group of four or five visiting Italian priests broke out in unified hymns with no musical accompaniment. I knew the words to most of the songs they sang in Latin and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of their voices. It was a very spiritual and uplifting experience as their strong voices reverberated off the ancient stone walls. After they left, DH and I were not far behind and we continued browsing the rest of the grounds and commenting that the trip to Torcello was worth it if for nothing else but to have witnessed that marvelous spectacle. It was really a moment that we will never forget.

    Once we had our fill of the one and only site on Torcello, we began the slow stroll back toward the lagoon and stopped off for lunch along the way. We ate at Ristorante il Trono di Attila and had a wonderful meal close to the canal. It was 4 p.m. by this time and I was starving, having not eaten since dinner the night before. DH, on the other hand, stops for a slice of pizza or cichetti various times while I'm shopping throughout the day. :) I just don't have TIME to eat when I'm traveling in Europe. There's just so much to see and do that food is the last thing on my mind. DH started out with a huge portion of mussels, while I had shrimp scampi. He tasted my shrimp and said that it was much better than his the night before at Da Raffaelle. We then moved on to lasagna for him and seafood spaghetti for me. He also had a platter of mixed, fried seafood, and we shared a half litre of wine, as well as a caffee coretto each to keep up our stamina. The total bill was 75 euro and we found it quite affordable for the items we had. The service was also excellent and since we arrived well after lunch, yet before dinner, there were only a few other European patrons so the meal was very relaxing.

    When we boarded the vaporetto to return to Venice proper, we simply boarded the first one that came along although we knew it would be the "long boat home", since the mosquitos were starting to get to us at dusk. I understand that the mosquito population and malaria is what eventually drove most everyone out of Torcello and I can see why, but it is still a beautifully tranquil island to visit, nonetheless. We didn't mind the long boat home since it was a much larger boat than the ones we'd taken thus far, and it gave us a chance to sit on the upper deck and relax as we watched evening approach and the fog roll in. We made stops at Burano (where we could REALLY see how much the bell tower leans as we were departing), Punta Sabbioni, and the Lido before finally disembarking at San Marco in Venice Proper. The total trip was at least an hour and a half, but it gave us some nice down time off of our feet. I think I tend to run poor DH's tootsies in the ground on some of these trips, so he seemed to especially enjoy the down time.

    After disembarking, we strolled around Piazza San Marco for a bit and then began wandering the back calli towards the Questura so that we could see just WHERE Commissario Brunetti's office is in the Donna Leon novels. :) Then, after some more wandering around Castello and San Marco, and just "getting lost in Venice," we finally boarded the vaporetto back at San Marco and headed home. It was an exhausting, but wonderful day.

    Since we'd had such a large, late lunch, we decided on some simple pizza and calzones at the apartment for dinner that night. For once, we were in at a decent hour and DH persuaded me to take one of those little French sleep enhancers. I finally gave in knowing that I HAD to get some rest or I would be useless by the next day. I was doing fine up to this point, but didn't know how much longer I could go on very little sleep. DH promised me that he would keep the windows closed that night so that I wouldn't wake up more concerned about the neighbors being awakened by his nightly snorning ritual, than it waking me. And, he said he would not go to sleep until he knew I was in a peaceful slumber. So, I got ready for bed, took the little "blue bugger," DH tucked me in, and then I lay there reading Donna Leon while he sat on the terrace doing the same. Almost an hour later, DH came in to check on me and I was still wide awake. So, he said, "I've got the trick....let me plug this fan in and turn it need the hum to fall asleep." I told him that wasn't going to do any good, but needless to say, that was at 10:30 p.m. and that's the last thing I remember until I awoke at 7:30 a.m. the next day. Hallelujah! Either I tamed the wild beast, or at least caged him for the moment!

    Next......"Lunch with a Dear Venetian Friend" or "The Amazing Race to the TIM Store"

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    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    When I woke from my FINALLY peaceful slumber, DH had already gotten breakfast made, did a load of laundry, and had caffee waiting for me. He was SO glad that I'd finally gotten some rest. We were pleasanty surprised that the weather was very, very foggy on this morning. We could barely see the bells of San Marcuola from our terrace and we loved it! We had talked to our dear Venetian friend, who now lives a bit outside of the city, by cell phone since we'd been in town, and had planned to meet her for lunch on this day. I've never used text messaging on my phone, but luckily I'd read up on how to do it when I first got the phone because I had a text message from our friend telling us to meet her at Campo San Bartolomeo at 1:30 p.m. I knew she was in a meeting in Venice that morning so I was thankful that I knew how to text back and told her that we could do lunch at La Zucca if she had time. She sent a message back, "Great!" Before we headed out, I did some journaling and wrote out some postcards, and then off we went.

    First stop was to dry our clothes at the laundromat, me to check the email, and DH to have his daily ritual at da Luca & Fred next door, as well as pick up some fruit at San Leonardo market. Thank goodness we had remembered on this trip the golden rule of not touching the fruit and vegetables ourselves, but rather let the vendor be the only one to touch the items. Of course, not for the first time, DH had to give "laundry lessons" in how to use the machines to other tourists that were doing the same as us. Once we got the clothes back home, after a market stop or two, we headed out to Ca' Rezzonico to tour the palace. Unfortunately, we were a bit rushed with having to meet our friend, but we still managed to see everything, just not in the slow, meandering manner that we are used to. We used our Rick Steves guide for this museum and found that it gave a good, and sometimes humorus impression of everything overall. The ballroom was simply fascinating and I only wished I could step back in time for a moment and witness a grand gala there at the largest private venue in the city (5,600 square feet) complete with lifelike Tiepolo frescos on the ceiling. We also enjoyed reading about the various furnishings and history of this 16th century palazzo as we ventured room to room. We wished we'd had more time to view all of the paintings in a slower manner on the top floor, but we had an appointment to make so we didn't get too much time to really absorb it all.

    When we were to board the vaporetto back to Rialto, we realized that our 72 hour pass was almost expired, so DH bought two 5 euro passes that would last us 90 minutes. When we got off at Rialto, we easily found our way to Camp San Bartolomeo and heard our friend calling our names. Hugs and kisses abound and it was so good to see her again! For those of you who didn't read my last trip report for Venice, this friend and I met thru email when I was referred to her to take care of the arrangements for our ten-year wedding anniversary vow renewal ceremony in Venice in 2003. In all our planning and emailing daily over the course of a few months, we became quite close and she even officiated our ceremony. Needless to say, we have remained dear friends to this day.

    We all then boarded the vaporetto again and headed for the San Stae stop to have lunch at La Zucca. It was a wonderful, small osteria located on a relatively quite calle next to a bridge over a canal in the Santa Croce sestieri. Although there was space to sit inside, we opted to sit outdoors where no one else was, so we could enjoy being able to catch up with one another without distracting other diners, not to mention the fact that it seemed a bit warm inside. I asked our friend if this was okay since she was bundled up in a leather jacket and we were in only pullover sweaters. She said that she was fine outside, and added that Venetians begin wearing a jacket at a certain time of year, whether it's necessary or not. It didn't make much sense to us, but we had certainly noticed that we, who live in the heat of the tropics year round, were quite comfortable without a jacket every day, yet we saw pretty much everyone else wearing a jacket each day even though it wasn't really cold. I honestly got quite warm just watching our friend sitting there eating with her leather jacket closed up through the whole meal. :) She didn't seem cold at all, but I certainly would have been hot wearing leather when the weather was so nice out. There were even times that DH and I were kind of hot in just our pullover sweaters. Go figure.

    We enjoyed a fabulous meal at La Zucca, including a baked, finely grated zucchini dish starter that a friend and poster here told me I HAD to try there (boy, was she right!), avacado with mustard vinagarette (who would have tought?) pasta with gargaonzola sauce, pasta with zucchini, sausage and beans, pumpkin with goat cheese, and traditional Venetian biscuits with a sweet dessert wine. I don't think I have to say who ate what, since you know that my DH had the most dishes. :) The total bill with wine and caffee corretto, of course, was 75 euro for three people. Quite a steal if you ask me, and the food and service were great! This restaurant came highly recommended by many people, and it certainly did not disappoint.

    Eventually, our friend had to get going, so we walked with her to Piazzale Roma so she could meet her husband and we could see him to say hello again, as well. We had more catching up to do as we walked and it was kind of sad that our short time together was ending, but it was so nice to be able to meet up, if even briefly. I gave her a St. Eustatius T-shirt for her son, since he's now outgrown the last one I gave him, and we finally all hugged and went our separate ways. DH and I continued back thru the Santa Croce area and stopped for a bit at Al Timon, a small, local cafe that we'd stopped at in that area on our previous visit. We sat outside, enjoying the nice weather, journaling, looking at photos, talking, etc.

    About this time, my mother called on the cell phone. As we chatted about Venice, she said, "I am still going to make it to Rome one day." Little did she know at that time that my sister and I had already been planning a dream trip to Rome for her birthday in March. So, that kind of made my day since my mom has never set foot in Europe and we are going to finally make her dream come true now.

    We then ventured thru the various calli heading back towards Rialto, along the Ruga, looking for one last item to put in Little Statia's gift package from Venice. We had been picking up little things for her all along our trip and told her we would mail the package directly from Venice. I wanted to add one more small item in it, but time was running out since we wanted to get it in the mail that day. So, we decided to get her a Murano glass necklace and after looking in various shop windows, DH settled on a beautiful red and gold blown glass heart necklace in the window of the tiniest of shops, where a Venetian woman was busily making her crafts. Once that item was bought, it was a rush to the main Rialto post office in order to get the package out that day. And, of course, since we were passing right by Commissario Brunetti's house in our shopping expedition, we just had to go by there and take a peek. :)

    You have to admit that the Rialto post office is quite a building, and looks as if it's housed in a former palazzo. Luckily, they had a regular line and a tourist line, so we didn't have to wait all that long in order to post Little Statia's package and all of my postcards. Then, it was on to the San Marco area for more photo ops. I could just take a photo at every corner, every bridge and every calle in Venice. It's so unbelievable the beauty and magic of that special city. We finally arrived back at Piazza San Marco and I couldn't help but snap, snap, snap away as the fog began rolling in and the air and light took on a whole new persona once again. I'm not a photographer, not by a long shot, but I enjoyed experimenting with various options on my fairly new digital camera.....and DH was most patient with me as I continually stopped along the way when I would see something I wanted to capture.

    At one point, we passed Giardinetti Reali and saw an older man konked out on a bench in the garden. His wife was sitting next to him anxiously reading a guide book and she would look at the book, look at him snoring with his head tilted back, and then look back at her guidebook This scenario was repeated more than once. DH and I laughed about it and said, "Oh look...there's us in 20 years." DH added, "Yea, I'll bet she lets him sleep for about ten minutes, then wakes him up and says 'You've been sleeping for an hour, dear. It's time to move on. We have more to see!'"

    After leaving the piazza, we headed towards Campo Santo Maria Formosa and sat down there to enjoy a spritz con aperol. About this time, my sister tried to call me, but she kept cutting out. So, I tried to call her back and realized that my cell was out of time! It had been so nice to reach and be reached when we wanted that we decided we'd better head back to the TIM store and top up our time on the phone. We knew they would be closing in an hour, so we headed that way and found ourselves continually reaching dead end calli and hitting dead end canals in the maze that is Venice. Normally, this doesn't happen to us all that often, but lo and behold, when we were in a hurry it happened about every five minutes and we almost became frantic in making it to the store in time. Ok...let me rephrase that. "I" almost became frantic. :D It got to the point where we were literally running in our haste to get there, and still becoming disoriented and misguided. I'm not a cell phone fanatic by any means (half the time I don't even have it with me at home, and I probably use it only a handful of times per month), but with having no phone in the apartment, we liked the idea of being able to be reached, if need be, not to mention the fact that it's cheaper for family to call us in Europe than it is here on our island. So, on we went, meandering, getting lost, looking at the map, asking directions, nearly panting, etc. We finally reached the TIM store within minutes of closing time, out of breath and sweating. Whew!

    Once we were topped up again, we sat down to rest at an outdoor cafe and were very glad for the well needed break after our "Amazing Race" style marathon across Castello and Cannaregio. We got a good laugh at how idiotic the whole scenario was. Once we were rested, we stopped to buy some vino for the apartment and headed home to relax and talk on our terrace. Of course, in Venice this means "whispering" since you can literally hear a pin drop after 9 p.m. We discussed whether or not to take a day trip out of Venice the next day, as had been our plan all along. We talked about going to Verona, Vicenza, Padua, and even all the way to Piran, Slovenia while looking over the various notes I'd printed out from all of you and brought along for such. As much as we wanted to and had planned to take a day trip, we ultimately decided that with only two days left, it was really going to rush things and that it would probably be best that we stay in Venice. After all, we still had more we wanted to see there. We were kind of disappointed we'd decided against the day trip, but knew that in the long run we would be happy to continue exploring Venezia and wouldn't be so rushed with our little bit of time remaining.

    About 9:30 p.m., we decided to head over to Campo Santa Margharita for some nightlife, since we understand that is "the happening" place after hours. We had by now bought a 24 hour vaporetto pass for 10.50 euro each, so we hopped onboard at San Marcuola and disembarked at Ca' Rezzonico, then went thru Campo San Barnaba and walked onward to Campo Santa Margharita. There were mostly college aged kids around, and although we don't mind being with younger people (we sometimes forget that we ARE actually older than them), we opted to sit by ourselves at an outdoor cafe and have a dinner of cichetti, along with a limoncello. We finished off our time there by enjoying a gelato each (Melon and After Eight flavors) and watching many dogs romping and playing with one another around the campo.

    I have to add here that many times in our vaporetto journeys or when sitting in a cafe, we had fun picking out various Venetians who we felt could pass for the characters in Donna Leon's novels. We spotted a perfect Commisario Brunetti one day on vaporetto #82, then we found Vice Questore Patta one evening on the #1. We also found a perfect look-alike for both Vianello and Signorina Elletra in a campo one day. Then, one evening while we were having dinner we spotted Paola, Chiara and Raffi, as well! ;)

    After leaving Campo Santa Margharita, we meandered thru the now quiet calli and campos on our way to San Silvestro to catch the vaporetto back home. We were too late, however, and ended up having to walk further on to Rialto to catch one that was running that late. We enjoyed our late night walk thru Venice and relished the quiet, arriving home about 12:30 a.m. I slept peacefully again without the aid of the "little blue bugger." That is....until the construction worker began banging on our apartment wall early the next morning.

    Next - "Tears at Scuola San Rocco" or "Is the Building Moving or is it Just Me?"

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    Friday, October 28, 2005

    "BANG, BANG, BANG." Quiet. "BANG, BANG, BANG." I was ready to open the window and shout out, "Yo, Dude! Take a break, man. Isn't it about time for a caffee?" :D I would never do that, however, because I know he's just trying to make a living and I honestly had no business sleeping at 9 a.m. while in Venice. So, up and at 'em! Time for more laundry, the laundromat dryer, checking email, and DH's ritual with the guys at da Luca & Fred. I am sure most readers are thinking, "Gosh, you sure do a lot of laundry," but to be honest, a small European washing machine will hold about two pair of pants and two sweaters and that's it. So, laundry becomes a daily thing in order to keep up with it and we honestly don't mind at all if it means being able to travel light. We are always busy doing other things while clothes are washing or drying anyhow.

    I had asked DH what HE wanted to do today since although I had tried to include him in daily plans, he always stated that we should just do whatever I decided. I know he enjoys the things we do, and I've always been the trip planner anyhow, but I try to include things that he is most interested in, as well, even if they don't interest me all that much. Well, his response this particular morning was, "I just enjoy being here in Venice and seeing you smile....the joy on your face is all I need." (Ok....just melt my heart now). I still tried to get him to tell me what HE specifically wanted to do or see since we were getting close to the end of the trip, and he finally told me the same thing again, so I decided to pick out a few things for him.

    I knew that he was really wanting to see the Jewish Museum just as much as I did since he enjoys reading about and studying Jewish culture. So, we planned to attempt seeing the Jewish Museum again on this morning. We waited in line for over a half hour and then realized that they had several large groups and their computer system had gone down. It looked as if it would be a long time before we would get in, so we decided to head over to Gam Gam, a Jewish trattoria, and try to have lunch. There wasn't a seat in the house, nor on the canal, so we dudded out in that department, too. It was nice, however, to see everyone enjoying themselves in a family manner and we honestly felt as if we might be intruding if we were to attempt to eat there at that particular time. Gam Gam had been on our list since the begining of the trip, however, so we were disappointed that it looked like we weren't going to get to eat there at all. We'd gone by there a few times in our journey and it was either closed or didn't look like a good time to "pop in."

    We finally decided to head to St. Mark's Basilica and hoped there was no line to get in. On our last trip, during the summer, the line was SO long every time we tried to see it that we never got around to going inside. This time, however, the line was very short and fast moving, so we finally got to venture in. All I can say is, "Wow!" I have seen photos of the gold Byzantine mosaics, but pictures just do not do it justice. It's hard to fathom the amount of time and work it took to place all those tiny tiles of gold and other beautiful colors, millions and millions of them, all of them depicting stories from the Bible. It is truly amazing. There was no charge to enter the basilica itself, but there was a small fee of 1.50 euro each to see the Golden Altarpiece, a site which I highly recommend. The altarpiece is a stunning golden wall of religious scenes studded with various gem stones and it's hard to fathom what the value of it must be in today's world, maybe even priceless considering it took several centuries to create. The body of St. Mark himself (yes, the one who wrote one of the New Testament gospels in the Bible) is also buried under the altar here, which I found simply fascinating. After more admiring in the basilica, we headed upstairs (1.60 euro per person entry fee) to admire more artwork, the original bronze horses and the copies of the same that are now outside on the loggia. It was very interesting to see the detail of mosaics of the basilica up close at that level, as well as to see the original bronze horses and know that they were made during the time of Alexander the Great and have traveled so many places over time before ending up here. The view over the piazza and piazetta from the loggia was simply awe inspiring.

    After our tour of the basilica, we decided to venture across the lagoon to San Giorgio Maggiore. We waited at what we thought was the right vaporetto stop just down the Riva, but after seeing several boats come and go and none of them being the right one, we eventually realized we were waiting at the wrong stop for San Giorgio. We, along with a few other people. So, we then found the correct stop a bit farther down and the boat was there in no time. After crossing the lagoon in front of St. Mark's Piazzetta, we entered the church and spent some time admiring the various works of art, as well as the cool, white marble inside. It reminded me a bit of the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence. We then headed up the elevator to the bell tower, which was 3.00 euro per person, if I recall correctly. The view towards San Marco and Santa Maria della Salute was beautiful, just as we'd seen it in various photo books over the years. The view in every other direction was also very nice. It was a cool and breezy day and we were just enjoying the view and nice weather up there....until the bells started chiming. Was that ever loud with the bells being immediately above our heads. Needless to say, everyone had their ears plugged tightly with their fingers until the chiming ceased. :)

    We then caught the vaporetto back to San Marco and took another to the San Toma stop in order to tour Scuola San Rocco, but first it was time for a cafe break at Al Timon just next door. We enjoyed a vino and some pizza and seemed to quickly adopt a local dog who kept sitting right by us at our table. DH fed him a bit of pizza toppings, which the dog happily accepted. However, later when DH tried to give him some pizza crust, he simply turned his nose up at it as if to say, "No way, man....why do you think I would want just crust? I'm Italian!" I know for a fact that neither of OUR dogs would ever turn down pizza crust, toppings or no topppings. :D

    We finally ventured over the Scuola di San Rocco and upon entering the second floor we both wished that we had managed to fit this in on our previous trip. The Tintoretto's housed here are phenomenal! Entry was 5.50 euro per person and worth every cent. We started out in the Great Upper Hall at the infamous Crucifixtion. My DH literally had tears in his eyes viewing this masterpiece. For one man to capture so much in a single painting was truly inspiring. There was so much going on in the scene and so many stories of that Biblical scenario captured in one piece of work. Although we continued through the remainder of the Scuola viewing all of the wonderful masterpieces that Tintoretto spent 20 years painting, at no fee, we continued returning to the Crucifixtion over and over. The remaining paintings were also exquisite, and the Scuola provided mirror tiles to view those on the ceiling, but the Crucifixtion really seemed to be special. Another thing I really liked about Scuola di San Rocco is the decor and calm inside. It was so peaceful and warm with the baroque red decor that it was as if you could just stand there viewing the panitings forever, and there was plenty of seating if one got tired of standing. The Scuola also offers Vivaldi concerts and I would love to one day attend one, being able to view the huge Tintoretto masterpieces, framed beautifully in gold, all around me while listening to masterpiece music. However, it was not to be on this trip. :(

    We were virtually the last ones to leave the Scuola and strolled toward San Silvestro and our usual afternoon stop at Ruga Rialto Bar & Cafe. We sat outside enjoying a spritz con aperol and vino while journaling and talking. It was at this time that I noticed another osteria that came well recommended by a friend here. Unfortunately, it was closed, which I found surprising after 6 p.m. in the evening on a Friday night. So, we nixed the idea of an early dinner and decided to head back home for some time on the terrace. Vaporetto #1 was sardine crowded at this hour on a Friday and we were squished from side to side as passengers entered at each stop along the way from San Silvestro to San Marcuola. DH whispered in my ear, "I hope nobdy has gas." :D The attendant had to continually push through the crowd to open the gates at each stop yelling, "Permesso! Permesso!" A word which we learned early on in our trip and found to be very useful when we needed to get off the vaporetto ourselves.

    When we returned home, we were reading on the patio when DH looked at me and said, "Is the building moving or is it just me?" Knowing I hadn't drank THAT much wine, I had been wondering the same thing as I felt I was continually swaying back and forth. We eventually decided to go out strolling and shopping in the Canneregio area and we continued feeling the swaying every time we stopped to sit at an outdoor cafe. We finally realized that we had just flat spent too much time on boats that day and actually found not having our land legs a bit humorous. It was downright odd, to be honest but I guess that's island life when you don't have car, as we are used to at home. One trattoria that we found this particular evening was called Da Nini, located on Rio Terra San Leonardo near Ponte delle Guglie, and we went back to this same place a few more times during the rest of our trip. Our server was very attentive and informative, not to mention really good looking since DH caught me ogling him a few times ;) , and he made the best spritz con aperol that we had come across. Another stop we made was to da Luca & Fred for some broiled squid with herbs. The place was packed, but they always have such unique things out that DH and I just had to check what their menu included that evening, as well.

    We decided to have dinner in that night since we had various pastas and salads at home, and we got to bed at a decent hour. When we were having dinner, DH commented that we could probably go to Venice and actually LOSE weight, instead of staying the same, if we just had salads like that every night. Then, we looked at one another, burst out laughing and said in unison, "Who the hell wants to do that!" DH and I also finally realized on this evening why "the beast" had been keeping me awake so much at night. I was sleeping on the opposite side of the bed that I usually do at home so that DH could be closer to the open windows and cool air. After all, he gets much warmer at night than I do. I've always been deaf in one ear and with these sleeping arrangements, my good ear was up, rather than being down on the pillow if I were sleeping on my usual side of the bed. This has never seemed to be a problem before, but I slept soundly the rest of the trip once we switched sides, and I never needed a "little blue bugger" again.

    Next - "The Last Day in the Magic" or "Nearly Forgetting Daylight Savings Time for our Flight"

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    Statia....So glad to see this report. I remember very well the report from your first visit to Venice. And I am enjoying this one too.

    Thanks for letting us share the trip with you.

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    Hello Statia, I just sat here and read your report for the first is beautiful and interesting. I sure look forward to the last installment. Thank you for sharing your visit to Venice!!

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    Thanks LoveItaly and TexasAggie. :)

    Saturday, October 29, 2005

    "The Last Day in the Magic" or "Nearly Forgetting Daylight Savings Time for our Flight"

    We awoke on this morning to vibrant sunshine and clear skies for the first time since we'd been in Venice. That meant the weather was positively perfect for our stay. We had the cloudy, overcast, foggy and cool weather with no rain for most of the trip, just as we wanted, and having the sunshine adding a little warmth to the clear blue skies was a perfect ending to our time in the city. It also made for contrasting photos from the foggy shots we'd taken thus far, so of course I had to return to many of the same places for sunny photo ops.

    The first thing I wanted to get done this morning was to finish our personal shopping and gift buying. I didn't want to leave it for the last minute and today was our last day in magical Venezia. Aside from various glass objects, sweaters, olive oil, olives, limoncello, dessert wines, grappa, and the other usual stuff one brings back from Venice, we also found a beautiful Murano glass bowl with little bubbles in the glass in which my new Murano glass seashells would go perfectly in. We also bought some Murano glass letter openers, pullover sweaters, glass antique style ink pens and such. At one particular store, the owner was so nice and helpful and even gave us a price break on a few things since we bought quite a lot from him. We also finally got ourselves a Bialetti Moka Express since we love using them in Italy, and of course, some wonderful coffee to go with it for our caffee corretto at home.

    After the shopping was done, I wanted to return to the apartment and get as packed as possible. I never leave packing until the last minute because you never know when you might have some extra room and can do more shopping! :) After that we took the vaporetto to San Marco so that I could drop a note by the hotel of a dear friend, who is also a poster here, welcoming her back to Venezia and wishing her a wonderful stay. Upon entering the hotel and asking the person at the desk if I could leave the note for her, before I even finished my sentence the person said, "She's my friend, too!" Obviously this friend of mine is practically a goddess in Venice. ;) So, DH and I thought that was very nice. We only wished that our time in Venice wasn't missed by mere days so that we could see one another.

    We enjoyed seeing the San Marco area in the sunshine and relished strolling the Riva under the blue sky, as well. Being that it was Saturday, and such a beautiful day at that, it seemed virtually everyone in Venice was out, not to mention many more tourists. After a break at an osteria on the Riva, we decided to tour the Naval Museum. I was sure DH would enjoy this museum, but unfortunately it was closed when we arrived. So, we continued around the Arsenale and through all the little back calli and campos of Castello. Our ultimate goal was to end up at Chiesa Santi Giovanni Paolo.

    Once we arrived at the church, we saw many people going in and out of the left-hand side of what we thought included the church. We asked an attendant behind a glass window if we had to pay an admission and he looked at us rather funny and told us that there was no charge. "Oh, it must be free," we thought. It wasn't until we were walking in a bit and noticing medical signage everywhere that we realized we were actually in Scuola di San Marco, the civic hospital that is connected to the church. No wonder the attendant looked at us strange in thinking that we were asking if we had to pay admission to visit someone in the hospital. :D Guess we can add this one to the "traveler mishap list." Once we entered the actual church, we admired the tombs of many doges commenting that there didn't seem to be much room left for anyone else. There were some lovely paintings, as well, and I really liked the serene chapel.

    After we left Chiesa Santi Giovanni Paolo, DH opted for a gelato....again. I think I only had one gelato the whole trip, but I'm not typically a big ice cream fan unless I really get a sweet tooth. We then used our map to liesurely meander our way through the back calli, alleys and canals of Castello and Cannaregio, eventually ending up at Ca' D'oro, also known as The House of Gold. On our journey we passed the recently restored Santa Maria dei Miracoli, as well as San Giovanni Crisostomo, Santi Apostoli, and many other beautiful churches and campos. Ca' D'Oro is another site that we missed on our previous trip and we enjoyed the tranquility of the museum, not to mention the magnificent works of art. One painting amazed me in particular. It was a painting of San Marco in the 16th century and I marveled to stand there and look at the exact spot where DH and I had called his parents a couple of nights before. Right there by the Winged Lion of St. Mark statue we were using a cell phone to call halfway around the world and here was this painting depicting life around the same statue so many centuries before. Just amazing. I can't imagine they would have had a clue as to the technology of this vast age ahead of their time. The loggia at Ca' D'Oro is a sight not to be missed because of the marvelous view that it affords of the Grand Canal in either direction, fronted by the gothic architecture of the time period. The courtyard downstairs is also lovely, especially the spectacular tiled mosaic floor.

    It was getting dark about this time and we figured that our sightseeing was more or less over for this trip. We decided to call it a day and after strolling Strada Nova, we sat down for a spritz and grappa. We went to a cafe on the corner of Strada Nova and Rio Terr San Leondardo, just past the bridge by Calle Columbina. The setting was very nice to people watch and the service was good, but we realized when we were to depart that we had been quite ripped off. The server charged us 18 euro for the same two drinks that we were normally charged only 10 euro at other places. Rather than make a scene about it, however, we chalked it up to the one time we got ripped off on this trip and vowed never to go there again. Instead we headed over to Da Nini where we had enjoyed sitting a couple of evenings before and enjoyed the waiter so much. He was very personable and charming, and as I said before, easy on the eyes. ;)

    After we had chatted and journaled and people watched for awhile, we finally decided to have dinner. Our original plan for our last night was to take an evening gondola ride and then dine at Ristorante Riviera. The gondola ride wasn't that big of a deal since we had previously renewed our wedding vows on a gondola on our last trip. We figured that any other ride might be kind of a letdown after that. ;) However, we didn't make absolute plans for either since we tend to like to go with the flow and not have appointments to meet when we are on vacation. It was getting late and we really didn't feel like traipsing all the way back to Dorsuduro for dinner when we had to be up at 4:00 a.m. for our water taxi the next day. So, we walked around Cannaregio looking at various menus and checking out different places for dinner. Each one was either too crowded, had no outdoor seating (which we prefer), or the menu didn't appeal to us. We did finally stop at one place just past Ponte Guglie and had an appetizer of really spicy mussels that were very good, as well as a proscuiutto platter. However, it was quite crowded and the service was so slow that we opted not to have dinner there. We said to one another, "We HAVE had a couple of really good meals at Ristorante Serenissima." It was settled, we would have our last meal at the ristorante that we'd enjoyed the most on our trip and where we by now knew the owner and servers well. On top of that, we would be close to home in order to get in at a decent hour with having to get up so early the next day.

    When we got there we were surprised to see the place packed with locals since it was a Saturday night. We did, however, find a quiet little table outside, away from everyone else and indulged in some of our favorite dishes once again. Cuttlefish in ink over spaghetti (which can make one look like they are preparing for Halloween when eating if one is not careful), gnocchi formaggio, calf's liver with onions and polenta, salmon, swordfish baked in wine, potatoes, profiteroles, and wine for a grand total of 100 euro. Everything was fabulous and when we told the owner that it was our last night in Venice, he reminded us about the time change that night for our flight home the following day. I had remembered this before our trip, but by now had forgotten about it with being so relaxed over the past week. Since we had no clock or alarm in our apartment, we had planned to use the cell phone alarm to wake us, but also wanted my sister to call us as a back-up. She was in the US and at 9 p.m. her time it would be 4 a.m. our time. However, we now had the dilemma of "what time does she call us if WE have fallen back on the clock before she does?" This was quite funny to try and figure out after a few vinos and an after dinner limoncello. So, after we returned to the apartment, we ultimately figured out what time she should call us in order to wake us up at 4 a.m. OUR time and let her know of such. Once our final packing was done and we had everything ready to go, it was time to hit the hay since we had to be up in less than five hours.

    Next - "Is it ALREADY Time to Go Home?"

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    Thanks for the further nice comments. :)

    "Is it ALREADY Time to Go Home?"

    Sunday, October 30, 2005

    Our cell phone alarm worked like a charm and we also received my sister's back-up call at 4:15 a.m. She was all costumed up and prepared to go to a Halloween party when she suddenly became deathly ill and I felt so bad for her and worried about her while traveling all day. Turns out it was food poisoning that took her almost two days to get over. While I was doing our final run through of the apartment, stripping the bed, putting all linens together to be washed, and taking care of the trash, DH hauled our now VERY HEAVY suitcases down four flights of stairs for our departure. We were in front of Chiesa San Marcuola at 5 a.m. for our appointed water taxi and didn't have to wait too long, but did enjoy watching the night owls leaving the casino as we stood on the dock. When the water taxi arrived, the driver was very gracious in assisting with our luggage and then he headed towards the train station. DH and I were trying to figure out where he was going once he passed Canale di Cannaregio, since we knew that was the canal we would have to take towards the airport. Once we were past the train station, the driver finally leaned into the cabin and told us that due to the heavy fog, he was unable to take us to the airport via the laguna. So, he was taking us to Piazzale Roma and would find us a ride there.

    When we arrived at Piazzale Roma, we saw a couple of other water taxis in our same predicament. Our driver docked the boat and told us to wait while he tried to find a cab for us since the buses were not running at that early hour. He finally returned about ten minutes later, helped us off of the boat, grabbed our bags and rolled them to a waiting delivery type of truck with only a small cab for the three of us for to sit in. Not that we minded, just as long as we got to the airport on time. We were quite surprised that it was going to cost a bit more going this route and we weren't told about it ahead of time. We had agreed to 90 euro for the water taxi to the airport, yet when we arrived at Piazzale Roma, a mere four stops and less than 15 minutes from our apartment, the price was still 60 euro for the water taxi, and then the truck driver wanted another 60 euro for the fifteen minute drive to the airport...a total of 120 euro, when it would have been 90 euro by water taxi all the way to the airport. Both gentlemen were very nice and helpful, but this seemed like a bit of price gouging to us. Just our opinion.

    When we finally arrived the airport, the line wasn't too terribly long to check-in with Air France, but it still took some time. When we finally got to the counter, the agent weighed our carry-on bags and said that one of them was too heavy and had to be checked on. I had olive oil, wine, grappa, limoncello, various souvenirs and food items, as well as murano glass in it, so I knew it was quite heavy, but I was now concerened about those items getting broken if I checked them on, even though I had packed them very well. So, I managed to open the bag and pull out a few of the breakables to put in my day bag, but still had a lot left in there when I checked it. We have had problems with lost luggage with Air France so I was none too happy about having to turn my belongings over, but did so anyhow.

    Once checked in, we proceeded to the security check point which made Miami International look like a cake walk. I don't recall such a mess when we returned from Venice the last time. There were less than 50 people ahead of us and it took us over an hour to get through the security line. As we stood there moving very little every fifteen minutes, other people would come rushing behind, in a panic, stating in various languages that their flight is boarding and insisting on cutting in front of everyone else. We didn't mind letting some people who were running late in ahead of us, but eventually we had to put a stop to it because we were getting nowhere and would soon miss our own flight. There were a handful of Italian people behind us that finally linked arms and would no longer let anyone through. Thank goodness they put their foot (or feet) down so that we didn't have to, but I honestly thought at one point that a literal fist fight was going to break out right there immediately behind us. They were arguing and yelling in Italian at anyone else who tried to cut in line. I've honestly never seen anything like it at an airport security point. When we finally got up to the front of the line ourselves, I have to add that the security personnel were about as friendly as the immigration folks in St. Maarten, and trust me....that's not saying a lot. I guess they were just very disorganized, but we finally got through and ran for our gate, ending up being nearly the last to board.

    Our flight departed on time at about 7:30 a.m. and we arrived Paris in time for our short connection. We then took a shuttle from the tarmac to our terminal, had to change terminals to go thru security again, and then walk to another terminal. When boarding commenced, we then had to go outside, walk downstairs and board yet another shuttle bus to our connecting aircraft. This is the craziness that I referred to in the beginning of my report. Charles de Gaulle isn't all that confusing to us, but it certainly seems it could be better organized and not require so much manuevering with connections. The funny thing is that when we were on the shuttle bus, we realized that a senator in our local government from St. Maarten was standing right in front of us talking to another St. Maarten resident. Little did he know that we were from the sister island of St. Eustatius and could hear everything he was discussing about the government of both islands while we were all so far away from home. I guess it goes to show that we should all be careful of what we say in public, even when we think we are so far from home that no one around us knows what we are talking about. :) Another story in that same manner is that a seat-mate close to us on the flight over to Italy used to date a girl that DH and I both know here on our island. She actually works with my DH and I talk to her on the phone for business often. It's certainly a small world. :)

    We had a pleasant and smooth return flight to St. Maarten and arrived about 2 p.m. Unfortunately, we had just missed the afternoon flight to our island, so we had to sit around and wait for another five hours to travel the last 15 minutes home. So close, yet so far away. Once we checked in with WinAir, we went over to visit our Indian friend at his restaurant again and being a fan of Venice himself, he wanted to hear all about our trip, as well as update us on what went on in the islands while we were away. When we finally returned to the airport, our flight was running late and we had to wait another hour before finally boarding for our last flight home.

    My best friend had our car at the airport, our dogs back home, and even had some wine, cheese, and other goodies in our fridge since she knew we would be tired and possibly not feel up to going out for any dinner (not to mention the distinct possiblity that our local flight home might be really, really late, as if often the case, and we'd have no option whatsoever as far as dining out). She was right, by the time we got home we were tired, the restaurants were closed. and we much enjoyed her genourosity. To my surprise I still stayed up until midnight unpacking and getting everything put away while DH opted to go to bed. And, believe it or not, all my olive oil, wine, limoncello, grappa, and Murano glass arrived safe and in one piece. Whew. :)

    Now that I have "winged it" in Italy, I find that I still prefer to have some sort of itinerary to go by. So, in planning my mother's birthday trip to Rome in March, I will definitely have a "plan" for each day, whether we follow it or not it will be something to go by, especially since I will be showing both my mother and my sister bella of the most beautiful and charming countries in the world.


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    Thanks so much for a wonderful read Statia. I "winged it" for over a month in 2002 after graduating from graduate school. I have found that I much prefer a plan. While I did have some wonderful experiences on that trip that I might not have had with a strict itinerary, I found that I missed a lot of things I would have liked to have seen. Live and learn I guess :-)
    Thanks again for posting

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