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Eight planes, five beds, four cities, two counties and one fabulous Fall trip!! Chapter One-VENICE

Eight planes, five beds, four cities, two counties and one fabulous Fall trip!! Chapter One-VENICE

Nov 25th, 2008, 07:20 PM
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Eight planes, five beds, four cities, two counties and one fabulous Fall trip!! Chapter One-VENICE

Chapter One - Venice
Monday, Oct. 27th
Carry-on bags stuffed, backpack full, boarding passes in hand for our first three flights, our daughter chauffeured us to the airport in late-morning for the first of the four flights that would take us to Venice.

Our US Airways flight left on time and we arrived in Philadelphia (within waving distance of my hometown in South Jersey) with time to kill before our flight to Heathrow. Luckily, we had used British Airways miles (and a bit of cash) to secure Business Class seats (beds, actually) so we were also entitled to use of the lounges. There’s no better way to watch time pass than in the comfort of a private lounge with all the free liquor, coffee, soft drinks, snacks, computers and newspapers at your disposal. As with our last trip, we opted to have the complimentary dinner in the lounge so we could settle in on the plane and bypass the meal service. They served a fusion meal that was outstanding.

Once we boarded, there were lots of empty seats so we had a quiet, somewhat private and very relaxing flight, arriving at Heathrow around 7:00 a.m. Hit the lounge again for breakfast and to print out our Air France tickets (Paris to Venice) while we waited for our 1:00 pm flight to Paris. Another nice fight (only 40 minutes) and we found ourselves running through Terminal Two to catch the AF flight. Turned out to be closer than we expected (who knew, a short transfer in CDG??? We took this miracle as a sign the rest of the trip would go well, too).

Tuesday, Oct. 28th
So, four flights, five airports and about 36 hours after leaving home, we finally arrived in the mainland off of Venice. At dusk. In a drizzle. Caught the bus, took it to the bus terminal (was it a ten-hour bus ride or were we just jet-lagged?) and then the vaparetto to our lagoon. This was our first visit and, even though we sailed down the Grand Canal in a crowded water bus, at night, in the rain, my first impression of this city was that it is achingly, unforgettably beautiful.

Our hotel, Locanda Ca’ Le Vele, was located at the Ca’ d’Oro stop. We had a lovely, large room that over-dosed on Venetian décor (Murano glass chandelier, painted furniture, gold cherubs holding back the bed hangings and, yes, even life-sized Moorish statues at either side of the doorway to the balcony), but it was fun to come home to each evening. The bathroom, while large, had the tiniest shower—even by European standards—we’ve ever had! We both had to enter sideways!

Dropped our stuff, grabbed our umbrellas and headed out to dinner. Just around the corner, on St. Nova, we found Trattoria Da Gianni, a homey little place that specialized in fish dishes (of course!). We were both exhausted, so we ordered a carafe of house red, a bottle of water and skipped the starters. We also skipped the fish! DH had spaghetti Bolognese and I had the Carbonara. Both were excellent. We had seen what I’m sure was chocolate hazelnut gelato so ordered that for dessert, but the server, who spoke no English, said that wasn’t gelato (I pointed to it), but that he would get me some. We see him whisper quickly to another server, who heads out the door. About five minutes later he comes back with a little bag and hands it to our server. He disappears into the kitchen and reappears with 2 Dolce’s! Okay, not exactly the choco-hazelnut gelato I wanted, but good, nonetheless. So my introduction to Venetian dining was that they will go to any lengths to make you happy, and my opinion never changed. 53€ later we walked back to our hotel happy and sleepy.

Wednesday, Oct. 29th
I was up, dressed and ready to explore by 6:30 a.m. This is usually the case when I’m traveling. DH will sleep in a bit later and I’ll head out to explore the neighborhood and have my morning coffee.

I went out on our balcony and got my first daytime view. WOW! I was speechless (good thing, since there was no one to talk to, DH still being in dreamland). We were on a narrow canal and the buildings all around us looked ancient, fairylike and… I honestly still can’t adequately describe Venice, so bear with me. There was a footbridge on either side of the balcony leading from our lagoon to the next. I looked down and there was a small boat with a couple of good-looking guys hauling bags of laundry from a hotel doorway on the water and into their boats. Then they took off slowly down the canal. I suddenly heard a voice in my head say, “oh my God, you are really in Venice and it looks just like the pictures!” And that’s probably the best way I can describe it. Venice is the ONLY place I think I’ve ever been that looks exactly like every picture I’ve ever seen of it. I am in love.

We had ordered breakfast for 8:00 a.m. The locanda has no dining room, so they bring breakfast to your room—nice. This means I had over an hour to get a feel for the area. I quietly left the hotel and crossed the first footbridge. I walked down a few narrow streets and across a few more bridges. I was bouncing from lagoon to lagoon, island to island (there are 118 islands in all). I watched shop-keepers using crude twig brooms to sweep the cobbles in front of their stores and realized there was a reason they hadn’t resorted to more modern, but much less sturdy brooms. These strong twigs reached into the sunken cobbles and easily pushed the puddled water out with enough force to send it thinly down the alleys. As I neared what I knew must be the Grand Canal (just by the sheer size of it), I heard teen-agers chattering loudly (in Italian, of course—why did that tickle me?) They got off the water buses in herds and headed toward school. I thought of how cool my grandsons would find it that these kids arrived at school by boat!

As I turned the corner onto the narrow canal walkway I realized I must be at the opposite end of the “Grand” part of the canal as this area was obviously where workmen disembarked each day. No stores, boutiques or fancy hotels here. I followed a few into a little tabac and joined them at the counter, standing to drink my cappuccino. Delicious!! I then decided to follow the canal a bit rather than turn and retrace my steps back to the hotel. Keeping in mind what I’d read somewhere, “Venice is a series of islands, you can’t get lost” I just kept wandering and feeling, on this early Wednesday morning, that Venice seemed timeless.

But, gradually, I realized I had better get back to the hotel or the DH might miss me. More important, I might miss breakfast! Uh, not so easy. I was totally, truly lost. Seems there is no such thing as a straight line in Venice (or, I learned, in Florence or Rome). You might start out walking north, but suddenly you are back where you started and you swear you never turned either right or left! Eventually I found my way home with the help of a few nice kiosk owners (“d’Orsy, per favore? Ah, grazie, grazie mille”).

After a lovely breakfast in our room (cappuccino, cornettes, hard rolls, butter, cheese, jam and orange juice), we set out together to find St. Mark’s Square. By the way, our first surprise of the trip was that the “torrential rain” predicted for our three days in Venice never happened! We had three days of sunny weather so warm (mid-to-high 70s) that we were in short sleeves most of the time. It did rain one night, causing the workers to put up the boardwalks kept handy for the aqua alti, but the residual flooding was gone by mid-afternoon.

Walking to St. Mark’s took us through enchanting and tranquil areas, side streets full of souvenir and mask shops and piazzas with African men hawking faux designer bags spread out on the ground. (These guys were everywhere we went in Italy. We joked that they were following us.). The only area that was crowded was that around the Rialto Bridge. The rest of Venice—including the Square—was relatively pedestrian-free—another nice surprise. We then headed the opposite way and walked all the way to the fish market. It was great fun to watch the mongers yelling to each other, tossing fish guts and charming the tourists. Having walked miles on four bad knees (two each), we took a vaparetto back to the hotel.

While out each day, we keep our eyes out for interesting places to dine and, if we find one, we make reservations for that night. Tonight’s 8:00 reservation was at da Bera ristorante on Cannaregio in the Chiesa area. We both had bruschetta starters, followed by a penne with cheese and peas for DH and veal Marsala for me. We both had salads and, with a bottle of house red and a bottle of water, the total for an excellent meal was only 54€.

This was the night of the downpour, but we slept like babies.

Thursday, Oct. 30th
After breakfast, we headed for the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. Somehow, as happened frequently, we got turned around and probably walked much of the Grand Canal before figuring out our mistake and heading on the correct path to the Guggenheim. But one fun aspect of being on vacation is that you seldom mind getting lost, because there’s always something interesting to see on the way to nowhere. Again, we found the museum, to be almost empty (I love traveling off-season!). Peggy was an interesting character. An astute collector of modern art, friend of Picasso and Pollack, wife of Max Ernst and lover of Venice, she left her palazzo on the Grand Canal to the city, along with her art collection. I learned that Jackson Pollack could actually paint prior to 1947 when he entered his splatter period (which I think of as his grand joke on art collectors, but what do I know…) and I left there making a mental note to find a good bio on Peggy.

We had lunch in the same ristorante as dinner the previous evening, this time a pizza margharita for me and Bolognese—again—for the DH. Two bottles of water and a tab of 21€ later we walked “home” eating cioccolata gelato and took a nap!

We had dinner at Birrera (can’t find the card with the address). We sat outside and enjoyed a carafe of red, bottled water, caprese salad each, grilled sole with French fries for DH, Carbonara for me, shared a St. Honore cake (yum) for dessert and finished with espressos. 56€. While eating, we watched our friends with the faux bags bundle them up in sheets when the polizia walked by, then returned and set up again, just to repeat the process every few minutes. Funny, though they would actually follow any woman who made eye contact, I never saw them make a sale.

A lovely evening walk to St. Mark’s Square to have a glass of wine and enjoy the dueling orchestras. There were three playing this evening and, with the lights off of the church and the twinkling lights of the restaurants, it was a “memorize this scene” night.

“Home” to pack and journal.

Friday, Oct. 31st
I had copied the train schedule before leaving home and knew we had several choices to get to Florence that day, so after breakfast we decided to head back out for one more walk around our new favorite city. We bought a water color and a tiny oil from a lovely gal painting along the canal, said good-bye to our genial hosts at the Locanda Le Vele and took our last vaparetto ride to the train station. We purchased two second-class tickets to Florence for that day and two second-class Florence to Rome for November 3rd. I didn't need a fountain to drop a coin into to guarantee a return to Venice. The city itself had guaranteed my return.

MelJ is offline  
Nov 25th, 2008, 07:42 PM
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Thank you for your wonderful report!
DalaiLlama is offline  
Nov 25th, 2008, 09:56 PM
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Thank you so much for taking the time to post your report. I was in Venice only once (in 1976!), but your report makes me want to return.

margyb is offline  
Nov 25th, 2008, 11:18 PM
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Thank you for your lovely report. I enjoyed your remarks about Jackson Pollak, specially on the grand joke part.
Graziella5b is offline  
Nov 26th, 2008, 06:56 AM
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I am looking forward to reading more this weekend. Hopefully, you won't get too busy with the holiday to post!
bfrac is offline  
Nov 26th, 2008, 07:20 AM
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Thanks for the kind comments! Venice is the only city on this trip that I hadn't been to before so it was a real treat!

I'll put Chapter two-Florence in a separate thread (once it's written tonight), since I (dumb) put just Venice in the title of this one!
MelJ is offline  
Nov 26th, 2008, 07:35 AM
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Hi M,

I enjoyed your report so far on the places you ate. Besides Peggy's museum, did you do anything special over the two full days you spent in Venice? Any special churches or visits to the real islands?
barbmike is offline  
Nov 26th, 2008, 07:46 AM
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Hi, Barb,

This was a scouting trip for us, which is why we only scheduled a couple of days. I like to spend my first visits to a city walking around, people-watching and, my favorite thing, looking at the architecture.

Murano and Lugano didn't really interest us enough to take precious time away from this brief visit.

The time just flew wandering around!
MelJ is offline  
Nov 26th, 2008, 07:47 AM
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Lovely report. I look forward to more. PLEASE put it all on this thread, much easier for everybody to follow!
SusanP is offline  
Nov 26th, 2008, 08:02 AM
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Yes, please put it all on this thread.
bfrac is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 10:44 AM
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How on earth did I miss This. I know what you mean about those early morning strolls. I remember one you and I did in London! And in a few weeks we can sneak one in in Paris!

The food all sounds great. I think we might be ready for a return to Venice!
avalon is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 02:02 PM
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Avalon: Can't wait to see you in Paris! AND.... you and I can most definitely make an early morning coffee run in London while the hubs sleep!!
MelJ is offline  
Sep 20th, 2009, 02:19 PM
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pjsparlor536 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 02:19 AM
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I need to tag this fun report, I almost lost it!
YvonneT is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 05:02 AM
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bardo1 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 12:15 PM
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We all seem to have missed this! I have done searches on 'venice' and not seen this. It is quite heart-warming for a Venice-lover such as I to read how someone else has fallen in love with 'my' city.
A couple of things I don't quite understand, MelJ. You used the word 'lagoon' a couple of times - 'vaparetto [vaporetto] to our lagoon', 'leading from our lagoon to the next.'and 'bouncing from lagoon to lagoon'. I thought you meant 'rio', but I'm not sure, because the bridge near your locanda does not go from one rio to the next, and bouncing from rio to rio does not make sense either. Venice is in a big lagoon, but there are no lagoons in Venice. What word did you mean?
And this 'at da Bera ristorante on Cannaregio in the Chiesa area.' What did you mean by the Chiesa area? 'Chiesa' means church, and there are many churches in each sestiere. [This is not meant as criticism in any way.]
One slight misunderstanding you had - the acqua alta is not caused by rain; it is caused by higher than average tides.
I hope you'll be able to make many return trips to Venice.
Bert4545 is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2009, 08:02 PM
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WOW, Bert--let me see if I can clear up my mistakes:

Instead of lagoon, I should have said Island hopping, I suppose. The point was that to get from place to place we had to keep crossing the little bridges. I really couldn't tell you if they were all totally separate and surrounded by water. I was just enjoying the experience.

Resto in the Chiesa area: It's been too long ago for me to remember why I said that, but I'm guessing that was on the card I picked up. I don't speak Italian (or spell it well, either, I guess).
MelJ is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 12:01 PM
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Yes, Mel, I suppose 'island' is the word. There are alleged to be over 100 islands (or islets) connected by over 400 bridges, in Venice. The precise number (if a precise number is given) varies from book to book. They are all separate, in the sense that they are each surrounded by water, but the water is only 10 or 20 feet wide in most cases and not very deep. The Grand Canal is only about 100 feet wide. I don't really think of them as islands, though. I mean, if the water level fell by 10 feet or so, most of them would not be islands. Did you take many photos? and have you put them on the internet somewhere?
Bert4545 is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 12:35 PM
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great start...thanks...

note to self: schedule a week soon in venice again
rhkkmk is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 01:18 PM
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hi mel,

you are not alone in liking to get up early and Venice is a great place for early-morning perambulations. i love the different types of barges that you see that time of day - the dustmen with their wheelbarrows on top of the rubbish, the fish and veg delivery boats, the boats loaded down with luggage making for the airport. and so few tourists - you can almost kid yourself that you are in Byron's Venice.

looking forward to reading more,

regards, ann
annhig is online now  

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