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Foxy grandparents in Barcelona and Venice

Foxy grandparents in Barcelona and Venice

May 25th, 2005, 05:15 PM
Posts: n/a
Foxy grandparents in Barcelona and Venice

I'm now 64, finally going abroad after many years of hoping and dreaming about it.  Last year we went to Barcelona for 2 1/2 weeks in September, this year we just returned from 2 1/2 weeks in Venice.  Paris is next year, then perhaps Berlin, or Glasgow.

I'm glad my husband, John, and I agree that it's most interesting to go to one place for as long as possible rather than do "If it's Tuesday, it must be Belgium."  The length of time is limited, because although he is a youthful 70, he works full time as a software engineer in Silicone Valley, with no retirement on the immediate horizon.

We've had good luck finding apartments to rent in Barcelona and Venice, and I found one in Montmartre for our next trip in April, 2006.  I'm afraid you have to plan that far ahead sometimes.  This flat is on the 8th floor (lift, thank god) and has a terrace with a view of Sacre Coeur, and you can see the top of the Eiffel Tower from another window.  

We go grocery shopping the first day, and from then on have breakfast and dinner in the flat, including John's famous Sapphire martini.  It's much cheaper than eating out, and we can feel more part of the local scene doing this.  There are the famous marketplaces, in Barcelona it's the Boqueria and in Venice it's by the Rialto bridge.  You really can find wonderful food there, but I enjoy checking out the supermarkets, too.  There's a chain in Venice called Billa, with good produce, including organic.  They provide plastic gloves for putting loose items in the bag, then you put it on a scale and press a button with a number and picture, a sticker is issued for the price, which you put on the bag.  They are very strict about touching, all the produce stands have "Non toccare!!!" signs for the foreigners.  We found some lovely, tiny wild strawberries at the Rialto market.  Asparagus was in season, beautiful fat spears, tied with a vine, not rubber band.  At Billa, I found a container of wild mushrooms the first day, quite reasonable.  Billa also had a serviced counter with fresh bread and cheese to order, plus prepared food.  I bought a mix to make squid ink risotto, I put the mushrooms in it and it was very good.

I found some similarities in Barcelona and Venice.  Both are included in a larger country (not unusual in Europe, of course), but have a distinct language and culture.  Venetian is a language, not a dialect, and Catalan is closer to French than Spanish.  Both had significant empires bases on their maritime exploits and mercantile abilities, and a comparatively democratic form of government in the Middle Ages, their leaders were elected, not kings or dukes.  

But Barcelona is a thriving youthful city now, whereas Venice's shrinking population is elderly.  Our apartment was in a residential area, we saw many ancient Venetians, readily recognizable by their clothing and bearing.  The weather was balmy, but they were impeccably dressed in wool suits, the women always in skirts, hose and matching handbag and shoes, the men wearing a tie or muffler, the women a scarf.  Aloof and dignified, sometimes pulling a wheeled cart with groceries, you'd see them on the vaporetto or helping each other on the stepped bridges.  Another major difference is that Barcelona really parties at night, whereas Venice rolls up the streets.  Our Barcelona flat was on the fourth floor, with balconies overlooking the street.  We kept the French doors open, and could hear quite a bit until dawn.  Our flat in Venice was next to a canal, quiet until morning, when first there was birdsong, then the bells would start ringing around seven, the various campanili conversing with one another.

Public transit was excellent in both cities.  In Barcelona, we used the subway (Metro) and buses, there's also a funicular and a couple of arial basket things, one along the harbor, the other up Montjuic, where the Miro museum is.  I did the Montjuic one when we went to the museum, somehow survived it.  In Venice, we got Venice Cards which allow you to hop on and off the vaporetti which ply the Grand Canal.  I loved them, great people watching.  Dogs are allowed on, there are signs saying they need to be muzzled and leashed, but very few are.  We also took a treghetto across the Grand Canal, a short but memorable trip. Traghetti are gondolas used by locals to cross the canal, which has only three bridges.  It costs only half a euro, has a gondolier at each end, and you stand up in it.  There was a German shepherd aboard the time we went, lots of fun.  We also took a sit down gondola ride for 90 euros, it was worth it.  We went around 10 am when there's a lot happening on the Grand Canal, we got into some traffic jams with other gondolas, water taxis, vaporetti, and delivery boats.  It was quite an enjoyable experience, rather different from rush hour in the financial district with blaring horns.  Venice is quiet.

In both cities, though, walking is how we generally got around, and get lost in the narrow alleys.  You have to be even more fit in Venice because you're constantly on stairs over the bridges.  At the end of the day sometimes I felt someone had stabbed me with a Murano stiletto, the glass dagger which breaks off and stays inside you.  I said the hell with fashion and wore my running shoes.

Hmmm, I have been going on a bit!  I enjoy reliving these experiences by writing about them.  To be continued, if there's interest.
May 25th, 2005, 11:59 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 45,322
Interesting thoughts oaklandlady. I have never been to Barcelona but I certainly thought your viewpoint on Venice was right on. BTW, I too love watching the older residents of Venice. They are so dignified. I wonder if they get tired of all the tourist. One darling little lady told me no, but I am sure they must at times.

And not touching the produce. I certainly learned that in a small town in the Dolomites. My goodness, I thought the police were going to be called, LOL.

How nice that your husband and you can work out these travels. It certainly makes the days nicer, remembering the former trips and planning for the future ones. Best wishes.
LoveItaly is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 06:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,118
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Oak.

>...John's famous Sapphire martini.<

You are a very lucky woman.

ira is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 07:20 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 4,257
Hi OaklandLady,

"I enjoy reliving these experiences by writing about them."

I am glad, because I have enjoyed your perspective greatly. I am thrilled that you and John are able to embrace each of your selected cities in such a unique way.

Thank you for sharing with us, I hope you continue writing.

Happy travels and welcome home, T. =D>
Tiff is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 08:58 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,113
Thanks for posting your experiences and perspectives, Oaklandlady. Sounds like you and John had a great trip and it's wonderful that you are both still very active and can enjoy traveling.
Statia is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 09:13 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,759
Do fill us in on Berlin or Glasgow when you get a chance to follow through(the decision reminds me of an old Bob Newhart routine, but I get what you mean-we are currently deciding on Dublin or Brussels).

I really enjoyed the details and agreed with most of your reflections on Venice and on the pace of travelling in general. You are an inspiration to those of us in the early stages of those fabled golden years and a reminder that, at (only) mid-fifties, my husband and I have many great adventures yet to come!
LJ is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 10:36 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 648
Thanks, oaklandlady, love your insights and would like to hear more about what you did in Venice. Can you share which apartment you rented there? It sounds nice.
LAwoman is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 10:44 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 7
way to go oaklandlady. Please give me information about how to contact apartments for rent. keep enjoying life and sometimes come around the Caribbean, Puerto Rico par example
ZORIBANKS is offline  

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