Archive for April 20th, 2012

First full day in Venice

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Awake around 7:00 after 7 solid hours of sleep. We seem to be on Venice time, though still a bit tired and low on brain. I refuse to credit the homeopathic anti-jet-lag pills that our friends Bo and Don recommended (though I did take them), because I don’t believe in homeopathy even if it works.

We were a bit disappointed to find last night that there were no blinds on the windows. This morning I realized: we are in Venice, so there are shutters instead (they are green, of course). Also should have remembered before I did that the pull string in the shower that doesn’t seem to do anything is actually an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” switch that triggers an audio alarm outside. I hope it was only audible in our room but, if not, I’m sure they’re used to it by now.

Breakfast was delivered to the room right at 8:30: coffee, steamed milk, croissants with powdered sugar on the outside and apricot jam on the inside, cute little crusty bread rolls, several kinds of packaged rusks, some packaged cookies (?) that we didn’t open, butter, jam, honey, Nutella. Continental breakfasts are not tidy; we wound up with powdered sugar and bread crumbs everywhere. There was also one small packet of corn flakes (though no bowl). I ate them in my coffee cup, with hot steamed milk, an experience I do not intend to repeat. There was also a largish clear plastic tumbler which is, I think, intended as a trash basket, and sugar in two varieties: “classico” (white) and “tropical” (brown).

After breakfast we wandered in a generally southeasterly direction toward an antiques-and-beads store Kate knew about, with many a diversion along the way. One highlight was the church of Santa Maria Formosa, where the portrait of kindly San Giovanni Bosco had offerings of cactus and amaryllis and plug-into-socket devotional candles (1 euro). At some other altars you could pay 50c to flip the switch on a preinstalled electric candle. S. Maria Formosa also featured an impressively large (adult-sized) baptismal font which we dubbed the “holy hot tub.” Every altar was decorated with many many ornate silver hearts with “GR” and other initials; no one could explain these. Morning snack: panini “club rustico” with speck (ham), mushrooms, cheese. Found a lovely little hidden garden between Piazza San Marco and the lagoon, with grass and trees and benches, an oasis of tranquility just steps from hordes of tourists. Nearby was a hotel(?) with a covered gondola dock and a drawbridge that obviously hadn’t been closed in years. When we did find the antiques shop it was closed, alas.

“Eat the thing with eyes” and “embrace not knowing” are our watchwords.

The famous Piazza San Marco was extremely crowded, with big lines to get into the basilica and campanile, but nonetheless we had to stop in. Then we headed to tucked-away-in-a-back-street Osteria da Carla, recommended by the “TapVenice” app, for lunch: cichetti assortment, pasta with zucchini & scallops, ravioli with pumpkin — yum. After lunch we visited Teatro Fenice (Phoenix), an ornate opera hall that has lived up to its name, having been destroyed several times, most recently by a 1996 fire, and rebuilt each time. The building was impressive, also the original architect’s model from 1790, but the audio tour was interminable, being delivered exceptionally slowly and with repetitious redundancy that repeated itself a lot. We theorized that the English-language audio was made exceptionally clear, so that it might serve for all those whose native languages were not covered, at the cost of brevity for native English speakers. Came out of the theatre to discover we’d missed a downpour (excellent timing!) and decided to head back to the room for a nap, with a brief stop at St. Stephen’s to view the impressive ship-like ceiling.

After our nap we met our tour guide for a private “chicetti crawl” we’d booked online ahead of time. Chicetti is basically Venetian tapas, an assortment of small dishes. We visited four or five different chicetti bars, sampling various small and delicious things on bread and drinking prosecco and “spritz” (a popular Venetian aperitif combining Aperol, white wine, and sparkling water), chatting with our guide about Venetian life and history on the way and finishing up with gelato. Had a bit of difficulty finding our way back to the hotel as the sun set, but being lost is just part of the Venice experience (and it’s an island, how lost can you really get?).