VeniceSeptember 26, 2006
We traveled from Belgium to Venice on RyanAir, which shall hereafter be known as the Greyhound of Europe. Lala mentioned that she knew in her head that it was a plane, but later, when she thought of it, she saw a bus station. It’s true, they herded us like cattle (SO much worse than Southwest) and crammed us in, and made us check our catapults (the nerve!):
But, you know what? It’s cheap and it got us there. We flew into Treviso, and we were still so far away from our destination….. By that time we’d been on a shuttlebus, two planes, two trains, one bus, another plane, and we still had another bus and a boat to look forward to. All in one 35-hour day. Thank god for my nap.
When the bus pulled in at P.leRoma in Venice, it was about ten at night and raining. We got a good little drenching as we walked to the vaporetto (bus-boat) that would take us to our hotel. Lala doesn’t remember this part at all, and was surprised when I told her about it the next day. Venice on a Sunday night is usually rolled up tight. Our food options were limited -- I really didn't want to subject us to a long sit-down dinner, but quick food at that hour can be hard to find. We dropped our bags in the hotel (Hotel Bernardi-Semenzato, my favorite place), and I marched Lala out again. What a trooper she was. We found pizza and beer and took it to sit by the canal near S.Santo Apostoli, an illegal little night picnic, which made it that much nicer.
The rain had stopped, but the canals were still slap-slapping with waves. We ate, and then we made the short walk to the Rialto, where I said hello to my city, and we kissed over the water.
The next morning, after an amazing sleep, we woke to patchy blue skies. I took her immediately out for coffee, because I am a good wife.
I like how that middle picture above makes it very clear that roads are waterways. If you’ve never really thought about it, there are NO cars in Venice. No bicycles. No rollerblades. The only things allowed with wheels are on carts, strollers, and wheelchairs. There are narrow walkways for people, and canals for boats. That’s it. You hear the garbage boats in the morning, honking, and it sounds like being at home, except for that occasional slap of water.
We were at dinner one night, and I asked Lala what she thought of my city. She said she loved it, said all the right things, and then she paused and said, “It was kind of like meeting your best friend, me coming here. Only more important, maybe.”
It was true. Had she not liked it, had she not reacted in exactly the right way, I would have been devastated, I think. Venice means so much to me. I was introducing my two women, and hoping against hope that they got on. They did.
An illustration: in Venice, they drink a local thing called a spritz. It's made with white wine, a splash of soda water, and aperol, an orange, bittersweet alcohol (and sometimes campari, but I prefer the aperol). I told her about it, we ordered it, and the next time we sat somewhere, she suggested it. A small thing, but huge to me.
When I go to Venice, I find myself drawn to people-watching. They ARE the city, in so many ways.
Of course, sometimes the sheer gorgeousness of the city takes over and you have to take the normal tourist pictures like this (click for bigness):
There are dogs everywhere in Venice, even on the crowded vaporetti (this Westie was tucked in the luggage area up front):
From the Accademia, looking east:
And tell me, where would we really be without the gondoliers hawking their gondola rides?
I have never been, and will never be, rich enough to afford a ride like that. They start at about a hundred dollars, and that’s the low rate.
However, if one has the cojones for it, find a traghetto stop, which is the locals-only version of the gondola ride. It takes you across the grand canal, stopping to let taxi-drivers off boatside, if necessary. The locals stand. If you get on first, they’ll take pity on you and let you sit on the only seat.
It’s such a low-draft boat that it rocks quite wildly as the two men push it across the canal, veering between the taxis and heavily-loaded transport boats, dodging buses and other tourist gondolas. Magical and scary.
And we went across on one, for less than a dollar:
Good GOD, I was thrilled.
Some random prettiness.
Mom, recognize our red boat?
The windows could be their own city, really.
And a gent.
I am so happy.
I just liked him:
Big colored glasses are very in among the elderly Venetian ladies, and I think we could all take a tip.
We really did just wander. It was another way that Lala proved herself as magnificent traveling companion, that she was so easily able to adapt to this mode of travel. We’d walk a bit, find a coffee shop, have a coffee, watch people, talk, write, sometimes I’d knit. Nothing better, really.
Tomorrow, another Venice entry in which we encounter Art, meet the Boys, and Knit.