November 17, 2013

Day 37, 38, 39, etc.

Wow, well first off, let me say we are home now. Just wanted to catch up on our last couple of days in Venice and our passage home.

Monday last week (Nov. 11th) is Veterans' Day in the US, Remembrance Day in many places around the world but in Venice it is San Martino Day. For days previous to it we had been seeing horse cookies in all the bakery windows. It seems these cookies are part of the San Martino celebration. Kids dress up in crowns and red capes (we didn't see these) and march up and down the streets banging on pots, singing songs about San Martino, and begging for candy and sweets (think Halloween). With a school or two just down our calle, there was a lot of action on our street.

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Alan bought a couple of the horse cookies. These are the small normal cookie-size ones (yes, one is headless, breakfast!). The larger ones are very elaborate, have San Martino riding on the horse, and are very pricey. Parents will buy these and give them to their children on this day.

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We pretty well stayed close to home the rest of the day, Panini from the bakery for lunch, a Spritz for Alan in the afternoon with his friend Ricardo (the violin maker) and then dinner one more time at da Alberto. We couldn't leave without one more meal there.

Here is a view of the statue in Campo SS Giovanni e Paolo as seen from our door

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We knew everyone would want to share in at least part of our last meal at da Alberto so here is some food porn!

Vongole veraci

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Seppie in nero

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Alan had pappadelle with salmon and manzo with gorgonzola. He was too busy eating to take pictures. We ordered a salad which, thank goodness, she forgot to list. No desserts but Alan did have a glass of gasoline, oops, I meant grappa, of course.

Tuesday was our last full day in Venice. We spent the morning packing (ugh), and then met our friend Christy to give her all our leftover food stuff. The three of us went to Do Mori for wine and cichetti. We had a variety of them (think tapas but even smaller plates). Here is our tiny octopus cicchetti.

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We went over to Christy's apartment to say goodbye to Paul and saw this great old door with an electronic lock next door to their building. It could be a metaphor for Venice which has its feet in several centuries.

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That night we went back to Alla Strega and Alan had one last plate of fegato alla Venezia and I had a great calzone.

Wednesday Sabrina our landlady came over to lock up after we left and we walked over to the Fondementa Nove to catch the Alilaguna to the airport. One last cappuccino and then a short, easy BA flight to London and an overnight at the Hilton Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Just a quick note about our amazing dinner there. We ate at Mr. Todiwala's Kitchen and had some outstanding Indian food. Cyrus Todiwala is a television chef in the UK who has a restaurant in London called Café Spice. We highly recommend his food (from what we had on Wednesday night).

Thursday we got back to flying, went through security at Heathrow where they pulled our camera bag for a "suspicious semi-circle" that no one could ever find again on Xray. Since we were again using frequent flyer miles to fly first class back over the ocean, we were able to go to the Concorde Lounge and have breakfast there. The flight to Toronto was seven hours long and, I must say, I could easily fly first class the rest of my life and enjoy it each time! BA has truly amazing food and service (at least in First Class) and we were very comfortable, Through Canadian customs, picked up our luggage and then through US customs, all at the Toronto Airport. This was the first time we had used our global entry cards and I was done in under two minutes. Alan got an X receipt so had to be checked out by a person but you go to the front of the line, and it didn't take long. Because of flying First Class, we got down to Customs quickly so there wasn't much of a crowd at all yet. We collapsed in the American Lounge and were basket cases by the time we got to Dallas. Terrible, burnt, dried out food on American's First Class. I think the flight attendant better not give up his day job to become a chef. We stayed overnight in the Grand Hyatt and since it is in the same terminal as our landing, we were there quickly. I had prechecked in there on line and we were quickly in our room and asleep. It was a great idea to break up the trip this way since we would not have gotten to Albuquerque until after midnight and still would have had to drive home.

Much refreshed, we flew out of Dallas to Albuquerque at noon on Friday (no First Class here), stopped for lunch and were home by 4. It is now Sunday evening, bags are unpacked, mail is sorted and gone through, phone calls are returned. Now if we can just get over the jet lag quickly we are all set. We are already making plans for another month in Venice in the fall of 2015. See you there!

November 10, 2013

Day 35 and 36

Quiet days, spent winding down and wandering. Yesterday we spent the morning shopping, then came back to the apartment for lunch. We actually caught the vaporetto back instead of walking. Here are two pictures from the platform of the San Samuele vaporetto.

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After our afternoon rest (are we becoming Italians or what?), we went to Palazzo Ca' D'Oro. After staying in Cannaregio three times in the last five years and having Ca' D'Oro as our closest vaporetto stop, we finally decided to go into the Palazzo. It has a very long history and has finally become an art gallery. There are no pictures of the art collection but I was able to take pictures downstairs on the ground floor.

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The art revolves around Venetian artists and there was also a special exhibit on "Treasures of the Ghetto" which were newly discovered Jewish artifacts that had been hidden from the Nazis during World War II. After leaving there we forced ourselves to stop for gelato at the Ca' D'Oro Gelateria. Then home and later dinner of fresh made spinach and ricotta ravioli that Alan had picked up in the morning at the bakery. Are we getting spoiled or what?

Up at the crack of 9 today and since the bakery around the corner is closed on Sunday, I had to cross the canal and go to Rosa Selva to get pastries for this morning. I didn't think BJ was awake yet, so I had a cup of coffee while I was there. We managed to get out of the apartment by 11:30 and decided to explore Western Dorsoduro. In order to get there we headed for Campo Santa Margherita and just happened to pass by Tonolo. We resisted the pastries but did get a couple of cappuchinos, my first of the trip. By the time we got to Santa Margherita we were hungry and it was about 12:30 so we got a piece of pizza and then needed a gelato which we got from Il Doge. We passed by the Scuola Grande dei Carmini, which was open and went inside. The ground floor has monochrome paintings which are beautiful, but the salone had ceiling paintings by Giambattista Tiepolo. These are exquisite and well worth the visit. Then we headed west into the much less visited part of Dorsoduro. We passed by the church of Angelo Raffaele (Archangel Raphael) which was closed and San Nicolo dei Mendicoli which was closed.

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It was raining and getting cold, so we headed back the long way and eventually got home to rest a little and have leftovers for dinner. We only have 2 more days in Venice and so we are trying to empty out the refrigerator. I suspect we will still manage to have two more good meals at restaurants.

November 9, 2013

Day 34--Quiet campo

Yesterday we were going to meet Christy (JustTravel) to go and get some bubble wrap and then go see her apartment and visit with her husband Paul. We left the apartment just before lunch and stopped for Panini and coffee at a bar that apparently is a meeting place at lunch for many regulars. I am not sure how people work in the afternoon after wine and spritzes for lunch but maybe that is one reason why lots of shops and businesses are closed from noon to 3:30 or 4.

We decided since we had time, we would go look for a shop I was interested in exploring. Venice is a city of streets and alleys strung together (and I use the term very loosely) by campos. The campos usually exist because there is a church there but sometimes they are just courtyards with buildings surrounding them. A lot of times you rush through a campo intent on getting to your destination. One such campo is Campo San Anzolo. We have gone through it several times but this time stopped to look around. Here is some of what we found.

The Courtyard at one of the Venice Civic offices (we think, we can't remember exactly which agency it is but it is definitely either city or province).

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The rest are also from around the campo. We do not know any of the people who might be in these.

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The store was closed for lunch so we went back to where we were going to meet Christy listening to a street band of two violins, two accordians and a table play Pachelbel. We got the bubble wrap (mille grazie, Michelangelo) and then went to their very nice apartment (after gelato, of course). On the way past, we noted that the band had switched to tangos, so I threw some coins in the violin case in honor of their not playing the Four Seasons or more Pachelbel. (Taco Bell Canyon) We had a great visit with Christy and Paul and then came back to our apartment to cook dried porcini and Gorgonzola risotto and roasted veggies.

This morning I was woken up by hammering once again from downstairs. Maybe we can get out of the apartment earlier because of it. Gotta look at the bright side. At least no more jack hammers so far.

November 8, 2013

Day 33--Giudecca, the Ghetto and Nan

Yesterday turned out to be another beautiful day so we decided to take the vaporetto to Giudecca and walk around there. Guidecca is a small island across the lagoon from Venice and is considered part of the city itself. We were on the vap and decided to get off at San Giorgio Maggiore a beautiful Palladio church on a tiny island next to Giudecca. Last visit during the Biennae there was an amazing column of smoke inside the church itself rising all the way to the top of the dome. This time, as you can see, not quite so thrilling. This is an inflatable, 11 meter tall copy of a work by Marc Quinn. Apparently there are a lot of other pieces by him around the island but we discovered the vap we were on did not stop there so we couldn't get off to see them.

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We got off at Le Zitelle which was closed but were able to see a really interesting exhibit at Tre Oci about Karabakh which is an area east of Armenia and north of Iran. It's a photo show about the people who live there and the area. Really well done. Here are some pictures from our time on Giudecca.

Le Zitelle Church

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La Pieta from Giudecca

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San Marco from Giudecca

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La Salute from Giudecca

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Zattere from Giudecca

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Side street on Giudecca

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Side canal on Giudecca

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Almost everything we saw on the island was closed down, probably for the winter, so we decided to take a vaporetto back over to Venice and go to the old Jewish ghetto. One of our favorite restaurants there is called GamGam and it is a kosher restaurant featuring Israeli food. We had their fried artichokes (totally unlike the ones in Rome), and there special appetizer plate with great falafel and one of the hottest harissa sauces I have ever had.

We were planning on meeting Nan for dinner at 8 so walked back from the ghetto area to our apartment. We pass this church when we go that way and it is just an interesting looking place. We have never been inside and don't know the two women in the picture but thought we would share this piece of architecture.

Santa Maria Maddalena Church

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Nan has lived in Venice now for nine years and she knows lots of little tucked away restaurants. Last night she met us at Osteria alla Frasca which is in Cannaregio, way off the beaten track. It was outstanding food and the guys who run it are great. We were there until after 11 and the three of us had great food, great wine and great company. Okay, enough said--here comes the food porn!

Octopus Salad

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Shrimp and artichoke appetizer

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Pasta with shell fish

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Branzino

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Grilled seppie with fruit and balsamic vinegar

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Grilled mixed seafood

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We also had three desserts--tiramisu, panna cotta with berries and crème brule but there are no pictures to show you. We ate them too quickly!

November 7, 2013

Day 32--More acqua alta and Burano

Another day, another acqua alta. We left the apartment before the tide peaked and, as it was again a stunningly beautiful day, we decided that we would indeed go to Burano. Burano, for those who do not know, is a small island about 40 minutes by vaporetto across the lagoon. It is known for both its amazing lace work and for its very colorful houses. We love to go over there, walk around on the back streets and have lunch, preferably at Trattoria Al Gatto Nero.

The vaporetto stop to Burano is just about 5 or 6 minutes from our apartment and when we got there, there was a huge crowd of people. Many got off at Murano, another island, but an entire Grand Circle Tour got on there. By the time we got to Burano, acqua alta had arrived so we ducked around a back way and quite honestly, never saw that tour again. While on Burano we also found the vegetable market and got some gorgeous fresh vegetables for dinner. Today's pictures will be from our day in Burano.

On the way to Burano, in the background is Venice.

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Still on the way

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Views of Burano

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Autumn on Burano

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The colors of Burano are all on this one paint ladder

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Taking a wrong turn on Burano is just as interesting as in Venice

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And finally, of course, we have our food porn. We did eat at Gatto Nero and it was every bit as good as we remembered. We started off sharing a plate and two different kinds of scallops complete with coral and razor clams. We were much more concerned at this point with eating than photography. Halfway through the rest of our meal, Alan took pictures. Here is what was left of my seppie alla Veneziana after I ate the entire first cuttlefish

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and here is Alan's frutti di mare with spaghetti. It had more seafood in it than he could almost eat, but he succeeded and also finished my dish.

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We had also ordered a salad but, very luckily, the waiter forgot to write it down. After coffee we walked back to the vaporetto stop and came home. We were going to cook last night but very wisely finished off the chicken soup instead!

November 6, 2013

Day 31--Acqua Alta and San Marco

Just a quick update to everyone who ha been so kind about our friend Noelle's broken arm. She is back in Cambridge, UK where she lives and has been to the Fracture Clinic there. They will be operating on her arm on Thursday morning to stabilize it with either plates, pins or wires. Think good thoughts for her then, please.

Yesterday we decided to go looking in San Marco sestiere for the Santa Maria Novella Soap store to get some olive oil soap. Just before we left our friend Christy (JustTravel) posted on Facebook that she had heard the acqua alta sirens. I didn't hear them but probably wouldn't know them if I did. We set out across Campo SS Giovanni e Paola and saw that the water was very high in the rio in front of our apartment.

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When we turned up the first street off the campo, we realized the water was covering the street and we were going nowhere. Back to the campo, a quick stop at Rosa Salva for tramezzine (crustless, white bread half-sandwiches stuffed with various fillings). One was prosciutto and hard cooked eggs and a second of pickled vegetables, anchovies and hard cooked eggs--surprisingly good! We went back to the apartment, heated up the chicken soup, and had that and the sandwiches and waited for the tide to go out.

A couple of hours later we were able to move about with no water problems so we headed towards a part of San Marco we were not familiar with. As we have said before, one of the best things about Venice is getting lost in little streets and deadends. You never know what you will see. Here is a sign above a home on a street that we made a wrong turn into. It says that George Sand stayed at this house in the summer of 1834.

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Around the corner from the George Sand sign was this interesting doorway to a beauty parlor.

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It was a beautiful day to turn corners and find lovely canals

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and see bright colors

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We found the soap shop near San Samuele and bought some soap and Alan also stopped in a wine shop and bought his Nardini Reserved Grappa. Crossing the Grand Canal on the Accademia Bridge gave us another chance to see this magnificent view. We never tire of it.

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Since we were now in Dorsodoro, we went back to another wine shop and picked up a bottle of red wine that Alan had especially liked when we were at La Cantina. More wandering around the area and then we headed back toward the Rialto Bridge. We were passing San Pantolon Church when we noticed it was open. We had tried to go there several times before on previous stays in Venice so took the opportunity to go in. Wow does not cover the ceiling of this church. It is an amazing feat done by Gian Antonio Fumiani. It feels like you are being drawn into several simultaneous scenes and the perspective is amazing. Of course, no pictures allowed so you have got to see this church on your own!

As we got toward the Rialto Bridge, we came across a sausage and pasta shop with this window.

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It was so clever, we had to go into it and came out with dinner to make at the apartment--fresh made ravioli filled with porcini mushrooms, pesto sauce and marinated artichokes. Speaking of porcinis, we also found the spice shop behind the Rialto Market and they had loose, dried porcini mushrooms, so we bought some to make a porcini and Roquefort cheese risotto in the next day or two.

The ravioli and the artichokes were both great and after a day of wandering it was nice to be home. Tomorrow, if it is as nice as today, we will go to Burano.

November 4, 2013

Day 30--A Rainy Day

Today started out sunny but with a chance for some acqua alta. Since we are on a main street, the walkways went up as it was expected, if it happened, at high tide around 10:30 or 11. No acqua alta, but the toddlers had great fun walking up and down the street on it.

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Since it was Monday, many restaurants are closed (no fishing on Sunday) so we set out to find a place for lunch. One place we looked was totally empty so we skipped it, another couldn't seat us for 30 minutes, and the 3rd, 'Ai Osti, had a very limited menu. We had eaten there in 2011 so stayed there. They offered penne with ragu or penne with tuna (canned). We got one of each and they were both very tasty. Don't know how they take canned tuna and turn it into something really good, but someone has that talent.

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By the time we got to the Strata Nova (about 15 steps), the rain had started in earnest, and out came the umbrellas we actually remembered to bring.

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We had arranged with Christy (JustTravel on SlowTrav) to meet in Campo San Luca to go to her friends' glass shop, so we ambled over there, stopping into San Giovanni Grisostomo church which is a small, dark church with a lovely Bellini. Throughout Venice there are treasures like this and that is one of the things we love so much about the city. One of the "rules" one should know about wandering Venice is always look up.

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Another "rule" is to watch for really cool graffiti!

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We met Christy who gave us some great oatmeal cookies and went to the glass store of her friends. What a delightful couple and what a great store. I will have to get the name of the store from Christy as I can't find their card.

We then went for a drink with her (prosecco for Christy and Alan, an aperol spritz for me--I think I am addicted to them). After leaving Christy, we walked home in the rain. Suddenly Alan stopped and said "I have to get a picture of this." Having no idea what he was looking at (small, dark street with closed doors), I had to wait to see the picture. I hope all of you who are fellow 4th grade boys enjoy this as much as Alan did! My (Alan) best translation of this sign is that it is an advertisement for a service contract for maintenance of your gas appliances. "It is better to trust yourself to the ones who know better."

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Leftover chicken soup on this rainy evening sounds just right, followed by Christy's cookies. Maybe some sun tomorrow?

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