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Report 1085: Venice For Five Weeks

By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2006

Trip Description: Ruth and Martin spend five weeks living in Venice during part of April and May.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Venice

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 34: Lunedi 17 Aprile 2006 Off To A Flying Start

photo by Ruth Edenbaum

April 17 Statue on Deconsecrated Church of San Toma

What for once would have been a comparatively organized departure is blown sky high when our son, Tom, calls to tell us that the car in which his son, his wife, her parent, and an aunt were riding has been rear ended at a red light by a large truck. All he knows is that the car was too damaged to drive, but that they were all right enough to continue the trip to the pediatrician's office which is where they were headed originally.

We offer to delay our departure, but Tom tells us the situation does not seem to be that serious. By the time we are ready to leave the house, the biggest problem seems to be the slow moving ER. When we board the plane at 5:30, the hospital staff has not seen everyone yet, but Tom is with them and feels that we should go. David, who has a virus which is why they were going to the pediatrician to begin with, is still running a fever, but is absolutely unharmed by the accident as are Lorena's father and aunt. Her mother will need a neck brace and Lorena who the doctors have not thoroughly checked yet, but the consensus is they will be stiff and sore, but are very lucky.

With some trepidation, we board the plane, and even try one more call before the order to shut off cell phones comes through, but the signal is not strong enough. For the first time, we are flying US Air out of Philadelphia instead of taking the Delta Direct to Venice flight from JFK. US Air has a wonderful new terminal at Philadelphia, and it is a good hour closer to home than JFK, but the hitch is the US Air Direct To Venice flight does not start until May so going over we have to change planes in Amsterdam, and we barely have an hour to make the connection, which is not a lot of leeway.

Instead of our preferred two seats on the side, we are in a threesome in the center. Martin gallantly offers to take the middle. I am very uncomfortable in the middle in part because I am slightly claustrophobic and because I am heavy. As soon as I know I cannot get up without disturbing someone, I feel unbearably trapped.

Our plane is carrying a large contingent of young Dutch soccer players, and though not badly behaved they are rowdier than most passengers. By contrast, the infant and little girl we saw when they were carried past our seats do not make a sound during the flight.

Airline cutbacks are obvious. They offer us no before dinner drink - not even soda or juice, nor are there any little packets of overly salted snacks. There are two meal choices - pasta with tomato sauce and cheese or barbecued beef. Martin takes the pasta which he says is filling; I try the beef which is edible if not wonderful. Both dishes come with cole slaw - an unusual but not a bad choice since the usual green salads are often wilted and/or tasteless and the dressing containers can be tricky to open. They have retained the plastic cheese and cardboard bread, two more items I'd put on any cutback list. The best part of the whole meal is the dessert - a plastic bag filled with fresh apple slices and a tiny container of warm caramel for dipping.

We have both chosen to pass on the $5.00 headsets that are required if one wants to watch the film, and after dinner we try to sleep with more success than usual. Although there is not a lot of leg room in coach, the seats themselves seem roomier and more comfortable than those on most airlines.

On Delta, flights we are usually offered water periodically during the trip; this does not happen on US Air, but there is a spigot with drinkable water next to the lavatory and there are paper cups inside each lavatory.

By the time they bring us our breakfast, a single sweet warm roll and coffee that is closer to hot water than the beverage we are used to drinking, I have managed to finish the 360-page book I had brought along as cabin fodder.

We descend to a gray rainy Schiphol Airport where we have hopes of connecting with a former AFS student for a brief reunion. Although the flight is not late, by the time we disembark, there is not a lot of time to reach our gate for the flight for Venice, which is as far away from our arrival gate as it can possibly be.

A pleasant surprise awaits us. An utterly delightful young man takes us to our KLM Venice flight on one of those mobile carts. First, he brings us to the check in counters and then drives us all the way to the gate. Even though our plane landed more or less on time, I never could have made that distance on foot quickly enough, and even Martin feels that he would have trouble covering all that distance in the allotted time.

Unfortunately, our hopes of meeting the former exchange student at the airport are dashed. Milana, was originally from Sarajevo; when the war there began, she escaped with her mother and sister to Croatia and then to The Netherlands where she eventually was joined by her boyfriend. They were given refugee status, and are now married and live in Helmond. Milana had said she would come to the airport to see us; it would be our first meeting in six or seven years.

Sadly, there is not enough time for us to try to find her. With our official escort's help, we are able to go through the crew security line and arrive at the gate with time to get our seat assignments. Had we struck off on our own we would have lost our riding cart and guide, and been in big trouble time wise. What a shame; I had been looking forward to seeing Milana and her two little boys, only one of whom we have met. Once we buy more phone time, I will have to try to call her. There is a later flight, but now there are no seats available on that one; the one we are on is also fully booked.

While we are waiting to board, I see an American man talking to a nun in a gray habit. He has asked whether she is on vacation but does not understand her reply which is in Italian. I butt in and learn she is on vacation and has traveled from Quito, Ecuador. We are both very impressed with the distance she has come. The friendly man is from Michigan, which means he has already had a few hours more travel time than we did. A few minutes later, when we board we find we are sitting in the emergency exit Row. Martin, who is considerably sprier than I am and is an engineer, probably could manage to open the door in an emergency. I am an anti-engineer, heavy, and slow moving. It is ludicrous to have me in this row, and the flight attendants agree, and tell us to take seats in the row behind it.

The man who has the third seat in our original row is very friendly. He points out his parents who are our age or older; they too had originally been placed in the emergency exit row on the other side of the aisle. Happily, the young couple whose seats we are in are very willing to take ours. A tall handsome man who goes to sleep almost as soon as he sits down takes the empty seat between Martin and I; Martin and I follow suit. I can hear the voices of the Japanese family across the aisle talking nonstop for the entire trip; since I cannot understand what they are saying it makes for a pleasant sort of white noise.

The attendants bring us sandwiches - a choice of cheese and tomato or salami. I take the salami and although it is more salt than I should be eating, it is quite a good snack - salami, prosciutto, tomato and lettuce. Martin and our seatmate take the cheese and say they like the slightly spicy mayo that is on it.

The flight is short, and before long, we are descending to Marco Polo where we land with a thump that is hard enough to awaken any one who was still sleeping. We file off the plane, and since we have already been admitted to the EU in the Netherlands, there is no passport check. Although we have found the non-direct flight tiring, and somewhat frustrating since we did not get to meet or friend, there is one advantage. The plane from the Netherlands to Marco Polo is much smaller than a transoceanic airplane, and it takes no time at all to retrieve our luggage.

We head for the nearest exit and take a land taxi to the Piazzale Roma where we use some ten-trip tickets left over from an earlier trip for the vaporetto. These are available with an abbonamento card and cost less than a 1/3 of what a regular single ride vaporetto ticket costs.

We walk down to the #1 since we have just missed an 82. We discover that the location of the Linea Uno platform has been switched with the location for 42, 52, and DM line so we must schlep our luggage all the way down the fondamente, but we still manage to make the Numero Uno that has pulled in. Martin stands wit the luggage, and I walk back through the cabin and sit outside. It is warm and gray, and the light is not conducive to photography although that does not stop everyone else from snapping away. Almost everyone has digital cameras now; I must be one of the last 35 mm film holdouts. As we pass Ferrovia, I see there are three large elephant statues in front of the station. Each one has a different colored inverted cone on its back. This will definitely require some exploring and a photograph or two, but not today.

After the vaporetto leaves San Silvestro, I walk up front so I will be ready to disembark at San Toma. At San Angelo, we begin to move our luggage into place so we can get it off easily. A very kind woman and the conductor help me get my bag and myself onto the dock.

We start the trek to the apartment - up the calle - across the Campo San Toma, across the Campiello San Toma, over the bridge, and finally down our long calle. Maria, who is supposed to be there to meet us, does not answer the bell, but the gate is open, and so is the door to the building. Once inside the building, we are able to enter the apartment, and although it is tidy, it is obvious it has not been cleaned since the last guests stayed there. The beds are unmade, and there are no clean linens or towels; everything is slightly dusty and slightly rumpled.

Before Martin can dig out the telefonino to call anyone, Maria arrives; she is apologetic about being late, telephones another woman, and asks her to come over and help her. We sit for a while, and then leave so we will be out of their way; we go up to Ciak's for a coffee.

Even though it is after 1:00 there is still a kiefer left so, we share that and a blueberry pastry. They ask us if we are American or Canadian. We tell them American and then try to find out why one of them has always thought we are Canadian. I offer several suggestions which they find funny, but they reach no conclusions. We walk back home, and decide it is late enough in the US to call Tom. He tells us everyone is okay from the accident although they are stiff and sore and shaken up, but there is no serious injury. We learn the truck that hit them was a big model with failing brakes. They were very lucky - we all were.

I tackle the unpacking. I get my suitcase, the odds and end case, and my big carry on emptied while Martin dozes. Then he wakes up and does the rest including the left in Venice bag while I shower. Then he showers and we take a lovely lazy two-hour nap.

I never understand why people try to resist arrival day naps. Two hours gives us enough energy for the rest of the afternoon, dinner and a normal - for us around 12:00-12:30 bed time; if we did not take a nap, we would be falling asleep at 8:00 and waking up at 3 or 4 AM with no place to go and nothing to do.

We spend a bit more time getting organized; Martin is trying to figure out why one of our cell phones is not working. I call Antica Birraria and make an 8:00 reservation for dinner. We are both hungry, but are not up for a fancy meal with lots of wine. At 8:00, we walk over to Campo San Polo. They seat us way in the back in a sort of L-shaped arm that comes off the long front room. For the first time we see there is another large square room behind and slightly parallel to the long one.

Even before perusing the menu I know what I want, nothing I see changes my mind. I have the arugula and pecorino antipasto. The plate is piled with fresh spicy arugula, which has been topped with lots of thinly sliced aged Pecorino, which has been drizzled with honey. It is accompanied by an aged balsamic and some bread. Martin begins with the Cannelloni Sorrento, a wonderfully rich dish in which the pasta is filled with ground meat and covered with a creamy cheese sauce. A circle of shredded radicchio is a simple way of making eye-pleasing plate. For my secondo, I have what is listed as a primo, the bigoli amatriciana with balsamico and Pecorino. Martin has the piccata limone which is made with pork fillets. He enjoys it, and I love my bigoli, which I have been thinking about since last January. The bigoli and the arugula with Pecorino and honey are both on my favorites list. We pass on dessert and walk back our apartment.

Antica Birraria is a neat place; they have excellent pizzas and some interesting and unusual dishes on the regular menu. Being an old brewery, they feature several beers on tap; we sampled some last winter, but tonight we stick with water. We have observed many families with children eating here, but we also see lots of young adults and older diners like us too. It is a very comfortable place, and I am glad we decided to try it last winter after many years of walking by it.

The night is warm, but we walk slowly; I am stiff from the flights and from the sudden influx of salt into my diet. I am so happy to be here especially now that I know Tom, David, Lorena and her family will be okay. As we settle in for our first night, I am content to be sitting near the window and watching the lights on the rippling dark water. The only things this place lacks is a hot tub and our cats - then it would really be home.

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