Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1339: Venice in Springtime - 2007
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2007
Trip Description: Martin and I spend a month in Venice each spring - this is a chronicle of our time there.
Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Venice
Categories: Vacation Rentals; Foodie Trip; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 33: Here We Go Again - Martedi 17 April 2007
Venice Flags Flying on the Grand Canal
Paese che vai, usanza che trovi. The country you visit the customs you find.
Our US Air flight from Philadelphia leaves earlier than the Delta flight from JFK does so although we are much closer to Philadelphia, we leave the house earlier than we ever have. In some ways this is good - less time puttering around doing unnecessary chores, saying good bye for the twentieth time, worrying about what we coulda, shoulda, woulda done. In other it is bad: it is a rush to accomplish even normal chores, there are some people to whom I never actually have a chance to say good bye, and we lose an opportunity to see David one more time.
We are just coming out of a Nor’easter which began on Saturday night with what seemed like normal rain. The rain and winds increased over Sunday when we had more rain in one day than we normally have in all of April. The high tides, winds and rain led to serious flooding. Schools and businesses were closed so we did not enjoy our regular Monday afternoon baby sitting session with David. Monday morning, in addition to everything else, we had snow, sleet and freezing rain. When I walked down to pick up the newspapers at the end of our driveway, I was in ankle deep slush; since I was wearing only slippers, it took hours for my feet to warm up.
Sarah had left Sunday morning for a two week business trip in London and fortunately made it out before the worst of the weather hit. A Nor’easter is more common in late autumn and winter and does occur - so I am told - in other parts of the country as well, but it is best known as an East Coast phenomenon in which warm air from the south is blown up the coast by winds moving in a counter clockwise direction; the warm air collides with Arctic air being blown down from Canada in a clockwise direction. The result causes high tides and violent storms. It can be predicted but not diverted. I am rally glad we are not leaving until Tuesday although at times even a Tuesday afternoon departure looks iffy.
Our drive to Philadelphia is a smooth one; there is less flooding to the south than to the north and Monday afternoon and evening were dry and clear so water had a chance to recede, Apparently the backlogged flights were cleared up too, because although the US Air plane to Frankfurt is packed, it leaves on time and arrives early.
Security precautions are high; every one must take of shoes, belts, etc. I have one pair of ancient sneakers that I save for travel, and I usually do not have to take them off, which is the reason I keep wearing them, but today I do. Much better safe than sorry I always say, but there is no place to sit down to put shoes back on. One of the guards points to a group of chairs on one side, and tells me I can sit there, but as I approach them, I am headed off by more security personnel who tell me that is a restricted area. I explain about needed to sit to put my sneakers back on, and, after a brief conference, they kindly bring me chair. All round us there are security people walking giant German Shepherds, and men and women in army fatigues carrying enormous weapons.
The flight is long and boring which is far from the worst thing you can say about a flight. The dinner is disappointing even for airline food although my barbecued beef holds up better than Martin's penne with tomato sauce and cheese which is just plain unpleasant. I give him my mashed potatoes and my cheese.
The seats all have individual screens, but the movies are all old films; if we had not been on an Airbus, but on a plane with a big center screen, we would have been shown Casino Royale - pity - I have been a Bond fan from the earliest days of Ian Flemming, even before JFK was spotted carrying one and a national craze ensued. Neither of us even bother buying head phones.
The seats are extremely uncomfortable; they are hard and far from roomy. Fortunately we are in a pair as opposed to the four across because there are no empty seats to be seen. The one neat feature is that the outside arms of the seats can be raised to make getting in and out of one's space a bit easier.
Breakfast is a cold buttermilk "cake" and the offer of tea, coffee, juice or water - we opt for OJ, but it tastes like sweetened water. I guess squeezing your own does spoil you or anything else.
Martin has requested a wheel chair for me in Frankfurt, because it is a big airport and we have a fairly tight connection. Since we do not land at a jet way, I do have to get down the steps on my own, which is fine. I can walk; I just cannot walk fast and climbing up or down non-working escalators, which has happened to us more than once when a transatlantic flight is arriving in the early morning, is very difficult for me.
The wheelchair guy is very charming. I am loaded onto a bus in the chair, and unloaded at the terminal. He asks if I can manage a moving escalator, and I tell him, my only problem is walking fast - in this case, fast enough to make our connection. He tells me if I can walk up the escalator we can use a motorized cart for most of the trip. At some point, we go through security and have our passports and boarding passes checked. Then we drive for really long time to reach our gate. I tell Martin he is lucky I am not so mobile because I am spotting dozens of very appealing looking shops that I would want to investigate if I were young and fleet of foot.
We come to another escalator which is not working. My guide clears the people who are standing in a group around the top and starts it moving. It turns out that the people at the top of the escalator are waiting to pass through a security line. Even though we have just gone through security, we are wanded and patted down again. Martin has been setting off alarms all day and finally, it is traced to mall "blister" squares of Imodium he had in one of his back pockets. I go up the escalator normal way as does Martin and a wheel chair comes up behind us. After being wanded and patted down again, Martin is required to take off half his clothes - we are taken to a "handicapped" waiting area. There are comfortable seats, clean bathrooms, free coffee, juice and cookies and in one area a darling children's playground.
Shortly before flight time, someone comes to collect me. When I tell him how wonderful the children's room is he laughs and tells me it is too wonderful for some children, and they want to stay. One mother, traveling alone, with two children even asked him to corral one while she grabbed the other.
Although I am wheeled to the gate, I have to walk down a long flight of stairs to reach the bus, and then up a flight into the plane. I am fine except for the top step from the stairway into the plane because it is very high. A member of the flight crew is waiting to help me. I am very impressed with Lufthansa.
The small Lufthansa plane is extremely comfortable. The seats are wide and well padded. Martin and I are seated in different rows, but I know it is a short flight. The only hitch is that there is both a rear and a front entrance to the plane and no one was giving directions so people are entering from both ends. Passengers moving forward from the rear are bumping into travelers going the other way so there are lots of apologies, and people trying to step aside so others can pass wind up blocking others out of their seats albeit temporarily. Amazingly since it is still very early in the morning everyone is cheerful and pleasant.
After we take off, sleep finds me, and I only vaguely hear someone coming down the aisle offering water. I am not even aware there is also a snack, but I am fully awake for the approach to Venice. At Marco Polo, there is no info at all about where to find our luggage, but we do recognize others from our flight so we stand with them and sure enough our bags show up - and promptly too.
We grab a land taxi to Piazzale Roma, and then take an 82 to San Toma. Although we have to stand, the 82 is an espresso so the trip is short. It is a gorgeous day with a bright blue sky and a few fluffy clouds. In Frankfurt the sky had been dark and ominous with heavy dark clouds, but it is bright and beautiful in Venice.
Martin stops for an orario; we still have some ten trip tickets left so we only have to remember to validate them. In May we will buy a monthly pass and that does not need validation for each trip.
We make the trek to our calle without too much trouble. A very kind young man, with a face like an angel, which may be projection on my part, carries two of our suitcases over the bridge for us. When we reach the apartment, Maria and her daughter have just begun cleaning. We collapse on the couches for a while. Maria admires photos of David. I tell her she looks very well and she talks about her new diet. She has lost a lot of weight and I think she is trying to inspire me.
Martin and I decide to leave them to their work and walk up to Ciak's where we celebrate the beautiful day by having lunch outside. We order tremezzini - lettuce, tomato and egg and prosciutto and egg for Martin, and prosciutto and mushroom and porchetta for me and Aperol spritzes. Coming and going we meet several members of the Passi family, who all welcome us back to Venice. We look in on Maria Teresa in Sabbie e Nebbie. The first thing she asks is if I am completely over my cough from last winter - how kind she is to remember this considering how many people she meets in her shop.
We come home to a quiet, clean apartment. We spend some time just sitting and admiring the view before dealing with the unpacking. We notice that all the vaporetto stops and traghetto crossings are decorated with bright red and yellow Venice flags. They look very festive and are a good way to help people locate them. On the 82 we had passed, but not stopped at, the new Rialto Market stop; it will be extremely useful for coming home from shopping with heavy bags of produce, and also for going to dinner at Poste Vecie and other Rialto restaurants.
I unpack my carry on, the other carry on and my huge suit case. Martin naps briefly, but then unpacks his own case and starts to work on our "left in Venice” bag. I suddenly feel a desperate need to lie down and sleep. I shower and crawl under the covers. Martin follows. We sleep about two hours and then wake up, dress and sit and enjoy our spectacular view. It is cool enough now that we close the windows; I hope this weather lasts. The sun was a tad warm at midday but that meant we could happily eat outside; now, even away from the Canal and its afternoon breeze, it should be pleasantly cool.
We walk up to Campo San Polo. Dimitri's shop is open, but a blonde woman whom we do not know is sitting behind the counter. Both Rita and Massimo's mask shop and HairTech Art are closed as they always are on Wednesday afternoons. Mauro waves to us from his Piccolo Bazar, but Gianni's macelleria is locked up tight; he is never open in the afternoons in the first part of the week.
I stop in the lovely jewelry shop just before the bridge that crosses the San Polo Canal. I tell Dona Maria how much Sarah and I have enjoyed the jewelry we bought there last spring. I tell her how a friend's grandson pulled a piece off my necklace and ask if she can repair it. She assures me she can. I also bring her greetings from Sarah who will see her at the end of next week, and I tell her that my niece proclaimed the necklace we bought her for Christmas the best gift she has had "in years."
At the entrance to Campo San Polo we spot our two musician friends. They want us to sit so they can play for us, but Martin is starving and wants to reach the Birraria so we can have dinner. We tell them we will see them soon and make our way across the Campo. Many people are walking their dogs; a few are barking at any and everything but most are extremely well behaved. There is one smooth haired white dog with black around one eye who resembles the RCA mascot, Nipper. He stands without any leash not moving a muscle while dogs cavort all around him.
It turns out to be a wise move not to have waited for a song because shortly after we are seated an enormous group of students marches in; there must be at least 25 or 30 of them. They walk through the restaurant to a back room followed by their teachers.
We place our order quickly and it is brought before the students start receiving their pizzas. Martin orders a Papadopoli - like the gardens near the Piazzale Roma. It has porchetta and mushrooms on it along with the basic mozzarella and tomato sauce. I have my all time favorite pizza, a Meravegie. For 2.35 Euro, they substitute mozzarella di bufala for the regular mozzarella and Pecorino for the Grana cheese making it something that won't rile up my allergy to cow's milk products. The porcini mushrooms are almost buttery, they are so tender, but they bring a wonderful earthy quality to the pizza that goes well with the wild boar salame that is also part of the toppings. The salame is delicious - mildly spicy so each bite perks up my taste buds but not so hot that I lose the flavor of the mushrooms or cheese. I actually eat more of my pizza than Martin does of his, but I have been thinking abut this pizza since last January.
Martin orders a Forst Kronen beer, which he likes because it is so light, but I find it too sour for my taste. I have my favorite Maisel's Weisse, which is light and lemony and still slightly sweet. I love the flavor, the slice of lemon that accompanies it, and even the graceful shape of the glass. We share a bottle of mineral water.
It is such a beautiful mild evening; we sit on a bench in the campo for a while. I phone Tom to make sure the flooding from the Nor’easter has receded and that there has been no more severe weather. He tells me everything is fine where he is; that also covers James and Gerarda since they live just across the Raritan from one another.
We are still entertained by the large numbers of dogs and their walkers. A tiny Yorkshire terrier is barking and jumping at the end of his leash. His person is talking to two friends, one of who has a dog that resembles a Golden Retriever but with a coat that is almost white. That dog is lying calmly on the ground not deigning to notice the noisy little Yorkie. The other dog is a Scottish terrier who seems to be regarding the Yorkie with something like disdain as though he is appalled by such behavior. A little black dog with a red collar is running loose, sniffing his heart out and a chestnut short haired dog is also out enjoying the evening.
When we begin to walk back to our apartment, we pass a couple with a lovely English setter, who are enjoying a drink at the base of the small pump alongside the church. As we cross the San Polo Bridge Martin notices some graffiti on it. Ever since it was renovated four or five years ago it has remained graffiti free, but now the magic has failed and it is no longer safe from black ink desecration.
In our courtyard two residents are conversing from their open windows; it makes me think of Molly Goldberg - yes I am THAT old. The apartment feels warm so we decide to risk mosquitoes and open the windows. The Pisani Moretta is very quiet; we had seen tons of supplies being carried in so we had assumed there would be a party, but now we are not so sure. It turns out to be a party but with a very sedate crowd because beginning around 10:15 large launches pull up and begin carrying guests away. Now we can hear the clean up crews getting busy.
Across the canal the flags of the traghetto station are blowing in the breeze. The framework of the stairs and flag poles makes it looks as though a giant man is signaling in the dark with the two flags. I wish I could get a photo of it but any amount of light would spoil the effect.
Tomorrow our settling in will continue as we stock up on food and say hello to more friends. I miss my little David; NJ seems incredibly far away as I send him mental hugs and kisses, but as much as I miss him, in an odd way I feel as though I have come home.
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