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Report 1486: Winter in Venice

By Boleskine from NJ, Winter 2007

Trip Description: Ruth and her husband Martin spend two months a year in Venice, between December and January and again in the spring. This is a journal of their December 2007 - January 2008 trip.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Venice

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

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Page 1 of 29: Tuesday 11 & Wednesday 12 Dicembre 2007 Partendo ed Arrivando

Our departure never quite goes as we planned, but somehow we always do go. This time Martin and I both have caught a virus from David which was exacerbated by our shared allergy to molds. At this time of year, the streets are lined with piles of fallen leaves which have been repeatedly rained upon and then "parboiled" by unseasonably warm weather, frozen by unseasonably cold weather, and then wet again by more rain. The mold count in the air must be astronomical, and it makes us ripe for any germs that happen to waft our way.

On Sunday we both felt so awful we were contemplating calling Delta to see if we could reschedule our flight for later in the week, but we were sufficiently improved on Monday to overload our suitcases with a few articles of clothing and a lot of other paraphernalia that I deem necessary to life anywhere.

We miss a chance to see Gerarda on Sunday, but we do see James who brings me an exquisite silk scarf from Gerarda as a birthday gift. A friend of Gerarda makes them using Hebrew letters from prayers such as the Shema as a motif. The idea is taken from the Cabalistic sages who used to write divine names on their robes so as to be "enfolded in the vibration and splendor of the name." The scarves come with instructions for special care of both a spiritual and physical nature, and a suggested Kavannah (Intention) for Meditation. The scarves are both unique and exquisite, and I am sad I will not be able to thank Gerarda in person until sometime in January; however, we all agree that G. should not risk coming near us since because a member of her family is facing major surgery, and we do not want to risk passing on any germs.

We also miss a long planned dinner with Sarah and Brian at the restaurant David Drake has opened in the big new Heldridge Hotel in New Brunswick. It is a wine bar offering primarily small plates with tastings of wine for each, and we had been eagerly awaiting our first visit, but it will have to wait until January. There's no point dining on goodies prepared by one of the best chef's in New Jersey if you cannot taste anything you eat.

Finally, we lose a chance to spend most of Monday, baby sitting for David, but Tom, Lorena and David are flying to Colombia for Christmas the day after we leave for Venice, and we are all afraid of re-infecting David who seems prone to respiratory ailments in the fall. All these changes do give us a bit less stress about getting packed and organized, and even an early morning visit to the dentist on Tuesday to replace a crown can be slipped into our schedule without too much trauma.

We are locked and loaded and ready to go when Sharon comes to collect us. Alex, our trusty house sitter, has arrived before our departure, as promised, so Mischa and Grischa, our kitties, will not feel totally abandoned, and we pull out of our driveway right on schedule.

We make it to JFK in a reasonable amount of time considering that in addition to the NJ Turnpike, and Satan's Highway (AKA The Belt Parkway) we have to cross two bridges. The Delta Terminal is as insanely busy as it always is, but we are lucky in finding an agent with no one in her line so we check in unusually quickly. The next step is to schlep our checked baggage to the security check in point, and then we get to stand in a long line for our personal security check.

The line moves slowly but we catch a break when a Delta employee calls for anyone taking a flight to Mexico to come with him. It is getting close to the departure time for that plane, and he tells them he will take them a different route that will save time. Several people ahead of us go with him. A few minutes later a similar request is made for people flying to Budapest, but the only people to step out of line are in back of us.

Eventually we reach the check point and have to take off our shoes, coats, scarves, jackets, etc., All these items along with purses, lap tops, carryon baggage, etc., must be placed in individual bins to go through the machine. The problem is there are virtually no empty containers so everyone is starting to pile all their belongings in just one. This doesn't work for the screeners, and someone does bring more gray plastic bins that are quickly grabbed up and put to use.

At JFK there is actually a wide sturdy bench on which alte cockers like us can sit to put our shoes back on, which is a really good idea. Martin is not sure if he has picked up his cell phone, but when he goes back to check, the screener tells him, she saw it in his jacket pocket and sure enough it is there. Now that, amid all the stories of guns and knives being smuggled past screeners in "tests" is impressive.

We start the trek to our gate, but owing to the creative numbering system used, gates 1, 2 and 3 are right near the security check; but the numbers 4-15, go in reverse order so we are actually as far away from out gate as we could possibly be. The more I walk the more I cough so Martin asks if it is possible to get a wheel chair. They do send one so after a short wait, I get to ride in style the length of the terminal.

Our long boring wait is made more interesting when they suddenly post a change in our departure gate. After I notice the info on a screen, we ask at the desk only to have it first contradicted and a minute later corroborated. We head down to gate 7. A minute or two later an announcement is made, and hordes of people appear to join us at gate 7. Boarding begins soon thereafter right on schedule.

We push back from the gate more than half an hour late, and then join the long queue wending its way around the airport waiting for our take off slot. We are in the air 2 1/2 hours "in ritardo"; not great, but not in the horror story category either.

The seat belt sign is on for a really long time, and it is nearly 10:00 before we get dinner. I am really starved because lunch was a bowl of Cheerios at about 12:30. Martin's pasta dish is not bad; it is, he says, pretty ordinary for an airplane. Nowadays that is a compliment. He does like the Gouda style cheese. My chicken Chipotle is actually pretty good. The mashed sweet potatoes and corn are a little heavy on the carbs, but the flavors are a good combo, and I am pleased with my choice, The salad is made with bits of greens, radishes and really fresh crunchy cucumber. Dessert is a big, fudge-marbled brownie, which I should not but do eat. I figure I'll take some Benadryl and it will help me sleep. I am not sure if the meals was actually better than average or if it is simply a case of hunger being the best seasoning.

Neither of us enjoy watching movies on the plane so we try to sleep; it is a long and not very comfortable ride, but finally the sky outside the window is light, and we are brought a dismal breakfast. A microwave warmed croissant, a banana (which despite its great worldwide popularity is not popular in our house), a cinnamon granola bar (cinnamon is one of my worst allergies) and a little cup of Orange Juice. I am accustomed to freshly squeezed OJ, but am so thirsty I do not quibble about its being tasteless. Since I normally drink only espresso, the coffee tastes like hot water. It does nothing for either my body or my spirit.

We circle for a long time and are repeatedly warned that heavy fog will mean a very bumpy descent and landing; instead, when the time finally comes we float gently out of the sky and touch down with only the tiniest bounce.

We pay the penalty of having dutifully checked in early at JFK, by being among the last to receive our luggage, but I am able to sit with our carry on, and Martin says that after sitting for more than 10 hours, he likes being on his feet for a while so he does not mind standing and waiting at the luggage carousel.

Once we have cleared customs, we call Francesco, and he asks us to call him again from the Piazzale Roma. We take a land taxi, and it is nearly 34 considerably more than it cost last spring, but still a bargain compared to the water taxi. We buy our monthly vaporetto passes, and look up to see we have just missed an 82. The next 82 is a Limitato ending at the Rialto and then turning around which is no good for us, and it is also packed so we should walk down and take the Linea Uno which is just pulling in. Since it begins its run at Piazzale Roma we should have no problem finding an outdoor seat for me.

From my favorite stern seats, I call Francesco who tells us he will be waiting at San Toma. It is gray and a little raw, but I enjoy sitting and gliding along the Grand Canal watching the different palazzos as we go by them. After San Silvestro, I walk up front to Martin who has been standing with the luggage. Sometimes a crowd of lunch bound passengers board at San Angelo; they are using the vaporetto like a traghetto to cross the canal, and I want to make sure I am properly positioned next to Martin and the luggage, but today only a few people get on, and it is no problem disembarking once the vaporetto has crossed the canal.

I see Francesco waiting for us and am more than happy to hand my suitcase over to him. Actually Martin gives him the biggest suitcase, and Martin takes the other two. We walk through the familiar calles and campos to our apartment. Once we are settled Francesco leaves promising to come back tomorrow to finish repairing the washing machine.

A few minutes later there is a knock on the door and it is Lucia, who is the housekeeper. She gets us some extra towels, finds out what day we want her to clean and when we need the second bedroom made up. I am certainly glad I can manage a little Italian because Lucia does not speak a lot of English, but I think we understand one another; I certainly hope we do.

As tempting as it is to collapse on the couches, it is now nearly 2:00, and we decide to walk up to Ciak's for an espresso and sandwich before coming home and crashing. I, the ever vigilant granny, check out the windows of the Stork's Nest each time we pass it. If the new baby is a girl I will really be able to go wild as this shop must show three times the amount of clothing for little girls as it does for little boys.

Entering Ciak's, we are happy to see a lot of familiar faces, all of whom are smiling at us. Martin settles on a club sandwich, which is served in the traditional quartered triangles using three slices of white toast; it contains, bacon, egg, cheese, lettuce and tomato, and he really enjoys it. I have roast beef, lettuce and tomato on a nice grilled bread. We are tempted to have a second espresso, but we stop at one - at least for today. Andrea generously makes the espresso a "ben tornato" treat.

Back home, Martin naps while I unpack; then I lie down to read, and vaguely hear him get up to do his own unpacking. I am awakened by painful cramps in my calves and thighs. It takes a huge amount of effort to move my body into a cramp free position but I finally do, and then lie there and cough while I drift in and out of sleep.

We both shower and put on clean clothes. It really feels good to get out of the stuff we've been wearing since yesterday. I call Tom and learn that the three of them are in the car on the way to the airport. After this I will have to wait for them to get in touch with me because their cell phones do not work in Colombia.

We notice the toilet seat and lid are broken AGAIN! We call Francesco, who stops by to look at them and promises to arrange for their repair and/or replacement. The seat seems to break a lot; Martin thinks the toilet itself may be an odd size because none of the seats ever seem to fit on it exactly right.

We walk up to Campo San Polo to the Birraria for dinner. On the way we meet Maria Teresa who is just leaving a friend's shop. She gives us a warm welcome; her smile brightens up the December darkness. We notice that most of the stores seem to have stayed the same which is always satisfying. The macelleria looks more closed than it usually does with white paper covering the counters, but store hours are still posted. We would both hate to see the macelleria close; we always enjoying chatting with Gianni, and his meat is always excellent.

We cross the Campo San Polo, the second largest in Venice and enter the Antica Birraria. Martin orders the bigoli with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella di bufala, and the veal scallops with a Barolo sauce. I go for my favorite pizza the Meravegie with mozzarella di bufala and Pecorino Romano cheese substituted for the cow's milk cheeses. Martin has finished his dinner by the time my pizza comes. The menu does warn that since they are separate kitchens the timing between the pizza and other foods may not be exact, but this is one of the more extreme time differences we have seen. Still Martin enjoyed his food, it is an excellent pizza and we are in no rush. We walk back to the apartment slowly, enjoying the boat and water sounds, and the knowledge that for another four weeks, this will be our "home."

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