Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 340: 30+ Days in Venice
By Boleskine from NJ, Winter 2003
Trip Description: Ruth, and her husband, Martin, rent the same apartment for four - five weeks in Venice each year. This report chronicles their days on their 2003-2004 Winter Trip.
Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Venice
Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Day Tours; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 33: 12/12/03 Departure Day
I apologize in advance for this lengthy and probably boring trip report. I am sure most of you are sick to death of my rambles about Venice, but at a recent doctor's appointment he told me he has noticed my blood pressure drops 15-20 points whenever I talk about Venice so he recommends I talk about Venice often so I am just following doctor's orders. Here we go!
Departure day has finally arrived. What seemed an eternity to wait in May has morphed into nowhere near enough time to be ready seemingly overnight. The dreaded unmentionable task of packing was more or less completed the night before; then it was off to the home of James, our oldest son, and Gerarda, his inamorata of 22 years, for a farewell supper cooked by James, who is a fabulous chef.
On Friday, there should only have been a few last details to attend to, a few last items to tuck in the suitcase, and a few last good-byes, a piece of cake. In fact, it is a mad whirl from the time I rise at 6:30 AM until I collapse in the back of the car taking us to JFK at 3:30. The previous night there had been a last minute panic when we called to confirm the pick up time only to receive a message saying the phone had been temporarily disconnected. Could they have gone out of business since we booked them? After several phone calls and 3 or 4 hours of waiting, we learn the company is fine, but a huge traffic accident in the area had knocked out phone service for several hours.
Now we are on our way; it is a good thing Martin insists on allowing plenty of time for the trip to the airport because instead of taking an hour and a half to an hour and forty-five minutes it takes 3 1/2 hours. We pass no accidents or break downs, which would explain the heavy slow moving traffic. It is possible it is just normal Friday afternoon near Christmas traffic.
When we check in, we are given the wrong gate for our plane. This seems to happen with a certain frequency at JFK, but this time we pass the correct one, #4, on or way to #10, and are saved an unnecessarily long trek. Time passes slowly but eventually we board, and we take off close to our ETD.
A boring flight is not a bad thing. The food is not fantastic but it is edible enough to get down. The film, Pirates of the Caribbean, is very hard to see. The plane is light because people are eating, the early part of the film is set in darkness, and people keep getting in the way. I decide it is meant for a big screen movie theater and take off my head set.
After a couple of hours of sleep and an okay breakfast, we cross the Alps and descend into Marco Polo. Thanks to favorable winds, we land half an hour early, which is fine by me. Our luggage is among the last pieces to appear, the usual penalty for checking in early, but it all comes down together, and we head off to find a water taxi. The rate is 85 Euro, and the man recommends walking to the boat. There is a shuttle bus, he says, but you must and remove your own luggage, which can be awkward. With a luggage cart it is not a bad walk to the boats. We go the way we are directed, and we are following several other people, but we both feel it was quicker following the tour guide from the water to the terminals when we left Venice last spring. She had walked along the old terminal buildings from the edge of the water to the cross road, and the terminal was right there on the other side. Today's route seems more round about, but it is fine and clear and almost balmy and the walk is not bad at all.
Our taxi driver is wonderful. He loads everything on to the boat; moves it slightly to make it easier for me and even calls a friend over to lend an extra hand.
We are off in a silvery spray of water and in barely half an hour are moving down the Grand Canal to our building. This year the water door is open for us; last year it had not been open so I had been left on the dock with the luggage while Martin had been dropped at the vaporetto stop and walked back to open the door from the inside. Our driver helps us bring all our suitcases into the building, and Martin gives him a nice tip to thank him for his many thoughtful acts.
We start unpacking at once and in an hour and a half everything has been set to rights. There is a fantastic arrangement of birthday flowers waiting for me. It consists of several large white flowers with petals formed and arranged like roses or peonies but they are pale creamy yellow with pinkish centers. There are also some large shiny heart-shaped pink leaves or flowers. I have seen these in dark red but never in such a pretty delicate pink. There are also dozens of lilies and lots of greenery.
We walk down towards the Rialto for lunch. We are discussing whether we prefer eating at da Sandro or Vivaldi's. On the way, we stop in the mask shop to greet Rita, neither Massimo or Sergio are there today, and then continue on our hunt for lunch. Our decision is simplified when we see a sign on Vivaldi saying they are temporarily unable to accept credit cards. Since we have yet to hit a bancomat, we decide to try Vivaldi's later and walk a few steps further to da Sandro. We each have fettuccine with mushrooms - wonderful huge black mushrooms tossed with oil and fresh parsley. We manage half a carafe of red wine and a lot of water to rehydrate ourselves, and then it is back home for showers and naps.
By the time we awaken it is dark, but not late so we fiddle around doing odds and ends in the apartment before walking over to Carampane for dinner. I am glad I called from NJ for reservations because they are packed. We open with heir complimentary plate of batter dipped and fried leeks and zucchini cut in a julienne and some tiny shrimp balls. We both indulge in the Capesante gratin; this is a particularly good version of our favorite with tiny julienned bits of red pepper, carrots and leeks in the shell with the scallops and sauce. For his secondo, Martin has a simple grilled Branzino and I have soft shelled crabs accompanied by a lovely golden puddle of polenta. And they say there is no good food in Venice! We finish our meal with sgroppino.
Our small gifts for Piera's and Antonia's grandsons are graciously accepted, as is a copy of Shannon's and my book. We do not plan to tell many restaurateurs that we have written this book; we want to preserve our anonymity but at Carampane they will recognize my name anyway. They ask me to sign the book and seem more impressed that I write the dedication in Italian than they are that I have written the book. We enjoy the leisurely walk home in the pleasantly cool air-just cool enough to be refreshing but hardly cold. We couldn't ask for a better first day. It is always good to come home!
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