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Report 794: Venice For a Month

By Boleskine from New Jersey, Spring 2005

Trip Description: My husband, Martin, and I spend two months in Venice each year, once in the winter and once in the spring. We rent an apartment, enjoy the restaurants, do some sightseeing, but mostly, live our lives.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Emilia-Romagna, Venice

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

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Page 1 of 33: April 25 and 26, Departure and Arrival

Lunedi - 25 Aprile

The time between our return home in January and our departure in April seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. Three months condensed into three weeks, and then three days which became tomorrow and now today. On Saturday night, we celebrated Passover with a table full of family and friends. I had started cooking on Wednesday after tune-ups by my chiropractor and acupuncturist. Thursday we made our major shopping run and then from Thursday afternoon until dinnertime on Saturday, I barely left the kitchen. Blessedly, our adult children took over the clean up, and after a soak in our hot tub, we staggered upstairs to bed knowing we had one day to get ourselves organized for Italy - and read the Sunday papers.

Somehow we did it, and by 2:30 Monday afternoon, we were in Sharon's station wagon heading to JFK and the Delta Direct flight to Venice. Naturally since we allowed a ton of time, we arrived at the airport with three hours to kill. Naturally since we had three hours to kill, we were checked in and through customs in about twenty minutes. Martin had to take off his shoes. I did not because I travel in a ratty old pair of sneakers that would be rejected by Good Will, but which have no metal or other alarm alerting parts. They are soft and allow room for my feel, which tend to swell on the plane, to spread without too much restriction. So much for la bella figura.

One of the little two car trams is waiting just past the security clearance and we get a lift to the "20" gates. The area is so crowded the driver drops us at the start of the corridor, and we trek down to the seats for gate 24, our assigned departure point. The Delta gate area is very crowded, and after sitting staring at a wall for a while, Martin decides to stretch his legs; during his stroll he notices that, although we were directed to Gate 24, Gate 22 has a sign announcing the Delta Direct to Venice flight is departing from there. There is another sign directing people who are flying Delta to Paris, and, who had been sent to Gate 22, to move to a different area too so we grab our carry on bags and settle down near Gate 22.

Sitting across from us is a couple from the Midwest who are discussing Venice and speaking Italian with a woman who is traveling alone. After hearing her recommend the Alilaguna as the best way to get from Marco Polo into Venice, I feel compelled to break my own rules about offering unwanted advice and butt in. I point out that the Alilaguna is considerably less convenient than it used to be since you know have to get from the terminal buildings to the water. It also makes several stops, and the running time is listed as 90 minutes. Water taxis are fast and luxuriously romantic, but expensive, and you still have the same problem of reaching the water. You now must do this either by walking while schlepping your bags, or taking a shuttle bus that has no room for luggage storage. We do not care for either option.

Although less romantic, a land taxi or bus drops you at Piazzale Roma whence you can get a vaporetto and cruise up the Grand Canal to your hotel. The trip rarely takes more than half an hour, and riding up the canal is a great introduction to Venice. As we talk, I learn that Bonnie, the single woman, has written a children's book about Woody Guthrie. Martin, my best salesman, mentions that I have written a book about Venice.

The couple will be staying at the Fronton Manin which is directly cross the canal from our windows; we are able to assure them that they will really not have to walk far from the vaporetto to their hotel. Bonnie hears her name paged, and walks up to the desk. When she returns, we learn she has received a mysterious upgrade to Business Class; she had not even requested one. Martin goes to see how and why they are handing upgrades out, and learns that they are upgrading people with the "worst"seats - those in the back of the plane. Since we have seats near the wings, we do not have bad enough seats to warrant an upgrade. Shortly after this, boarding begins.

The plane is a two- three- two arrangement, and we have two seats not too far behind the Business/First Class section. I request a seat belt extender, and when the flight attendant brings me one, I offer her a copy of Chow! Venice as thanks. She seems inordinately pleased. We ask her if any of the other flight attendants might like one, and she brings over a friend who is working First Class. We give her a book too.

The two women sitting in front of us, a mother and a daughter, ask questions about the book; I give them some restaurant recommendations and brief the flight attendants on some places that are on our web site and but not in the first edition. When drinks are served, we ask for ginger ale, but shortly after the ginger ale, we are served two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc courtesy of the First Class flight attendant and ours.

The move is the Bridget Jones sequel, and neither of us have any interest in seeing it. We do the puzzles in the in-flight magazine. Just as they are ready to serve dinner, we hit an extended stretch of turbulence that delays the dinner service. I, who never sleep on planes, manage to doze off during this turbulence, until Martin pokes me to ask if I want beef or chicken for dinner. We both choose the beef, and after a dinner, which is palatable compared to many an in-flight meal, we turn off the lights and try to sleep.

Since I had indulged in the dessert brownie, I take two Bendaryl and succeed in sleeping for nearly two hours. Breakfast is a soft warm bagel, some aging grapes and a not as bad as I thought it would be granola bar. We pass on coffee since we never drink anything but espresso, and scarf down some OJ, which is a far cry from the fresh squeezed juice we are used to having for breakfast.

With the window shades now raised, we can see the snowy white Alps below us. Although it is 3:30 AM on our body clocks, it is nearly mid morning in Italy, and we are starting our descent into Venice. Yippee!

Martedi 26 Aprile 2005

The landing at Marco Polo is smooth, and we have a jet way so we do not have to wait for buses to ferry us to the terminal. Just before deplaning, we give the two women in front of us a copy of Chow! Venice. They seem pleased, and we ask them to tell others about it if they like it. The time after getting off the plane is always the worst part of the trip for me. Getting arthritic knees and tight stiff muscles moving through the aisles of the plane and then up and down ramps becomes more difficult and more painful with each flight. Happily on this trip there are no stairs through customs and immigration or from them to the baggage pick up. It is not too long a wait for our bags although the down side of checking in early is always that your bags are usually first on and last off. Outside in the fresh morning air, we grab a taxi.

Our driver speaks good English although he spends much of the drive on his cell phone explaining to a friend or perhaps the dispatcher how to get from point a to point b. They are doing an enormous amount of roadwork, and many streets are completely closed to traffic. We pass small towns with shops, churches, schools, some big apartment houses, a small canal that has butter cups growing all around and in it so that it looks like a trench filled with gold, and lots and lots of cars, scooters, bicycles and other taxis. Our driver seems to know all the other taxi drivers; he either waves or calls to them all.

At one point, after having inched along for several minutes, I look up and notice we are passing a small simple house with a most remarkable wrought iron fence around a sun deck. On one corner there is . . . a soaring eagle; all around the sides are children at play: boys and girls running, jumping, skipping, playing with a ball and even a jump rope. It is quite remarkable, but before I can even reach for my camera, there is a break in the traffic and we shoot past it.

Finally we come round the curve that takes us onto the causeway leading to Venezia; we pass the turn off for the cruise ship docks and are driving on a road that parallels the railroad. There is a train heading into Venice as we come down the final slope and around the curve that brings us into the Piazzale Roma.

Our first stop is the Actv building where we need to buy our monthly vaporetto passes for May. Martin also has to renew his abbonamento card for another three years. I get him the form; he fills it out, I return it; no passport or new photos are needed - and for 30 Euro - 5 for the renewal and 25 for the monthly ticket he is all set. I only need to pay 25 Euro because my card is good until 2006 since I had to get a new one when my wallet was stolen.

We wait on the #82 platform and clamber onto a vaporetto, as we board, we meet the two ladies who sat in front of us on the plane. I am able to point out a few landmarks as we move slowly up the canal, but alas, when we reach Rialto, we learn we had mistakenly gotten on a Limitato.

Everyone must disembark and wait for a #1. It is later than we thought and the #82's have already stopped running all the way to Valleresso. When the #1 pulls in moments later it is packed. I don't see any familiar faces - not even Martin's until we are almost at San Toma. This is not the best time to be on a vaporetto, and had we thought about it we might have opted for a water taxi from the Piazzale Roma because we are tired and stiff and do not feel like standing in a crush of people. Fortunately the ride is short - just San Silvestro where absolutely no one gets off and about 30 more people crowd on. Then it is San and then San Toma.

Once on land, thanks to the vaporetto rope woman who had helped me both on and off the boat, we get ourselves organize and head "home." I want to stop at Ciak's, a good halfway point, for a cup of their fantastic espresso but Martin wants to get to the apartment so we press on.

Marta and a coworker, Piera, are waiting for us. On the table there is a huge bouquet of long-stemmed red roses from Martin for our 44th anniversary, which was Saturday. He had already given me a dozen unusually pretty roses in lavender, pink, apricot and yellow so I was definitely not expecting more, but Martin knows I hated to leave my beautiful anniversary roses after only two days so he had e-mailed Marta to talk to Floriana about how she had helped him surprise me with flowers, and the result is this armful of glorious reds.

Marta and Martin check the meters together, which is a little problematic since new ones have just been installed. While they do this, Piera and I chat. She tells me it is the first really beautiful day in almost two weeks. When everything is settled and the women leave, we decide to grit our teeth, knuckle down and get the unpacking done. Working together this does not take terribly long, and once it is done, it is done. Yippee. The bed seems to have the newer mattress, which we had dragged in from the other bedroom during the winter. It is not great but it is better than the older one, which had gotten really uncomfortable. There have been more "breakdowns" since January. The TV now only works on three or four channels, and there is only one shelf in the refrigerator. For what they are charging for this apartment there should be at least a fully working TV if not cable, and a normal refrigerator.

We walk up to Ciak's and our day officially begins with due espressi and due kiefers. We follow with a spremuta d'arancie for me and two sandwiches - a Genovese for Martin and a costolette di polo for me. We can each only manage half and carry the rest home with us. Going into Ciak's is like walking into your neighborhood bar or cafe or coffee shop - everyone knows everyone, and we are treated as though we too are part of the regulars, which is a lovely feeling.

We call out "grazie" and "A domani" when we leave; Martin walks down to the tabaccheria on the calle di vaporetto to buy a new TIM card, and I start walking home, but stop on the little bridge by the Casa di Carlo Goldoni to take some photos.

We walk home and shower and take short naps. My nap could have been longer, but I always have trouble dozing off; in fact, I read for a while before I realize I have no idea what the words on the pages mean and put the book down. Within seconds, I am asleep. I am awakened about half an hour later by shockingly painful leg cramps. I massage my calves and walk around for a few minutes before going back to sleep. About an hour later the same thing happens only this time both legs are affected. By the time I am finally out of pain, Martin has awakened. He succeeds in switching the SIM cards in our phone and activating the Italian bands and TIM card, which he had bought after lunch.

It is now late enough in the US to call Martin's mother and let her know we have arrived safely. The connection is not great so we do not talk long. While we wait for it to be late enough to go to dinner, we watch party guests arriving at the Pisani Moretta. There must be three-dozen gondolas coming in groups of 6-8 at a time. I see only three children - a little girl who looks about ten or twelve and two really small girls, one about four and one about two. I wonder if the party provides children's meals and baby sitters, or if the parents might even be bringing them along unannounced. The setting sun is doing wonderful things to the water - here it is gold, there cream, and beyond pink shading into red. None of the guests in the gondolas seem to notice this splendid effect; they are too busy photographing one another and the Pisani Moretta.

By the time it is quiet and all the guests are inside we are ready for dinner. We walk down to Perla d'Oriente where we have dumplings, fried rice and duck with vegetables. Since it is mid-afternoon for our stomachs, it seemed to make sense to have a light lunch/dinner sort of meal - one that we can pick at rather than a serious big dinner. It is just what the doctor or in this case the non-doctor ordered. Perla d'Oriente is now totally smoke free, and the air is really cleaner; I am not snuffling by the end of the meal. We are just steps away from Mille Voglie so we cannot resist stopping for a gelato. Nocciola di soia for poor deprived me, and a new flavor orange with peaches for Martin. The peaches are soft and sweet and the orange has bits of candied orange peel in it. Martin says the orange is sweet and yet tangy and makes the treat into a very sophisticated creamsicle. I take a tiny lick and not for the first time wish I could eat ice cream -- especially in Venice.

We window-shop on our way home. The shop on the calle leading from Campo San Toma to the Frari has some beautiful and not very expensive pendants made from Murano glass in their vetrina. There is a new Herbavoria that looks interesting in the campo itself, but our four hours sleep in 36 hours are catching up with us, and we are too lazy to walk across the campo and check it out. Right now we have plenty of tomorrows in which to do that. I can see Le Baule Bleu, in which I so often buy beads for my neighbor, is also still there, another stop for later on in our stay.

Before turning down our calle, we walk a few steps past it to admire the windows of Sabbie e Nebbie. This lovely store was written up in Bon Appetite; it has an unusual assortment of Asian and Italian goods. Maria Teresa, the woman who owns it, is delightful and her merchandise is interesting even if it does not always meet my shopping needs. Her windows are always exquisite. She has an incredible eye for color and balance, and we always stop to admire her displays

Down our calle and into the courtyard - all is silent- we do not see another soul, but once inside music, laughter and voices from both the canal and the party next door promise to make this one of our more lively nights. I hope it is not too noisy too late, because we do need to push ourselves on to Italian time so we do not miss a single minute of the coming month.

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