Monthly Archives: November 2010

Things I’ve noticed about Florence–another walking tour

I was surprised to see this store here, in the land of gelato, and right across the street from the Duomo. I don’t remember seeing it last year.

This coat stopped me dead in my tracks. I keep saying that. But it keeps happening.
The clerk was standing nearby and I asked her how much it cost. 2,800 Euro. I asked about sales and who bought it. She said they had sold a lot, to women of all ages. She said they were usually women who had other coats, but wanted something different. I’d feel like a museum piece in that coat. A very happy museum piece.
This is a store window I remembered from last year. I love the artistry of the colors and creativity. I enjoyed it then and this year I wasn’t disappointed.
Here is another picture showing more of the store interior.
Here is a store that delighted me because of its narrow shape. It is surprising that something was done with this small amount of space. This is on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio, near the O Cafe where my friend, Adele, and I like to go for Sicilian pastry treats.
Here are some more views.
Here is one looking straight in the shop.
I called Adele and we had plans to meet on Friday at the O Cafe, but since I was in the neighborhood, I coudn’t wait, so I went in and ordered my latte macchiata and two of my favorites.
Here is the view from the table where we stand/sit. To sit at the tables right near the window, you pay more.
Here is an interesting fountain I saw near my flat with seven spouts. When I came upon it, there were a few guys there. One was drinking water and the other was washing his face. A nice useful thing to have for people in a city.
And here is the Florentine version of the baby announcement I saw in Bologna.
I haven’t seen any of the kind of  death announcements in Florence that I saw in Venice.
I had been wondering about how people moved into apartments. Unless there is an elevator, the steps are often small and steep. Today, in the rain, I had an answer. This would probably work in Venice too if they had one of these devices on a boat and your window overlooked some water. The platform moved up the ladder-like device by a motor.
Different kinds of food always catch my eye. I don’t remember seeing purple corn anywhere. But here was a box at the San Lorenzo mercato.
The man who ran this stall must sell lots of rice if he keeps it in these large trash barrels:
There were many stalls with artistic displays of food. I chose to make my purchases in those places. And I  bought some of my favorite Gorgonzola dolce cheese. I walked around to all of the stands and returned to the best looking (and most expensive at 18.90 per kg). I ended up returning on Saturday to buy some more and have it vacuum packed so I could bring some home. I never found the same wonderful quality at home. Here is all the food I bought on my first day at the mercato.
After my mercato adventure I took Bus #13 near the train station up to Piazzale Michaelangelo. I hadn’t made it there last year and was so disappointed when I saw a wonderful photograph of it taken by my dentist on the wall in his office during the year. When I found out it was going to rain on Sunday (and it did!) I decided to go earlier in the week. The bus ride was long and went through many unfamiliar neighborhoods. I’ve just been in the city center, which is the old part of town. It was interesting to see the way most people in Florence live.
These are some of the pictures I took.
Here is a picture looking in the other direction. You can see the river and another bridge. It shows that there is “country” within the city of Florence.
While I was walking around and looking at the views from many vantage points, I kept hearing some very plaintive music. It occurred to me how appropriate it was and how tasteful. This is a big tourist spot with lots of buses and stalls that sell tourist stuff. And lots of tourist groups with leaders with loud microphones. He shone through it all. He played an electric guitar which he held flat on his lap. He used both hands on the strings and did a lot of tapping too. I heard some Americans talking to him and he said he was coming to Washington D.C. during the next year. I went up when they left and told him how much I enjoyed his music. He said he plays cover songs and had a CD of his own songs. I bought the CD of his own songs, called Mystic Guitar, and made a video recording of him playing one of the songs on his CD. Here is a picture of him.
His name is Sergio Paterno and he is from Argentina. He was such a nice person. His myspace address is: http://www.myspace.com/sergiopatern. I loved the intensity of his movements when he played. When I found out he was from Argentina, we spoke a bit of Spanish. He was enjoying Florence.
Back to the old city of Florence. Here is the only well I have noticed and it still has everything intact. The flowers show me that they aren’t using it for water, however.
Here is a clothing shop, but it doesn’t look the clothes have anything to do with weddings.
I passed this gelato shop and was surprised to see this reminder of where their gelato came from.
I found the discount yarn shop in my old neighborhood and went in to see if there was anything I couldn’t live without. I saw the office and took a peek in. I thought it was funny that what he had on his desk was a bunch of different kinds of yarn. I guess in a yarn shop that would be expected, but it didn’t look like he had much room to work. His desk also seemed to be filled with photos.
Adele and I finally got together at the O Cafe. Here is what we had.
She suggested a coffee drink that had milk and chocolate. I went overboard with THREE pastries.
She had just come back from Switzerland and had bought something for her friend, Judith, who we went to see later. She assured us that it was real.
On the way we passed this garden, which she said hadn’t been open to the public in the past.
She has two friends with shops in a sweet little street called Piazza Del Limbo.
It is named this because there is a small cemetery where babies were buried who hadn’t been baptized. I had heard of this term, limbo, from Catholic friends, meaning where someone goes when they die if they haven’t been baptized, but never really thought anything more about it. Here is the cemetery.
Here is the cemetery attached to the church.
Her friend, Andre, has a shop in the Piazza called La Bottega Del’Olio with the most wonderful olive oil products. Everything was displayed so beautifully that it was hard to resist. I wish I had gone there first to buy gifts. The quality of the cotton on the aprons was excellent. I bought some skin lotion, which for some reason I had neglected to bring that has olive oil and lemon. The brand name is Lepo. It is worth looking for, if it is available anywhere else.
Here is the back view of the Ponte Vecchio. I liked it because you can see lights on in the stores.
Adele told me about another shop that had excellent leather and fair prices that is actually on the Ponte Vecchio. I had always ignored the shops there because the prices are always inflated. This is the only leather store on the bridge and the people who run it are very nice. It is called Mannelli. I’m sorry if today’s blog seems like a commercial. I was just so happy to get these tips from Adele, that I wanted to share them, if you are ever in Florence. It’s hard to know where the good shops are. I would never have found the olive oil shop in Piazza Del Limbo, for example, and I walk around a lot.
Here is one of my favorite churches, Santo Spirito. I like the simplicity of the shape. Evidently, so did an artist named Mario Mariotti. I think I read about a contest he conducted where people used the outside shape of the church and made their own designs. I just found a link to a website that shows the presentation of the drawings as projections on the outside of the church. http://www.mariomariotti.com/page45/page42/page42.html
There is a bar in the same piazza as the church with some of the pictures from the contest on the wall. They are all collected in a book about the Concorso S. Spirito. Here is the church and some of the pictures on the wall of the bar.
I finished up the day at the OK Bar, checking my email and Facebook. Here are my two friends, Favio and Reynaldo, wearing costumes for  Halloween. I was taking pictures of them and Reynaldo suggested a picture with the three of us.
I like this picture of the two of them in their Halloween attire.
The owner, Cristina, was there today and we were so happy to see each other. She showed me how she still has the drawings I gave her last year and I told her that the cups she gave me are in my kitchen window. Her family came for Sunday lunch and here she is with her daughter and son, showing them the drawings I had just given her.
I asked if I could buy one of the “OK Bar” aprons, and she refused to let me pay for it. And she treated me to lunch. I remember last year walking away after saying goodbye with a lump in my throat. I felt the same way today. They are such nice people. Reynaldo asked me to send him the pictures on Facebook, so we became Facebook friends and I did. He carries his BlackBerry around and constantly refers to it, but he is eager to buy an iPhone 4.
I am back at the OK Bar on Monday, November 1, posting everything before I go home. I just watched a very old program of Ugly Betty on TV here. I saw a woman with a jacket with “Famous” written on the back, and I had a wonderful and long conversation with three people from Santa Clara (Orlando, Teri, and Debi) who sat down beside me. We decided we like how people talk to strangers here and want to keep it up at home. Orlando took a cooking class here that sounded interesting. They invited me to dinner when we all get back.
I will finish up my blog when I get home. I have some times in Venice that were skipped and I want to make some final remarks. I’ve enjoyed all your comments. It feels like you have been along on the trip!
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Florence arrival and the things I had to do first!

My landlord showed me around the flat and then headed off for Rome where he has an exhibition of his paintings. (ht tp://www.monacoart.eu/)The flat shows that an artist lives there. Wonderful art on the walls, including some of his paintings. And a nice modern style. I particularly like the way he has set up a hanging headboard behind the bed.
There is a working heater(!), a washer, and a dryer. He doesn’t have Internet, so I’m spending a lot of time at my favorite, OK Bar.

My flat in Florence is located on one of the small streets behind the San Lorenzo marketplace. There are stalls and stalls of things for sale and they are out there from early morning until after dark. Do you remember how I described my street in Venice and that street vendors stored their carts in alleys off my street?  In Florence my street is filled with flats and hotels on the top floors, but shops and warehouses and garages on the street floors. When it gets dark, there is a great rumbling in the street. At first I didn’t know what it was. Then I looked out the window. The street was full of large covered rolling carts, waiting to be stored in many places, including the warehouse across the street from my flat. Here are some pictures.

Elisa had told me about a good trattoria in Florence where she had just been the previous week. I decided to look for it after I arrived. It was less than a block away from my flat. The food was reasonable and excellent. In fact, I have been there twice since I arrived. On my second trip there, I noticed a man had a huge plate of steak and I asked what the dish was called, so I could consider ordering it along with my pasta. When I saw that it was 38 euro for a large plate, I asked if I could order half a plate. The waitress said no, that I had to order the whole plate. The man whose plate it was told her that he would like to share the plate with me, since it was too much for him to eat. We both thanked him and she went back to talk to the owner of the restaurant. She came back and said that there was another dish on the menu with similar meat and that I would have to order that. Again we thanked him for his generosity, but declined his offer. When he left, I thanked him again for his offer.
On the first day after having my lunch, I had a few things I had to do. The first was to see the Duomo. It is so large that you can’t believe it. If you do a Google map of the neighborhood, and look at the satelite view, you will see what I mean. It is glorious and green. And I had to just stand there and look for awhile. This year there are no cars and buses going by, so you were actually able to stand and look. They changed this to a pedestrian walk the day I left last year and I see that it has been successful.
Next I had to go to Grom, my gelato place behind the Duomo. They serve way more gelato here than in Venice, and instead of costing 2.50 euro, it only cost 2.00. I got a cone and walked toward the door. Some English speaking kids were exclaiming about how good it was. As I passed, I said that they would remember for a long time how good it was. I went out into the street and then decided I really felt like sitting down to enjoy it, so I went back inside. I sat on one of the benches and continued enjoying my treat. It is SO good that you have to share your excitement about it, and the woman sitting next to me said something in English about how good it was. It was her first time there. She hadn’t been before because there is always a line and she didn’t feel like waiting. Today there wasn’t a line when we first got there. Later a tour group came in and I could see why she didn’t want to wait.
We continued talking well past finishing our cones. Her name is Sasha and she is from Los Angeles and came to Florence last year when I did. But she never went home. She decided to stay and has rented an apartment. She gave me all kinds of ideas about living in Italy. She talked about her social life in Florence and how rich it was with the people she had met. She said that people here want to see their friends on a regular basis and make themselves available often. I found the same thing in Venice. She invited me to a wine tasting during the week. I told her about my friend Winsi and our plans to attend the blues jam on Tuesday night. She joined us for dinner and the music. We had many things in common. She is fun and adventurous and is retired too. When I saw her on Tuesday, she was excited because her daughter, who is about Gabriana’s age, had decided on the spur of the moment to come and visit her mother in Florence. Her daughter started going to Burning Man the same year I did (2004) and has gone every year. Sasha liked that I went. She said she wouldn’t be going to the wine tasting because her daughter was arriving that night, and when the time came, I had something else to do that night, so I didn’t go. I met some people today (Monday) who had heard about the Thursday night wine tastings and went last week and enjoyed it.
After my visit with Sasha, I couldn’t wait any longer. I wasn’t hungry, but I had to see my friends at the OK Bar, my favorite hangout from last year. Only Massimo was there at the time, but he gave me a great big smile. I said I’d be back later.
I went to my old neighborhood. I had called Francesca, but got no answer, so I went to the place she worked. She was just getting off, so we went across the street and I ordered a spritz. This isn’t a custom in Florence, but they had Aperol just in case. I’m hoping to be able to buy some at home. We had a nice chat. Her daughter still lives in Greece, and she had been there for a long time and had just gotten back. She was able to get some catering jobs there. I know she is a good cook because of some dinners she fixed for me last year. She uses cinnamon in her ragu, which makes a big difference.
On the way home, I stopped again at the OK Bar and checked my email. I had two of my favorite little pastries with apricot jam. The jam and marmelata here is just amazing. Especially when it is placed on some pastry or in a croissant. At home we are surprised and delighted when we find some good jam. Here it is the norm.

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An eventful leaving of Venice

I was packed early and ready to leave the flat. I got a call from Elisa that they were expecting acqua alta and that I should leave right away to avoid it. She also told me to take the orange boots in case I needed them. But I looked outside and the water in the canal was still low. I knew my route and that I wouldn’t need them.I know this is disappointing to some of you who wanted to see them in person! I made my way to Ca D’Oro and got on the vaporetto. It was crowded, even though it was a random Monday morning at 9:30 am.

Whenever I get on the vaporetto, I always move away from the center where people are standing in preparation for getting off the boat, having been caught in some nasty crowds before. But today I wasn’t able to move much at all. There were other people with suitcases too and they had taken up the spaces to put your luggage. I had my purse, a shoulder bag, a small bag of groceries, and my push suitcase. I can’t remember when I’ve felt so much pushing and shoving. I actually at one point, said in English, “WHERE do you want me to go?” It was an awful feeling. A woman from Venice whispered in my ear that she was from Venice and apologized for the rudeness and told me she wished she could live in the uncrowded and quiet countryside.
I got off the vaporetto with much relief at the train station. I had asked Elisa the night before if she knew of any way around the enormous number of stairs on the way from the street up to the train station. I had looked before, but couldn’t find anything. She said that if you head away from the canal on the street next to the church, you will come out right at the tracks at the station and you will completely avoid the stairs. This is a great tip if you ever are in Venice!! I was the only one on this little street. Everyone else was struggling up the steps to the station.
When the track number of my train was finally announced, I found my train. Of course, it was in Car 1, at the far end of the train, so I had a long hike. A nice man helped me get my large suitcase up onto the train. I found my seat and was happy that it was a seat alone, since I don’t really like crowded trains. It faced a single seat. I put my luggage within sight and put the shoulder bag on a shelf above my seat. A nice couple from South Africa named Kogie and Johan sat opposite me. Their seats were in the next row, but we were having such a fun conversation, they decided to sit in a place where we could talk more easily. We left Venice and the car was still almost empty. First class on the train is so comfortable. I said I hoped that nice people got on at Mestre. Maybe that was a jinx.

As the train pulled up in Mestre, we were sitting and talking and laughing. A snippety, snappety woman came clicking down the aisle and stopped abruptly where my new friends were sitting. She just glared at them and instead of saying something like excuse me, I think you are sitting in my seat, she just repeated the seat numbers where they were sitting and kept glaring. It was clear there was going to be no negotiation. They got up and went to the row behind and we exchanged disappointed looks. The aggressive woman busied herself with her things, including a huge hard silver suitcase that she wanted to put in the aisle, but would mean that no one else could get by. That didn’t seem to bother her and she left it there for awhile until she figured out that if she put her two friends next to the window she could put her silver suitcase on the floor in front of her in front of the empty seat in their group of four seats. She was the one in charge of that little group. Clearly.
As I was watching this drama play out, a man (Vittorio) who was sitting two seats behind me in a single seat facing no one, and whose wife was sitting in front of him in the same kind of configuration, figured out that if his wife changed with me, and he moved to the seat facing that seat, they could sit facing each other. Since that would put me in the row next to Kogie and Johan, I agreed when he nicely approached me with the suggestion. He even moved my shoulder bag so it would still be above me.  But the drama wasn’t over yet.
Here is a picture of Kogie and Johan sitting opposite me.

Two women from England (a mother and her adult daughter) had gotten on at the same time we did in Venice and decided they liked other seats too. It seems that the reservations were all mixed up and no one was put together with people they had reserved with. When the train stopped at its next destination Bologna, some people got on who wanted to claim the English women’s seats. That put one of them across from snippety, snappety, who did not move her silver suitcase, even though it was taking up ALL the leg room in the seat opposite her where the English woman had to sit. They had to ask her to move it, which she did reluctantly. I know. Chutzpah! Who needed a book to read? Real life was so much more interesting. This left the other English woman claiming her seat, which is where Vittorio was sitting opposite his wife. All during this, Kogie, Johan, and I exchanged looks. You can imagine. I took a picture of the station in Bologna. It is called Bologna Centrale. When I was here before I noticed the strange abbreviation for Centrale. Here is a picture and you can see for yourself.
There was a discussion about putting one of the English women in the single row facing no one where Vittorio had been sitting originally, but the English mother said her daughter was her guide and she needed to be sitting near her. A bit pathetically, I thought. So one English woman sat opposite the aggressive one, and one sat in the single seat facing Vittorio’s wife. He moved back to his original seat, which now was one row behind me. Guess where snippety, snappety had the nerve to put her silver suitcase? Right next to Vittorio in the aisle, since he was sitting in the last row. If it had been me, I’m sorry to say I would not  have agreed to “keep” her suitcase next to me. At one point she looked at me with an exasperated expression, hoping I would “agree” with her. I just looked at her with no expression. If you know me, you can picture this.
When we looked at Vittorio for his reaction to all of this, he said, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.” I immediately asked him where he was from, since that is probably not an expression taught when people are learning English. He and his wife live in Canada, but he was born in Rome. They are travel agents, traveling in Italy to check the places they book people. His wife kept turning around to talk to him and all I could see was one large dark right eye with shiny black straight hair covering the left eye, calling out “Vittoooriooo.” It was such a beautiful sight, I had to tell her.
In the meantime, Kogie and Johan joined in the conversation and they told me I should consider coming to South Africa. They were going on to Rome and would be flying home the next day.
After my Ryanair experience, I was surprised to see what was included on a first class train. First we were offered an Italian language newspaper. Next they came down the aisle with our choice of drinks, pastries, and nice little towelettes. And each time new people would get on, they’d come by to offer the same.
When we got to Florence, I said goodbye to everyone (lovely goodbyes all around except for the group we ignored) and Johan got my large suitcase and helped me off the train with it. On the way down the aisle I saw a newspaper that looked like the font of the San Francisco Chronicle. We were stopped in the aisle waiting to get off, so I asked if if was the Chronicle. They said no, it was the International Herald Tribune, and said I could have it if I wanted.
It was a very entertaining ride and a nice way to leave Venice. My new landlord was waiting for me at the station and pushed my large suitcase and accompanied me to my new home in Florence for 8 days.

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Last times out with Venetian friends

When I got back from Barcelona, I received email from Elisa and another friend who said they had included me in the reservations for the Saturday free concert and did I want to come? It was so nice of them. The three of them had been friends since they were young girls in Venice. We have gone to several concerts together during the time I have been in Venice. We went to the concert, which was a piano recital, and then went out for spritzes afterwards. It seemed fitting. This is the restaurant where I had lunch my first day. I had found it because it was off the beaten track. Here is a picture of the four of us.

And here is one with Annalisa, Anna, and me.
The last time we had been together, I was wearing the shrug that I had knit. I’m wearing it in the picture above too. Annalisa liked it and wanted to make one for her daughter. I explained the pattern and told her the number of stitches. I had no idea that with that little bit of information, she would actually make it! She asked me to explain how, once it was sewn together, it was worn. She was almost finished and wondered. I had had the same reaction, and needed my friend Rachel to help me visualize it.
That night Elisa asked me what I planned to do on my last day. I said I was going to pack and clean the flat. She said no, that I should do something I hadn’t been able to do yet in Venice. I told her I hadn’t been to the island of Murano, which is famous for its glass. She suggested we meet at 4, which would give me time to get some things done. I was so grateful. I could easily have spent the whole day and evening packing. She said it wouldn’t matter if it was raining because we could go to the museum there. And there were tons of people in the streets. Rain or shine. I happened to meet her on the way to the vaporetto stop and we walked together. Since she knows all the back streets, we wound our way to the stop. I would have walked the long way around. When we got there, she was so patient, since I wanted to look at some of the shops before we went to the museum. We walked around and talked about the things we saw. We finally found a shop with quality items at good prices. She said something to me about the possibility of the glass pieces being made in China, and the owner came up right away to tell us that they were NOT made in China and to show us the process. I bought some nice things and he gave me a discount, I think because I was with someone from Venice.
Then we went to the museum. We both were fascinated with the glass pieces from the first through the 3rd centuries. It was fun to be with someone who wanted to look at and discuss the pieces we saw. I didn’t take any pictures at first, but then when I saw this rooster (modern) I couldn’t resist. Also, there were no guards and no signs, so I took a lot more. Here is the rooster that caught my attention.
And here are some more
On the ride back to Venice her cell phone rang and it was Elisa’s friend, Grazia, my hostess in Camogli. Elisa told her she was with me and Grazia and I had a nice chat and said goodbye. Today felt like closure with the people I had met and enjoyed. It was raining very hard when we got to our vaporetto stop at Fondamenta Nuova. We were supposed to meet up with my neighbor Bruna for a spritz, so Elisa called her to talk about meeting. It was too dark and rainy for her to come out. Elisa and I had our drinks and a nice chat. I stopped for pizza on the way home. When I finished, I called Bruna. There had been a misunderstanding. She had actually invited me to dinner and they waited for a while until they realized I wasn’t coming. I was so sorry to miss that. Bruna came upstairs for a chat and to say goodbye. I just now realized that I don’t have a picture of her.
It was a great last two days with opportunities to see friends and say goodbye for now.

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Meeting blog readers I didn’t know before

When Pierre featured Burt and me as his Venice Daily Photo on my birthday, he also included my blog address. It was heart-warming to have contact with people I didn’t know who were interested in reading my blog. Yvonne, who regularly comments on Pierre’s blog, and I now keep in touch. She just started an interesting blog (http://ytaba36.wordpress.com/) which I read every day and comment on. I had a nice long Skype conversation with Roseann, and two people came to Venice and we were able to get together.

The first was Jennifer, who invited me to a party. She is part of SlowTravel.com and was here with a group of people who were meeting up at various places in Italy. On the vaporetto on the way there, I had a conversation with some Americans who were also part of that group, but weren’t going to the party that night. One of the men helped me find Jennifer’s apartment, since there was no address number on her building. I ended up calling her on my cell phone and we talked until we came around the same corner and met face-to-face. It was the first time I had spoken English with a large group of people in a long time. I brought prosecco and other people brought really good food. Jennifer’s husband has relatives in a small town and they had gone there that week to find them. He showed me a picture of a relative he had found who looks exactly like him. It was exciting to hear about his adventures meeting all the relatives in that town and their plans for the future. They had all rented really nice apartments. Here are some pictures of the people at the party. Jennifer was such a good hostess. She made sure that I wasn’t left alone, since they all knew each other. Someone would come and talk to me if they saw that I was not talking to anyone. And three others, who were going my way, took the vaporetto home with me after the party. Here are some pictures. Jennifer and her friend, Mindy(on the left)
Here is Jennifer’s husband and the table in the background with some of the goodies.
These three women were especially nice to me.
The next person I met was a French Canadian woman named Lorraine (pronounced like Sophia Loren’s last name) who decided to return to Venice after reading my blog and wanted some adventure. We met for coffee at 10:00 am and had so much fun talking, we decided to spend the day together. Here is her picture.
We wandered all over together, showing each other our favorite places. Her hotel was near Piazza San Marco, so we went over to check that out. We saw the acqual alta tables in action (this is for Julie, who asked what the tables were for and how they were used)
In a street nearby, some of the boots like I have at my flat were for sale. I think I like the blue better than the orange.
She told me about a restaurant where she had been the night before called the Sacred and Profane, so we went by to see it. We ate there later that night and enjoyed the very interesting menu, which changes daily.
I took her to my favorite place to sit near the Rialto Bridge and were treated to a whole line of gondole.
We saw a group of people who looked like they were in an art class drawing. We decided, after looking at what they were doing and where they were looking, that this was a lesson on perspective. One woman was even using a ruler. It made me want to go home and work on some drawings. I didn’t, but I will when I get home.
Because Lorraine’s first language is French, she had some expressions that were interesting to me. At one point she came around a corner and told me excitedly that she had seen some butterflies in the window. I went back to see. This is what she was referring to.
In French they use the word papillon (butterflies) for bowties. It really makes sense, since that is what they look like!
She showed me a bridge named Ponte dei Pugni, which is a bridge where people fought. I had just read about it in the book “In the Company of the Courtesan,” which I have mentioned before. It seems that was a big sport in the 1500s and groups of men would fight each other on bridges with audiences cheering them on. It was also very violent.
I have just realized that conversations start with strangers when both people or groups are surprised or struck by something unusual. The people at the vaporetto stop on the way to Jennifer’s were talking about the fact that the direction we wanted to go in was going to be empty at that time of night. Since it was the direction with the most activity, I asked why. The man talking said it was because people left Venice and went to the train station or Piazzale Roma, to take buses or get their cars, which was in the opposite direction of where we were going. When Lorraine and I were eating at the Sacro e Profano restaurant, the bar suddenly filled with gondoliers, so I took out my camera. Here is a picture I took.
The people at the next table were also fascinated, so we all started talking. They were from Milan and had come to Venice to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful conversation about our children and what we had seen. Here is their picture. They waited outside so they could say goodbye to us and we saw them about a half hour later and they called out “Goodnight” to us.
We exchanged email addresses and hope to keep in touch. Their names were Renato and Marisa. It was great to be with someone like Lorraine who was open to random conversations with strangers, which is what makes my trips memorable for me. Today was a good example.

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A side trip to Barcelona – Day 4 and back in Venice

On Wednesday, Josep Maria had to prepare for his adult education Japanese brush stroke class that evening. He is an artist. When I knew him he and his sister were creating designs for fabrics and he was making caricatures of people on various resort beaches during the summer. She now creates sets for the local TV channel. He spent 7 years in Japan working as an artist in something called Spanish Village. They imported artists and dancers and other creative people from Spain to show the Japanese people what Spain and its artistic culture was like. He liked having a good salary for a change and he loves the Japanese culture. He has been to India and practices meditation. He is still good natured and we had fun laughing and talking about old times. He now speaks English, so it was good to have better communication.

After he had prepared for the class, he showed me a video he had made using a projector, his computer, and a dancer. As she moved in front of a screen, he drew lines and designs which were projected onto the screen. As he drew, she moved to his drawings. It was a wonderful dialog between dancer and artist. I showed him how to set up his own YouTube account and import the video. Then we sent out email to his contact list telling them about the video. Here is a link to the video. His full name is Josep Maria Lupresti. I’d like to see him get his performance work recognized.
The class was given in the outlying town called San Cugat. We had lived in the small town of La Floresta, and we passed it on the way to San Cugat. It was fun to see the old train station again. But everything is modern now and the nice man who used to sell me a ticket in Barcelona every day was replaced by machines. I missed his sweet smile. I was very impressed with how organized the metro system is there. Inside the trains there is always an indicator showing where the train is at that moment and what the next stop will be.
When we changed to the San Cugat train, the seats were almost filled. We found that often people on the trains would give up their seats for us two old people. It always surprised us. This time a little boy was busily putting a folded seat down and seating himself. I watched him and he folded down a seat next to him and indicated to me that the seat was for me. The train lurched and I stumbled forward. I caught myself, but saw a tiny little arm outstretched to catch me if I had fallen. He won my heart. He started talking to me and I understood a lot of what he said, but Josep Maria got on his knees in front of the boy and said that I was American and couldn’t understand everything he was saying. The boy smiled at me. The boy was with his father and little brother, who decided that he liked sitting on the floor. A mother and her two little girls got on next and the older girl joined the little boy on the floor. I asked my seat partner if he’d like to change seats with me so he could be near the other kids and he thought I wanted to change and said that if I liked, he would change seats. So cute. I loved hearing Spanish in a child’s voice. After awhile he moved onto the floor with the other kids. I told his father how kind I thought the boy was. Here is a picture of the kids on the floor. They all wore rubber bracelets and spent some time trading for colors and shapes they didn’t have.
My little guy in the blue T-shirt was named Marc.
The class was fun. He introduced me and everyone was very nice. We started off with 15 minutes of meditation which went very fast. We each had brushes and ink and learned how to hold our hands on the brushes. We practiced lines and circles and he gave them each a drawing of their Asian horoscope sign to draw. Mine was the horse. I was hopeless at getting the shapes right. He had spent the day finding haiku poetry to introduce. He wanted them to write their own haiku poems during the week and use them for inspiration the following week with their brush strokes. I had told him about a haiku poem my mother had written and put in my lunch when I was in high school and learned haiku in a world literature class. When he was explaining it and one of the women seemed hesitant, he told them about my mother’s poem and asked me to write it on the board. This is what I wrote:
Lunch time is here
Sweet pangs of hunger
Just tuna again.
I explained it to them and we laughed and one of the women copied it down.
We walked back to the train station. I saw a store with an interesting name.
He said it was some kind of mess children made, and neither of us could understand why the store had that name. I told him what the name meant in English and got a blank look.
When we got home at about 10:30 pm, his mother was still up waiting to fix us supper. Earlier in the day I had told her how much I liked pan con tomate (toasted bread smeared with a ripe tomato and then sprinkled with olive oil and salt) so she made us that for supper. People eat very late in Spain. Here is a picture of my treat. I think we also put little pieces of garlic on the toast.
And last, a treat that I always loved in Barcelona was horchata de chufa. We have a kind of horchata in Santa Cruz, but it is not made from the chufa nut. Now it is bottled here and sold at markets. This is a picture, which I took to show Gabriana, but I thought maybe you would like to see it too. It’s very refreshing during the summer. I even liked it in October.
I left early the next morning by taxi. We zipped across the normally crowded city to the airport. Ryanair almost redeemed themselves on this on-time return flight. The commercials were still loud, but seemed to take less time.
When I arrived in Venice, it was sunny and bright and I felt energized and like I had returned home. I put down my luggage, ran out to lunch, went to the hidden supermarket, and visited my favorite places around town, including SuSo gelato, the new place I had discovered with peanut gelato.
I found some gifts and had interesting conversations with the shop owners. One is named Luca and he had lovely marbelized paper products which he had made. His dog Zoe was there in the shop and I told him about Gabriana’s sweet dog, Abby. I bought some scarves from Adelia, who lives in Lido. I am sure that if I lived in Venice, we would become friends.
And on the vaporetto home that evening, a friendly young Russian guy named Mikhail asked me if I spoke English and Italian. He needed to call a restaurant to hold a reservation. I told him I was sorry, but I was useless on the phone in Italian. I ended up telling him (and his very aloof girlfriend who was sitting next to the window with her head always turned away) about a restaurant called Paradiso Perduto that Pierre (of Venice Daily Photo) told me about that is located near my vaporetto stop. He said he is an artist and I gave him my two drawings. They walked me home and then went on to the restaurant. He had asked me to join them, but when we saw his girlfriend’s reaction, I told him to go on without me. He asked if I was on Facebook, so we could keep in touch. On the vaporetto he told me that this was his first trip as a couple and that he had traveled before, but always alone. If we connect on Facebook, I will be interested to see how this trip went for him.
It was a perfect Venice day for me. I went to my favorite places and met some interesting new people. After taking the bus from the Treviso airport back to Venice, I was so happy to see the Venetian buildings and architecture. It felt like I was returning to my hidden village from another century.

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