Monthly Archives: September 2013

Secret passages we’ve found

I brought my stool to draw the church, but got distracted by this door!

We’ve been keeping our eyes open and exploring sottoportegos along our paths. These are covered passages between buildings, which we have found lead us to surprising places.

The first one I remember was several years ago when I ducked out of the rain at Campo Santa Margherita and met PeggySue, from Massachusetts, who was also seeking shelter. We connected and became Facebook friends and even had a visit from her in California recently.

The mysterious tower that is always closed to the public, but advertises its hours in case it is open!

I can’t take credit for discovering this interesting tower, through a sottoportego, off Campo Manin. A friend showed it to me in 2010 and then another friend showed it to me last year, and when we were wandering with friends this year, we remembered and took them in to see it. It is the scala Contarini del Bovolo, a cylindrical brick tower with five floors of spiral staircases faced with white marble banisters, built in 1499. Here is a picture. Tour guides have discovered it too, so we were lucky to get there between groups. Perhaps you saw it featured in one of Gabriana’s videos from our trip recently?

Near our apartment is Campo Bandiera e Moro o de la Bragora where we recently enjoyed an outdoor evening celebration of the autumnal equinox. See Gabriana’s blog Nosy Parker for beautiful videos of that celebration. There are two ways to get to our street from the campo. We can either walk the long way around or sneak through a sottoportego and end up almost next door to where we live! The drawing I made of a door that I liked in the campo is at the top of this post.

A window over the sottoportego with a flower box. What could this room look like?

We were pleased with ourselves when we followed another sottoportego and found a shortcut to the vaporetto Arsenale. We had been walking a more complicated route to the stop at San Marco. This new way even has ramps instead of stairs to cross the bridge! When we get on the waterbus there, it is less crowded and we can more easily get seats. Yesterday on the way home, I looked up and found a charming window garden ON the sottoportego. If you look closely, you can see flowers. I stopped to take this photo, and caught Gabriana enjoying her gelato.

We were in the alley after the sottoportego.

And I just remembered, to get to the taverna and our campiello (little campo, or courtyard) by land last year, you had to go through a sottoportego and and alley. Here is a picture of Gabriana, Abby and me sharing an umbrella one day there last year.

During that trip last year, we met Severine and Marcel, who worked at our favorite taverna, Taverna al Remer. We became Facebook friends and have kept in touch. They took us out for dinner at a bar that Marcel had just discovered… at the end of a sottoportego. Here are some pictures. It was very charming inside, with bottles lining the walls and expensive cologne in the “toilette.” I especially liked the hanging laundry over the doorway to the bar. You can see more details if you click on this photo collage I created below.

Several views of this lovely hidden bar

Several views of this lovely hidden bar

Please also check out Gabriana’s blog “Nosy Parker” to read more about our travel adventures in Venice and join in the fun with some short videos she’s created!

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Old ladies love us!

We seem to have an affinity for old ladies and they for us. We opened our front door one day and greeted an old Venetian woman walking by with her shopping cart with “Buongiorno.” She stopped, surprised, and asked us in Italian if she knew us. We said no, that we were just friendly. She smiled and came over to talk to us. She was born in Venice and had children and grandchildren here. We chatted awhile. She seemed very happy for the encounter. We’ll probably see her again in the neighborhood. Perhaps she’ll stop by for another chat. There is a small “supermarket” across the street where she was headed. I put this in quotes because I was introduced to a real supermarket just around the corner that we will probably use for purchases other than produce.

We were at a concert with our friend Bruno and an old woman was sitting next to him. She engaged us in conversation before and at the end and was just delightful. She was very interested in Abby. During the concert was was a man singing whose voice sounded like a woman’s. I kept watching him and pairing the sound with the movement of his mouth. At first I thought it must be a duet and I just couldn’t see the woman from where I was sitting. We were in pews at the side of the church. We didn’t know you needed a reservation, but we were able to convince them to let us in. (Gabriana is good that way.) The woman told us that a man singing with a woman’s voice was a special thing here and that it took a lot of muscles in your neck and chest. When she said goodbye, she called Gabriana “cara,” which we remember fondly. We walked out together and expressed our delight with each other, kissing on both cheeks, the charming custom here.

We met two Australian women at SoSu gelato and when they seemed confused by the variety, we helped them decide which gelato to order. We told them our favorites. They thanked us outside where we were leaning against the building enjoying our treat. We never make it too far away! They were going to get on a cruise, but were sopping up as much culture as they could before leaving, unlike their cruise mates who they complained only wanted to shop. They told us about the opera nearby they were going to see. We went by afterwards to check on it for ourselves. They also loved Abby and said they missed their dogs at home.

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From our new front door to our old… or you CAN go home again!

One day as we were opening our front door to head out we were immediately stopped by a guy who said he owned one of the three Boston Terriers in Venice.  He asked right away if he could breed his dog with Abby, but the answer was no because she has been fixed. At least he was asking about the dog. We were thrilled to know there were more Bostons in Venice, since we didn’t see any last year. He and his friend were interesting and funny musicians who played at various churches. They will let us know the next time they are playing. Here is a picture of our musician friend with Abby and Gabriana.

IMG_0850Next we came upon the coke bottle shoes that I saw in 2009 and was so fascinated by. Still am. This time I have more pictures and the name of the artist, Luigi Bona. We also saw several of his pieces in a gallery a few days later, with more of a picture and story about the artist. Here are some of my favorites.  And here is a link to see more of his work.

IMG_0862As I was crossing a bridge I noticed something I see here often over an alley, but not over a canal. Someone hung her laundry. I hope it dried and that she was adept. I put mine outside today, but no luck at all. I guess I needed a canal nearby.

As we were walking to our old campiello (courtyard) and taverna, we ran into Severine, our fabulous server from last year who was walking to work. It was nice because we had a chance to visit with her before she went to work. Last year Gabriana noticed that our friends who work there, Vincenzo, Severine, and her boyfriend, Marcel, were always arguing over who had the lighter. So before we left, she bought enough packages of lighters for each of them to have to last their lifetimes. I hope they quit smoking before then. Sev said they tried, using electronic cigarettes, but returned to the vice. It seems to be the new thing here since it is more healthy.

IMG_0872While in the bar I noticed this beautiful espresso machine. It seems hard to believe that they actually use it. But the bartender said that he does. They serve what feels like a whole dinner to us at their happy hour, so we ate there that night. It was so wonderful to be at our old campiello again. As we were walking by our old apartment, the door opened and we met the nicest couple from England who were renting it to be in Venice for their wedding. Their whole family is coming and will rent all the apartments that look out onto the campiello. We ran into them again at the taverna and had a lovely evening with them.

IMG_0876Here is one of my favorite views from the campiello, looking at the Rialto Bridge. I swear the bird wasn’t posing! This view had everything in it—a vaporetto (water bus) the famous bridge, and a tower. I’m sure my friend Bert will chime in with what tower that is! Then my eye rested on a door that pleased my eyes. It looked so natural here, but I can’t really picture it at home.

IMG_0879

Here’s a link to read Gabriana’s blog “Nosy Parker” and check out the short videos she’s created so you can join along our adventures!

 

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Our delightful first days

DSC_0355_3We’ve been here for a few days. Abby is a big hit, putting it mildly. Every few steps we take, someone stops us and comments on the dog. Fellow travelers or Venetians, it doesn’t matter. Many tell us they have Bostons at home or have grown up with them. Many tell us about their dogs, and even share photos. Everyone wants to pet her! The first night this repeated so often while we’d actually been looking for a place to eat that Gabriana laughed and commented that we might starve out of friendliness! But we really didn’t mind. Abby is so loveable and it’s nice to see that we aren’t the only ones who think so.

Just as we were getting home, we ran into Mario, a Venetian guy we had seen earlier who’d asked us about Abby’s breed, a rarity in Venice. We hadn’t realized that he is our neighbor. He said he lives in our same building, but faces the street behind us. This time he was with the Cavalier King Charles cocker spaniel he had told us about. We talked about getting together again, and he will call us when he returns from a 10-day trip to Paris.

Gabriana and John looking out the window

We met a nice couple also from the San Francisco Bay Area. They were staying at the Hilton Hotel on the island of Giudecca, a short boat ride away. They told us about their dogs and how they missed them and about a great happy hour at the hotel every day and suggested we join them sometime. When we got home, we already had an email from them, inviting us to join them the next day.

After several adventures, including rushing to catch the shuttle boat they were going to meet, getting in a ragged line with people crowding ahead, having the guy letting people on the boat put his arm down right in front me, saying “fini” (the next boat was leaving in an hour), rushing to find a vaporetto (water bus) and fighting for the last seat in the outside section after being literally SHOVED aside by an extremely rude young woman. We finally found them and the happy hour. After lots of laughs and fun conversations, we were the last to leave.  Then they showed us the beautiful Grand Canal view from their room. We hadn’t seen Venice from such a high point of view before. We were all spellbound for a while. Here is a picture of Gabriana and John hanging out their window enjoying the view.

Jude loves Mela Verde gelatoLater that night Cindy said she wanted gelato. So, even though we had already had some during the day, we all took the boat back to Venice and set out to find a good place that was open. We are very fussy about where to get “good” gelato. Along the way we all admired the beautiful Piazza San Marco. We stood for a while staring up at the intricately carved sculptures and marveled at the years it must have taken to create and build. We also enjoyed the several dueling orchestras playing to diners at the outdoor tables. The piazza (square) is much less crowded at night and so much more enjoyable. We were not disappointed at Fantasy gelato! I’ll write more later about our gelato standards with some recommendations.

Also, please check out my daughter Gabriana’s blog on our adventures, including some short videos from our trip!

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Returning to Venice!

On our way into Venice from the airport!  I'm kinda happy.

On our way into Venice from the airport! I’m kinda happy.

Well hello again,

I did so well on my trip to Venice last year that we are going again. In fact, I was rejuvenated. After several MRIs this past summer to check on a bothersome growth, the last one showed no change, and I don’t have to have another MRI this month! We were approved, and actually encouraged, to travel again. No question where I wanted to go. So we are in the final stages of departure.

Again we are taking Abby, our medical service dog. Gabriana is busy doing all the paperwork to take her, including driving to San Francisco to bring some papers. I’m glad we live relatively close. I think this office serves  lot of cities.

I packed what I thought I would take. Now I’m being ruthless and trying to eliminate as much as I can. I keep thinking of what it feels like to have too much stuff there. I’m branching out into brighter colors and that feels good. I’ve hidden away my purples and turquoise for too long.

I would like to do some sketching, but travelers are discouraged from sitting anywhere. There are crudely handwritten warning signs posted over tempting seats. I found at a 3-legged stool to stick in my bag or sling over my shoulder. I saw some artists last year who could sit ANYWHERE they liked and that idea stayed with me.

I’m also taking it easy packing. Last year I did too much at one time and did too much lifting to try out the weight. It’s no wonder that I had terrible pains in my side during the trip.

Now I’m working on my “amazements.” This is the word my daughter, Gabriana, used when she was a little girl and was packing her amusements for a trip. It was so cute, I didn’t have the heart to correct her. Now we laugh, but we still use that expression.

What will I want to do for a month when I have down time? And what is easy to carry? I have some books I want to read, but they are hard cover. I can just hear you saying, “What about a Kindle?” But that just seems like one more gadget to bring and I can get Kindle on my laptop and my iPhone. The flight attendant last year was appalled when she saw me reading on my iPhone and INSISTED that it was not good for my eyes and shamed me into stopping. ] I love to do extreme Sudoku, so I plan to print up a bunch for the month. I just have to force myself not to start them now. I’ve already packed my watercolor art supplies, so that is covered.

Since I haven’t finished my Pimsleur Italian lessons, I will probably do that and then try out the conversations the next day. I have a bone to pick with the authors. When “Mr. and Mrs.” Smith and all other couples have a conversation about what they are going to buy, the wife ALWAYS asks the husband for money and he always comment on whether what she wants to buy seems too expensive. Then he throws in the kicker and tells her to buy only un capello (hat), no due (two!) I continue my lesson after I have done some screaming.

Update: we arrived yesterday and are in our glory! Gabriana has written a post about our arrival on her blog, Nosy Parker, along with a short video of the water taxi ride into the city. More to come, after we have had some gelato! This time we are in Castello, a different neighborhood than all of my trips before, so we have new places to explore. It’s fun to hear Italian conversations outside our window. We are right on the street.

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