Burano

On Burano we had a lovely time enjoying the lace, scarves, and wonderfully colored houses and flowers in pots decorating each house. From the front, each house looked pretty small. The front doors were right on the street with all of us gawkers walking by. To offset this, each house has a flapping piece of cloth hanging over the door. This gives privacy and air. And the cloth is coordinated with the house colors–a very beautiful sight.

A two-tone blue with lovely flowers in the window

We were trying to figure out how a whole island of colorful houses could exist, each a bright, maybe even clashing color to its neighbor. There were NO pastels. Our trip mate Diane, came up with her version of the dialogue: The first person painted his house a really bright color. The next person saw it and said, That’s a good idea, but it’s not MY color. So he painted it a different color. And that is how she thinks it started.

A neighborhood

Another wild neighborhood

We saw one rebel house. It was pure white, with no flowers in front and no hanging flap. A white house seemed so weird in that setting. The other thing we noticed was that some of the two-tone houses were painted with tape put down first to make clean lines. But there were many that seemed to be painted freehand. It just added to the atmosphere! It seemed almost whimsical to us, but when I talked to people on my last visit to Burano, they took it very seriously.

I would really love to know who is reading this blog. Please make comments, however long or short. I like to get a feel for who I’m talking to. It truly feels like you are along on the trip with us and makes us want to share more!

And please also follow Gabriana’s blog, Nosy Parker, to read more about our Venetian adventures: http://www.nosyparkerblog.wordpress.com

All the pictures were taken by my tripmate Diane Rauchwerger.

 

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Another Venice… plus Murano

One day Elisa came and got us and we all made our way to the San Marco vaporetto stop. When I say “made our way,” I mean Elisa took us every which way on all the back roads, the ones Venetians use, to avoid the crowds and get to the vaporetto. I exclaimed to her that we were going all the back roads, and she corrected me and said that this WAS the way! It was fun to be let in on how Venetians deal with all the crowds.

Glass Art Display on Murano

You wouldn’t believe the numbers of people strolling on all the roads with stores or leading to famous places in Venice. We emerge from our quiet little “alley” and immediately have to merge with the crowd; I have never seen so many people on the street before. Picture the crowd leaving a sporting event and streaming back to their cars. This is what it is like, but crowded onto narrow little streets filled with people, strollers, umbrellas, etc.

We have taken to noticing the small roads that lead off the main streets. There we have found another Venice: Restaurants that serve wonderful food for a fraction of the cost, stores and bars that cater to natives, and room to breathe as you are walking. The bars here don’t just serve alcohol.  They serve food too, and people of all ages eat at them.

I had been thinking that I needed a belt, but hadn’t been searching. We looked into a window and saw a shoemaker working on something in the back of the shop. He had an odd assortment of things that he made, besides being the local shoemaker. There were shelves of the shoes he was working on, which I noticed as he led me back through the shop to a mirror to see my belt. His only mirror was the one in his “toilette.” Clearly it was not a retail shop. He gave us his card, which only had a Venetian address: the sestiere (district) and number. When we looked like  we wanted more, he took the card back and stamped more information on the back.  Still no street name though, which he hand wrote on the back of the card so we could find his shop again.

We found his shop on our way home from an island trip to Murano. We arrived  early one afternoon and called Mattio, the glassblower we met on a boat outside our window. He had just bought the boat docked in front of our apartment. When we found out that he was a glassblower, we asked if we could come and visit his glass furnace in Murano. When we called, he said they were finished for the day. They work from 7 am to 2, but they were already cleaning up then. He invited us back the next day.

We set our alarms and left the apartment around 9 am. We were lucky to get a boat right away. We called and Mattio sent one of the workers to get us and we wound around to the furnace on a back street. It was fascinating to see all the steps involved. It is a family operation. He and his brother Marco, blow glass and make the small pieces. Their father, Davide, makes fantastic large museum pieces. Their mother blows glass too and does other odd jobs and bookkeeping, including wrapping pieces for shipping. There were others there too, including an American woman named Shelley who is collaborating with Davide on a large piece. She and her husband are staying in an apartment on the premises. We will keep in touch with her through Facebook.

Here are some pictures from our glassworks visit:

Mattio showing us one of his father’s creations and explaining the process with his hands

Marco with his glass

Here is the American woman, Shelley, who is collaborating with Davide

Davide, Gabriana, Mattio, Giuditta, Diane

Mattio told us about how he ended up there. He and his brother had wanted to get as far away as they could from the family business. They had helped as children, but each made different plans for a future. Mattio went to law school and his brother  studied languages and traveled all over the world. At one point, Mattio dropped out of law school because he wasn’t interested and returned temporarily to the family business. Then he really got into it and now is very happy. His brother was needed at one time and he was between trips. He also came temporarily, but is there and is very happy.

They called their father “Davide” out of respect as the glass master and owner of the business. When we told Davide how much we loved his work, he hugged his son and said that HE was his best work. Then he hugged me too. It was very nice.

While we were on Murano the first day, we walked around and saw all the shops. We found one where the guy was using glass rods and a torch to make small glass pieces in the shop. He and his brother own shops next door to each other. We met Bernardino first and got some things from him. Then he told us about his brother next door, Giorgio, who was using the glass rods and offered to demonstrate for us. Gabriana asked him if he could make a figure that looked like Abby. He got out the appropriate colored rods and 15 minutes later, we had a tiny figure of Abby!

Here is the final product of glass Abby!

On the second day we were on Murano we went to the glass museum. We loved the pieces from the first and second centuries. There were tiny pitchers and vases. After seeing various glass methods, we couldn’t figure out how these pieces were made.

This is getting long, but I have to share two funny signs we saw. One was in the window of a dress shop: “Cheaply Fashion & Chic” and the other was in a church: “This is a church. Do not behave indecently.” That last one gave us a lots of giggles and we wondered what had happened to make them spell out that rule!

Giorgio and a necklace of his that I chose

I would really love to know who is reading this blog. Please make comments, however long or short. I like to get a feel for who I’m talking to. It truly feels like you are along on the trip with us and makes us want to share more!

And please also follow Gabriana’s blog, Nosy Parker, to read more about our Venetian adventures: www.nosyparkerblog.blogspot.com.  All the  pictures were taken by my daughter, Gabriana.

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Our Amazing Campiello (Courtyard)!

Besides housing a very well known,  popular and excellent restaurant, Taverna al Remer, (http://www.alremer.com/) our campiello has offered us many interesting events. In the first picture below, you can see our door on the far left. The stairway goes to the apartments upstairs and the taverna is  behind the archway on the right. Today is Wednesday and the taverna is closed. Usually there are tables set up in front.

Campiello Del Remer

The second picture shows our front door on the right and the dock on the Gran Canal. You can see the vaparetto station across the canal (yellow building in front of the arches). The arches are next to the Rialto fish and vegetable market.

Our dock

On one of our first days, a wedding party arrived at the dock in a water taxi to take pictures and have some champagne before returning to their reception. We went outside to see what was happening. They immediately welcomed us to the “party” and everyone wanted to talk to us and pet Abby. The bride was wearing a beautiful classic simple long gown and the bridesmaids all wore gowns of a pale grey. She was American and the groom was British. They were living in Australia. There were five photographers with them who posed the bride in very formal poses (it seemed endless). We waved goodbye as they took off in their water taxi. Here are some pictures from this adventure.

Bride and Groom

Bridesmaids

Groomsmen

The next day we looked out the window of our living room and saw a wedding taking place right against our window. We could see the shaking hands of the bride as she said her vows. She was wearing a beautiful short dress and was surrounded by all her guests. They also had treats from the taverna. That seemed to be their reception.

Today we heard some clapping and we looked out to see what was up. A couple was standing at the end of the dock and people were gathered around. Lots of kissing followed and shaking of hands. We were too curious for words. Gabriana opened the window and shouted the obvious question to them. The guy shouted back that he had just proposed. We clapped and shouted congratulations.

One night as we were arriving home, we saw a bachelorette party taking place. They were all wearing pink ears and tails. They greeted us as we walked by. Another happy occasion.

Now to tell you about this amazing taverna. A few days ago, it was getting late and we were hungry. I didn’t feel up to going out for food. I said I would eat whatever my trip mates found, thinking they would bring back some sort of sandwich. I expected them to be gone for awhile. Instead, after about 4 minutes they returned with big smiles on their faces! They had gone into the taverna to see what they had. Evidently the server had noticed us in the campiello and asked if we would like to have the food delivered rather than wait to take it home! So Gabriana and Diane came back and set a beautiful dining room table with special table mats and candles and a little while later the sweet server, Severine, came to our door with a feast, which she brought to our lovely table. Here she is bringing us joy.

Our server, Severine

Our taverna dinner

I especially liked the grilled tuna steak. She made several trips and brought us wine and bread. When she came to take away the dishes, we ordered two of their lovely desserts. This time the manager and the server came in to bring the desserts and to wish us well. After we finished the two desserts, we ordered another because it was so good.

Our dessert

Here is a picture of me showing our gratitude to our server.

Thanking Severine for bringing us such a lovely meal!

The next night we took Abby outside and the manager was outside in the campiello having a smoke. He came right over to us for a chat. Tonight, Monday, we weren’t very hungry, so we turned to our “personal chefs” at the taverna. They just brought us food, and when Gabriana and Diane went to order the dessert, the bartender asked if we had tried the tiramisu. When they said no, the manager said he would throw in a tiramisu to our dessert order and wouldn’t charge us! We’ve continued going back and are making our way through their menu. Another day has passed.

Diane and I went into the taverna on our way to explore the city. The manager, Vincenzo, had told us that it used to be a warehouse for rowing supplies. He said that “remer” meant rowing. They were happy to see us and showed us around. Tonight Gabriana went to see them and make some arrangements. The bartender made her a cocktail “on the house” and the staff asked her to join them for drinks after they close the taverna.

We are continuing our adventures, which I’ll tell you about in the next installment.

I am feeling much better this week than last. I was having some stomach and back problems and needed a lot of rest. But because our apartment is right on the Gran Canal, I could be inside and still enjoy fully all the water life of Venice. It’s a never-ending show and parade.

PS: Please also follow Gabriana’s blog, Nosy Parker, to read more about our Venetian adventures: www.nosyparkerblog.wordpress.com The first two pictures were taken by me. All the other photos in this post were taken by my daughter, Gabriana. And please, as always, we LOVE your comments and suggestions and encouragement. It truly feels like you are along on the trip with us and makes us want to share more!

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Miscellaneous Venetian musings

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m noticing the different rhythms on the Gran Canal. During the week there are many barges picking up garbage, and loading and unloading building materials and boxes. The labels on the boxes remind me of UPS labels. And they are all the same. On Saturday there only seem to be pleasure boats: many gondole, rowboats, a singing crew that sounded like a choir. (We wondered how they found so many crew members with good voices. Oh, I forgot. I’m in Venice, where everyone sings!), water taxis, water buses (called vaporetti and traghettos), motorboats and speed boats. Everyone goes at a pretty slow pace except the ambulance and police boats. It is surprising to see such sudden speed when everything is just humming along. This whole scene is a view that never tires me.

I love to sit on my tiny balcony or in the window seat and wave to the people passing by on gondole. I’ve even been the subject of some photos as they go by. I waved to a gondolier today and he mouthed “Ciao” to me. Quite cute.

Ristorante Da Raffaele

Two nights ago we were all awakened by a wide boat trying to go down the narrow canal alongside our apartment (which feeds into the Gran Canal) and scraping as it went.

Da Raffaele Grilled Fish Presentation

Friday night we had the most wonderful meal at Ristorante Da Raffaele thanks to our Venetian friend (and local university professor) Shaul. The restaurant owner, Renato, came to our table throughout the meal to see how we were doing. Gabriana told him it was the best gnocchi in her life! All the other people at the tables enjoyed her enthusiasm! Lucky for me, our temporary houseguest Hannah joined me in the mixed seafood platter (lots of yummy shellfish). It was all so amazingly fresh and grilled to perfection. They even brought little glasses of our favorite wine (Moscato di Asti) with the delectable desserts! The atmosphere, the food, the people… it was all so wonderful.

Me, Renato and Gabriana (L to R)

After dinner we saw that there was an open store called La Ricerca nearby that looked interesting. This is an understatement. It was one of the rare true Venetian stores where the owner, Allesandro, is an artist and the other things he carries are made by friends of his. The shop featured handmade leather items, including wonderful masks, book covers, stationery, book marks, and many things covered with swirled paper and bits of maps.

Allessandro and his wonderful graphic map of Venice

We noticed a poster of Venice and he came over and explained each tiny part. He was a wonderful story teller. He said the poster was his idea, but he commissioned an artist to do the drawings. We got one and are trying to figure out on which wall we can study it most closely at home. If you live near us you are welcome to come and see this fascinating poster (pictured behind Allessandro in the photo at the right).

Allessandro was closing his shop so he walked us home. We had gotten lost on the way there so it was very welcome. He regaled us with stories all the way home. And he invited us to his workshop where he works on leather.

Cabanas at Lido Beach, Venice

We saw Elisa, my landlady from two years ago, and went to the island of Lido. It has a beautiful stretch of beach. This picture shows how it is different from California beaches. People rent these little cabanas for the summer season. The same people rent year after year and it is very sociable when everyone is there. We were there the day after the season closed. We walked way down the beach, away from all the crowd, and swam by ourselves in the water, which was warm and very refreshing!

We went on the tour of the island of San Servolo, led by Elisa’s niece, Giovanna. I had  been to her wedding two years ago, so it was nice to see her again. The island was beautiful. I can see why it was recommended.

Gardens at San Servolo

The tour was of the main building, which houses an international university now, but had been a convent and then a mental hospital that seemed more like a torture chamber. The artifacts and the images were very disturbing and we all had trouble sleeping that night.

There is so much more to tell, but I’m sure you are getting tired. I will write more later.

PS: Please also follow Gabriana’s blog, Nosy Parker, to read more about our Venetian adventures: www.nosyparkerblog.blogspot.com. All the photos in this post were taken by my daughter, Gabriana. And please, as always, we LOVE your comments and suggestions and encouragement. It truly feels like you are along on the trip with us and makes us want to share more!

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A little serendipity

Hello everyone! We are finally in Venice. We arrived midday on Wednesday. We broke the trip up into three sections, to give us time to rest in between. Gabriana arranged for carts to pick us up each time so I wouldn’t have to walk very far. We had the nicest cart driver in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was originally from Sacramento, CA, and when we asked her how she ended up in Charlotte, she told us about a website called findyourspot.com. She and her husband answered all the questions and the result was Charlotte. She said they’ve been there 6 years and are very happy, except for the sticky summer heat when they prefer to return to California.

Everyone loved Abby (and she loved everyone too). We were even able to upgrade on one leg of the trip because of her! She was so well behaved on the trip that people were surprised there was a dog board.

We are delighted with our apartment! Our living room faces the Gran Canal. Sitting on any of the couches gives us a view of all the water traffic. We wave to the gondoliers and they wave back. One shouted “Ciao bella” to Gabriana and blew kisses as he went around the corner to the canal on the side of our apartment. We also wave to the passengers and they are so delighted to be on the gondolas, and we too are so delighted to be there, that we have lovely wave-fests.

We got a recommendation from some neighbors about a good restaurant for the first night. It was just around the corner. The kitchen was in a building, but the seating was outdoors and across the way, at tables under umbrellas. It kept raining during the meal and we wondered how they were going to deliver the food. We looked up and saw a rather large waiter holding a big umbrella, with a silly grin on his face, protecting the food. The waiters all came around to talk to us and Abby. We ordered a creme brulee for dessert and were talking about how the creme was so light and just the right amount of sweetness. One of the waiters told us that our waiter was also the baker and that he had made the creme brulee. He was so happy to hear how much we liked it.

We have had some serendipity visit us. One morning we were talking to the guy who owns the motorboat parked in front of our apartment. He was telling us all about renting a motorboat, which Gabriana wants to do. He told us he had just finished delivering a glass piece with the boat and that he and his brother are glassblowers on Murano. We exclaimed that we wanted to go to Murano to see that and he offered to take us on a tour of his glassworks, which is not open to the public. He gave us his phone number to call when we want to come.

We met Elisa, my former landlady (and friend) for a “spritz” yesterday afternoon. It was lovely to catch up. When I asked her about her family (whom I met last time at her niece’s wedding) she said her niece was leading tours on the island of San Servolo. We had been told to be sure to see this by several people. Elisa said she would take us there and her niece would lead us on a tour!

We are feeling very lucky and happy. I told my tripmates about the Italian saying “Dolce far niente,” which means “it is sweet to do nothing.” During the hot part of the day, we are learning first hand how to do that, and getting a wonderful rest.

We had a gondola ride tonight. We had some recommendations from a friend for gondoliers who wouldn’t rip us off. The first one we talked to was Giovanni. He wasn’t working today and we wanted to go tonight. He and Gabriana had such a lovely conversation that he gave us an open invitation to have drinks with him and his wife on the island of Giudecca. We took a vaporetto (water bus) to get to where we had arranged to meet a gondolier for tonight. We went along the Gran Canal and saw the beautiful, ornate and varied buildings against the sunset along the way. I turned to Gabriana and noticed she was crying a bit. I asked her why and she said that it was so beautiful and that she just now got why I wanted to come here so badly and she thanked me for pursuing this dream. I was very touched.
PS: Please also follow Gabriana’s blog, Nosy Parker, to read more about our Venetian adventures: www.nosyparkerblog.blogspot.com. And please, as always, we LOVE your comments and suggestions and encouragement. It truly feels like you are along on the trip with us and makes us want to share more!

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I’m returning to my beloved Venice!

“Don’t Forget Me!” -Abby in Suitcase

Well, a lot has happened since my last post! I had brain surgery at the end of June 2011.  They were able to remove all but a small portion of the tumor, which was wrapped around a vein. It turned out not to be benign after all; the pathology report showed anaplastic hemangiopericytoma, an extremely rare, aggressive and malignant brain cancer. The word “cancer” was not used with us until we used persistence and interrogation. (We could be on the cast of NCIS with our doctor interrogation skills). But it actually took months – and new doctors –  to find out the diagnosis and almost a year to find out the prognosis!

I underwent six weeks of daily radiation treatments on my brain, but that didn’t remove it completely. The radiation took a lot out of me and I was fatigued for quite a while. Just as I was “recovering” from the radiation, I had a minor ischemic stroke and seizures and was in the hospital for a few weeks in January 2012. That took its toll on me too, and my daughter Gabriana, who cares for me full-time, was no longer able to work.

I felt like I was getting a bit better, even though many of the symptoms (dizziness, confusion, short term memory loss and vertigo among them) persisted. The doctor, a brain cancer specialist, told me even though I was feeling stronger, the tumor could (and probably would) grow back suddenly and multiply quickly. And that the chances of my survival were not great. At the time he said 2-5 years, but almost a year had elapsed before we knew this. My plan is to beat the odds and live a long and happy life. Just for the record.

We decided that while I was feeling better, and before the tumor grew, we should go to my beloved Venice, Italy. My last MRI showed no growth. Yay!!!!! My daughter has been blogging about our adventures finding an apartment and more in her blog, Nosy Parker. She also wrote a tribute post to me.

We are almost finished packing and are very excited. We leave in early September and will be there for a month. When I returned from my last trip, I had wanted to move to Venice. Then I compromised at three months. When we told the doctor, he shook his head and said it would only be medically wise to go for 2 to 4 weeks. I asked for 6 weeks, and he told me not to push it.

Lifelong Friends Diane and Jude

We are taking our darling service dog, Abby, and my best friend from childhood, Diane. If I do have a recurrence there, it will be easier for Gabriana to have help. We will also enjoy giggling together, as we have done for all these years. By the way, we are staying in Venice until early October, so we can celebrate my 70th birthday there!

We recently celebrated our upcoming travels with a wonderful Buon Viaggio BBQ; it was fantastic to reconnect with so many friends! Thank you to everyone who came and brought lovely treats to share. (My apologies if I scared anyone with my little seizure toward the end of the party, and thank you to those for their quick action in alerting Gabriana.)

I am deeply touched by the many friends, loved ones and even anonymous strangers who’ve sent us (in lieu of airline miles donations) donations to help make this special trip a reality. Please know how much we appreciate your support and encouragement. Your blessings have breathed new life into me as we prepare for our special journey.

See you in Venice — where I’m hoping we’ll get to meet Johnny Depp!!!

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A change in plans

Things were going along fine in the dismantling process, and I was making a lot of progress (as I mentioned in the last post).

The only problem was that I kept feeling vertigo and nausea almost every day. I couldn’t figure out why. The vertigo started in November, when I returned from Italy, but my doctor and I agreed to watch it and see if it improved.

I went back on some daily medication I had neglected to take on my trip, and it seemed to improve for a time. I was still feeling off balance, but that I attributed to my new Shape Up sneakers that are supposed to give you a good workout when you are walking. I finally contacted my doctor when I noticed double vision while driving. A street address that was “1505” looked like “150505.” Fonts on signs looked funny to me. Since I am such a visual person, all that really freaked me out. She made several appointments for me, including one with an opthalmoligist. I happened to have a dentist appointment the same day and he thought my strange symptoms sounded like positional vertigo. So when I went for my MRI the following week (June 3) I thought it was a formality, and I would need to find an ear-nose-throat doctor who could perform the strange treatment for positional vertigo.

An hour or so after the MRI I got a phone call from my regular doctor telling me the news that a “mass” was found on my brain. I had no idea what this meant and calmly said, “So what is the next step?” She got my attention when she said I would need to see a neurosurgeon and have surgery. The first thing that came to my mind was that my move to Italy might have to be postponed. She hadn’t used the words “brain tumor” yet.

I made an appointment to see her that same afternoon and my daughter, Gabriana, broke all speed records to get from her work to the appointment. The doctor told us it was a benign meningioma, a brain tumor that was located on the posterior fossa. It was about 2″ by 2.”

After my daughter’s very determined interactions with Kaiser, we got an appointment the following Thursday with a wonderful neurosurgeon who had made the surgery appointment as soon as she got my case. It will be in two weeks, on June 24.

I’m using the two weeks to get myself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually ready for this. Gabriana bought me a cool walking stick so I wouldn’t fall down as I walk. She had moved home in January, which is very fortunate, and is insisting that I rest and let her take care of me.

As part of that, she set up an online community on LotsaHelpingHands.com. She has more information on our customized Website there with updates and the information we have learned. I probably won’t be writing a lot here after the surgery, so you can follow my progress at this link. I will continue here when I feel up to it.

This weekend we had a garage sale and moved much of our clutter out to people who needed/loved our stuff. We will have an estate sale sometime this summer for the higher end stuff. I have to stick around for some follow-up MRIs, and hopefully nothing else. We will know that after a pathologist takes a look at the tumor. We have sold a lot of furniture, so during my recovery the house will be blissfully clear of all the extra stuff I used to think was so important. I think that will help my recovery too.

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