Tag Archives: Italy

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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I OPEN SOME TIME

When I was in Venice in 2010 I saw a sign on a shop window that delighted me:

When I was there in 2012 I wanted to go back to the same store to show Gabriana and Diane the funny sign. I guess they had had too many complaints. But they still needed to put in a little twist. What stores open at 12:20? This is what we found:

And this is completely ignoring the Venetian custom of closing during the midday for lunch. Diane had her own ideas about what kind of store this was. I thought they either looked like great Burning Man attire or clothes that an old friend from The Well, Howard Rheingold, would wear. Here are some pictures I took of the inside in 2010. You can make your own guess about the clientele.

I took the 2010 pictures and the 2012 pictures were taken by Gabriana Marks and Diane Rauchwerger. I thank them for their good eyes and fresh viewing of Venice!

PLease follow Gabriana’s blog

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Alessandro’s workshop and a baby named Charlie

Today we contacted Alessandro again. We had met him on the night we ate at Da Raffaela a few weeks ago and he said he would take us to his workshop. On the way, it was chilly, so I stopped and bought a black cardigan sweater at United Colors of Benetton. It’s so much easier to do things like this when you are walking and pass the store. We didn’t have to drive there and find a parking place. We just stepped into the store, found it on the shelf and bought it. Of course, I did try it on first!

By the time we called Alessandro, he was ready to go for lunch. So we did the same. We weren’t hungry enough for a regular restaurant, but we didn’t want to buy a sandwich from a vendor and then have to find a place to sit in the shade and then find (and pay for) a toilet afterward. I didn’t know there were in-between places. We found a “snack restaurant” and could buy sandwiches and sit at an outdoor table; when I asked the waiter if he had any other kind of meat besides ham then he informed me huffily: “This is not a restaurant, madam.” It has become one of our favorite lines to repeat to each other for a good laugh, along with “This is a church. Do not behave indecently.” along with a sign Gabriana spotted in Verona that said “NO SALES ASSISTANCE,” which seems to really spell out the customer service vibe in many stores here.

Another one of our favorites was a sign on the front door of a store we saw (that I had seen on the last trip) said “We open some time.” It happened to be open and we went into a store filled with what looked like Burning Man costumes with huge suit jackets painted with crazy designs and fit for black light. I could not picture anyone from Venice wearing any of the merchandise! Even during carnival!

As we were sitting and having our lunch we noticed a young father and his baby at a table nearby. His wife was also at the table, along with each of their mothers. We couldn’t take our eyes off the father and his baby; he was holding him and kissing him and walking with him and singing to him. It was really dear to see. So, of course, we stopped by on our way out and told him how much we enjoyed watching him with his baby. Diane and I couldn’t remember our fathers behaving that way and we told him. He assured us that “all dads love their babies like this! They just might not show it.” And he said how beautiful he thought his baby is. He was from Brazil and his wife was from Slovakia and their baby’s name is Charlie. I told him that I had a friend named Charlie.  Here is a picture of a dearly-loved Charlie and his doting father.

Charlie and his loving father

The happy family

When we finally found our way to Alessandro’s again, he took us to his workshop a few blocks away. He had big machines that did the cutting and pressing. It’s really a place where they cut all the leather and papers and make all the books. He said his father makes the marbleized papers at home. We saw the bookmark cutter shaped like a ferro and he asked us to each choose which color of leather we would like. Diane and I each got shiny turquoise and Gabriana got pink suede. Then he took the large poster of Venice that he created and cut all the bookmarks from it. He used the cutting machine and the mold for the bookmark. He had molds for all the shapes he cut. We each chose which bookmarks we wanted to bring home as gifts. It means so much to have seen the whole process.

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.wordpress.com

The pictures were taken by Gabriana Marks, Diane Rauchwerger and me.

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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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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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