venice day 3

our last day in venice with most of the places to see behind us we have a chance to explore a little more.

we stop in at american express to get our reservations to switzerland and paris as the rail station is a hassle, and in our experience so far, not too helpful.

there are only two places on our must see list and unfortunately one of them is closed for the next two days. so we decide to visit an historic church, frari, first started in 1330 and completed in 1420. it is famous for a number of its art works by titian, a carving of john the baptist by donatello and so many memorials, alter pieces, gold, and a beautiful though protected cloister, among others. it is also the burial place of titian and montoverdi the famous composer, and rich with floor and wall tombs of the famous from so far back that the names are worn smooth.. the place is super rich in relics including one allegedly containing a few drops of blood from jesus. the marble carvings and medieval design make it quite compelling, so much so that rick soon has to go back to the bookshop to get a guide book before we continue on exploring its vast interior. there are many other churches in venice like this, perhaps not as rich but many have paintings and carvings by well know artists of the renaissance or older.

we stop for a coffee in a small anonymous square where there is a small bar and we grab a couple of coffees from a tough looking but charming woman who runs the place, i think she takes a liking to rick as he gets a little extra service.

we take our coffee outside and as we’re chatting we notice a very small store that specializes in venician carnival masks. they seem to be of a better quality and while waiting for rick i venture inside. the young couple are friendly and speak english easily; they explain the intricacies of the masks and how they are made. they carry only one artist who is well known and not cheap. joining rick for a second cup we decide we’ll have a look together as we have not bought an “official” souvenir of the trip yet. after looking at a few, rick takes a liking to a particularly interesting one but it is very pricey. when they see the sticker shock on our faces they knock a bit off which makes it more acceptable to us and we make a deal. the wrapping takes much longer than the transaction.

back to the hotel to unload and take a layer of clothes off as it has warmed up a bit. we’re still looking for a jacket for blair and wander back to the same square in the direction of the rialto bridge.

the rialto bridge and another euro just to pee. it is a zoo and i’d warned rick of the crowds (which he despises) luck was with us, it was a little less hectic and we were able to navigate it without much jostling. as i explained in an earlier post the rialto was built in the mid 1500’s and is quite beautiful with its high central arch and buildings spanning the grand canal. it has a central passage with stores on each side and two outside passages where you can see the canal and the horrible graffiti sprayed on the back of every store. At the peak of the bridge are two arches connecting the outside passages, this is the spot for the perfect view of the grand canal and it’s difficult to get through the crowd for an unobstructed look (i’ve become adept at pushing and shoving with the best of them.)

rick wants to get back to saint marks square and i want to try and find the store where i hope to find a jacket for blair. this has become a point of contention as the young owner of our hotel had made the recommendation and he’s about the same age as blair. other than frustration it has become a bit of a joke (or i try to find the humour in it) as i get directions to go to the left of the rialto, to the right of rialto, cross the rialto, cross the rialto and go left …. i’m sure you get the picture. everyone knows of this store but no one know where it actually is! i surrender and make my way back to saint marco’s to join up with rick and our last must see, the inside of saint marco’s church. it is free…sort of! the place is fantastic very much of the byzantium school and covered in gold and colourful mosaics (awesome). to see some of the more notable items such as the gold alter, carvings and the roof you must pay 2 or 3 euros per item so we decide to pass (we’re nearing the end of our trip and feeling a bit burned out on the nickle and dime stuff.)

last stop a stroll along the quay of st marks in search of a small carry on that we can put some of the accumulation of books and knick knacks picked up along the way. (i think we need two!) i find one and on the way back add one more item (i can’t resist…and haggle for a knock-off prada man bag…i probably still paid too much.)

we hop on the vappareto back to the hotel for some unwinding and a nap. rick’s pretty tired so i decide i’ll head out on my own for supper. it’s been enjoyable trying different foods and tonight is no exception as i have salmon tartar followed by pasta with something i can’t pronounce (it was slimy), so it could have been mushrooms this is followed by sword fish all accompanied by white wine and a bottle sparkling water (fantastico!) dessert was sooo good, a simple crepe stuffed with apple, surrounded by rich cream and fresh raspberries…heaven! And a strong italian espresso.

there is a warm breeze as i take a late night stroll along the quay where it is incredibly quiet except for a few workers setting up raised walkways as the waves are already cresting the walls. i sit and watch the last cruise ship of the season escorted by tugs as it heads for its berth. the ship is gigantic, it has a strange looking space age appendage high above the rear deck which i think is a disco or restaurant.

as i head back to the hotel i try a few night shots along our canal as it looks so peacful with the lights reflecting off the water.

rick is packed and ready to go, which means i’ll have to move my butt in the morning to get things in order for an early departure. See our day 3 slideshow here

buona notte.

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venice

you never told me it would be this beautiful! talk about a living postcard, this is it. we arrived at 11:30 on a fast train from florence and soon caught a vaporetto going to the district our hotel is in. the vaporetto are the boat buses of venice and have schedules and stops just as transit does. we bought a 3 day pass that allows us to go everywhere at any time, so far we’ve used it twice: once to get to our hotel and the second to do the grand tour around the main islands and up the grand canal. i took so many pictures i ran out of juice and have yet to find a place that sells batteries.

our hotel is a lowly 2 star but is clean, very small, quiet and off the beaten path. it has no phone,tel evision or internet, but someone close by does and that’s what i’m using to update the blog. hopefully it will last through wednesday, when we leave. the hotel is adjacent to a small canal which we look directly onto, it too is picture perfect, in fact we’ve seen a couple of gondolas go by but never have the camera ready. anyway the place is bliss, away from the madding crowd and is truly peaceful; i think we can relax here.

we toured around a couple of the islands on foot, again like florence every corner is a new surprise, without exception a painting waiting to be done. the many former palazzos, old churches and the squares offer an infinite variety of colour, light and space. the granddaddies of them all are saint marco’s cathedral and the doge’s palace. the square is huge, it probably held 10’s of thousands in its day. the whole square is surrounded by a colonnade of stacked arches which make it seem like a large cloister with the shimmering church at the eastern end and the doge’s palace next door enclosing it at the eastern end. as with many buildings on our trip, saint marco’s is also covered with scaffolding in various spots. the biggest disappointment though was to discover the bridge of sighs framed in a large wrap with advertising for lancia, an italian car company who are no doubt sponsoring the renovations.

it does not take us long to get lost; this, however is not a bad thing, unless you run out of batteries for the camera…duh. the place is so spectacular i should try a little painting as it reminds me of so many watercolours i’ve seen over the years. in a way it’s repetitious as the bridges have similar designs and the buildings look alike, but the blend of colours and details make the difference.

after a lengthy walk using the sun to guide us (we’re lost again) we get back to the right neighbourhood and find a supermarket for some fresh fruit, batteries and wine…of course. our hotel delivers breakfast to the room but we’re not sure we can hold out till 8 a.m. so need some munchies.

for dinner we hop back on the vaporetto to saint marco’s to search out a restaurant which is not hard to do in this town as they are everywhere, up little alleys, in back rooms and bordering the canals. the meal is low key, salad, chicken followed by a pear tart and a cappucino. beside us is a lone man nursing his wine and looking a bit forlorn. he starts up the conversation and we’re soon discovering yet another interesting stranger. his name is howard levy and he’s a jazz musician from chicago. to our later surprise when i look him up online, he is quite well known, though he had humbly stated otherwise. he was feeling mellow and a bit road weary having been on the road for a couple of weeks, performing in a new city or country every day. he plays in north and south america as well as throughout europe, he’s also played in vancouver a few times. you can learn more about him here. he gets a call from his girlfriend which cheers him up as he tells us he is flying back to chicago tomorrow. we say our goodnights.

we’ve been fortunate on this trip to meet quite a few interesting people, all willing to spend some time in conversation and share their insights on travel country and habits.

a slow ride back on the vaporetto and an early night. See a slide show of our first day in Venice

gondola at rest

buona notte