Archive for April, 2011

Venice photos

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Unfortunately this was not one of our best trips for photography. The weather was perfect but somehow the light was never quite where we wanted it – basically I think two days is just not enough to get your best pictures.

But here are a few of our photos anyway – a lot of gondolas, a whole lot of canals, a view of our hotel lobby complete with Murano glass, a mail slot for secret documents (in this case, specifically meant for accusing other citizens of tax evasion. Apparently the Doge’s palace once had one of these for each type of crime. The glass woman is a sample of street art on Murano.

Click on any of these thumbnails to see the full-sized image.

Venice, Day 2

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Photos will be in the next entry.

One of the interesting things about being in Venice was seeing all the differences from the way the Dutch do things – the little stuff, mostly. For instance, when you pay for your meal or a purchase with a bankcard, the gadget they give you to enter your PIN number doesn’t have a little plastic shield to keep anyone from seeing what you’ve typed.Venetians believe in customer service, for one thing, and it’s actually possible to catch the eye of your waiter. You also get your food while you’re still hunger and not, as in the Netherlands, after you’ve passed through hunger to a state of vague queasiness. Venice has actual sunshine, not the beautiful but pale light of the Netherlands; it was probably a good thing I wear a sunblock every day and it would have been even smarter if I’d thought to bring sunglasses. Even the older Dutch cities have relatively simple layouts, like Amsterdam’s spoke system, whereas there are no straight lines in Venice. Holland is really not a great shopping country, whereas Venice has even better shopping than Milan. And finally, they have the *loudest* pigeons I have ever heard!

I had bought in advance tickets for the Secret Passages tour of the Doge’s Palace, so after breakfast Sunday we headed over there. We got there about an hour and a half ahead of time, which just gave us time to walk through the portions of the palace that are open to the public – it’s an enormous building. You can see some of the Doge’s own apartment as well as the splendid public rooms and the prisons. The public rooms, with works by artists like Tintoretto and Titian on every surface, reminded me more than anything else of the Vatican Museum – only while there might have been a *few* less treasures, there were a whole lot fewer people so it was a much more rewarding place to tour. I didn’t enjoy the Secret Passages as much, though; you go high up in the building to see the rooms where official secrets were kept as well as higher-status prisoners like Casanova; the thing is, you are high up in an enormous and ancient building that is not entirely on solid ground and that is built entirely of wood. It moves as people move around in it. Our guide kept leading us into tiny rooms and talking at length while we were all standing still, and after a while it made me feel a little ill. I don’t get seasick in boats (I think I can say that definitively, having weathered not only any number of regattas in rough water but the ultimate mariners’ test, the Drake Passage!) or even on amusement park rides, but I do, slightly, in buildings that are supposed to be still and aren’t.

I wasn’t ready for lunch after that so we went next door to St. Mark’s Basilica. Both the guidebook and the signs told us that the church wasn’t open until 14:00 on Sundays, but there was a long line of people and it seemed to be moving, so we got in it to see what would happen. What happened was that the line didn’t go onto the church floor but rather upstairs, where you could visit the museum, go out onto the gallery, and get perfect views of the church and its magnificent mosaics from the gallery level. Then it runed out we had timed things perfectly because we were able to go right down onto the floor of the nave. We did pay to go into both the treasure chamber (not bad, but we’ve seen better in places like Notre Dame or Utrecht’s museum of ecclesiastical art) and behind the altar to see the Pala d’Oro, which is really spectacular (lots of gold and silver, lots of saints). We stopped in the piazza for sandwiches and spritzes. I had thought the latter were white wine and soda water but they came out improbably bright orange – they also contained an olive, a slice of blood orange, and Aperol.

We thought we had just enough energy left for the Museo Correr, on the other side of the piazza, but we were wrong. It is in Napoleon’s old palace, and is enormous. It actually is more or less a mixture of several museums; ancient art, the history of Venice, a glass exhibit, “ancient art’ (paintings) and some of Napoleon’s own rooms. We gave up and didn’t even attempt the second floor.

Ted had originally planned to do another gondola ride during the day, but after being charged €100 for a ride of 30 minutes or less, he changed his mind about that. (It’s a little cheaper during the day, but only by €20 or so. Instead we took the waterbus toward the Rialto bridge – the bridge was actually in sight from our hotel, but because there is not a consistent walkway along the Grand Canal and because no street in Venice goes straight for very long, it’s about a 10 minute zig-zag walk. However, the waterbus also zig-zags across the canal, so when we got off a little before the Rialto on the side of the restaurants we wanted to go to, we still couldn’t go straight there. However, only one detour got us there. Ted didn’t want to go to the same restaurant as the previous night, but unfortunately the one we chose wasn’t as good as the first one. My grilled shrimp was tasty, though, as was the rose wine.

Our flight out today was just after noon, so we didn’t have any time for further sightseeing – we just got up, had breakfast, and then caught the Alilaguna waterbus to the airport. So we are home now.

Now we just have to get through nine working days until we’re off to the US for a more family-style vacation.


Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

I wrote up our first day in Venice, yesterday when i was supposed to be taking a nap, but I’ve never been good at that. (Anyway, the hotel internet kicked me off, so i had to save and post later.) Friday we left work early, took the train to Schiphol, then caught a short flight to Venice – the trip is my birthday present from Ted. (He’s working on that whole ‘romance’ concept, and starting to get a handle on it after all these years.). We took the water bus form the airport to our hotel in the San Marco sestiere, finally getting in around midnight.

I’m still getting over a cough that I’ve had for a month and the flight didn’t help that, so we slept in a bit, as much as you can in an older hotel. (About nine, apparently.) That did help the coughing – I think its finally starting to go away. The hotel breakfast was a pretty substantial one and the weather is perfect so we were able to eat it in the hotel’s back garden.

After breakfast we walked over to the Piazza San Marco, stopping to look in a few glass and souvenir shops on the way. For fear things might be closed tomorrow for the Sunday, we decided to start by going up the Campanile San Marco bell tower, to get the high view for Ted. while he was in line for that, I bought two-day passes for the vaporettos, but managed to get back before he’d gotten to the front of the line. To Ted’s disappointment, you go up in a lift and aren’t allowed to take the stairs. (Don’t tell the Venetophiles, but I think Prague actually has better views, since it has more terrain.)

Next we took the line 42 vaporetto (water bus) to Murano, nearly an hour ride because it goes around the long way. We got off at the Museum, where we got to see two millennia’s worth of glass, then walked back across the island to see all the glass factories and their shops. Ted wants a Venetian chandelier, but not until we know exactly where we’d put it, so I guess someday we have a shopping trip back here.

I was starting to fade by then, so we took the water bus back on a more direct line, and headed back to the hotel for the aforementioned nap. After that, we walked over to the Rialto bridge, which turns out to have shops all across it like old London Bridge. There are a bunch of restaurants there along the water, so we just picked a good-looking one and had wine, buffalo mozzarella and some kind of paper-thin ham, ravioli for Ted and scampi with slivered marinated artichoke for me, followed by caramel custard for him and tiramisu for me. The antipasto and mains were excellent, though I’d have to say I’ve had better tiramisu.

Writing blog entires on an Pad is tiresome, though, so Day 2 (and of course the photos) will have to follow after we return home!