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19 April 2012 @ 11:51 pm
Portland to Los Angeles to Paris to Venice  
Word count: 161 Step count: 10,015

Stayed up until 1 AM the night before the trip dealing with various issues (mostly ebook-related... paper books weigh more, but they don't crash) and woke up at 5:00 with mind spinning, so started this long long day with 4 hours' sleep.

The good news is that we did this flight in business class on Air France. We cashed in every Alaska frequent flyer mile we had, and then some, to do it, but it was well worth it -- long-haul upgrades are your best air-miles investment. On our first leg, from PDX to LAX, a fellow business-class traveler was Claire Coffee, the actress who plays the Hexenbiest in Grimm.

At LAX, getting from our Alaska gate to the Air France lounge took an entire hour (including a brief visit to Alaska's lounge, bus to the other terminal, check in at the Air France ticket desk, and getting through security) which didn't bode well as our layover in Paris, also involving a change in terminals, was only a little more than an hour all told.

Our five-hour layover in the Air France lounge went really quickly, mostly dealing with various computer issues and some email -- including an agent rejection, alas. The agent liked the book but "I just don't believe I could sell this. There aren't really any YA editors with any understanding of hard-ish SF, and even if I found someone, I can't see this getting through acquisition somewhere." Argh.

On the LAX-Paris flight, I watched Mission Impossible 4 (silly fun), slept about 6 hours, did a little reading. Air France's food in Business Class was actually delicious, and we made it across huge DeGaulle airport (1.52 miles' walk, according to my pedometer), through passport control and security, and to our gate with time to spare. Whew! Hearing the babel of languages at CDG reminds me that travel forces us to question our assumptions ("of course everyone talks like me, eats like me, dresses like me, lives like me") -- you learn that there are other ways to do things that you had never even realized you were doing at all.

Another excellent meal (technically a snack - it was small and cold - but it had 3 courses and it was delicious) on the plane to Venice. We never did get looked at by Customs; I think I saw some guys in Douane vests talking with each other at CDG as we walked past. It was raining when we arrived, so we decided to take the bus (quick and cheap) into Venice rather than the boat (slower and more scenic, but not so nice on a gray day). The walk from the bus stop to the hotel was a bit of a slog, especially with wheelie bags over those picturesque stepped bridges, but WOW we are really here at last!

The hotel was a bit surprised to see us (our host muttered darkly about her husband not writing down our reservation in the book; I suspect those two will Have Words later) but they did honor our reservation and set us up in a charming little room with mini-fridge and bidet. We threw down our bags, brushed our teeth, and went out in search of dinner. We found several really nice-looking, popular restaurants but they were Fully Committed; most of the rest were either too touristy (multi-lingual menus, obnoxious touts) or too underpopulated or both, or else chicceti bars which we didn't have the brain power to deal with. The good news is that the search gave us a lovely walk and I got to appreciate the way the character of the light changed minute by minute as the sun went down.

We wound up at a restaurant on a side street, with a multilingual menu but decently crowded and had a nice vibe, where we had a very nice dinner of tomato and onion bruschetta, grilled veg antipasto (Kate had sardines as well), seafood risotto (tentacles!) and a lovely assortment of fried seafood (Italian tempura). We did let ourselves get upsold into a pretty pricey dinner but still a lovely start to the trip.

Tomorrow, we tourist in earnest.

 
 
 
lauriemannlauriemann on April 19th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
Venice is such an interesting place. Foodwise, I was a student the one time I was there, and as it was a tour, we ate in a so-so restaurant. Had my first squid and HATED it. Was surprised how often boiled potatoes were part of a meal. Went for pizza one night and had my first wood-oven pizza which was good though a little dusty. Loved visiting the Merano glass factory, St. Mark's and the Doge's palace. Hanging out in St. Mark's Sq. was pretty cool tool.
Kate: Amazing Racekateyule on April 20th, 2012 05:51 am (UTC)
According to a restaurant app I've been browsing this morning, our hotel is right near a pizzeria called Vesuvi, with "the only (and probably the last) such [wood-fired] oven in the city, since lighting fires on the islands is prohibited." The first of many factoids for the day!

In Brooklyn, the treasured rarities are the grandfathered-in coal-fired pizza ovens.
lauriemannlauriemann on April 20th, 2012 09:46 am (UTC)
I had never heard of coal-fired pizza under recently when one opened near our house. Anthony's Coal-Fired pizza is a Florida chain, and they just opened one in Pennsylvania. I prefer thin-crust pizza and thought it was pretty good. Great wings, too.
KMSvgqn on April 19th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, lovely! Brings back happy memories. I'm really glad your hotel had room for you even though "someone" forgot to enter it in the books. That could have gone rather differently.

Your dinner sounds perfectly respectable for a first night. There is much to be said for taking a relatively easy route after a day of travel like that. Just because a place caters to tourists doesn't mean it's all bad.

Looking forward to more updates!!
Dave O'Neilldaveon on April 19th, 2012 11:17 pm (UTC)
Believe me, if you rule out menus in Venice as multi-lingual you're going to struggle to eat :)

We had a fun time there, including dinner in a restaurant where the only other patrons were Russian Mafia.

Enjoy!
Kate: Amazing Racekateyule on April 20th, 2012 06:03 am (UTC)
... going to struggle to eat...

Oh, we know. But "We cater to monolingual foreigners!" is much more of a core trait at some than others.

Touts, though—those are a deal-killer. No touts.
scarlettinascarlettina on April 20th, 2012 02:38 am (UTC)
Those photographs are just stunning! I'm so delighted your first afternoon/evening was a good one. Your descriptions left my mouth watering.
joycemochajoycemocha on April 20th, 2012 03:32 am (UTC)
The light reminds me of our July trip to Amsterdam a few years back...same sort of mood. I remember exclaiming "so this is where Rembrandt got his light!" Just...yeah. Light.

Enjoy!
Kate: Amazing Racekateyule on April 20th, 2012 05:42 am (UTC)
There's an entire documentary on the subject of Dutch Light.
et in Arcadia egoboo: Chicago (from Adler)apostle_of_eris on April 20th, 2012 07:48 pm (UTC)
I have a whole rave about the Impressionists & Provence & light.
Most Americans don't realize how far north Europe is. (Chicago, my home, is at the latitude of the Riviera.)
Just for the heck of it, I Googled: Seattle is 47.61° N; Amsterdam is 52.37° N. That's over 300 miles . . . just north of Saskatoon . . .
threeoutsidethreeoutside on April 20th, 2012 05:01 pm (UTC)
Seething with envy, BUT ALSO so glad you're getting this wonderful trip! I love the pictures, too. Of course we all want a travelogue but (gentle loving reminder) don't eat up TOO much of your precious vacation hunched over the keyboard! For your own good!

One question, what's a "tout"? I am picturing a little man with a cigar stub in his teeth, wearing a loud plaid jacket and trying to get you to bet on a dodgy horse-race...I suspect that's not right...
David D. Levinedavidlevine on April 20th, 2012 07:14 pm (UTC)
That's basically correct, but instead of a horse race it's a restaurant.
threeoutsidethreeoutside on April 20th, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
REALLY? It's a PERSON??? O.o
David D. Levinedavidlevine on April 20th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, if you walk down Restaurant Row in any heavily touristed area, there will be guys (it's always guys) out front of some of the restaurants inviting you inside, sometimes very aggressively. It's a form of advertising, and like all advertising it can become obnoxious.
threeoutsidethreeoutside on April 20th, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
Wow, it never occurred to me that might be the practice in *Venice*. My husband and I encountered it on our one foray into Nogales, Mexico for a 2 hour shopping trip. You could hardly get down the sidewalk at ALL for the (what we called) hawkers, or shills. That was unpleasant, for us, but as I think about it, it's probably one of the oldest forms of advertisement known to man. *That* is something for me to think about...one doesn't find this practice in much SF or Fantasy, does one. I wonder why not...all those off-Earth outposts of grubby market alleys, colonial capital squares of open markets...Hm...

Edited at 2012-04-20 07:40 pm (UTC)
et in Arcadia egobooapostle_of_eris on April 20th, 2012 07:39 pm (UTC)
Real Soon Now, we'll have the "app" that translates the menu you focus your phone camera on. I'm eager for it!

I allocate 10% of my time in a new city or place for snafus and getting lost. And mistakes in booking. It's pretty inevitable, and expecting it makes it less aggravating. You're doing good.
David D. Levinedavidlevine on April 20th, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
There already is such an app. It's called Word Lens, and I tried the free sample but wasn't impressed enough with how well it worked (I think that character recognition on a moving phone-cam image, rather than the actual translation, was the weak point) to buy the full version.
Steve Hutchisonfoomf on April 23rd, 2012 04:35 am (UTC)
So, initial encounter with Signora Fawlty aside, has there been any other indication that the hotel has Issues?

And I'm loving this Vicarious Europe thing. My friend Barb just got back from Amsterdam.
David D. Levinedavidlevine on April 23rd, 2012 06:30 am (UTC)
No, the hotel (Aquavenice) has been lovely, though it's one of the few places we've been so far where the host doesn't speak any English at all (which hasn't been a great impediment).

This reminds me that I should really be posting the names of the places we've been eating. I'll make a new post with that info.