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20 April 2012 @ 11:18 pm
First full day in Venice  
Word count: 163 Step count: 18,572

Awake around 7:00 after 7 solid hours of sleep. We seem to be on Venice time, though still a bit tired and low on brain. I refuse to credit the homeopathic anti-jet-lag pills that our friends Bo and Don recommended (though I did take them), because I don't believe in homeopathy even if it works.

We were a bit disappointed to find last night that there were no blinds on the windows. This morning I realized: we are in Venice, so there are shutters instead (they are green, of course). Also should have remembered before I did that the pull string in the shower that doesn't seem to do anything is actually an "I've fallen and I can't get up" switch that triggers an audio alarm outside. I hope it was only audible in our room but, if not, I'm sure they're used to it by now.

Breakfast was delivered to the room right at 8:30: coffee, steamed milk, croissants with powdered sugar on the outside and apricot jam on the inside, cute little crusty bread rolls, several kinds of packaged rusks, some packaged cookies (?) that we didn't open, butter, jam, honey, Nutella. Continental breakfasts are not tidy; we wound up with powdered sugar and bread crumbs everywhere. There was also one small packet of corn flakes (though no bowl). I ate them in my coffee cup, with hot steamed milk, an experience I do not intend to repeat. There was also a largish clear plastic tumbler which is, I think, intended as a trash basket, and sugar in two varieties: "classico" (white) and "tropical" (brown).

After breakfast we wandered in a generally southeasterly direction toward an antiques-and-beads store Kate knew about, with many a diversion along the way. One highlight was the church of Santa Maria Formosa, where the portrait of kindly San Giovanni Bosco had offerings of cactus and amaryllis and plug-into-socket devotional candles (1 euro). At some other altars you could pay 50c to flip the switch on a preinstalled electric candle. S. Maria Formosa also featured an impressively large (adult-sized) baptismal font which we dubbed the "holy hot tub." Every altar was decorated with many many ornate silver hearts with "GR" and other initials; no one could explain these. Morning snack: panini "club rustico" with speck (ham), mushrooms, cheese. Found a lovely little hidden garden between Piazza San Marco and the lagoon, with grass and trees and benches, an oasis of tranquility just steps from hordes of tourists. Nearby was a hotel(?) with a covered gondola dock and a drawbridge that obviously hadn't been closed in years. When we did find the antiques shop it was closed, alas.

"Eat the thing with eyes" and "embrace not knowing" are our watchwords.

The famous Piazza San Marco was extremely crowded, with big lines to get into the basilica and campanile, but nonetheless we had to stop in. Then we headed to tucked-away-in-a-back-street Osteria da Carla, recommended by the "TapVenice" app, for lunch: cichetti assortment, pasta with zucchini & scallops, ravioli with pumpkin -- yum. After lunch we visited Teatro Fenice (Phoenix), an ornate opera hall that has lived up to its name, having been destroyed several times, most recently by a 1996 fire, and rebuilt each time. The building was impressive, also the original architect's model from 1790, but the audio tour was interminable, being delivered exceptionally slowly and with repetitious redundancy that repeated itself a lot. We theorized that the English-language audio was made exceptionally clear, so that it might serve for all those whose native languages were not covered, at the cost of brevity for native English speakers. Came out of the theatre to discover we'd missed a downpour (excellent timing!) and decided to head back to the room for a nap, with a brief stop at St. Stephen's to view the impressive ship-like ceiling.

After our nap we met our tour guide for a private "chicetti crawl" we'd booked online ahead of time. Chicetti is basically Venetian tapas, an assortment of small dishes. We visited four or five different chicetti bars, sampling various small and delicious things on bread and drinking prosecco and "spritz" (a popular Venetian aperitif combining Aperol, white wine, and sparkling water), chatting with our guide about Venetian life and history on the way and finishing up with gelato. Had a bit of difficulty finding our way back to the hotel as the sun set, but being lost is just part of the Venice experience (and it's an island, how lost can you really get?).

(Deleted comment)
David D. Levinedavidlevine on April 21st, 2012 06:49 am (UTC)
The two women were setting up a photo with the baby, the lion, and the bear. I thought it was cute. It's kind of a meta-photo, I guess.
Wendy S. Delmatersafewrite on April 22nd, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)
Loved that photos. Nice travelogue, too.
threeoutsidethreeoutside on April 20th, 2012 10:34 pm (UTC)
Fun and adventures!

If you haven't already read it, The City of Falling Angels is about Venice, by the same guy who wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I recommend both, but now that you've been in VEnice I bet you'll get a lot more out of that first one. Mind-bogglingly complicated politics and nefarious goings-on in that place, since forever, it seems.

Glad you're having a good time!
shelly_raeshelly_rae on April 21st, 2012 12:39 am (UTC)
I have a picture of me with that winged lion taken late one night in 1992 or so. No teddy bear was eaten then, possibly pigeons though. If you get up early enough the fish market is really interesting and a major photo op.
Happy travels
Anna Feruglio Dal Danannafdd on April 21st, 2012 01:43 am (UTC)
GR is "grazia ricevuta", although I would expect I to e Per Grazia Ricevuta. It means that the particular thing that has been prayed fro has been granted, or that some unexpected favour has been received. People used to have little paintings of, say, accidents or shipwrecks painted and placed on the altar of their favourite saint to thank for having been preserved. My dad was presented with one (well, a mock one) by a painter friend once when he fell between the boat and the dock (after a cheerful evening out I suspect).
I think of cicchetti as glasses of wine, not tapas, but then I come from an area of sad drinkers.
David D. Levinedavidlevine on April 21st, 2012 06:52 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for the info on the silver hearts!

I'm sure that the different meaning of "cicchetti" here is Venetian dialect -- they are quite proud of the local dialect here and seem to think of themselves as separate from Italy in many ways. The drinks and the snacks are also known as "ombra" because of the shade under which they were once served.
Deldel_c on April 21st, 2012 11:42 am (UTC)
Look at the English meaning of "tea time", in which actual tea is optional.
Miche: maketeamicheinnz on May 1st, 2012 09:58 am (UTC)

Tea is compulsory. Everything else is optional.
KMSvgqn on April 21st, 2012 04:03 am (UTC)
Ooh, the cicchetti crawl sounds wonderful! Did you have any favorite tidbits? And Aperol spritz, I *adore* Aperol spritz. I drank them every opportunity I got. I have a bottle of Aperol here, but it isn't the same.
David D. Levinedavidlevine on April 21st, 2012 06:55 am (UTC)
I think my favorite cicchetto was a warm eggplant thingie. There was also a tiny sandwich of swordfish (smoked?) on a mini-croissant with marscapone and sun-dried tomatoes that was divine. The best ones combined a variety of ingredients and flavors in an unexpected way.
scarlettina: Happy Skipscarlettina on April 21st, 2012 05:23 am (UTC)
Venice doesn't have a bad angle, does it? The pictures are marvelous!

The ciccetti crawl sounds like it was great, very tasty--and gives me ideas about the trip to Paris in the fall. (See what I did there? ::cheeky grin::)
David D. Levinedavidlevine on April 21st, 2012 06:57 am (UTC)
Yay, Paris! I'm so happy for you!
abqdan on April 21st, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC)
I was last in Venice in 1970 - glad to see it hasn't sunk yet! I don't remember it being particularly crowded - but then, European travel wasn't quite so accessible and we may have been off-season. The pictures are great reminders of my previous trips. Glad you are finding plenty to eat!

What are you doing for communications? When we were in Turkey last year, we didn't want to pay the exorbitant international phone rates, so relied on public area wifi and skype; just wondered if you'd found a better solution for European travel?
David D. Levinedavidlevine on April 21st, 2012 08:50 pm (UTC)
We are using our US iPhones, with the "international data plan" giving us 800MB for $200 per month each (expensive, but far cheaper than pay-as-you-go international data, cheaper than renting a local smart phone, much simpler and not much more expensive than jailbreaking our phones and getting a local SIM with data plan, and far more functional than buying a local non-smart phone). We don't make a lot of phone calls, but for $10 a month we also got an "international calling plan" that slightly reduces the exorbitant international roaming per-minute rate ($0.99 instead of $1.39 per minute).

Edited at 2012-04-21 08:51 pm (UTC)