Thursday, October 20, 2011

Arrivederci Venezia...

• Lots of walking • Melt in your mouth gnocchi • Meals beside a canal • Tall beautiful men, with personalities to match, who knew how to accessorize • Endless canals • Gorgeous gloves • Vivaldi • Murano glass • Scarves worn by everyone • A church on every corner • Cappuccino's for breakfast • Gondolas • Vaportto's • Valpolicella • Prosecco • The colourful houses of Burano • Photo ops on every street • Sharing memories with good friends • Quality mother/daughter time •  Love of Italy reconfirmed • Being with good friends at special times • Colour • Low rise buildings • Marble • Bridges • History • A sense of style • Water • Docks • Singing

It was a whirlwind trip — but those are my most favorite as I feel I get a lot of experiences in a short time.

When I saw a car for the first time in six days, it hit me, that I really had been a very different world.  :)

Mom on the vaporetto back to Piazzale Roma,
to catch a cab to the airport.
There was no way, my Mom was doing another
crazy speedy water taxi back to the airport.
We even had a porter take our bags to the vaporetto.

One last pass under the Accedemia Bridge,
with skinny house and gondola in the background.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My big 50th!

Up at 6:30 on my birthday? Yup, I signed up for a photography tour of the "other side " of Venice with Ian. I wanted to at least have a cappuccino before I met Ian, so reluctantly got out of bed. The morning was spent happily snapping away, in the Castello and Arsenale regions of Venice, along with Ian at my side. We had an intimate group of 5, including our guide. A couple from New Zealand were along for the tour as well. Off the typical tourist path, I got another side of Venice on this tour. I embraced the opportunity to capture as much of it as I could. The following speaks for itself.

Masks to be adorned, or not?

Ian and the Kiwis and our guide.

Sensible tourist shoes.

Canal hotel entrance.

Ian getting some photography guidance.

Endless bridges.

I hadn't had breakfast, and everything looked good.

Fresh picked pomegranates.

Local newsagent. Typical architecture.

Back doors of homes.

I liked the asymmetrical mail slot.

Bridge to front door. How convenient.

Like the crazy wires of Kathmandu,
I was fixated on the laundry lines of Venice.

A study in laundry.

More laundry.

Adornments on the gondolas.

The winged lion of Venice, atop the Arsenale.

I thought this looked like a character out of Gangs of New York.

The best known symbol of Venice.

After a happy two and a half hours of exploring and snapping, Ian and I met up with my Mom and Sue - where - in front of  Florian's. Florian's was a great meeting spot. By now Ian and I were hungry, having sacrificed breakfast for the sake of our tour, and were keen to get somewhere. The lovely tiny northern island of Burano was our destination for lunch. Two vaporetto's and just under two hours later, we arrived in the most colourful island of Burano. Had we known it would take so long to get to Burano, I think we would have had a bite before leaving St. Mark's Square, alas.

One of our daily sites,
as his master sold his paintings by our hotel.

Waiting for the vaporeto to Burano from Murano.

I love colour, and Burano was full of colour. It was such a happy looking spot. These island dwellers embraced all colours  and all combinations of colours. They were not shy. I loved it!

We had been told of a good restaurant in Burano, Al gatto nero, the black cat, by two people now — Mario, our tour guide in the Murano glass works factory and by the Contessa. Somehow going to a restaurant called The black cat on my birthday seemed very appropriate. So, we set our sites on finding this restaurant. It was located  maybe ten minutes from the vaporetto dock. We had a slight line-up, but were each given a glass of prosecco as compensation, and the line moved quickly. Word got out that it was my birthday, and more special drinks came out. I was given the head of the table in this charming restaurant that was adorned with dozens of paintings, sketches and drawings of black cats, and local scenery. This was a happening spot. It was buzzing inside and out on the canal side patio. Their specialty was fish, so we all ordered fish dishes. We had two large platters of antipasto of all kinds of fish — shell fish, raw fish, squid, mussels, fish I didn't know, a mousse of a white fish, it was all yummy. What's a meal without pasta, but with crab added. More yumminess. When it came time for dessert, I was stuffed, but was brought out a lovely little panacotta with a candle. After making a wish and blowing it out, more indulgence.

Location of my birthday lunch.

A one...

A two...

Note the Murano glass bead bracelet.
A birthday present from my Mom.

I think we were all ready for a walk around Burano after that very satisfying meal. We needed to move, or at least I needed to move.

Post lunch outside the restaurant.

Typical canal of colour.

Is this not sweet.

Bold and beautiful.

Embracing the many colours.

Side by side and bold.

Even the laundry was colourful.

Burano is known for its hand made lace.

Lovely reflections.

We had a glorious afternoon wandering around Burano. The weather was beautiful, the company splendid, the occasion was noteworthy — a day to remember.

Burano is small island, quite a way north of the action of Venice, but well worth it. Next stop Venice.

We took the vaporetto back towards Venice, changing vaporettos in Murano, and ending up on the opposite side of St. Mark's, at Fondemanta Nove. We were clearly, nowhere near where we wanted to end up. Not sure how that happened. When my Mom and I came back from Murano, we took a direct vaporetto. Oh well, more new neighborhoods to explore. I had been on the search for Pan Forte, a delicacy of the Florence region, but thought I could get it here, I mean, we were pretty close to Florence. I had gone into several Pasticcerie's, all with the same results. Finally, I saw one in a window, and two were purchased. Success. We were clearly walking through residential neighborhoods, with kids kicking a soccer ball around, moms and kids strolling and chatting before dinner and the end of a day's events were shared with neighbors.

We made it to the Rialto bridge and caught the vaporetto around the grand canal, back to St. Mark's. It was mostly full of people going home from work, or going out for the evening. Not many tourists like us on board. Again, the moon was full and bright and lead the way back to St. Mark's.

Vaporetto just going under the Accademia bridge with full moon.

One thing my Mom and I had on our list of things to do in Venice was to go to the original Harry's Bar. Now, Harry's is where Hemingway hung out in the 20's, and Bellini's originated. Yes, a total tourist trap, but one we wanted to experience, even though the Contessa told us they used frozen peach juice now. We knew it was around our hotel, but just didn't realize just how close, until we got off the vaporetto at St. Mark's. Harry's is an intimate little bar, full or little tables with little chairs occupied by tourists and locals alike. The menu asked that we refrain from taking photos, so as not to make other patrons uncomfortable. Wonder what, or who should or shouldn't be seen there. I resisted, but so wanted one last group shot of us with our 15 Euro Bellini's.

By now we were all getting weary, and my Mom and I still had to pack as we were leaving in the morning. I walked Ian and Sue back to their vaporetto stop, and had one last lovely walk through the evening quiet of St. Mark's square.

My 50th birthday was indeed a day to remember. My Mom suggested this whole trip, and from start to finish it was truly wonderful. Thanks Mom, for everything. I love you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dinner with the Contessa

Dare I say, another gorgeous morning in Venice.

As I said earlier, this was the view from my room.

The vendors setting up their stall in front our our hotel,
in front of an old water well.

Tourists in St. Mark's.

This morning we had arranged to rendez-vous with friends, Ian & Sue, from England. Ian calls Venice one of his favorite city's , and when my Mom asked if they would like to join us in Venice, to help celebrate my 50th birthday, we were pretty confidant they would join us, if at all possible. Florian's house band was already playing at 11:00 am when we saw Ian and Sue standing by the band stand. Rather than pay 12 Euros for a coffee, we opted to chat over coffee, a five minute walk west of St. Mark's Square, beneath the splendor of Campo Santa Maria Zobenigo. Four Americano's later, and we were ready for lunch. We walked 2 minutes to a lovely little restaurant that sat on the edge of a canal, the Ristorante "da Raffaele". We were even serenaded by a gondolier as he passed under our table. Gnocchi, raviolo and 1/4 chicken later, we all felt ready for sight seeing.

Sue, Ian, my Mom and I in front of Santa Maria Zobenigo.

Looking up the facade of Santa Maria Zobenigo.

More colourful masks.

A quiet side canal.

Another lunch al fresco, alongside a canal.

The singing gondolier.

What to do today? My Mom and I had already made plans for tonight, to go to a wine pairing/cooking class. I had asked Ian and Sue to join us, but they declined. What with Ian's son being the executive chef at Nobu 57 in New York, he hardly needed to get personal cooking and wine advise from someone else when all he needed to do was hang around his son in the kitchen. We were due to meet the Contessa, or Enrica as she was commonly known, at 5:00 at her apartment. Not enough time to go up to Burano or Torcello, so opted for local sight seeing.

We took the vaporetto across to St. Giorgio. St. Georgio's is on an island directly across from St. Mark's square. We got the most amazing views of the city from the Bell Tower, which Ian insisted we must go up. Six people stepped into a tiny little elevator that rose up the bell tower, as we saw the  steps winding around the tower. Marvelous views. Time for another Americano, or, was it Bellini hour?

View from the Bell Tower at St. Giorgio.

Took the vaporetto across to Zattere, and had drinks along the waterfront and caught up with Ian and Sue. Ian and my Mom and I have been good friends for over 25 years and shared many life milestones together, and were reminiscing over the many birthdays we had shared together. I remember celebrating Ian's 50th, a few years ago now, and here we were going to be celebrating mine together. Where has the time gone?

Ian and Sue walked us to the Ferrari Red door of Enrica's house. Ian and I had made plans to meet, early, the next morning, my birthday, to take a photography tour together. First, dinner with the Contessa.

Sunset out of the window at Enrica's.

My Mom and I weren't quite sure what to expect, but we did expect to be blown away by a wonderful meal, after all, we were assured a "meal to remember". Prosecco greeted us as we entered Enrica's loft style apartment. It was quite modern and sleek on the inside, and rustic old Venetian on the outside, minus the Ferrari red door. Lorenzo was our wine pairing expert, who showed up with a huge cooler pack, loaded down with wines from his store, Millevini Enoteca/1000 Wines. I lost track as to how many we tried. Let's see,  prosecco of course, one with our bruschetta, one with our bean salad, one with our risotto & frittata, one with our eggplant parmasean, and of course a dessert wine with our caramelized apples. Enrica did indeed have a passion for food and all its enjoyments, but I think this dinner was geared towards the novice in the kitchen. Both my Mom and I are pretty savvy in the kitchen, so dare I say, were somewhat dissapointed in the course selection. We were told that the fish market was closed Mondays, so therefore fish couldn't be served? I don't eat meat, but my Mom was sure looking forward to at least one meat course. It was tasty, but, not out of the ordinary. It was a meal we could have easily have put together on our own, minus the contessa. Lorenzo did however give me a much better understanding about wine pairing, and the over all success of a meal because of it. Both had lively personalities, which made for a pleasant evening, but dare I say, overpriced evening. It was an experience, that's how you have to look at it.

Enrica and Lorenza discussing wine.

A break in the meal.

Lorenzo walked us to the Vaporetto stop, and made sure we were headed in the right direction back to St. Mark's. It was a gorgeous night. The moon was full. The boat back was dreamy, with a slight breeze,  as the captain navigated what seemed were unmarked waters. I savored our walk through St. Mark's as I heard the different bands greet us. Collapsed in bed after 11, thinking what time I had to get up to meet Ian, under the arches, in front of the Correr museum in St. Mark's square (7:50 am).