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The Croatian Coast
Vacation in Venice
July 20 - Pula to Venice
early for a walk to the ferry terminal and the bus ride to Poreč.
Croatia got the last laugh - the hotel was supposed to provide us a
lunch since we had to leave before the restaurant opened for breakfast.
However, the night clerk (who spoke neither Italian nor English) gave
our lunch to someone else!
well, it is all part of traveling. We had an uneventful drive to
Poreč, loaded on
the ferry and were within sight of Venice in two
hours. The last hour was very slow - the captain had to reduce the
vessel's speed significantly once close to the city.
lucked out in our lodging - it was within walking distance of the ferry
terminal. This was our first experience with staying in a religious
institution. We had chosen a place called Centro Culturale Don Orione
Artigianelli. It isn't a monastery, but as far as we can tell, it has a
mission of helping handicapped people. We aren't quite certain why they
have rooms, but the rooms are every bit as nice as the 3* hotels we've
been staying in - in fact they are larger and don't smell of smoke.
Ours is a double room with a private bath and breakfast (typical
Italian breakfast of rolls and coffee) and costs about 1/2 of what a 3*
hotel costs in Venice. It is about 1/2 km from the Accademia (art
gallery) and within 15 minutes of Piazza San Marco. It is clean, quiet
were too early to check in, so we left our luggage and headed out for
lunch. The restaurant associated with the Centro, Il Ristorante San
Trovaso, is very close and very good. Tom had lasagne and I had penne
walked around this beautiful, but sad, city for a couple of hours, then
returned to the hotel, completely knackered. It was hot and muggy. I
had made arrangements to meet Deborah Anderson in Venice, in front of
San Marco, but I failed to bring the note with me of what day, so while
Tom tried to cool off in the hotel room, I hiked over to San Marco.
What a mob scene! Thousands of tourists and millions of pigeons. It is
illegal to feed the pigeons in Venice, but that doesn't stop the
tourists. I don't have a high opinion of the former mayor of London,
Red Ken Livingstone, but he called pigeons 'rats with wings' and I have
to agree - they are horrible. Deborah wasn't in front of San Marco, so
assume the 'date' was one of the other days we are going to be here.
are certain areas of Venice I'd just as soon avoid because it is so
crowded. San Marco is one, the Rialto Bridge is another. You can't walk
for all the tourists. We had to come here in July because of the choir
tour, but never again, even though I would like to come back - there
are many things to see, but the queues are too long to make it a
walked out to the Grand Canal before dinner - we just happened to see a
regatta - gondolas racing and hundreds of boats running alongside them.
What a sight!
had dinner at a pizzeria not too far from the Centro - if you shop the
menus, you can see significant changes in prices based on where you are
- the San Marco area is prohibitively expensive, as are some of the
areas along the Grand Canal. However, you can find pretty reasonable
places in the little squares and alleys somewhat off the main tourist
track. We found one such place and struck up a conversation with a
local couple - what a small world - her godmother was from Tacoma! She
actually had heard of Tacoma, but had not been there.
had been predicted and the weatherman was right - a fair lightening
storm blew in around 11:00 pm and put on quite a show. The benefit, of
course, was cleaning the air and cooling things down.
July 21 - Venice
managed to get connected to the internet this morning and get e-mails,
etc. caught up - it is nice to have that facility available again. We
had breakfast at the Centro, then headed to Piazza San Marco - I had
thought, foolishly as it turned out, that the crowds wouldn't be a
bad. The queues were nearly as long and there were thousands
people and millions of pigeons - again.
to get away from the
crowds, so we headed to the Giardini Publicci (Public Gardens), an
oasis amidst the masses. We found that within less than a km. of San
Marco there are few tourists and a much more 'Italian' looking
neighborhood, with people out doing their shopping. The gardens were
established during the brief period when Napoleon controlled Venice.
Compared to public gardens in England and the US, they aren't much, but
a patch of green and some trees is welcome after the pavement of the
rest of Venice (okay, Venice has water, too, which is lovely).
was much cooler - thank heavens, since yesterday was so hot and muggy.
had a pastry and cappuccino in a bar next to the garden - oh dear, the
awful Asian mosquitoes have made their way to Venice - they are small
and very hungry - they seem to like my flesh more than Tom's. They
leave a particularly vicious bite. I carry After Bite with me at all
times when traveling in Italy because of these pests.
several years I have wanted a Venetian mask as a souvenir. We learned
of a place near the Rialto Bridge where the masks are actually made in
Venice (what a concept). This did mean going to the dreaded Rialto area
and we weren't able to find the place (later we looked it up on Via
Michelin and got a better idea of the location, which we'll try again).
We also found a restaurant that is recommended by Frommer, very close
to the mask shop, so that will be our journey on Tuesday.
made our way back to the Centro - I had brought my pedometer with me -
we clocked 4.5 miles. No wonder we were tired. Tom took care of some
business, not the least of which was dealing with National Car Rental,
which has put a $9,600 reserve on our Visa. This is because we did not
buy their insurance, opting to use our Visa insurance. They haven't
actually made a charge for that amount, but their reserve reduces our
available credit by that much. Tom also called Auto Europe, the agency
through which we booked the car and got a complaint started.
unsure of when I was supposed to meet Deborah, I left Tom at the Centro
to rest and I walked over to San Marco - no luck - our 'date' must be
for Tuesday. Or maybe I couldn't see her for all the crowds.
back to the Centro and Tom and I went out for a gelato and to pick up
decided to have dinner at San Trovaso - the food is good, the prices
reasonable and the atmosphere pleasant. We are getting accustomed to
sharing a vegetable plate, maybe having an antipasto and having a
reasonably light dinner overall.
July 22 - Venice
is a lot to see in Venice - far more than San Marco and the Rialto
Bridge. We set off rather early for the Ghetto - the word 'ghetto seems
to have Venetian roots, for it was here that thousands of Jews were crammed into a small space after they were expelled from Spain in the
1400's. In one of those rare travel moments, as we entered the ghetto,
we came upon a funeral procession - the casket on wheels, followed by
the mourners and the cantor chanting - it didn't seem appropriate to
take a photo, but it was very picturesque.
in the morning is a completely different world. The wholesalers are
delivering their product to the the shops - of course, in boats, the
garbage is collected, the citizens are out shopping before the hoards
of tourists can descend upon them.
years I have wanted a genuine Venetian mask - but I have been reluctant
to buy one, thinking I would probably get something that was made in
China. We had taken a look at Fommer's website, which recommended a
shop in the Rialto area. The artisan makes his own masks and made masks
that were used in "Eyes Wide Shut." We found the shop = very small -
but it was closed. Curses! We had a very unsatisfactory lunch at an
osteria that Frommer recommended - La Madonna - nearly $50 for two thin
bowls of pasta e fagioli, vegetables and a liter of wine, The
redemption was that the mask shop was opened after we had lunch and, at
last, I was able to buy my mask.
was an exhibition of models of designs by Leonardo da Vinci in one of
the churches - since we had just sung 'Leonardo Dreams of His Flying
Machine', I wanted to get photo of his design, so went inside - he had
two phases, if you will - one, where he made designs dependent on
muscle power and the second phase where he realized that muscles
weren't going to power him in flight. I think that the piece we sang
was representative of the second stage.
returned to the hotel and, once again, I made my way to Piazza San
Marco - what a crowd, made worse by several hundred feet being roped
off for a Joan Baez concert. However - at last - Deborah and I
walked back to the Centro. Deborah, Tom and I then went out for a drink
in a iittle bar and while we were there, we got a telephone call from
Giogio, our friend in Milano - he was waiting for us to arrive the next
day and - amazing - he had tickets to a performance at La Scala -
oh my gosh - I have wanted to see a performance at La Scala for 35 years.
We tried to buy tickets to La Scala from the states, but weren't
successful - our first day in Milano is the last performance of the
season. How Giorgio managed to get tickets - a box, no less, it a
we had a drink, it began to rain - it cooled things off considerably.
We decided to have dinner together but it was a bit early, so Deborah
and I walked to an Enoteca and bought a bottle of wine and some
cicchici, little snacks that are like open face sandwiches. We had
these and a glass of wine and made our way over to San Trovaso. The
cicchici had filled us up, so we had a very light meal, then walked
Deborah to the vaporetto stop nearby.