Sunday, September 15, 2013

Venice - A Place of Beauty and Fascination

Venice - A Place of Beauty and Fascination


Tuesday September 10, 2013/Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We waited until grandson, Wesley, was installed happily installed in his kindergarten class and had had his 4th birthday (Sept. 9) and we felt free to head for new lands once again. Because we are voracious air mile collectors, Jim had devised a route for us that would maximize the number of air miles we would gather on this journey. Toronto to Chicago (yes, heading west to go east), then Chicago to Dusseldorf and finally, many, many hours later, Dusseldorf to Venice.  It was a long journey to say the least but we did arrive in good form and were ready to take on the city of Venice.

We left the airport with all our luggage and walked the first 400 meters to the Vaporetto Station. The city of Venice has no motor vehicles so that only way you can get around is by boat or on foot. The Vaporetto system is similar to a wheeled transit system. There are many routes with many stations and a map that resembles a Toronto subway map indicating where each vessel travels. We bravely and confidently boarded our first boat and sailed off toward the stop closest to our hotel. Conveniently, it was very near the beginning of this particular route.  The Venice airport is quite a distance from the city so we had time to observe the volume of vehicle traffic on the water. Passenger boats, both large and small, populated the well marked channels. Private taxis, pleasure boats, merchandise delivery vessels, and large ‘bus’ boats known as vaporettos. All these made their way across the Laguna Venita and moved into the complex canal system that has made Venice so famous.

The canal nearest our hotel is the Cannaregio Canal; our stop on this trip was Guglie. We disembarked and began the walk to our hotel. En route we had to cross the Cannaregio Canal by crossing quite a high arched bridge (remember  … we are toting our luggage at this point and we are both very tired) and then we had to cross two smaller canals on smaller bridges. The pedestrian path on all bridges is a set of low rise stairs both up and down the bridges. Not so difficult to navigate without luggage or fatigue.

We finally arrived at our hotel, Ca’ Fontanea, on a quiet courtyard a couple of blocks from the canal. We were instantly delighted. The reception was warm; English was spoken; our room was on the ground floor; the spaces were old, yet elegant; and best of all, the bed was comfortable. We knew we were going to enjoy staying in this place.

We refreshed ourselves and, before long, headed out to explore the area near our hotel.  We strolled along the walkway along the edge of the Cannaregio Canal and were happy to find a variety of shops, the university, and an array of restaurants enticing us to sample their menus. Our first stop involved a glass of wine (vino rosso) at an outside table where we could observe the late afternoon activities of locals and tourists alike. People walking their dogs; stopping to pick up something at the bakery; opening their shutters and waving to neighbours from their windows; parents walking with children; tourists taking pictures (we were too!); and lights coming on in the buildings as the day faded into darkness. After finishing our wine, we looked for another place to have dinner, albeit early by Italian standards.

Along the way, we encountered a crowd of people gathered on the edge of the canal. It was a curious crowd and we were puzzled by what might have brought them all to this spot. Soon, we learned, as a boat pulled up to the side of the canal and began to distribute large bags of mixed vegetables to those who were there. It appeared that is was a cooperative designed for vegetable distribution. Many happy people gathered their bags and headed away. An insight into life in Venice.

We settled on a pizzeria and were seated indoors (the weather was threatening rain outside). We ordered more wine and were amazed at the array of pizza choices on the menu. We ordered varieties that we would not likely find at home and settled in for a good meal. We were not disappointed and ate every last morsel. We also met a couple from the UK who had spent several days in Venice and were able to make some suggestions about places we might like to visit. All very helpful!

It was about 9:30 when we headed back to our hotel and fell into bed. We were amazed and happy that we had managed to stay up that long. But we were ready for a long sleep!

Thursday September 12, 2013

We slept long and with few interruptions and finally were ready to enjoy breakfast just before 10 o’clock. I think if you embark on a journey already tired and do not get much sleep en route, perhaps you are set up well to avoid jet lag and simply deal with exhaustion. A good night’s sleep had done us both a world of good and we were ready and eager to face a new day.

With transit passes in hand, we headed off to the vaporetto stop and boarded the first of many boats today. We were on the Venetian equivalent of a hop on hop off bus with an English commentary.  We enjoyed the journey immensely, both because it gave us a sense of the layout of the city, and also because we were able to identify and photograph many of the significant landmarks, museums and churches from the waters of the canals. Not many heads could get in the way in these photos …. but a lot of boats did!!

Once we had made the tour from beginning to end, we returned to a nearby church called Chiaesa di san Giorgio Maggiore. It was a delightful church, painted bright white with columns flanking the entry, an old monastery along the side and a bell tower that offered stunning views. It was a glorious day and we thoroughly enjoyed the views from the top of the tower, overlooking the waters all around the city as well as a variety of other domes and towers that dotted the landscape. Of particular note, was St. Mark’s Basilica and Bell Tower that were directly across the water. One of the primary differences between the two locations was that Chiaesa di san Giorgio Maggiore was virtually deserted and we did not have to deal with crowds of people or long lines. As well, we encountered an interesting art exhibition along the outer edges of the church site. It featured all manner of seashells sculpted in metal and coated with gold. They were each set on a bed of pea stone and were taller than us. Very impressive in detail and texture, as well as shining brightly in the mid day sun.

We paused for a beverage (coke and coffee) at a café behind the church before we actually went into the sanctuary. It was lovely watching the watercraft make their way in all directions around and across St. Mark’s Basin, where the Grand Canal opens out into a much larger body of water. We also spent some time admiring the many, many sailboats that were moored in the adjacent sailing club. Wow is all we could say about some of them!

Upon entering the church, we were struck by its simplicity, its plain white painted walls and its clear glass windows. One wonders if the impact of the Second World War is still being felt in this church today. There were hints in a few places that it had, at one time, been a much grander place.

We left Chiaesa di san Giorgio Maggiore and headed across the water to the Doge Palace (the home of the government of Venice in its early days) and St. Mark’s Basilica. Disembarking from the vaporetto, we immediately felt we had plunged into the madding crowd! It was difficult to move along the walkways without risking being bowled over by all the foot traffic. And what wasn’t covered with people was covered with stalls selling all sorts of tourist trinkets – masks, scarves, pasta bibs, shirts, purses … and did I mention purses? There were even purses set up on display on the steps of the very narrow bridges crossing the canals en route to St. Mark’s Square. And everyone had to crowd to one side or the other to avoid stepping on them. Of course, the vendors were aggressive in selling their wares and the tourist/photographers stopped wherever they pleased to take just the perfect picture! (Yes, I was one of them!) It collectively made moving forward more than a little bit challenging.

But we finally arrived at the Doge Palace and were pleasantly surprised to find that, in spite of the crowd outside, there was no line up for entry to the palace. We bought our tickets and proceeded on a self-guided tour. Directional arrows were good and there was printed information in each room that we visited. The size of the palace was amazing and the collection of art that it contains is breathtaking. It would take days and days to fully appreciate the murals and paintings on the walls and ceilings. Collectively, they tell the story of the evolution of the government of Venice, an institution that for many centuries was held up as a model for other cities and states. In one room, there is a painted portrait of each Doge (mayor) with a painted scroll outlining his major accomplishments while in office. The other notable feature in the Palace was the amount of gold that was lavished on ceilings in various staircases. It was astounding to see the wealth in this place and how well preserved it is. The final place we visited was the prison cells housed deep in the lower sections of the palace. In order to access them, one had to cross a bridge over a narrow canal. The bridge was appropriately named The Bridge of Sighs. Not a happy place for the visitors of the day.

Following our visit to the Palace, we walked a short distance and entered St. Mark’s Square. Once again we were engulfed by crowds of people moving in every which way and attempting to take photos of their loved ones against various backdrops, most of which I would not even contemplate. I just shook my head as Jim and I joined a short line that we hoped would gain us access to St. Mark’s Basilica. In less than ten minutes, we were entering through the arched doorway and we immediately awed by the profound beauty of this church. The rich wood, the elegant paintings, the polished mosaic tiles on the floors. All in honour of St. Mark whose body, as the story is told, was stolen by Napoleon from its gravesite in Egypt and transported to Italy in a barrel of pork fat to dissuade the Muslims in Egypt from checking the contents of the barrel too closely. The Vatican had reportedly refused the construction of a basilica in Venice. But with the arrival of St. Mark’s remains, there seemed to be little choice. And so this wonderful structure was erected. (There was a fire in the 1500’s and St. Mark’s body was burned,  no longer buried in the basilica.)

The area in front of the Basilica is an enormous square, St. Mark’s Square, which was filled with people and lined with shops, restaurants and at least one ATM machine. Whew!! Did we need that!

Armed with money for food, we paused to have a sandwich at a café across from the water and enjoyed watching the many people pass by as we ate.

Then, it was back onto the vaporetto to continue our journey along the Venetian waterways. This part of the trip took us to the famous Rialto Bridge! It was just as elegant as we expected it to be … and just as crowded!! We took photos and quickly turned our attention away from the bridge as we meandered along the streets and alleyways that took us away from the edge of the canal. Shops galore featuring jewellery, purses, beautiful glass, masks and a myriad of other products that might capture the interest of a tourist.

Jim had to run an errand to arrange for a SIM card for a cell phone and I waited on a small bridge crossing a very narrow canal. The main boat traffic on this canal was privately booked gondolas with drivers that guided the gondolas along using the long oars that are so familiar in movies and photos. The drivers were also all wearing either blue and white or red and white striped nautical shirts with jaunty hats upon their heads. It was a scene right out of a movie!

Jim returned with an Italian cell phone card and we continued our meandering. I will admit that fatigue was setting in … and hunger as well. It was 7 pm and it felt like time for dinner. We landed upon a café right beside The Canada Hotel (nothing Canadian about it however) and settled in for a light dinner. A half litre of red wine, a seafood salad for me and some tasty liver and onions for Jim. It was just what the doctor ordered!

Following our meal, we headed back to the canal and once more boarded the vaporetto to make our journey back to our hotel. It had been a very full day and we were both amazed that we had lasted as long as we had without giving in to jetlag. Time to relax and unwind … and label photographs and write a diary entry and plan for tomorrow.

It has been a terrific day and we look forward to many more just like it!! Pinch me … am I really in Venice?

Friday, September 13, 2013

We had made our plan for today based on recommendations we had receivedfrom others. First, a coffee in a nearby café touted by Tripadvisor as the finest coffee shop in Venice, then a visit to the Guggenheim Museum on the Grand Canal followed by some exploration in the neighbourhood around Garibaldi Street. Simple and straightforward, or so we thought.

We made our way to Guglie, a nearby vaporetto station, and found a delightful local market featuring fish stalls as well as a myriad of fruit and vegetables. Of course, we took some time to meander among the people and admire the array of products available. We were definitely among local people doing their marketing. Almost every person was pulling a bundle buggy behind them and many, many were also leading small dogs on leashes. It was a tangle of wheels and legs, long and short.

We found the café we were seeking and were aromatically delighted as we stepped inside. The aroma of coffee filled the air and the array of choices rivaled Starbucks. I chose a cappuccino and Jim selected a granite con panna, a thick iced coffee slushy topped with whipping cream. Both were delicious. There were no seats or tables in this café. We are learning that in many places the Italian culture is to stand at the counter, drink your coffee quickly and be on your way. We have also seen several lunch counters operating in the same way.

And now, onto the adventure of the day. And it was an adventure. In the interest of getting a good viewing position on the boat, we boarded the 4.1 vaporetto which the map suggested would take us two stops to the end of our canal (Cannareggio) and turn around and retrace its route and take us to the train station (a major transfer point).  When we reached the end of our canal, we realized that perhaps we had misread the route map. We were heading out over the open waters of Laguna Venita to a station that was far in the distance. We checked the route map again and found that this vaporetto actually travelled to an island that we wanted to visit on another day. Thus, our plan for this day took an abrupt change.

Murano Island became our new destination, an island famous for its glass production. We enjoyed the ride across the breadth of the lagoon, viewing the main city of Venice from far out on the water. Several minutes later, we landed on Murano Island and joined the throngs of people moving toward the main street with another delightful canal. Along our way, we stopped to admire the glass art that was displayed in every shop window. Beautiful, elaborate, colourful, delicate, sophisticated, detailed, pieces of art.

We entered one shop to admire the work of these glass artists more closely and we scooped up by an extremely eager salesperson for a tour of the shop/gallery. We knew we were in for some visual treats and a forceful sales presentation.  It was worth our time and patience to be able to see such an array of glorious glasswork. Sculptures, vases, plates, glasses, bowls, platters, jewellery, photo frames, chandeliers, character pieces (clowns, animals, nativity scenes) – all spectacular in their design, colour and texture. Much to the chagrin of our ‘guide’, we managed to resist temptation (it was tough) and left the gallery empty handed. He did give us his card, printed on newsprint with a promise that if we returned he would give us a real cardboard card when we purchased a piece.

We enjoyed strolling through many more shops/galleries and admired the glass art on display. Happily, we did not encounter any more high pressure sales and could meander at our leisure. Of course, by the end of our visit to Murano Island, we had accumulated a few packages of small glass pieces …. And one that was not so small., a beautiful aquarium-like piece of blue and green with coral reef and tropical fish swimming inside. Absolutely gorgeous!! And well wrapped for travel too.

I will say that I enjoyed the glass necklace I purchased, a string of hand painted red beads, each with a unique picture or design. I immediately put the beads around my neck and happily wore them for the rest of the day. It was fun to note how many other women strolling along the streets were wearing glass jewellery in various colours and forms.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant along the canal. It was a hot, sunny day and we were glad to be seated under an umbrella at a table right on the edge of the canal. We thoroughly enjoyed the ‘menu fixte’, an appetizer, a main course and a salad for 15 euros. Seafood lasagna – mmm!  Calamari – mmm! But perhaps best of all, a beautiful fresh salad!!

It was from this vantage point that we were able to truly observe life on the canal. This canal was too small to have vaporettos and too far from Venice itself for gondolas. But it was teaming with craft! Private boats with local Venetians meandered the waterway, occasionally docking to do some shopping or have lunch. Small delivery boats carrying an array of boxes transported goods to various destinations. Many of these boats ‘double-parked’ along the crowded canal walls and leapt from one boat to another to reach the sidewalk. Clearly, they have much practice and much success using this method of disembarking. 

Occasionally a much larger boat carrying heavier goods would make its way along the canal. One such vessel tied up across from our lunch stop. Construction materials were being delivered – long pieces of lumber and heavy roof sheeting was on board. The crane on the boat was not a helpful device in offloading the materials due to their size and shape. So four men wearing protective gloves lifted each piece of material and carried along the crowded sidewalk, maneuvered it through a narrow doorway into a long narrow corridor and transported it manually to its courtyard destination deep in the middle of the building. It was a long and arduous process.  Meanwhile the canal had only a very narrow thoroughfare for other boats to travel through. They were not deterred and there was a steady stream of boats of all colours and sizes making their way in both directions along the canal. Fascinating!!

Following lunch, we made some purchases and meandered along the sidewalk past the shop windows one last time. What a delightful place to have spent several hours on this perfect day!

Boarding the vaporetto again, we had a better idea where it was going to take us. In fact, this very vessel would transport us on a long journey right to our own stop, Crea. En route we circumnavigated the entire of Murano Island and had an opportunity to understand the geography of Venice. A series of outer islands create  barrier from the sea and the water flows into the vast Laguna Venita. As we travelled around Murano, we were able to see several glass factories and gain a deeper awareness of the magnitude of the glass industry on this island. We also passed a beautiful tall white lighthouse.

The vaporetto then crossed Laguna Venita and we travelled along the outer rim of the city of Venice. In places high walls had been constructed to protect properties from flooding. We encountered the hospital emergency station and several ambulance boats all ready for action. We passed by countless bell towers and domes of the many, many churches that have been built in Venice. We travelled past Chiaesa di san Giorgio Maggiore again as well as the docks at St. Mark’s Square and the Doge Palace (I wonder if the crowds ever diminish?). We then entered a waterway new to us that took us through a substantial residential area, mainly apartment buildings and adjacent parkland, local shops along the canal and several street entertainers with small crowds gathered round. We passed by several cruise ships moored along the shore, through a ship repair area and drydocks as well as the back waters of the port of Venice. We actually saw cars and motorbikes parked there. Clearly we were outside the vehicle free zone.

And finally we floated under a high arched brick bridge, marking our return to the Grand Canal. Bustling canal walkways and café tables along the edges were once again the trademarks of this canalled city. Soon we were viewing familiar sights as we passed the train station, famous hotels and finally made the turn into our own canal, Cannareggio. It had been a long and interesting journey and we were ready to disembark when we arrived at the Crea stop.

But the day was not yet over. We dropped into our local pub for a drink on our way back to the hotel. Spritz was what it was called, bright orange in colour and served in large wine glasses adorned with a large green olive. It is actually not unlike a white wine spritzer at home, a mixture of soda and wine or soda and prosecco. What differentiates a spritz from a spritzer is the use of bitters. Mine tasted a bit like a pseudo martini and Jim’s was simply sweet! Although inexpensive and therefore popular among students and seniors (so they say), we are not likely to indulge in many spritzes along our way.

A quick turn around at the hotel and we were off for dinner at Dalla Marisa, a nearby restaurant with a unique approach to cuisine. It only opens for dinner on 4 days of the week. It is so popular that reservations are absolutely necessary. Yet each night only one meal is available and you are told when you reserve that it will be meat or fish. We knew we were having fish.

We arrived to find a large number of tables set up along the canal, no tablecloths or other adornments visible. We chose a table right on the edge of the canal and waited. Soon, a server offered us wine and/or water and told us our meal would be coming soon. First course was to be a variety of fish dishes. Well … what arrived was amazing!! Baked mussels, marinated in oil, tomato sauce and spices,; marinated seabass with spices and arugula; fish salad (fairly strong in flavour); all served with warm polenta. What an array of beautiful food and that was just the beginning.

While we were enjoying our meal, four people were seated beside us. We said hello and the conversation took off from there. They were from St. Thomas and St. Mary’s, Ontario, only one hour away from Waterloo. After we laughed about the coincidence, we toasted the occasion with our wine and thoroughly enjoyed spending the balance of the evening sharing conversation, laughter and excellent food.

The next course that was served was fish lasagna (we had had this at lunch as well) which was also delicious. Such a delicate balance of sauce, soft pasta and seafood flavours. Magnifico!! Next came another large platter of seafood – calamari, shrimp and dried fish. Again, wonderful ….but I have to admit we were getting full! But save room for dessert, a coconut cream mixture served with delicate ginger biscuits.

Coffee followed …. For some of us the coffee tasted remarkably like limoncello! And we said farewell to our dinner companions and waddled the short distance back to our hotel and fell into bed.

Another great day in Venice and surrounds had come to a close!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

It dawned another bright and beautiful day! The weather so far has been glorious. We spent some time in the morning in our room to get organized for the next few days. Then, once again, we headed out on the vaporetto, with the purpose of once again enjoying the comfortable and narrated ride on the VA, the Hop on Hop Off version of the vaporetto system. It begins at the train station and travels along the Grand Canal all the way to the Biennale stop at the opposite end. It is scenic; the architecture is beautiful, varied and interesting; the boat life on the Grand Canal is fascinating. And photo opps abound.

We disembarked at the Arsenale station and walked a short distance to Garibaldi Street (thanks Jim Rodger for the suggestion).  Having not eaten breakfast, we were very hungry by this stage. We stopped for a snack at the first available café on Garibaldi Street and noticed that we were sitting right across from the home of John Cabot. Cabot was born in Genoa but moved to Venice at a young age and lived here for many years. The house was nondescript except for two plaques that recognized his contribution to the English and European settling of Canada. I have always associated John Cabot with England and was not aware of his Italian heritage.

Garibaldi Street is a wide residential street, the widest street in Venice. It is built on top of a filled-in canal in the style that we are more frequently seeing in modern housing developments around home. That is, there were businesses at street level and apartments in the several floors above.  One feature that differentiates these buildings from any new building at home is the absence of elevators. We commented often on the challenge of living on the top floor of a building (often 4 or 5 levels) and having to transport oneself and all one’s goods to the top level at least once or more each day.

We enjoyed meandering along with people who clearly lived in the area and were out doing their Saturday errands or enjoying a coffee or other beverage at the local cafes. Bakeries, green grocers, toy stores, shoe stores, a butcher, a pharmacy, a couple of variety stores and two supermarkets flanked the wide cobbled street. We spent some time in one of the supermarkets examining the array of food items that were available. Some were familiar to us and others were totally new. What we noticed about all of them was that the packages were generally small and, other than Kellogg’s, very few North American brands were in evidence.  Of course, we were not surprised to find a large number of pasta products – noodles and sauces. And quite a number of unusual cookies as well. It was fun to browse for a while. I will say, though, that the aisles were extremely narrow and we were very much in the way at times.

We strolled along until we reached the end of the street, the place where a delightful canal took its place. There was a wonderful café there with a most helpful server who spoke impeccable English. We were able to discuss the various menu items and learn more about food vocabulary and the taste and texture of items we did not know. He was terrific and so was the food he brought us. There was one item, a fish pate,  that neither of us enjoyed. Our server was kind enough to take it right off our bill. While we sat, we were able to observe the people in the street – shoppers pulling bundle buggies; people, young and old, walking dogs; groups of men enjoying some wine; tourists with their cameras; children riding bikes and playing on the street. No cars to worry about here!

Finally, we left the café and wandered through a delightful park en route back to the St. Mark’s Basin and the Grand Canal. The park was an oasis of green in a very hard-surface city. It featured a promenade flanked by tall trees that provided a shaded walk to the water’s edge. Along each side were playgrounds and benches, all in full use by the residents of the area. The park was full of life!!

We passed into a second park, the large green area where The Biennale is headquartered. The Biennale is a large festival of art in all forms – painting, sculpture, dance, music – which is held in Venice each year.  There are concerts, exhibitions, international pavilions, public sculpture, special museum displays, a veritable myriad of things to see and do. We have taken in only a few of the offerings, notably a Music Museum, a display of Sculpture, the pavilion from the Maldives and a display of various dress styles. We could be here for months and not see it all.

We reboarded the vaporetto and set sail for home. Just then Jim’s phone rang. It was our friends, Heather and David Bailey, from Australia. They had just arrived in Venice and we were only 3 stations from their current location. It took less than 15 minutes to make our way there and enjoy a celebratory greeting with hugs and exclamations about being in Venice at the same time!!  As it was dinnertime, the search was on for an outdoor setting where we could catch up with one another and enjoy a great meal together. After a couple of false starts and some rambling along the alleys and corridors of central Venice, we happened upon a wonderful setting in St. Steven’s Square. Wine, pasta, pannacotta, coffee and more wine sated all of us. Even our server joined in the fun and frivolity!! Laughter and stories filled the air until it was time to head home (we were almost the last ones remaining in the bistro)! We agreed to meet in the morning and head off for a new adventure together. Little did Jim and I know that we had yet one more adventure awaiting us tonight.

Let me start by saying, the transit system here (the boats) operate on a different schedule on the weekends. We were not aware of this. So, Jim and I walked leisurely back to the Grand Canal and waited patiently for the next vaporetto that would take us to the train station where we would transfer to our now familiar Number 4.2 and carry on toward our hotel. We did note that the vaporetto that arrived was extremely full and travelling very slowly. But we settled in to enjoy the ride. The Grand Canal at night with all the city lights reflected in the water is a beautiful sight. When we finally arrived at the train station, we walked along the street to our own stop and checked the timetable to determine when our next ride would arrive. That is when we found out! There were no more 4.2’s on Saturday night. In fact, they had stopped running about 90 minutes earlier! It was now approximately midnight and we were about 2 kilometres from our hotel and we really were unsure of the route. You see, those small canals that meander throughout the city and are so charming by day are real impediments to pedestrians as they do not have very many bridges. Alas, we had no choice but to follow our noses and refer to the map (not always helpful) and to begin our midnight trek. We were walking in totally new territory through residential areas where all the lights were out and sensible people were getting their beauty sleep. We made a couple of wrong turns and had to retrace our steps. We felt that we were making reasonable progress and happened upon a young man who was putting his garbage outside. Fortunately he spoke English and responded to our request for directions by sending us most of the way back from whence we had come, to follow a path along the opposite side of a narrow canal. That was not what we wanted to hear at 12:45 am! But, we followed his instructions (what choice did we have?) and sooner rather than later we were on a familiar path and knew the way back to our hotel.  It was after 1 am when we arrived – both relieved and exhausted. It was the first night since arriving that both of slept the whole night through!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

In spite of our late night, we were up bright and early to meet Heather and David at the train station to begin today’s adventure. We were travelling together to Burano Island, a place famous for its brightly coloured buildings and for the production of exquisite lace. It was quite a long trip that involved a couple of extended rides on vaporettos. After about 90 minutes en route, we finally arrived at Burano. And we were not disappointed  by what we found there.

First stop was for coffee (not the greatest in the world but at least wet and warm). From there we headed into the village …. But not far! Heather and I were immediately sidetracked by a specialty store selling lace. The array of products was wonderful – everything from doilies and table clothes to baby clothes, scarves and beautiful garments for women. It was hard to resist the blue/green lace cardigan that was calling my name.

Not only were the products beautiful but they were also entirely hand stitched. And to our delight there was a woman in the shop today demonstrating how to make lace. It is a painstaking endeavor that is slow and exacting. But the results were amazing!

By the time we finished looking and watching and left the shop, Jim and David were no where to be found! We spent a brief time looking for them (very brief) and then Heather and I headed off on our own quest to explore the island and other shops we might find along the way. It is hard to describe how colourful this island is. Each home is brightly painted using all the primary colours and then some. Vivid reds, blues, yellows, oranges and greens line the streets in every direction. Painted shutters adorn the windows and gaily blooming flowers sit outside many doorways. Most windows have venetian blind covering them on the outside!! I really caused laughter for a man passing us by when he heard me exclaim, “So this is an authentic Venetian blind!” I guess it did sound a bit funny!

Narrow canals ran between the homes and boats lined their edges, for the most part also painted in bright colours. All in all, even though the sun was not shining, the town was as bright as a button!

Along the way, Heather and I took many photos and meandered into many shops. Of course, there were more lace shops. There were also bakeries, delis and shops filled with theatrical minstrel masks. We each made a couple of modest purchases and I am proud to announce that I did continue to resist the sweater that I had so dearly loved.

Finally, Jim and David tracked us down and suggested it was time for lunch. They had already identified a nearby pub that offered nice food and beverages of choice. We each ate some tasty morsels and while Heather and I stuck to water and soda, the men indulged in a couple of local drinks, namely Spritz’s and Gingerino. They were well priced and interesting but also apparently packed a punch! Both David and Jim had a snooze on the boat back to Venice.

Jim and I returned to Venice. Heather and David got off the vaporetto at Murano Island to look at the glass. We made plans to meet again for dinner but those plans were foiled once more by the weekend schedule of the transit system. So Jim and I enjoyed pizza and some delicious seafood soup at a restaurant near the train station. We made sure tonight that we had more than enough time to catch the last ferry home.

Tomorrow morning we will meet Heather and David for a coffee and then pick up our rental car and bid farewell to Venice. Next stop – Parma. Parmesan cheese, anone?

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