Veni, Vidi, Venice III

Thursday May 18

We did, and he said goodbye, off to see if he could find a hotel in the Lido section of Venice for a night before he took off for Trieste. Obviously, since he had been biking, he was traveling light – just a simple backpack with a change of clothing and a toilet kit. I felt vague stirrings of envy at his ability to live so free, although I suppose I could too if I were so inclined. At some level, I suppose I do, come to think of it. It just doesn’t have quite the same romantic feel to it somehow.

After breakfast, back on the bus to Piazzola Roma and to the vaporetto on the Grand Canal. According to the map, I could get off at the Ca’ di Oro stop and wend my way north to the landing for boats going to Murano and Burano, but the boat I was on didn’t stop there, so I had to get off at the Rialto Mercato stop and find my way back across the canal. I did, noticing on the way one of those 57th Biennial installations – two enormous white arms reaching out of the canal, hands clutching at a building! I guess it was some kind of a statement about the city sinking or something; I never did find out. Anyhow, I got happily lost wandering up and down alleys and over little canals. I was trying to follow my map, but it was confusing and not all the tiny streets and passageways were marked. I ran into a couple trying to follow their iPhone maps to the same destination, so we joined forces. Eventually at the end of a street we saw a patch of blue. Hooray, we’d found the sea! And almost exactly at the yellow and black stop for the vaporetto that would take us to Murano.

Murano’s cute, but a bit more touristy than I remembered it. There are a thousand little shops selling Murano glass tchotchkes. As we got off the boat, a guy was directing us to a demonstration of glass blowing. We followed around a corner and into a factory where there was a several Euro admission charge. Nah. Sneaky. Tourist trap. Rip-off. I declined, kept walking and around another corner I came upon another little glassblowing factory where they were happy to have me watch them work, free. It was certainly fascinating. The one guy was forming what appeared to be a large hand, putting it into the red-hot glowing furnace, then pulling it out to a work station and shaping it, over and over. Meanwhile, two other guys were melting globs of glass on pipes, blowing them into thin bubbles and layering them onto the first guy’s project. I watched for ten or fifteen minutes, but then got bored and left. I never did see what the end product was.

I strolled around Murano for a while; it’s like a miniature Venice with its own little canal system. Cute place. When I got hungry I stopped at a likely looking little canal side café and sat next to a couple from Omaha, Nebraska who were traveling with an eight-month-old baby girl. They were medical professionals, she a nurse and he an X-Ray technician. Brave folks. And unusual. People in the Midwest don’t travel abroad the way folks on the coasts do. Most of their friends don’t even have passports. But they’re avid travelers. Reminded me of what Mike said about our family’s reputation in his high school for “driving crappy cars and taking great vacations!” Exactly.

After lunch I went looking for a couple more of the 57th Biennial installations that were purportedly on the island, but they hadn’t opened yet. I did tour the Museo del Vetro though – the museum of glass. Fascinating exhibits of the tools used in glassmaking, an explanation of how various kinds of glass are made, glass objects dating from before the Christian era and some incredible glass sculpture and other glass art objects.

OK, I’ve had enough. I found my way to one of the island vaporetto stations and rode back to the Piazzale Roma to catch my bus home.

I’d had dinner at the hotel twice and the limited menu hadn’t changed from night to night, so I went looking in the little crossroads village for another option. I followed signs through some bushes that said Bar-Ristorante-Piscina and found a remarkably elegant place tucked away in the brush where I had dinner outdoors by a huge oval swimming pool surrounded by palm trees. I had a superb meal of all sorts of seafood in a light tomato sauce served over a thick kind of pasta I’d never seen before, washed down with a half-carafe of an excellent house wine. Who’d have imagined it? The front of the place was full of cars; it seemed also to be an off-site airport parking lot. It is only five minutes to the airport, so why not open such a profitable side business if you’ve already got a large parking lot for your pool and dinner business?

After I walked a back to the hotel, I went happily to bed a bit early. Maybe the half-carafe of wine had something to do with that.

Friday May 19

It’s not rainy this morning but it is cloudy and cooler than it has been – a good day to do exactly what I’m doing, relaxing on the little hotel terrace writing this blog and sipping my excellent wine buy from yesterday afternoon.

For lunch I walked a few hundred meters into the townlet and found a pizza joint where I could buy a tonne é olive sandwich to bring back to the hotel so I could finish off the bottle of wine with it. I must try making a tuna salad sandwich with olives like that; it was tasty.

The sun came out after lunch though so I threw on my swimming trunks and took the computer down to the pool. There I overheard a young couple with a baby speaking and guessed correctly that they were Welsh, from Swansea! How likely is it that I’m going to run into a Welsh couple poolside in Mestre, Italy?

When it cooled down I came back up to the room to pack. That went OK. It’s always easier to pack to go home than it is to pack to start a trip; you don’t really care if stuff gets wrinkled.

Feeling a bit peckish, I walked across the street to another restaurant I hadn’t tried. Wow! I wish they’d been open the first night I got here; I’d’ve gone back every day. Delicious meal, generous portions, reasonable price. Attractive place, too. Dignified old décor.

Funnily enough, the Welsh couple was there too with Baby Lucas. Mummy is bright red! All that hot sun today on that Celtic skin, and she’s a blonde besides? Ouch! But she’ll be the envy of her friends and family when she gets home tomorrow.

I’ve left a call for 5AM and booked the shuttle for 5:30. I’m looking at 18 hours plus, door-to-door. Maybe I’ll get some sleep on the way; we’ll see.

I’m ready to go home. It’s been a good trip – certainly a quality educational experience, but fun too. I’d recommend this voyage to anyone. I’m ready for it to be over now however. My own bed calls.

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