Monday, June 17, 2013

Day one: Venezia -- sunshine and gelato

Ca San Trovaso in Dorsoduro -- our room ground level behind green door

In mid-May I met my brother Kelly and sister-in-law Wendy for three days in Europe, catching up with them after they had spent a week on a business trip in Germany. The German firm Lowa will be holding its meeting in the U.S. next year, and this was Kelly and Wendy's last planned European trip for awhile. It has been very fortunate for me to have met up with them three times since my arrival in Cardiff: year one in Ireland, year two here in Wales and this recent jaunt to Venice, the Alps, and Munich.

I had not been beyond Paris and most likely wouldn't have ventured to these places on my own: it was a wonderful trip, full of sunshine, warmth and pleasant surprises.

I arrived in Venice on the bus shuttle from Treviso Airport at 10:30 on the morning of May 13 after catching an early Ryanair flight from London's Stansted Airport. It was my first time on the economy airline and the experience checking in was stressful and agonizingly slow. The flight itself was fine -- though they were trying to sell something every five minutes -- but it will be awhile before I venture with Ryanair again. Fortunately sunny Italy and reuniting with family erased the rough start to the day. 

The bus terminal in Venice, at the Piazzale Roma, was smaller and less tourist-friendly than I had anticipated. The hoped-for signs in English were not there (my Italian is non-existent except for Latin studies in high school) and immediately I was confronted with the frenetic confusion that is Venice. I was to catch a specific vaporetto, or water bus, to Zattere to meet up with Kelly and Wendy at our hotel.  Even after being assured of the stop by a patient woman in an unusually hidden and unusually useless transportation office (no maps), it took some investigating to realize where and how I was supposed to board the vaporetto. Finally, with a deep breath, I was able to text Kelly and let them know of my imminent arrival.

Venice is not as large as one would suspect, and despite, and because of, the need to travel by water, travel times are not long. Some vaporetti stop at every station, some are more direct -- my trip to Zattere on the south only took about 15 minutes. Just standing on the boat among the tourists and locals, with the sun shining and the breeze fresh off the water made the frustration of the morning's travels fade away. As we approached my stop I saw a woman on land folding a map against her husband's backpack and realized it was Kelly and Wendy arrived to meet my boat. It was good to see them. They had met me because they had had trouble finding our hotel the night before and thought I might need a guide.

As it turned out, my brother Kelly had an excellent sense of where he was in Venice at most times and Wendy and I gave up all concerns to lithely follow where he lead.
Wendy and Kelly on the dock in front of Ca San Trovaso
Canadian/American feeling the Venetian vibe
San Barnaba Church with the white pillars -- a landmark for us
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

The Grand Canal
Crossing the Grand Canal with view of the Salute

The Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore

                                                                                                                               Photo: Kelly O'Brien
Fellow passenger on the vaporetto

Palazzo Ducale, or Doge's Palace

Venice ... what to say about Venezia? You can get a good sense of it in a day, but you could also spend your whole life there and never know it all. I think of it as being a little schizophrenic -- it is light and dark, calm and frenetic, religious and hedonistic, very ancient yet very 'now', crumbling and reaching for the heavens simultaneously. There is a sense of 'anything goes' and madness.

I think of it now as an elaborate 10-tiered wedding cake. You gaze at it and marvel at its beauty and that it stands. You may taste a delicately wrought rosette, but it is only a surface sweetness with unknown depths of rum and fruitiness hidden in the structure beneath. Above all, it is a symbol of all that life can hold and promise.

Memorial to Victor Emmanuel II
Tourists at Piazza San Marco

The clock-tower at Piazza San Marco

Workers atop the Basilica di San Marco

The Rialto Bridge across the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal

A boat selling produce

Kelly and Wendy in front of the Chiesa di San Rocco

A home, or hotel, at the far eastern end of the Castello sestieri, or neighbourhood

The Hilton Molino-Stucky as seen from the Dorsoduro sestieri