Friday, 31 May 2013

Venice Day 7: It's Bloody Raining AGAIN!

After a not very good nights' sleep (upstairs clomping about at 2:30am FFS) I was less than impressed to get up this morning and find that the sky was not only grey but that it was pouring with rain as well :(  A sombre mood hung in the air as Mum and I had breakfast, prior to, donned in warm clothes, rain macs and clutching umbrellas we set off to meet friends at a local cafe.  However we managed to get a seat indoors and drank hot chocolate and coffee to keep warm, and passed a very pleasant part of the morning catching up and gossiping.



Deborah mentioned the nearby island of San Servolo was well worth a visit, and that it used to house the mental institution for Venice, which of course piqued my interest at once!  Over lunch I checked it out on the Internet, and decided to visit this afternoon, but like all the best laid plans I was unsuccessful.  Duly headed down to the correct Vaporetto stop, but on looking at a map and timetable it said that the route I needed was 'seasonal', and when the boat didn't turn up at the allotted time I presumed that the season have not yet started.  After yesterday's disastrous day in which I managed to take a total of four photographs, I was pretty desperate to get out there and take some more, so just got on the first boat that came and headed off to Murano instead.

Hopped off at the first stop and had a wander about, but kept heading down dead-ends in a very residential area which was not very exciting, everything was closed and no one was about so it felt like a real ghost town.  Then it started raining on me, and I was generally tired and a bit fed up with the lousy weather, so got on the boat back home again.  A nice ride the long way round, sitting at the back outside and watching the waves behind the boat which never quite caught up yet looked as if they would like to swamp me.  It was sheltered at the back so quite pleasant, and I found it very relaxing just staring out at the water.

Early evening Mum and I decided to brave Bar Arsenale next door for a pre-supper drink, although we both wore coats and it wasn't really warm despite the sun making a feeble effort to break through the clouds, it was still nice to drink spritz and prosecco and watch the world go by.  On to supper at Paolo's.

Mum sporting her new ring

Mum and Lilli at Paolo's

Supper - mmmmm, love those green salads!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Venice Day 5: Ice-cream and Art

A bit of a lazy morning today as the weather was grey, overcast and chilly, and as neither of us had a very good nights' sleep and were feeling tired we decided to spend the morning in.  Late morning it brightened up a bit so I ventured out with my camera to just walk around locally, and then joined Mum for lunch back at the apartment.  She greatly enjoy finishing off the last of her Gorgonzola (which smells of feet) with a juicy pear from the market.

Later we caught the vaporetto down to Academia and walked over to the bridge to Campo San  Stefano for an ice cream at one of the outdoor cafes.  

Our waiter kindly offered to take a photograph of us, but in doing so must have inadvertently changed my iPad Hipstamatic settings from the ones I chose, so the pictures all look a bit washed out.  Nothing I can do about that now though!

I had chocolate, hazelnut coffee ice-cream and it was all absolutely delicious :)

Mum returned to the apartment after this and I had another wander about the back streets of Dorsoduro with my camera, before getting the boat back to Giardini, where I was hoping to sit at my favourite cafe in the sun drinking spritz. However as the 55th Biennale has now started, all the usual tables had been removed and it looked as if there was some sort of private event going on there, so I had to give up on that idea.  Instead had a look at one of the open air exhibits and then walked back down the tree-lined avenue towards Via Garibaldi.  Various performers were out doing strange things, such as a man with a black rectangle painted over both eyes and carrying a bloodstained piece of cloth walking very slowly down the avenue - unfortunately I don't have a photograph of him for this blog but I did get several with my my Nikon.

Later we went out to supper at our other favourite osteria in nearby Tana, where I had earlier booked a table as it was unusually full when I went past (due to the Biennale), but the heavens opened almost as soon as we have sat down outside said there was a mad clamour to rush in doors, and it was all very hectic and noisy for quite a while.  In fact we decided that all conversation was futile due to the decibel level, so we ate our shared pizza and green salad in silence with the occasional grin at one another.  The boss/head waiter remembered us from last year which was really nice, and told us that today, tomorrow and the day after they will be working 18 hour days to cope with demand from visitors attending the Biennale, but that after then it should calm down.  We said that we would be back!

Venice Day 6: Not Good

Rather annoying day, in a multitude of annoying ways, so not going to write about it.

Here instead is a picture of Mum's favourite Gorgonzola that smells of feet:

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Venice Day 4: Il Papiro

Mum wanted to purchase a couple more notebooks from the wonderful shop Il Papiro, so after breakfast we headed over there on the vaporetto, followed by a gentle amble through the back streets peering into shop windows on the way.  Assailed by delicious smells of leather wafting out from the handbag shops, mingled with fish osterias with the daily catch on ice temptingly displayed outside the restaurants.  Also managed to purchase more of Mum's favourite dark chocolate from a sweet shop that this time a year ago had already sold out.  She bought six bars to keep her going!

Here is Mum in the sumptuous heaven of paper and ink that is Il Papiro, where beautiful marbled paper notebooks mingle with writing paper, decorative boxes, quills and nibs, and it is easy to lose track of time.

The wind has been very fresh today, the Lagoon extra choppy and the vaporetto landings bouncing up and down more than I have ever experienced before.  One of those days when it is hard to know what to wear as it's warm in the sun but chilly in the shade....

Walking back to the apartment up the back calle, we passed several naval men in uniform from the Arsenale where they are all based (another reason why we like staying in this area so much!), having not seen any on the first or second days.  To save ourselves embarrassment in public we refer to them as 'fettuccine', a term coined by a very dear friend of ours who has also been to Venice with us - this means that we can alert one another with, for example "fettuccine on the bridge at 3 o'clock", and no one passing by would be any the wiser ;)

After lunch, I headed out to get the vaporetto to San Silvestro, with the idea of just wandering about the back streets with my camera wherever the fancy took me, while Mum had a rest before going out to paint locally a pretty little courtyard that we had admired earlier.  I really like walking about Venice without a map, just going left or right depending on what looks interesting from a photographic point of view, and it really is quite hard to get lost here.  Found myself thwarted on several turns with people either standing right in the way of the photograph I wanted to take, or the opposite when I actually wanted somebody to walk by nobody came, but my mood here is generally too good for me to get really grumpy so I just waited, whilst mentally drumming my fingers on an invisible table in front of me.  I wasn't able to get a couple of photographs that I wanted because of people in the way or moving before I could press the shatter, but equally I got some really nice photographs of people too, so I guess it's all balances out.

It got quite chilly towards the end of the day so I reluctantly returned to the apartment sooner than I otherwise would have done, but it simply wasn't warm enough to sit outside reading my book and having a drink, as the breeze was up and the sky was cloudy.  Mum and I still went down to Bar Arsenale for a pre-supper drink, but it was not warm and we didn't linger.

Extract from Mum's diary today.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Venice Day 3: Shopping

This morning we headed out to Rialto Market in order to purchase fruit, salad and supper for a couple of evenings.  As the sun was shining I optimistically put on a spaghetti-strapped maxi dress, cautiously packing a cardigan into my bag just in case, and we were only five minutes from the apartment before I had to don the latter.  It may have been sunny but the breeze was still quite chilly.  I think this put off quite a few people from sitting outside on the vaporetto, so Mum and I were able to secure seats outside at the front - I let Mum sit in front of me to absorb more of the wind since she was wearing more layers than I was.

Rialto Bridge

On arrival at the market we headed straight for the chocolate shop to purchase 'essential' choccy bars, before meandering back to the fruit and vegetable stalls plus the butcher.  Saw this dear little dog waiting patiently in a shop doorway for its owner, couldn't resist taking a photograph.

This is the butcher which on one side seems to sell exclusively horse meat products, however we went to the opposite side to get some handmade burgers, one with courgettes and the other with spinach beautifully integrated within.  They could have been horse burgers but I don't think so!  Also got some salami and Parma ham, knowing that both are absolutely delicious from this wonderful shop.

After this we selected a stall from which to purchase fruit, tomatoes and that wonderful green salad of tiny leaves which is not available at home, but it's so fresh and delicious neither of us can get enough of it.

Once we had made all our purchases we made our way back to the vaporetto stop, but on the way I saw this souvenier stand and I had to take a photo because I loved the dummy heads with their hats and glasses.

Here are some of the delicious things that we bought at Rialto market:

This is the start of Mum's drawing of these tomatoes, complete with the feet of the artist. I told her she really needed to have her toenails painted red like mine to match tomatoes ;)

After lunch mum went for a rest, and I dithered for ages over the map trying to decide where to go this afternoon. In the end I couldn't decide on anywhere, but decided to just walk down to the local vaporetto stop and get on a boat to enjoy the experience.  Managed to get a seat outside near the front, so good views and was able to take a few photographs along the way, but generally just enjoyed being on a boat on the Grand Canal.

After an enjoyable ride I finally ended up at my favourite bar Paradiso near Giardini, where I sat in the sun for some considerable time drinking spritz and reading a book.  The wind blew over a glass of the first spritz that I ordered as the waiter was carrying it to my table, but he gave me the remaining half and brought me a fresh one so I did quite well out of that :)

As I was walking back to our apartment past the fragrant jasmine hedge, I caught the eye of a musician who was performing and we got chatting.  He had spent time in England so spoke very good English, his name was Mimmo and he ended up performing 'Stand by Me' just for me as well as giving me a CD of his own songs (which Mum and I later listened to over supper) which was really nice.  Told him that I was here with Mum and said I hoped we might see him up this way again so that I could introduce her.

When I was almost back at the apartment I saw Mum walking across the campo towards Bar Arsenale for a pre-supper drink, so naturally I joined her and we sat outside drinking Prosecco and watching the world go by.  What a great ending to a really lovely day!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Venice Day 2: Sunny!

View from the kitchen
View from our apartment, Campo Arsenale

It poured with rain last night but I think this must have cleared the air because when Mum came to wake me up this morning she reported the marvellous news that the sun was shining.  There followed a leisurely morning as I was up late after being so shattered yesterday, so we just relaxed in the apartment before heading out after a light lunch to buy our vaporetto tickets for the week.  Mum looked as if she was going on an expedition in three layers of clothing, walking boots and a rain mac on top, managed to convince her to shed one layer and put the coat back on over the top.  Such a contrast in the weather to yesterday! Sun, blue sky and not-Arctic breeze, made for a very pleasant walk along the Riva Degli Schiavoni to San Zaccharia vaporetto stop.  

After we had got tickets to the caught the boat over to Zattere, passing on the way the huge sculpture of disabled artist Alison Lapper by Mark Quinn, on the island of San Giorgio.  It's probably very un-PC to say so but I think it is quite hideous, and Mum felt the same - it is so big, seemed so out of place, and is really just not that attractive.

The purpose of our little trip was to go to Nico's to eat ice cream, and we sat outside in the glorious sunshine which warmed our backs and dispelled all thoughts of yesterday's horrid weather.  Had to take a photo with the iPad as I am for some reason unable to transfer them from my iPhone, and I would like to be able to post photos to this blog while I am here.  It was so bright I could barely see the screen, hence the rather bad composition of the photo below, but you get the idea.

After a while we meandered back towards Accademia, where Mum decided she would get the boat back to the apartment and I continued on alone to take photographs.  Walked up through Campo Santa Stefano through the back streets towards San Marco, from where I had planned to pick up the vaporetto, but when I got there I found so many photo opportunities that I just carried on walking and in the end didn't get back on the boat at all.

This year I am shooting with my D700 mm f1.4 lens, and in black and white only, in order to take a different style of photograph from previous trips.  It's quite a good discipline to only have one fixed focal length lens, and encourages me to see in a slightly different way.  Found myself shooting more candid photographs of tourists and other people, and was also pleased to find a bride in a long cream dress with her new husband and photographer in tow.  Also stopped to watch a giant cruise ship leaving Venice, a sight that always seems to capture people's attention, maybe because they are simply so big.

Back to the apartment by 6 o'clock, feeling very hot and sticky but would far rather this than cold and shivery.  Lovely refreshing shower then supper out at Paolo's again - we went quite early as Mum was tired and I was really hungry, sat inside as it wasn't quite warm enough to be out, and all very peaceful until a group of six Italians arrived.  From then on Mum and I could barely hear ourselves think! 

I had a Capriciosa pizza and green salad, the former was absolutely delicious with a fresh springy base, really flavoursome mushrooms, artichokes and ham, generous with herbs and not at all stingy with the mozzarella - I amazed myself by eating it all. Those of you that know me better will realise that this is quite a feat as I have a quite a mousy appetite - must have been all the fresh air and walking today :)

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Venice Day 1

Awake hideously early this morning i.e. 4:30, when Mum got up to turn the central heating on, and I wasn't able to go back to sleep again after that. Up at 6:00 to be out of the door 45 minutes later, just about did it and even managed to eat a bowl of cereal and have a cup of tea before Doug came to take us to Heathrow.

Upon arrival at Terminal Five we were greeted by much larger crowds of people than we have seen on previous trips, but the fact that it's a bank holiday weekend probably has something to do with that.  Tried to print boarding pass from the magic machine but it was having none of it, so gave up and joined the check-in queue marked 'assistance', since mum now receives this extra bit of help.  After a lengthy wait during which the queue did not seem to move forward at all, we finally reached the check in and offloaded our suitcases, before getting mum into a wheelchair much to her relief.  Whisked through security, the fact that Mum is in a chair magically opens doors and tapes to allow us through in the quickest possible time.  There followed usual airport stuff which I won't bore you with, but eventually we were dropped at the boarding gate before getting the bus which took us to the plane.

Flight was okay, except that we were seated almost at the back next to the bogs, and seemingly surrounded by every single child that was on that flight.  Children really should be seen and not heard ;) We were soon fed with breakfast of a croissant with ham and cheese, which I devoured as I was suddenly very hungry.  Wondered aloud to mum if it would be very decadent to have a gin and tonic since it was only just after 10 o'clock In the morning, but I really do like my aeroplane G&T to get me in the holiday mood, and when the woman in the aisle seat also asked if they were serving alcohol I was encouraged to go for it.  The stewardess said that they weren't really supposed to, but gave us the drinks anyway - happy days!

Upon arrival at Venice we were greeted by a young man with a wheelchair for Mum, and again whisked through passport control as he parted the crowds of people like Moses parting Red Sea and took us straight through to the front of the queue.  There is a definite advantage to travelling with a mother in a wheelchair ;)

Bit of hoo-ha at baggage reclaim, as Mum's folding seat was nowhere to be seen, but it was eventually located from oversize baggage by another young man who took over from the first.  Out through passport control, met the taxi driver who took was down to the water taxi, and finally there was Massimo with his taxi ('Daisy') ready to take us over the lagoon to Venice.

The sky over the island was looking deep blue grey and very ominous, and it has to be said that the temperature was not much greater than what we had left behind in the UK.  Really glad that I borrowed one of mum's coats at the last minute, having consciously decided not to take anything except my waterproof short jacket as it has a hood, but it is not a particularly warm coat.  I was really hoping that the weather would be a lot better, and had mostly packed skimpy summer clothes, but it seems that might have been quite optimistic and I am probably going to have to spend more time in the warmer things that I travelled in.

Bouncy ride across the lagoon in the water taxi, the boat leaping up and down with a bang every time another taxi or vaporetto went past leaving waves in their wake, but it was quite windy as well which made it extra choppy.  Upon arrival at our usual apartment in the Arsenale, Stacy came hurrying out to greet us having obviously heard a rumble of the boat's engine, and much kissing and hugging ensued.  Hefted the cases upstairs to the first floor, and caught up with Stacy who was having a terrible day with grumpy new arrivals (not us obviously) and a catalogue of complaints and other things going wrong.  Learned the unfortunate news that the weather has indeed been pants, and the combination of high tides and a full moon mean that the Aqua Alta is especially high, so there might be flooding in some of the lower areas like Piazza San Marco.  She recommended that we choose wellingtons in our size from the communal cupboard downstairs, and I went down to have a look for both mum and I, finding some normal black ones in mum's size but the only ones in my size were white with pink roses.  I thought they were pretty bad, but apparently they used to belong to Rosie, the legendary caretaker of this apartment before Stacy took over, and she said if any Venetians see me out and about in them they will think I am a local.  I suppose they will at least go with the bright pink coat that I have borrowed from mum, and there will be no danger of losing me in a crowd!

I always have to unpack when I arrive anywhere as I am incapable of relaxing until I have done it, so got this sorted out whilst mum did the same, and then we went down stairs to the Arsenale bar next door to have a hot chocolate and a snack.  Sat shivering out side under the awning, glumly staring at the grey sky and praying that the weather would soon improve.  Soon cheered up though with a nice bit of people watching accompanied by delicious thick hot chocolate and an egg and tuna tramezzine (or handpainted anteater trimetozine - I am dictating this and this bizarre term is what my iPad thought I said!)

Back at the apartment I tried reading but my eyes would not stay open, after a busy couple of days and a very early start for me I was just too tired to stay awake, so went off to have a nap while mum popped out to Francesco's to get a few groceries.  I was asleep for a couple of hours, so when I got up it was almost supper time. Went next door to Paolo's as is traditional for our first night, were greeted by Lily, Paolo, Fabiola and Mrs Paolo with hugs and kisses which was lovely, and then enjoyed a supper of steak and chips for mum plus lasagna for me with a shared green salad, white wine and sparkling water.  By the time we left the sky had got really dark even though it wasn't that late, and about 9pm it started pouring with rain, so I was glad that I was tucked up cosy in bed by then.  The forecast for tomorrow is not especially good, I think wellies and raincoats will be the order of the day, but I just hope that it warms up again soon - fingers crossed eh?