Africa 2017

Africa 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Moments of Magic

I'm not sure what moved me most.  Looking out from the end of the Piazza San Marco near the Palazzo Ducale or seeing the look on my daughter's face as she viewed the grand scene on the water before us.  Gondola's were bouncing up and down from the wake water of the many boats going past us back and forth.  I looked at the Gondoliers in their snappy flat top, ribbon bedecked hats and striped shirts.  The ones near us seemed quite jaunty and relaxed.  Regardless of how touristy the idea of taking a gondola ride has become you can't help but want to see the canals and water by one.  

Across the water is the tiny island that has the church of San Giorgio Maggiore on it.  The light on the facade of the church casts lovely shadows this time of day.  From where we stand it looks like the water goes right to the front doors and I wonder if they too get flooded in a very high tide.  I would like to go visit here and explore what we can as well as take photos from there looking back towards Venice.  I hope we will be able to do this on our day that we buy our 24 hour Vaporetto passes.

Back to where we are.  E. looks out and a glimmering smile is on her face.  I know I should wish that my Love is here but to be here with E. is very special to my heart.  To have this special trip with her, to explore to our heart's content.  Let us say that in ones life if you have children, that once they leave the nest, time together becomes all that more precious.  Our children have a whole life away from us and often as parents we so miss the times together that they can't really understand.  At least that is how I feel.  Being with her right then was like the best Christmas and Birthday gift all wrapped up and each day is like reopening that gift.

I haven't been this happy in awhile.  So much has transpired in the last two years with the aging of our parents.  I let the sounds wash over me, fill my eyes with the view, and this is just day one. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Standing in the Piazza San Marco

After some unpacking, a much needed shower and some rest E. and I are ready to have our first evening out in Venice.

I am delighted with our location for our first time here.  I know that I would call our area "ground zero" for the crowds but as a starting point we are close to the Piazza San Marco, St. Mark's Basilica, the Campanile, the Torre dell'Orologio or St. Mark's Clocktower, as well as what we know we can't see because of renovation, the Bridge of Sighs (it just recently has been finished and can now be seen).   

Coming through the narrow calle out into the Piazza was euphoric!  We're here!  My first thought was "thank goodness it is not crowded"!  So often I have been told not go to Venice because of the crowds and yet here we were with hardly a crowd at all.

St. Mark's Basilica

St. Mark's Basilica is incredibly beautiful.  And indeed it does remind me of a lavish wedding cake as I had read on a blog Venice for Vistors.  At once it feels light and airy compared to the Duomo in Florence.   Gold shone brightly on the mosaics we could see on the outside as the sun began it's late afternoon descent.  Domes, spires, ornate crosses, statues and those magnificent bronze horses gazed out on the Piazza.  The original horses are safely kept inside in the Museum of San Marco (I'll be writing about this later).

Mosaic over one of the doors to the Basilica

The Piazza is large with buildings framing three sides opposite the Basilica.  To the right is the  Torre dell'Orologio whose clock face is of the Zodiac signs of gilded gold with a deep royal blue background.  Atop the building above the clock is what we can see from our room, the bronze bell with two figures who ring the bell on the hour.  E. points out the lion above the clock face who reminds her of Aslan from the book the Chronicles of Narnia.  What I know now is this is the traditional symbol of Venice that stood for Mark the Evangelist who is the patron saint of Venice.  We will see many of these lions in Venice in days to come.

Torre dell'Orologio

We walk farther into the Piazza and I notice the restaurants opposite each other and side by side, that my friend K. had said do the dueling pianos in the evening.  

One of several restaurants in the Piazza that will be doing dueling pianos concerts in the evening.

Rising from the Piazza stands the St. Mark's Campanile.  It is surrounded by fencing as they are doing renovation here.  It is still open to take an elevator to the top for views but we have decided we will not do that.  We will take our views from the Basilica.  

St. Mark's Campanile

I'm a bit awe struck here in the Piazza because it is almost too much eye candy to see.  Every building is either with gilded gold upon them, deep hued colors of the mosaics, statues, ornate columns, the dramatic fabric awnings over the restaurants arched openings, elaborate marble designs, the many languages of the tourist around us and of course the ever moving street vendors trying quite hard to get you to buy their cheap toys while on the look out for the Polizia to shoo them away.  

Another view of the Basilica

We soak it in and I am once feeling how much history lies on this island.  How little I will fully learn while here for our short time and how I wish we were staying longer.  I remember my brother by marriage asking how long we were staying in Venice and told him four full days.  He said we should stay at least a week, maybe two and I told him that we only had so much time to see the other places we wanted to go to.  We couldn't fly all the way to Italy and only go to Venice!  Yet I was beginning to see what he might have meant and we had only been here but mere hours.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Long way around

Thank goodness for Google Earth as that virtual program has helped me follow our path via our photos of how we made it to our hotel.  Looking at our path we sure took the long way around and I can honestly say we crossed a lot of little bridges. 

I know this because every bridge had steps and I was lifting or dragging my rolling bag over ever last know that sound?  Clunk, clunk, clunk....I am grateful I did pack light.  I am grateful I did not do two suitcases.  I saw a few of those folks attempting to drag two bags, their shoulders and arms bearing the weight, the expression of exhaustion on their faces.  I felt bad for them because they couldn't savor the sights that they walked by.  I might have been the same way but no, I was enthralled by all I saw!

  We started in the Santa Croce neighborhood crossing the Grand Canal over into the Cannaregio neighborhood, and on into the San Marco neighborhood where we were to stay.  We followed the plentiful signs that would say Piazza San Marco that were on buildings along our walk.  We didn't really need to use a map though I had bought one before our trip.

A Campo opened up and we passed the church Santa Maria Maddalena which caught my eye because of the Masonic symbol over the tall doors.

On we walked looking forward, looking left and right, looking up all the while going deeper into Venice and the immersion taking hold of us.  I wondered if we would pass this route again or how we might find it.  E. led on and I wondered what were her thoughts.  Suddenly we found ourselves looking out into the Piazza San Marco and if I had been a pilgrim I would have fallen to my knees for having found this spot!  To our left rose St. Mark's Basilica from the narrow calle we had been on. 

We wandered out and beheld the shear beauty and enormity of this Piazza.  The history that ran under my feet, up my legs, into my heart and lungs, through my eyes, the feel of old beneath my fingers, as I imagined the pageantry that had taken place here and I did feel overwhelmed.  Though we could have stood here gazing but it was time to find our hotel.  

I had an inkling of where it was in relation to the Piazza and pulled out the map for E. to read.  The Ai Do Mori is a mere one block off the Piazza.  I did mention that we had to go up  many stairs just to get to the main reception.  A small little office with very kind young woman checked us in.  Our room was another two flights up beyond that and no, there is no elevator.  Clunk, clunk, clunk my rolling bag went. At each step I lifted my bag to the next step.  How much did my bag weigh?  I should have done kettle bell lifts before this trip to prepare for this!  E. offered to help but I declined.  I needed to pull my weight on this journey.  I was dripping with sweat by the time we got to Room #6 and opened the door after much fumbling and giggling by the two of us.  I couldn't wait to unload, take a shower and of course let hubby know we had made it safe and sound.

Our room ~ E.'s photo
View into our room ~ E.'s photo

 Only one disappointment to our room was that the view was marred by scaffolding as they were working on the exterior of the building.  Just the same it was a welcome view of the Campanile of San Marco and the Clock Tower as well as part of the top of the Basilica.  Our room had two windows to look out from but this was the view that caught my eye when looking for hotels to stay at.  E. really wanted to climb out onto the scaffolding but the mommy in me was a bit scared over that!

Friday, February 10, 2012

First views, first bridge and first knocker

When I saw the view from this bridge and I knew that I was in love with Venice.  The light in the sky, the color of the buildings and the boats lined up on the side of the canal made me smile inside because this was a place like no other I had ever been to.  

E.'s photo with her "Miniature" special effect ~ I love this look!

E. and I walked without a true path but felt we would find our way ....eventually.  

I found my first door knocker and called out to E. to stop, reached in my bag to get my camera out and snapped this shot.  My family know how I feel about "knockers" from our previous trip to Italy.  I stop often (constantly) to admire and take photos of them.  E. was forewarned before this trip that I would be taking lots of photos.

I love this photo of E. as she looks like a conqueror, and in a way we both were prepared to conquer Venice, with amore for it's charm.


Here is a close up of the church Santa Maria de Nazaret which we walked by on the opposite side of the Grand Canal.

We passed by the church of San Geremia,  stopping long enough to take a photo then kept on with my rolling suitcase clunking along, weaving in and out of others walking along or against the flow of traffic.  So much to digest and feeling the tiredness of our flight and little to none of sleep.  

I have found out that San Geremia houses the remains of Saint Lucia of Syracuse who was a Christian martyr.  She refused to marry her "pagan" betrothed and chose to give her wedding dowry to the poor.  Her betrothed was none to happy about all this and told all that she was a Christian.  With that they tried to burn her and when that didn't work they took her eyes out with a fork!  I would have liked to have given my respects to this strong woman had I known.  Next time.....

Monday, February 6, 2012

From plane to bus and by foot...we have arrived!

With just enough time to eat we boarded our Lufthansa flight for Venice.  Can I just say what a clean airline they are with comfortable seats and free drinks.  The flight was just as nice with gorgeous views of the mountains covered with snow that would make you think we were on a trip in December.

E.'s photo

Suddenly the mountains passed and flat land began to appear.  In the distance I saw what I thought was Venice and as we got closer the images that I dreamed about began to appear.  I could see St. Mark's Campanile and knew then that the Piazza San Marco was right below it.  The Grand Canal, the road and train route leading over the water, boats skimming the surface going to and fro from Venice, it was all coming to life this trip of ours!

E.'s photo

The Venice Marco Polo airport seemed very new and was quite the contrast from Frankfurt's dreariness.  E. was carrying a backpack so she didn't need to go through baggage claim for her luggage.  I had decided the night before that I could not do a backpack.  I had really wanted to do this and had researched as well as asked a close friend of what she carried when she traveled.  I bought the Rick Steve's Convertible Carry-on  and multiple packing cubes that separated as well as made it easy to find what I wanted versus searching my bag for toiletries, chargers and camera items, undies, pants and tops.  However once I had packed and repacked, attempted to cut items from being packed, I knew the backpack would be too hard on my neck.  If I didn't have an iffy neck I would have 100% done the backpack.  Down to the wire,  hubby found a rolling carry-on bag up in our garage that would work just fine.  For future travel with a rolling bag I plan on finding a lighter weight one as the one I carried was an older style that was quite sturdy but not that light.  I choose to check it so that I would only carry one bag around that could hold my Canon DSLR camera, a small Gorillapod, a book to read, water in a bobble as well as passport and money.  

Ahead of the trip we talked about how we would get to Venice from the airport and I found that there were two bus shuttles that could take us there.  Based on blogs and research we decided to buy our bus ticket ahead through ATVO which we could catch in front of the terminal.  E. and I strolled out front to find the ticket machine where we were to obtain our tickets. They were quite easy to find just as was written. We were suppose to put in our paid code/confirmation number and it allegedly would spit the tickets out, but no such luck.  No matter how E. typed it in no tickets would come out.  After spending quite a bit of time and letting others use the machine to buy tickets (watching how they were doing it and hoping someone else was trying to do a code/confirmation too) , seeing buses coming and going, we asked a driver that was standing by one of the buses how to obtain the tickets.  Response was we needed to go back into the terminal and locate the tourist transportation ticket area inside to receive our tickets.  For the record it is easier to buy your ticket there and whatever little we saved by buying ahead is not worth the waiting in the tourist ticket line.  Buy your ticket outside by the buses like everyone else.  The ATVO buses were very clean and they even load and unload your bag for you.

In looking at the one website that had been so helpful after we came back, I do see that we were suppose to go inside to get our tickets.  Sometimes there is only so much information you can store in your head or write down and this was just one of our stumbling blocks of what I will call "we didn't know", aka WDK.  For us it just added to the adventure and of our "flying by the seat of our pants"!

The bus dropped us off at Piazzale Roma where all the bus and car transportation stops are.  To step off the bus in the parking lot wondering which way to go felt like the opening of storybook.  We were here and ready to cross our first bridge.  In essence we just started walking in the direction of the first bridge we saw,  E. walked silently and I went over the bridge clunk, clunk, clunk, as almost every bridge in Venice has small steps.  Benvenuti a Venezia!

Friday, February 3, 2012

By plane....over the pond

The flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt we were able to secure our seats ahead, and though we did have our preferred seats they sort of weren't.    E. did have the window seat and I was in the middle but E. lost the view because our row was not next to one.  On the aisle was a young man who from his accent I knew he was foreign.  I did pity the poor guy knowing that as of the female variety we would need to use the loo much more than the male variety. 

My first issue with our seats was that my seat would not recline as the flight jumpseat was behind us.  To our left was the galley which was not the place to be by.  PLEASE NOTE not sit by the galley!  When we selected our seats we didn't see the galley placement.  I was more concerned of not wanting to sit by the loo and it's traffic as well as potential odor.  Please explain to me why on the way to Europe that they want to keep you awake but when you land it is morning?!  Shouldn't they want to encourage us to sleep?  I tried to sleep with the ear plugs I brought, but there was no possible way I could sleep between the constant noise in the galley of the stewards and stewardesses chatter and of course snacks, drinks and meal service.  Every time someone sat in the jump seat it would bang the back of my seat and whoever was sitting there kept getting up and down rather than rest.  

Now the poor man next to me had all of that but the meal carts kept hitting his armrest every time they made the turn out of the galley and down the aisle.  I swear if he had had his hand on that rest it would have been severely injured.  He seemed to be able to tune out with his headphones on and like me was in it for the long haul to our destination.

E. on the other hand seems to sleep without any problem,  sometimes curled up in positions that defy comfort.  Just looking at her my neck ached!  I had borrowed a memory foam neck pillow for just that reason to help with support but since I had to sit in a "FULLY UPRIGHT" position it was not that useful for long stretches of rest.

Photo by E. ~ One of several long walks at the Frankfurt Terminal

Landing in Frankfurt.....what a lovely view from our limited window space to see thick wooded forests in rich green near the airport.  Inside Frankfurt's terminal was an army grey color scheme and in need of some dust bunny clean up.  

Crazy is arriving inside the terminal via a bus shuttle, then "technically leaving" the terminal even though we didn't, and having to "re-enter" with a baggage search of what we were carrying.  It took forever to go through as they didn't have an efficient means of searching for some reason.  So once we literally walked in one door and exited another door we were on our way to find the gate for next flight to Venice.  But first some breakfast.....At last!

We had to go to a completely different area to find where our gate was with a short amount of time between the flights after our "re-enter" search.   This gave us little time to find something to eat, but what a reward the food was that we did find.  At Meyer Feinkost I was able to get the most delicious creamy yogurt with fruit and musli.  I had already bought myself a much needed Caffe Latte and was blissfully smiling at the thought of us almost reaching our first destination of Venice.  E. bypassed breakfast and went right for some substance with a panini.  That's my daughter getting ready for our big first day! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Buon Giorno!

I'm missing a morning in Venice, thinking of when E. and I would walk down the four flights of stairs inside our hotel the Ai Do Mori, in search of where to have a cappuccino and to pick out which delectable baked treasure we would eat that day.  Out the door away from the Piazza San Marco (which was just a left turn from our hotel down a short block) we would go, a quick right against the flow of most foot traffic.  We might go left and right multiple times, up one Calle and down another.  A small square might open up before us or a dead end to one of many small canals.  A gondola might glide by awaiting passengers or already inhabited with a couple on their romantic tour.  Silent except for the oar as it would break through the still, opal colored water.

E.'s photo ~ our hotel the Ai Do Mori

We didn't always pick the closest place, often trying to find one with seats to sit at.  Most of the Venetians would stand next to the bar to have their quick espresso or cappuccino, chatting away to the barista animatedly.  "Buon giorno!" and "Ciao" were all I could pick up.  Everyone seemed happy in the morning in Venice.  For that matter every establishment we went into we were greeted kindly.  

Photo by E

We would savor our breakfast treats, remarking on the flakiness or if one had a filling and what it was.  I would clean the cup with my tiny spoon to scrape the remains of milky froth left at the bottom.  A part of me really wanted to order just one more but the beginning of the day begged me to stand up and start the adventure of our day.

Venice had countless panifici or bakeries.  We saw meringues the size of your fist.  Some in the shape of seashells that were delicately dusted with cocoa.

Then there were the toasted tipped macaroons that looked shamlessly like nipples.

It was impossible to escape all the sweets that tried to lure us and lure us they did by our standing at the shop window examining every item.  Our mouths salivating while we resisted (why?) a purchase.  Why were they all so big?  The Venetians were not overweight but svelte and neatly attired.  They must not buy them but are bought by the turista.

All of this just one of many layers to fantastical Venice. Buon viaggio con me!