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Europe2013 Trip report

Quiet for a moment – a chance to catch up

We’re back at the apartment and it’s only 3:30-ish.  Greg came down with quite a debilitating cold yesterday: he soldiered on for a while but was dreadful last night and has spent the day today in bed.  Cath, Pam and I stuck to the plan and bought Vaparetto tickets and hopped on one to Burano, which we had not been to before. Very pretty with its multi-coloured houses, but it has become bitterly cold (at least it seems to have stopped raining for a while) and Cath started to feel poorly after lunch, so we came straight back and she is having a snooze too.  Only Pam and I are left holding the fort, as it were.

So: what has been happening over the previous days?

There was the expected extended blur of drowsiness and engine noise, punctuated by a longish stretch of Airport Duty Free shopping.  Dubai airport had a raffle for a Porsche Panamera: only 1000 tickets to be sold, $500 each…  No thanks.

Arrived in Venice on Monday with no fanfare, short-ish queues for immigration, efficient baggage reclamation and total dis-interest from customs.  Straight through, and there we were, looking at the Venetian air, full of snow.  We bought Alilaguna tickets from a vending machine in the baggage collection hall, but then couldn’t find the dock.  There were signs and queues all over the arrivals lounge to buy tickets, but not a single sign to show where to go to catch the boat!  A nice car-rental lady told us: left outside, then follow the plastic tunnel all the way to the end.  Sure enough, there it was.  Had to hold the rail carefully up the ramp, because it was iced up.  Made it onto the expected service and arrived at Fondamenta Nuova on time.  Our landlord was a little late, but we got in and settled with no hassles.  None of us felt up to cooking though, so we found our way to Osteria La Bottega ai Promessi ai Sposi (mostly by luck: the Garmin was refusing to find satellites) and had a delicious meal.  Picked up some groceries and what-not from the Billa of doom nearby, headed home and collapsed.

We did manage to get up early on Tuesday, and were at the Rialto markets as they were getting going.  Bought some Branzinos (a bit like whiting), potatoes and salad, and also a smallish leg of lamb and other pieces for the Pasqua feast Cath has planned.  Dropped the groceries home and had delicious lunch of fresh prosciutto, ambrosia and tomato rolls, then spent the whole afternoon with Chorus pass in hand, wandering from Chisea to Basilica to Scuola Grande San Rocco until we could wander no more.  I figured out how to open the scallops, and cooked them for entrée, then cleaned, filleted and cooked the fish in time to serve them with Pam’s delicious herbed chips.  We were all completely exhausted again, and went straight to bed.

Wednesday was our day to see the Basilica San Marco.  The Aqua Alta was up when we arrived, and we had to join a queue to shuffle along the elevated board-walk to get in.  I had not been able to find somewhere to print the “voucher” for the tour that we were going on, but I had it on my phone, and that proved to be good enough.  The tour was very well worth it.  The group was small (just us and an Indian family) and the guide pleasant and knowledgeable, and we got to go into places like the Baptistry that are closed to the hoi-polloi.  The guide arrived about ten minutes late, which we thought to be normal Italian time, but she apologised profusely and explained that she too had had to queue along the board walks to navigate the Aqua Alta.  The tour finished around 12:30, and we all needed a sit-down, so we walked towards Dorsoduro (the next part of the plan) looking for lunch.  Wound up selecting a much fancier and more touristic spot than we had intended, but the food was OK, we had a glass of wine and made use of the toilet facilities and then headed off to see if we could find some more churches.  Which we did, of course: the Garmin was working well by now, and I was getting the knack for dealing with the poor reception in the narrow ravines of Venice.  San Sebastiano was where she said it would be, but the tomb of Veronese was shrouded by reconstruction scaffolding.  Much wandering found us all getting pooped again, but the sun had come out and we found a sunny cafe to sit and drink an afternoon spritz before making the final leg home.  Since we had had a substantial lunch, and none of us really had any energy for appetite, we had a small rocket, pear and parmesan salad for dinner and collapsed into bed again.

Thursday morning was our “Secret Itineraries” tour of the Doge’s Palace.  I needn’t have worried that I hadn’t been able to print the ticket vouchers: the ticket vending lady was completely unsurprised at having a mobile phone presented to her, and she produced the necessary tickets without complaint or even much indication that I existed.  The tour guide arrived on time, and was one of the highlights of the tour.  She was a stocky lady with vibrantly-died red hair and the vocal mannerisms and demeanour of “Colonal Rosa Klebb” from one of the early James Bond movies (probably “From Russia with Love“).  It was difficult to tell if this was just an act that she put on for the tourists, or whether she would really have preferred to have been locking us all in some of the dungeons that she was showing us through.  She did seem to have a good working knowledge of the torture techniques that they used to get confessions…  We came straight back to the apartment after that and made the spaghetti carbonara that had been planned for the night before, for lunch.  Greg could go no further at that stage, and lay down for a kip and Cath, Pam and I headed back out to find the Attombri boys’ new shop.  Naturally we did not escape from there without souvenirs.  As sunset came on and the lights were coming up we had a stroll down the Fondamenta Zattre, past the Doge’s Palace again, then followed the Garmin’s suggestion for a nice, quick walk home.  We ate Cath’s fabulous Coniglio brasato con polenta, pancetta e porcini that she had mostly made the night before, and which had been slowly brazing while we were out.  We were getting our touring legs by now, and had enough energy to get a hand or two of 500 in before bed.

Which brings us up-to-date: more Rialto marketing this morning and a quick but sufficient visit to Burano this afternoon.  It’s raining again, so I doubt that we’ll be going far this evening.