Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Birthday and Boat Day in Venice

Friday was our second full day in Venice-- and Dave's birthday. Venice is one of those cities that forces you to compare beauty to practicality. I don't know if I have ever been somewhere that is so photogenic. Oh that I were able to age as beautifully as Venice-- growing increasingly and mysteriously attractive with the signs of my decay....
On the other hand, Venice is a mobility impairment nightmare-- tiny narrow walkways, bridges with steps up and back down every block or so, uneven surfaces, and stairs everywhere. The thought of all the extra effort required to bring food and supplies in by boat-- and then to haul them by hand truck up and down the bridges and stairs-- is exhausting to even think about.
But I think some of Venice's beauty lies in the sheer impracticality of it all: yes, it is harder and slower and more difficult to do everything by boat and by hand. It is next to impossible to navigate your way through the city in an efficient, logical manner. But the impracticality of it all forces you to slow down-- to look around you and notice the lapping of the water in the canal and the odd quietness of a city with no cars. It is almost as if Venice itself is inviting you to wander and just lose yourself in another time and age. 
There is a strange harmony in the lack of uniformity and even the decay-- in the brightly colored houses contrasting with the fading stonework, the narrow winding streets where you can never tell if it terminates in a dead end or another alley, the ancient railings overhung by flowing greenery with bright bursts of flowers, in the discolored stone and plaster from past centuries.
Like many European buildings, our B&B had windows with no screens that opened to the outside. ("Bonjour! Bonjour! There goes the baker with his tray like always...")
It also had a ginormous couch in the lobby that is one of the few things I have ever seen that managed to make Dave's legs look short. 
For our second day in Venice we wanted to see the city from the water. We started with a water taxi up the Grand Canal and around the bottom of the island.  

The Rialto Bridge. 
Dave at your service. 
We wandered around the back streets near Rialto looking for a certain restaurant. We were rewarded with amazing pasta and one of the best salads I have EVER had (burrata cheese with balsamic and tomatoes, oh my). 

The remains of our glorious pasta with mussels. 
After lunch we walked to the Rialto Bridge and did our part to boost the local economy at the myriad souvenir shops lining its edges. 

After a break to go home and do some laundry (and escape from the heat to our a/c unit) we headed out for the classic Venetian experience: a gondola ride. 

I wondered whether the experience would be worth it or just another expensive way for tourists to say goodbye to their money. It was amazing and worth every penny. It was a totally different experience to be right down on the water, silently rowing down back alleys and quiet canals and then up the Grand Canal. As we went down one smaller canal, we heard the sound of a choir singing echoing from a nearby building. (Cue soundtrack and magical movie moment-- you can't make this stuff up!)

We followed our magical gondola ride with a stroll around the Dorsoduro neighborhood, complete with gelato. 

Then we finally had killed enough time for us to go to our dinner reservation (Venetians eat really late-- it was after 9:00 pm). We had a delicious meal alongside a small canal consisting of incredible pasta, interesting fish (Anglerfish, anyone? You know, the one with a built in hook?) and a perfectly executed flourless chocolate cake for dessert. (Actually called "Chocolate Tart" on the menu. Some surprises are good, I guess.)
We sang Happy Birthday, had Dave blow out the candle on our table, and walked back over the Accademia Bridge to our little apartment. 

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