Venice 2008

Trip Start Sep 09, 2008
Trip End Sep 24, 2008

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Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We fell in love with Venice during our first trip to Italy last year, so when my parents started talking about traveling to Italy this year, I volunteered to show them around Venice. We arrived at Marco Polo Airport around noon and were out the doors in less than 10 minutes since we didn't have to wait around for check-in luggage. Last year we splurged on a water taxi, but this time around, we decided to take the bus into the city.

We disembarked at Piazalle Roma, the bus terminal in Venice, and dragged our luggage around for a bit looking for the nearest vaporetto station. Vaporettos are the public water buses that transport people along the Grand Canal, Venice's main waterway. If you can snag a seat outside in the front or rear of the boat, you've got the best view for gazing out into the magnificent facades lining the Grand Canal. We hopped aboard a crowded vaporetto and made our way to our hotel, Hotel Ca' Pozzo.
It felt amazing to be back in Venice and we were excited to be back on the Grand Canal. We found our hotel easily enough as it was just a short walk from the vaporetto stop. Fortunately, our room was ready when we arrived and we were pretty pleased with it. After showers and a change of clothing, we were out the door.
The first item on my agenda purchasing insect repellent. We found a general store fairly quickly and with a few hand gestures and basic phrases, I was able to convey to the young woman manning the store what I was looking for. They actually had a few bottles right next to the cash register, so it must be a frequently-requested item.
We sat down at one of the first restaurants we came across, which is never a good idea, but we were famished. Our only specification was that the menu have cuttlefish spaghetti, spaghetti al nero seppia, which is what we'd been craving all year since our last visit to Venice. Since a quick glance at the menu confirmed that they did indeed serve this delicious dish, there was no need to go any further.

After lunch, we hit the ATM for the first of many withdrawals. Then, it was time to have some gelato. We decided to just walk around and do a bit of self-exploration. My parents would be arriving at the train station around 6:00 pm, so we had a few hours to kill. We ended up in the Ghetto, which was the area where the Jews were forced to live in 1516. Because their boundaries were restricted, the Jews had no choice but to build skyward, which is why you see such tall buildings in the Ghetto.

We arrived at St. Lucia train station a few minutes before my parents' train was due to arrive. However, we ended up waiting another 30-40 minutes before their train actually arrived. I got a big kick out of seeing them disembark from their train. Since they had left for Rome the Saturday before, I had been acting like a nervous parent, calling them at their hotel and on my dad's cell phone to check up on them at all hours of the day. I am so proud of them for having the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and embarking on a journey like this. Watching them walk toward us with their luggage in tow is a memory I will never forget.

My parents' hotel, Hotel Abbazia, was right around the corner from the train station. It is a converted monastery with spacious rooms. We escorted them to their hotel and agreed to meet in a couple of hours for dinner. Jay and I decided to do some further exploration in the San Polo and Santa Croce siesteres. Once again, we allowed ourselves to get lost in the maze of alleys that is Venice.
Dinner was a wasted meal at a tourist trap on the Fondamenta Venier. The service was awful and we had to ask for the check ("Il conto, per favore!") no less than three times. It really wasn't what I had in mind for my parents' first dinner in Venice. On the bright side, my mom did enjoy her first plate of cuttlefish spaghetti and we had a great view of the Canale di Cannaregio.
The next morning, we all headed to San Marco for a tour of the basilica and a walking tour of Venice. But first, we decided to visit the Campanile for a panoramic view of the city. On the vaporetto ride to St. Mark's, my mom and dad marveled at the palazzos adorning both sides of the Canal Grande. I felt as if I was looking at Venice for the first time through their eyes. The view from the Campanile was amazing, as to be expected.
We met our tour group at the Giardenetti Reali (Royal Garden). The tour guide was a native of Venice and she kept us captivated during the entire three hours. We are all quite famished after the tour. We decided to have lunch at a pizza joint called (strangely enough) Bora Bora. The restaurant did indeed feature Hawaiian decor, but there were no Polynesian dishes to be found on the menu. We ordered a couple of pizzas and calamari, of course. The pizza hit the spot.
After lunch, we set off on a shopping expedition. My dad picked up several ties for his colleagues. We visited the likes of Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, et. al. After a couple of hours, we were all feeling tired and decided to rest at our respective hotels before our late afternoon gondola ride and dinner. I had made dinner reservations at the popular Taverna San Trovaso.
The gondola ride was a memorable experience. Our gondolier took us through back waterways in Dorsudoro before steering us out into the Canal Grande. He too was a native Venetian son and was generous with his story-telling and factoid-sharing. He revealed that gondolas typically cost around €45,000 and decorating (aka pimping your ride) is an additional €30,000! Gondoliers must obtain a license before they can officially ply the trade and it is a process years in the making. Our guy was nice enough to stop several times to take our photo.
We had worked up an appetite by the time we got the restaurant, Taverna San Traveso. Jay and I both ordered (surprise!) spaghetti al nero di seppia and my dad ordered pasta alla scoglia. His dish, which was basically delicious frutti di mare on crack, was so delectable that Jay and I returned the next night for our own plates of it. Poor dad, we all descended upon his plate like vultures.
Since we were all slightly tipsy after dinner, we headed to the famous Harry's Bar. Jay and I have always been curious about what the peach bellinis, at €20 a pop, tasted like. The place was small and crowded and overrun with fellow tourists. We snagged seats at the bar and proceeded to order a round of bellinis. The verdict: Overrated.
On our final full day in Venice, while my parents were off on a tour of the Doge's Palace, Jay and I visited Ca' D'Oro (House of Gold). While the art did not captivate us, the views of the Grande Canal from the third and fourth floor balconies were spectacular. Besides, entrance is free.
We met my parents at the Royal Garden and set off for lunch. I wanted to try a restaurant called Trattoria Alla Rivetta, which is very popular with the gondoliers. We were seated in the back room, with other tourists of varying nationalities, whilst the gondoliers had the privilege of dining at the front of the restaurant. Mom ordered lasagna, Dad has some fish dish, and can't remember what Jay and I had. After lunch, we left my parents to their own devices for a couple of hours while we wandered around a bit. We stopped at several mask shops as I wanted to bring home a Venetian mask for myself.
Around 2:00 pm, we connected with my parental units once again to embark upon on our island tour of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. While Murano is known for its glass, Burano is known for its lace and its bright rainbow-colored buildings. Torcello is known as the birthplace of Venice. Last year, Jay and I journeyed to Burano, which was one of the highlights of our visit to Venice, but we'd not had the opportunity to check out Murano and Torcello.

Murano was a bit of a letdown. We were shepherded off the boat and into a big warehouse where we watched an artisan ply his craft by transforming a big blob of transparent goop into a glass stallion figurine. Then, we were lead into the showroom filled from top to bottom with glass - glass paperweights, glass vases, glass chandeliers, glass candlestick holders, and so on. We hurried through and headed back to the boat, where we were the first to board.

It was on to Burano. By the time we landed at Burano, a steady rainfall had descended upon us. We ran to the nearest shop to purchase umbrellas and a "raincoat" for Jay. Although the rain was disappointing, I could tell that my parents were still wowed by the mini canals and the rows of houses painted in all of the colors found in a Crayola box.

Our last stop was Torcello, where Venice was born. The rain had stopped when we disembarked from the boat. Torcello ended being quite a surprise. We did not expect to find anything noteworthy as all of the guidebooks only make mention of a church as the island's main attraction. Behind the church lies the remains of a garden, complete with weathered statues and aging vines. Jay and I snapped away, comparing photos now and then as if we were in a competition. Of course, my photos were better. We ran back to the loading dock when we realized it was getting close to our departure. We were the last ones on the boat.

My mom and dad were exhausted when we got back to St. Mark's. Since they would be leaving for home the next morning, they decided to grab dinner close to their hotel. (Their last meal in Venice was dinner at a Chinese restaurant.) Meanwhile, Jay and had been jonesing for the pasta alla scoglia that my dad had the night before, so it was back to Taverna San Trovaso for us.

The four of us shared one last vaporetto ride back to our hotels. As we approached the Rialto Bridge, I noticed a rainbow softly glowing over the horizon. It was simply beautiful.

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