Still Ringing

Trip Start Dec 30, 2005
Trip End Jan 11, 2006

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Flag of Italy  ,
Sunday, January 8, 2006

Palazo La Scala, cute hotel half way between Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge.
Four stories, twelve rooms and a big blond Italian lady who cooks us breakfast every morning. We have a room on the top floor with old wooden beams, a wee bit of a view of St. Mark's Bell Tower and a couple friendly pigeons for neighbors. Cooo.

So after a week in a Paris studio with the insulation of toilet paper (single ply), the fire alarm goes off bright and early our first night in Venice. I call down to the front desk to inquire and get my favorite guy with his heavy Italian accent "Ahhh, yes, everyding is okay, it was from da breakfast room, we burn da brioche.... But do not worry, we make another." Whew, thank god we'll have our brioche. Again, best coffee everyday. I'm so moving here.

We started the day riding up to the top of the Bell Tower. My knees were never so thankful for an elevator. So windy and cold at the top (probably as cold, high 30's, as Paris but the sun made it feel comfortable) but an amazing view of the entire city. It was easy to see from so high how packed everything is. I forget how spread out Texas is and what cars and roadways do for the layout of a city. For the very few times I've been in an area void of cars or roads, this is by far the largest/densest/most populated. Unplanned we were atop the tower for the noon ringing. There was a group of Asian tourists directly beneath the monstrous bell that started swaying and gonging at the hour. As they scattered and squealled, they still managed frantic photo opportunities. My left ear still hurts from that damn thing.

We took a long walk to the end of the island and back. In so many ways being here was exactly as I had expected, and in so many ways it surprised me. It's hard to take a bad picture in such a beautiful city, but the tour books fail to mention that just outside the frame of the shot is a mini amusement park, nonstop American music (of the ilk we were glad to let go of), just as many tourist as pigeons (I'd start high in the six figures), and the ubiquitous hawkers and vendors trying to make a buck off our cluelessness. The walk got us away from everything (the sound of Italian finally outnumbered other languages) and made the place feel more genuine. I feel like I am seeing the Disneyland version of a great city, much like I imagine how my grandchildren will feel traveling to New Orleans. Actually, in many ways Venice reminded me slightly of home, the islands walled and devoted to above-ground marble graves was probably a clincher.

Back and forth on the main shopping drag (conveniently a few blocks form our hotel) for our Italian loot. I was on a mission for nice Italian leather shoes and I succeeded. Italian leather cowboy boots. Yeah, explain that one to me, I live in Texas for 7 years and it takes going to Europe to get boots. Hmmm. But they're pretty swank - black with red trim and white paneling. We ended the night with pasta at our favorite Asian run, American music playing joint. We learned to stick with pizza and take to heart our favorite hotelier's suggestion that the closest place to find good pasta is Rome.
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