Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Sunday, April 24, 2016


After a 4 pm departure from Houston and a 4 hour layover in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, Air France deposited us at Venice’s Marco Polo airport about 2:30pm (local time of course). The very efficient gate agent in Houston had checked our bags through to Venice and they were the first ones down the carrousel.  A boat ride across the lagoon to the first stop, Madonna del Orto, put us within a five minute from Corina’s Venice, our apartment for the next 5 days.
Since we didn’t get much sleep on the flight, we just made a quick trip to the grocery store to make dinner fixings and a bottle of wine. Tomorrow we’d hit the streets.

The apartment is in the Canareggio sistiere, on the northern edge of the island, away from the tourist madness that is Venice. It was great to be able to retreat from the crowds every evening for rest and relaxation.
The neighborhood also features several of Venice’s best restaurants.  We had a couple of great meals!

The Madonna del Orto, our neighborhood church.
Also, Tintoretto’s. Several great, monumental paintings here.

A Venice Street

And hit the streets we did. All on foot. There is no wheeled transport in Venice; no cars, no bikes, only the vaporetti and water taxis on the canals.  The only things with wheels are the hand trucks that are used to transport goods from the little commercial barges to their destination.  Over the 5 days we averaged about 8 miles a day. We’re making our euro weight!

Also since there’s no driving, there’s plenty of drinking!  Nobody has to worry about a breathalyzer. 

Along with the drinking are the snacks, called cicheti.  They’re little bites made of all kinds of ingredients; fresh raw scallops, octopus salad and bacala (cod mashed up with cream) were our favorites.  We also saw fried zucchini blossoms, roasted carrots and potatoes and just about anything you could pile on a slice of crusty bread. Walk into a bar, point to the ones you want on the plate, grab a glass of wine and the total bill usually comes out to about 12-15 for two people. 

Along with the canals, Venice is know for it’s art, churches and St. Marks Cathedral.  We bought a “Chorus Pass” that allows free entry to 16 churches throughout the city and we saw some amazing art. A favorite was a Madonna and Child by Bellini at the Chiesa Frari.

Sunday we made an aborted trip to tourist central, St. Marks Cathedral.  For an unknown (to us) reason, that was the day they decided to close it just about the time we got there. The Campanile was open, though, so we rode the elevator to the top and got an interesting view of St. Marks Square.

St. Mark’s is known for it’s amazing mosaics. We did manage to get inside on Tuesday morning but not without some complications.  High tide had put water over the the main entrance walkway and the staff couldn’t figure out how to put the over-water entrance ramp together.  After waiting for a half hour (over an hour past the posted opening time) we had just about given up on a visit when they decided to let us enter through the exit, splashing through the shallower puddles.  Of course no photos are allowed inside but it is awe inspiring.

The roof of each doorway is covered in intricate mosaics and carvings, nothing compared to what’s inside.

And what visit to Venice would be complete without a gondola photo.

The “water bus” (vaporetto) tickets are pretty expensive so we bought a two day unlimited pass for Monday and Tuesday. Monday we traveled out into the lagoon to visit the islands of Burano, Torcetto and Murano.

Burano is a small fishing village known for it’s brightly colored houses and an “interesting” tower.

No, it’s not Pisa and I wouldn’t want to
own property on the “down” side!

We got back to the apartment in the early afternoon and then caught the water bus for a ride down the Grand Canal, Venice’s “Main Street.”

Heavy traffic on the street.

(from Wikipedia)The Ca d’Oro one of the older palaces in the city
 ("golden house") due to the gilt and polychrome external decorations which once adorned its walls.
The palace was built between 1428 and 1430 for the
  Contarini family, who provided Venice with eight Doges between 1043 and 1676.

After our morning visit to St. Marks, we wandered through the sistiere, or neighborhood, and then met Tim and Christine, friends from California who’s visit to Venice was overlapping ours by a day.  Wine and cecheti at a couple of different bars were in order before we returned to the apartment to pick up our luggage. We were on the night train from Venice to Dijon and took the vaporetto to the train station.  After packing our bags into our 4 person couchette, we settled in for the ride.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Time to Get Going! April 6-13

A new year beckons.....but first-

We packed the suitcases, turned the keys over to Paul and Morgan, who will be living in our house for the summer, and hit the road Wednesday afternoon; first stop Houston.

Unlike last summer's return home, the American Eagle flight left the first time and on time, landing in Houston around 8 pm.  We picked up a rental car and arrived at Cathy Jo's parents house in a north western suburb around a half hour later. Cathy Jo's dad is something of a pack rat, having accumulated several storage rooms and offices full of "geology stuff" over his career and we were there to try to sort through some of it before we headed on to Europe for the summer.  Her brother Brandt and his partner Suzie joined us Friday and Saturday for the fun.

Sunday late morning is was off on the 4 hour drive to Dallas to see Patti Hardman. It was great to catch up on all the goings on and we were surprised to learn that she's going to continue the family business for at least one more year.  Shows at the Texas State Fair in September and the Northfield Mall for Christmas are still on the agenda, although, sadly, this year missing John.

Monday afternoon is was back to Houston for one more day of organizing today and then tomorrow it's On To Venice where we'll spend 6 days before heading to the boat. The weather forecast says it's supposed to be sunny and mild the whole time we're in Italy, something of a surprise for this time of year so we're ready to get going.

Next post from Italy!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

RIP John

I have to begin this years blog postings on a somber note.  Our friend John Hardman died last November.  
We met John and Patti after they relocated to Ventura from Dallas in the early 80's as Six Flags wanted John to produce shows at Magic Mountain. They owned Freya, a 1940's built Atkins Ingrid, a wooden sailboat. We worked on the boat's upkeep and became friends.  They moved back to Dallas in the mid 90's but we kept in touch.  A couple of years after they bought Capri, their 17 meter dutch barge, we traveled to France and spent a wonderful 10 days with them.  We were hooked!  After selling our house in Ventura we bought Odysseus and the adventure began.
About two and a half years ago John was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He was active right up to the end, having to take a couple days off from his show at the Texas State Fair in September when he was hospitalized with pneumonia.
Luckily we were able to see him last August on our way back from France.  We had a great time and John was his usual hilarious self.

John Hardman: master puppeteer, actor, writer, producer, boat owner and dear, dear friend.  We miss him terribly.

Don and Cathy Jo

John, Patti and Capri