Monday, May 29, 2017

Venice in Three Days? Impossible! But Well Worth the Doomed Effort, Truly. . .

Sweet Pater, he took five or six shots to get this one for me, first trying to figure out how he'd got stuck on a black-and-white filter, and then trying for an angle that minimised the sun's brightness AND caught my sandals. He knows how important that is in an outfit shot (LOL! as the kids say)
This trip has a considerably different rhythm to what we've been used to the last few years. We've gravitated to a pattern of staying in one spot for at least a week, often spending two (as I did in Rome last year) or all the way up to ten, with some coming and going (as we did in Bordeaux last year). Yes, within those longer stays, we've made forays to other cities -- Bayonne, Berlin, Rome, all from Bordeaux last year -- but we've come to love the luxury of having a home base and also of having enough time allotted away from home that we don't feel pressure to fill that time efficiently. It's become okay to "waste" time with an afternoon reading, a morning spent painting at the kitchen table,  a rainy afternoon -- or even a sunny one! -- given over to blogging or to writing in my journal.

 Our days in Paris were a good transition, a good way to ride out our jet lag in a city we know well enough to feel less pressure to see or do anything except what suits. This time, two manageably sized yet significant exhibitions, a few good meals, some walks in the park satisfied, and I had time left for coffee with my journal in the mornings -- we even caught up on a few episodes of Un Village Français in the evening with no guilt about a hotel-room Netflix binge.
 In Venice now, though, three days (four nights) feels impossibly wanting, especially with the Biennale flashing its international wares of brilliant contemporary art just a 45-minute siren's call away. . . We're very happily housed, with a charmingly efficient kitchen, a delightful tiny garden to eat in, desks and tables to spread out writing and sketching materials, but really, to make even the slightest dent in What to See in Venice, we feel compelled to get out and about as soon as possible (that was 9:30 this morning, the possible didn't arrive very soon. . . .).  The vexing if luxurious problem of where to eat those two meals a day is more insistent when you're not in one spot long enough to stock a pantry, nor have enough time to spare to enjoy marketing each day.
 Our solution for this trip, given that we'll be taking the train on Wednesday to another city where we'll sleep in a hotel before heading to another city (where we'll meet Dottoressa! I'm very excited!) is to set up one important Art Gallery visit -- and that happened today with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection--see at least one iconic landmark (San Marco), but not fuss about lining up to get in, not try to mix it up with the crowds pouring off those cruise ships we try not to notice. And to walk and walk and walk, stopping for coffee (the perfect cappucinni today with the loveliest service, and in the most welcome swathe of shade) or water or an Aperol Spritz (yesterday at sunset, by a canal).

And to admire the shop windows and the laundry hanging to dry over a canal
I'm going back here tomorrow to buy sealing wax and a stamp (or three) and some absolutely delicious stationery. . .

To focus on details, enjoy moments (the little girl in the yellow dress and darling straw hat both thrilled and intimidated by the pigeons landing on her arm to peck food out of her hand), the older gent (so, um, perhaps a year or two older than me -- I keep being surprised by that reality) whistling for his Jack Russell, an obviously well-trained dog who could mostly be trusted off-leash, but who decided that the audience at the Campo San SomeoneHolyorOther deserved a bit of tension, and who let a hundred metres fall between himself and his whistling master -- a standoff that amused and united a crowd and ended in applause when our canine friend shrugged an implied "I was only messing with him" and trotted happily leashward, to the relief of The Whistler.

And lions, of course. . . 
 bas-relief details in a square bustling with astonishingly well-dressed people with an abundance of selfie sticks and a determination to record their proximity to Famous Places.
It's possible that the designer-clad crew and their coins and credit cards are not terribly well beloved by all the locals, so we did our best not to appear too brash, nor vulgar. . . .
And while I'm not eschewing the possibility of a little shopping tomorrow, so far we've concentrated on soaking up the atmosphere, the food, the wine, a superfluity of architecture and Art ancient and contemporary, there to be stumbled upon. This exhibition at the Azerbaijan Pavilion of the 57th Biennale di Venezia was entitled Under One Sun: The Art of Living Together -- a very moving installation which featured twenty monitors, each showing someone of an ethnic minority (in Azerbaijan) speaking in his or her language, with the English translation appearing below in constantly moving words projected toward the walls and floors, but landing on anyone who interrupts their passage.
We only spent ten or fifteen minutes here, but we found the installation both moving and effective, a powerful illustration of the challenges difference poses to peace and integration, but also of the hope for, and effort to achieve, tolerance and/in diversity.

Time for bed and a book here, and I suspect that I won't post again from Venice this trip (although I will continue to post on Instagram a few times a day). But shall I leave you with one tantalising, foolish, image -- this time it's from Pater's journal, sketched alongside me as we both sat ourselves down and concentrated on the most exuberant, shocking, joyous, and witty equestrian statues you've ever seen. Some of you have seen the statue of which I speak (Marino Marini's Angel of the City); some have only heard of it; others will simply wonder why my husband and I spent time in Venice drawing crude images of a happy nude man on a horse. . .
The head of Pater's horse needs elongating, but on his third try he's captured the angle of the rider's head, something I didn't manage in five or six attempts.

When next we speak of Venice, remind me to tell you of the cutest response to that statue's surprise (the viewer must approach it from behind, descending stairs toward the canal with all its distractions -- the classic second-take is common here). For now, I'll just ask you how you manage the Three or Four-Day Visit to a city with Too Many Attractions.  Do you try to get through a long list?  Do you like to see as much as possible or do you prefer to see a select few sites or even simply one or two paintings? Would you trade off an important gallery for a lazy few hours in a great little restaurant? How do you sort out priorities? And besides time, of course, there's also budget to be sorted. And stamina and physical ability (My knee pain -- which is really a seizing up of a confusion of muscles and tendons and fascia all 'round the knee, my ITB, calf, glutes, quads, and on  and on -- flared up two weeks before we left, so while I've been managing 10 to 15 kilometres daily, it's not cost-free. Don't worry, I brought my foam Travel Roller).

And, of course, I welcome any favourite Venice stories or tips or wishes you'd care to share. Thanks very much to those of you who recommended the Guggenheim Collection. Yes, it was all that!


  1. Lovely photos. I think you have taken the best approach possible for the time you have. How lovely to be there for the Biennale even if time doesn't really allow much exploration of it. The Guggenheim is wonderful. Such an interesting insight into the world of Peggy Guggenheim. I loved it. Love Pater's sketch. You are very well matched. Enjoy the next leg of your journey. Mary

  2. I really enjoyed that post , I feel your frustration but you can drive yourself mad trying to see absolutely everything . When we travelled a lot we weren't so taken with the important museums & exhibitions . People watching was always fascinating , little conversations with the locals learning more about their lives & how similar we all are really . I liked the picture of the washing & your dog story , these are the kind of memories that have stayed with me over the years .
    Wendy in York

  3. Big museums are essential to short infrequent trips but I love the luxury of being laid-back. I would love to meet Dottoressa one day.

  4. Frances, that first photo of you is stunning. You look so pretty!

    My approach to travel has always been taking the view that Paris, South Africa, Mexico, Spain, Montreal, etc. will always be there, so what is my rush? Just like to soak it up, absorb the atmosphere and sense the vibe. "I'll be back" is always my departing thought as I head homeward.

    Continue to enjoy your travels; you certainly do it in style.
    Hello to Dottoressa from me (in Maine at the moment).

    Take care.

    A. in London

  5. Touring with you is a pleasure; great images to complement your writing. I've never considered a 4 day sojourn in Venice, but clearly it would be far better than not visiting at all! Travel safely. Elizabeth xx

  6. I love following along with you - I don't travel so much myself these days, and when I do I go with one of my kids. Husband has done so much business travel that if he's going to vacation it's unlikely to be in a foreign country. When I went with my daughter, we did so much I had to beg for mercy. With my son, I imagine it will be different, I look forward to finding out.

  7. Hi Frances, it's really quite impossible to take a bad photo in Venice, isn't it? Much of the time when we travel we are going to visit friends and/or family, so it's enough to be spending time with people that we don't see often. However, I have a big fat folder on the computer where I regularly bookmark interesting places and things to see, divided by city or region. I'll check that out before we go and make a loose list for each stop. However, this year for our trip to Germany (10 days split between 4 different cities for varying lengths of time) and Budapest (5 days) we'll mostly be seeing friends. I agree with A in London's philosophy though - if we do go to a new place, we tend to assume that, if we like it, we'll be baaaack, so no need to go mad. :0)

  8. Venice is rich food isn't it? With the pros and cons of that. I'm so glad the Peggy Guggenheim pleased you...I'm afraid I have mentioned it more than once. I walk through it mentally often and did so again as I read your notes. And the Biennale too! My ideal scenario for that would be to stay in Venice from June through October and visit the Biennale for one day each week. Last Biennale (2015), we stayed in Dorsoduro and spent a lot of time in our neighbourhood, also moved back and forth to the Arsenale (did to go to the Giardini site as well?
    Beautiful park.) without stopping in the centre. It was the very end of October so the crowds were less.

    You look lovely in your dress (and sandals, thank you Pater!) and I am so looking forward to your meeting with D. :)

  9. Frances,you look very stylish!
    I agree completely with A.-it is more about atmosphere and experience...
    But ,when travelling with my son ,I have to quote Lisa-it was begging for mercy indeed.
    When I travel alone (and I love it,too),I make a plan in advance (and buy the tickets,too)-it is one exibitions,museum or part of the town a day.....I neither could nor would do more
    Hello ladies,I'm looking forward to Thursday :-),too

  10. Sounds, and looks, divine, Frances. The cruise ship crowds, and selfie-stick wielding folk can take the edge off one's enjoyment, I find. Love the dress and sandals shot. You look smart and fit and lovely. Hope the knee holds up. Where would we be without our foam rollers? Say hello to Dottoressa!

    1. After three trips to Venice my favorite stop is the island of Torcello, serene, beautiful, often virtually deserted by tourists. The earliest inhabited part oof the Venetian landscape, it boasts an ancient church with a reveting fresco of the Blessed Mother with a challenging direct modern gaze. Also a fabulous restaurant where we had the best meals of those trips. Lorca daughter Cipriani.

  11. Thank you Pater for persevering to get that great shot of Frances!
    I would opt for museum visits over a lazy lunch...sorry to hear about your knee. Mine flares up once in awhile too...hope it settles down soon.
    Clever you for making plans to meet D! Please share some snippets of your visit.

  12. This all looks splendid. If it wasn't a lovely sunny day here I might feel a little envious...dress is good. I admit that when I am vising very famous places I am a bit snooty about being lumped as a tourist (though I am, obviously) and try to dress like a normal person. It always astounds me how people dress when on holiday - would they really walk about like that at home? Maybe they would. Enjoying all the food and drink shots. And on we go!

  13. When we went to Venice. .we were on our first trip to Europe.We were flying from Paris on an Italian budget airline. We arrived at the airport to find the airline had gone bust and it was going to cost us 700 euro each to book an alternative flight. So instead we flew to Nice and then took the train to Venice. I hit that rock wall I'm now a little more familiar with. .you know the one that happens about two weeks in to a month's trip..or maybe it's just me!Anyway I cried and cried because I could not speak Italian and the nonna at the BnB we were booked into couldn't speak English and we were 12 hours late and..and...and!A gorgeous Italian girl in the same carriage saw me.Turned out she'd spent some time down here in little old NZ.So she spoke to Nonna and sorted it.We FINALLY arrived after I think about 18 hours traveling. It was about 11 pm. We scrambled along behind the kind little man who met us at the Bridge of Sighs.It felt like we were going back in time..canals,tiny lanes, all very spooky,I hated it!When we woke the next morning and operated the shutters the sun was shining,the market was bustling, the laundry was flapping away between our camere and the neigbours. .it truly is a magical city.I'm loving your posts and photos!

  14. One of my favorite travel memories is getting"lost" in Venice. After an initial panic, I gave my self the freedom to just enjoy wandering with NO idea where I was- getting further and further from the crowds. I came across a family playing together in a small piazza, stopped to eat at a tiny pizzeria, and spent time soaking it all in. Nothing of any import happened- I did not "discover" anything out of the ordinary except a slice of real life for the people who actually live in the city. Somehow- it was magic.

  15. Hello Frances - I think you have a good balance of must see and just 'being'. Time spent on slow wandering ( sorry to hear about the knee), sketching and observing leave a bigger impression of a place.
    Very much enjoying your pictures but am on a big catch up of your writing.
    Somewhat ironically - I work in travel ( as a marketer) but rarely seem to have time to experience different destinations these days.
    I look forward to a time when I can reduce my pace of life but jnnthe meantime reading your journals is an excellent substitute. Margaret in Edinburgh


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