Monday, June 7, 2010

Memories from a much younger me

I've kept so many journals and travel diaries over the years. They are all in a drawer or two in our back room. After finding the travel journal from 2004 yesterday, I decided to find the one from 1989. Yes, my first impressions of Venice as a 21 year old backpacker:

Sunday 2nd April 1989, Venice, Italy. Cloudy, cool.

[text removed] We arrived in Venice at 3.44pm precisely. I rang a few numbers, got a map and headed off to a pensione near the station that was "cheap, clean and central" according to the guidebook. The lady running it was very nice. All the female pensione owners have been lovely. We then ventured out and wandered through this AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL city, past bridges, gondolas, vaporettos, shop after shop, restaurant after restaurant. We walked into piazzas and watched kids play soccer. We found dead-ends and like most people we got lost in the canals. Not surprising afterall there are 117 islands connected to one another. It ain't hard to get lost! We then found our way back to a restaurant that looked nice and had a great meal. Probably the nicest we've had in Italy so far. For [equiv] $AUS 15.00 we had pizza, drink, wine, coffee and a crepe. I had a Banana and Grand Marnier one. It was delicious!

Monday 3rd April 1989, Venice, Italy. cool.

Woke up this morning to the sound of church bells chiming and birds singing - very nice! I then had a long, hot shower which was WONDERFUL and we left to go walkies. We strolled around the canals, looked through all the shops, changed money and sat down for a breakfast of coffee and cake.

We caught a vaporetto to St Mark's Square which took ages. We walked through the Doge's Palace which was incredible - one room had drawings of Venice from 1400-1700 and it hasn't changed at all! The drawings were brilliant as were all the paintings on the walls, on the ceilings. The dungeons were cold though. You could almost hear the prisoners screaming and clawing through the bars. I found it a little scary actually.

After the Palace we went to St Mark's Basilica which like ALL churches in Italy is amazing. However it's older and different. It was mostly gold mosaics in the domes and ceiling. It was wonderful. It was interesting.

Revisiting Venice XX

We walked back to the pensione, filled in some postcards we picked up and had dinner at the same restaurant again.

Oh, by the way, mum would LOVE this place. Paperweights and eggs are in every shop window. I'll try and buy her a paperweight even if they are expensive.

I'm going to leave the memories there. I did buy mum a paperweight. She had it in her paperweight collection for years. As you know, this next Venice trip is in memory of mum who passed away at the end of April. On the weekend I will be arranging to collect some of her belongings that we've had in storage since she died. Mum left me her paperweight collection. I'll let everyone in the family choose something they'd like from it and send some to her friends. But the one from Venice will be removed from the batch. That one is returning home. To me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Memories from another time and place

Today I went looking for a map of Venice and while rummaging through the drawers in the back room I came across the travel diary from our Italian trip in 2004. I took it out and enjoyed reading it. I thought I'd share it with you.

After a long, tiring journey to Venice including a 4-hour transit experience in Rome airport, we managed to find the right vaporetto, get off at the right stop, and drag our heavy bags across numerous bridges and squares to B&B Sandra - arriving close to midnight extremely hot, sweaty and frustrated.

But all was forgotten at 7am this morning when we woke in our attic room, opened the window and saw the wondrous view across the rooftops of Venice. Church bells were ringing, waves were gently rocking across the canal blow, and seagulls were resting on the rooftops nearby. Absolutely magical! I couldn't wait to get onto the upstairs landing and take photos - even if it was a little misty. The Breakfast Room was divine and I continued to take photos between mouthfuls of cheese, bread and prosciutto.

We headed off about 9am and hopped on the Number 1 vaporetto to go up the Grand Canal to St Marks. {text removed} The church had flooded so we had to use walkways. It is amazing and once inside we realised there was a Sunday Mass in progress. The place, the time, the awesome feeling when the hymn was sung, it all nearly reduced me to tears - it was just so emotive.

Glorious St Mark's Basilica

Next stop the Palazzo Ducale including the Bridge of Sighs from inside. Just amazing! We ate lunch in the cafeteria then headed to Bacino Orseolo where the gondolas were moored. By this time it was raining steadily and this increased over time. We wandered through alleyways, walkways and piazzas to Ponte di Rialto. It was now bucketing down! A quick visit to the markets and in and out of a few shops before walking back to Fondamenta Trapolin - only stopping for coffee.

Busy Rialto

We are now back in B&B Sandra. The sun is trying to come out but I don't care. Church bells are ringing across the city, evoking a beautiful and peaceful feeling, which is only interrupted by the occasional horn from a vaporetto on the Grand Canal nearby.

I'll try and find the journal from the last trip to Venice and share that as well. Actually I should dig deeper and find the one from 21 years ago. Now that would be entertaining!

If only we were going tomorrow. For now we've got the deposit on the apartment ready to go, the flights just about organised, and travel insurance fully paid up. If only it was tomorrow and not many months away

Ah, Venice.....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The most beautiful Venetian travel journal

Every time I travel I take a travel diary - something to record the activities, the places, the food, the events. The whole memorable experience. I usually take something light and easy to carry. Not this time. No, the next trip to Venice I will be taking this beautiful hardback book published by Murdoch Books. Murdoch focus on production and quality. They do some exquisite work. And this one is no exception.

The description on Amazon is relatively flat and doesn't really tell you how gorgeous this journal is: A companion to the bestselling Venezia by Tessa Kiros, A Venetian Journal encourages food lovers who travel and those who explore the world via recipes to map their own journey, recording favourite recipes and memorable cooking and eating experiences. Structured around the classic Italian meal: Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Contorni, Dolci, A Venetian Journal features the photographer Manos Chatzikonstantis' personal selection of photographs from his frequent visits to Venice with Tessa and fragments from her own journals as she sought to imbibe the very essence of the world's most romantic city. Key points: lavish recipe journal using atmospheric food images from Venezia; a beautiful keepsake and gift; heavily embellished, with the addition of illustrations.

Of course we have the Venezia cookbook that was published first. I'm ashamed to say the only things I've prepared out of it are the alcoholic drinks! (My friends will not be surprised by that!) We love making Bellinis and pretending we are in Harry's Bar. Ah, sweet memories.

Which brings me back to the travel journal. This gorgeous journal by Tessa Kiros will keep me busy for the month. Not only can I write about my experiences but I can use it for recipes. The thought of going to Rialto (a hop, skip and a jump from where we are staying) and cooking a traditional Venetian recipe from the book sounds wonderful! But the book also has other lovely features. It has clear envelope-type pages where you can put in pieces of paper you might collect - recipes even. The book comes with it's own tear-out postcards. I'm thinking of putting one up on the fridge in the apartment as a little joke. Marvel at the beautiful picture and then go outside and realise I'm living it!

I won't blog from Venice but will use the travel diary on my return to share the highlights.

I wish the trip was tomorrow. But it's not. I just have to dream about returning to sweet Venice for a little bit longer....

Friday, June 4, 2010

The love affair with Venice

La Serenissima

My partner and I have a love affair with Venice. For me, it is a love that has blossomed over time. I remember my first trip to Venice in 1989 as a 21 year old backpacker. I started in Egypt and worked my way across to Europe and to the United Kingdom. We had rushed to get to Italy after staying on Santorini in the Greek Islands. Boat, train, boat, train. Non-stop until we reached Rome and went to the Vatican for Easter Sunday with half a million others. Neither of us were of the Catholic faith but it was an amazing experience to see the Pope. And it was also a heartbreaking experience when we both realised we had been robbed getting there. Somewhere enroute to Rome and St Peters we had our cameras and Walkmans (yes that's a sign of the times, isn't it) stolen. I grabbed a cheap camera somewhere in Rome so we could continue recording our travels throughout Italy. But somehow we never got quite over the robbery. We said the right things (it's happened, accept it and move on) but in our hearts we were really disappointed by the experience. We traipsed through the countryside for two weeks and made our way to Venice. Ah Venice....

I still remember the day we stood on the Accademia Bridge on the Grand Canal looking across to Salute. That first time. It was a sight like no other. I remember the first time I stepped into St Marks Basilica and saw those beautiful, golden Byzantine mosaics. It was awesome. It was inspiring. It was magical. But unfortunately Venice was too expensive for a backpacker who was attempting to live off $40 a day. And at that stage in my life I was still learning about history, about art, about culture. I walked into the Accademia and rushed around, absolutely bored by the medieval works. If I saw another painting of Jesus and Mary, or St Sebastian, I was going to scream. But that changed over time.

Twenty one years later I'm planning my fourth visit to Venice. This time for a month. I'll still stand on the Accademia Bridge like I do every visit and gawk at the view. I'll go across the Rialto Bridge more times than I can count. I'll cross St Marks square time and time again. I'll go in and out of churches and galleries, having no problem whatsoever with the medieval artworks. I'll cross canals and take a million photos. But this time I'll absorb it.

In the 21 years since the first visit I've read countless books on Venice and Venetian history. I'll soak up the Italian culture and the wonderful food, wine and coffee we will no doubt encounter along the way. It will be a different trip to all the others though. This trip will be in memory of my mother who passed away in April. It will also be a healing trip. And we will work out a way to take something of hers with us. She always wanted to return to Europe...

And I'll blog about it here.