THe glory of a story
Thoughts and threads of passion and experience that have woven the fabric I call my life. Sharing experiences, memories and ideas so that they are out in the world for you to find when the time is right.
THe glory of a story
We started today off by enjoying the breakfast provided by the hotel, where the proprietor actually served us our choice of coffee and we could enjoy croissants, yogurt, boiled eggs, small sandwiches and breads baked with meat and cheese in them. The breakfast room is as pretty and well decorated as the rest of this hotel. We were given direction to the laundromat, which we have been really needing, so we decided to start our day by getting that chore done. I was a little opposed to the idea of wasting warm, sun filled hours sitting at a laundromat, but Cecil convinced me that we needed to actually do some 'work' for a change, and that it was important.
On the way back to the hotel to get our duffle bag of clothes that needed to be washed we gave the old fellow who was begging on the side street 4 Euro. He had caught my eye on the way past the first time. He was older, thin, tired looking and i noticed he was missing a leg. He said Gracia, but when he realized how much we'd given him he repeated it with a warmth and appreciation that told us that he wasn't used to more than a few cents.
An hour later we passed him again as we were leaving the laundromat. He looked up and realizing it was us, gave me the biggest, most genuine smile I've seen on another person's face in a long, long time. Made me even happier for the decision that we did make. We made his day, and in return, his response made mine.
As the last of our laundry continued to dry, we went and sat at a little cafe across the street and two doors down from the laundromat. At the quaint outdoor table, able to watch the coming and goings at the laundromat, we enjoyed what was to us, one of our most authentic Italian experiences....enjoying a cappuccino on a small, Venetian street, watching the people go by, the pigeons explore, and the world carry on. It was quaint, and quiet and perfect. Exactly what i had pictured time in Italy to be like, away from the touristy crowds, and breathing in the moment! Two cappuccinos later, our laundry was done, and we headed back to our hotel, to put the clean clothes away, and enjoy the rest of our day!
After having a lunch in the square a few blocks away, we meandered the streets and alleys until we finally made our way back to St. mark's square. We'd seen most of what we wanted to see there, and knew the crowds would be much worse then in some of the places we've been exploring, but still there was a hoodie that we'd seen on sale there that actually noted most of the cities we've seen since starting our tour on Saturday, and Cecil wanted to get one for himself, to remember more of our tour than having something that mentioned just one place would provide.
As we made our way back, we stopped for a rest, a water and a beverage at one on of the hundreds of cafes along the way. It was time to rest long enough for Cec's leg to quit hurting, then headed on again. We added to our wine-cork collection, finding some that had masks on them, my focus for today, as being the cheap souvenir shoppers that we are, everyone was getting a wine cork!
We looked into dozens of purse stores as well, as I really had it in my mind that I should have an authentic Italian bag to take home....I knew it wasn't imperative that I did, but still it would be kind of neat to get one.
We came back to the hotel to relax for an hour or so, prior to heading out to meet with Beca, Craig and Haiden from Australia for dinner tonight. We've not had a lot of chance to connect with them, although there has been a bit of relationship, and certainly with Haden after yesterdays adventure, but when we were saying goodby to the rest on the tour last night at the restaurant, they mentioned that they too were staying here, so we decided to meet at 6pm and have dinner together. I am looking forward to getting to know them better.
I loved the little hotel we stayed at. I asked the lady at the front desk for her name as we came back up, so that I could mention it on 'TripAdvisor' and her reaction was Mamma Mia...I think it was a good thing! Anyhow, she gave me her name. Everything about this little place is great...it's so clean, the tiling is so tasteful, and the little touches are awesome. I will be the first to admit I'd likely not have taken a second look when passing by. I am glad Cec thought we should, and pushed to go further.
As I sit here writing prior to our meeting with the Australian family, we have the window open, and I am listening to the sounds on the street below. I love that there are no motors, or honking horns or motorcycles buzzing around here. Just the sounds of footsteps and voices wafting up through the open window. There is a certain magic to that, because where else can you experience that? Certainly not in any other place I have ever visited, except maybe home! I have decided that without a doubt, Venice is one of my favourite places to have visited, and could definitely see trying to get back here some time in the future. But in reality for me the future holds the hope of continuing to explore and see many other places that we've yet to discover.
A month ago, Italy was a priority for me, Venice maybe just something interesting while there. Reality, in Venice I feel that I have found much of what I imagined would be Italy for me....small winding streets, interesting colours, smells, sounds. I think I have found what I came in search of. I just hope that when I get home, and have some time, I can make sense of the hundreds of pictures, and notes, and scraps of papers I have accumulated so I can share this experience with those that are interested in expanding their own horizons.
In the final 10 minutes before we head down to meet with Beca, Craig and Haden, I have reread my top 5 passions and the markers I created for them. They feel very good, and very right to me. I need to keep reading them, and refining them, and living them. That is what this journey is about. To create and live in a world that is joyful and wondrous on a daily basis, making it meaningful at each bend in the road. That is how I choose to live my life daily from here, and I am blessed that I am able to do that. Life is so good!
We had a great evening with Becka, Craig and Haden, new friends from Australia at a lovely, but overpriced restaurant on the canal. It was great, but it was sad, knowing as much as we enjoyed our time with them, we'd likely not get to spend time with them again. Bittersweet, but amazing that we are blessed with these meetings and experienced. Life is so great.
The next morning we returned to the square for our official tour of the area. This time, much of the square was underwater, as the tide was higher, and the water seeps up into the cracks. We then realized what all of the table like structures that were stacked about the area where all about, as we found many of them set up along the way as a raised walking path to get us through the wet areas.
Louisa, our tour guide, shared the history of Venice with us, and showed us the castle, the prison, and a tour of the Cathedral. After our time with her, we went on a tour of the Murano glass factory that is directly behind the square, and saw one of the artists create a vase and a small horse for us. It was fascinating work to watch.
When the display was over, we were taken to another room and given a bit more of the story of the various colours of glass, as well as the opportunity to buy. I ended up getting a necklace for myself, thinking that might be the only thing that makes it back without breaking. The other glass was lovely, but just not our style at home.
Our next event was the Gondola ride. Some folks had advised it was expensive and not worth the money, but for our little group it was a highlight of our time in Italy, and in Venice in particular! We spent most of an hour gliding through the many canals of this beautiful city, our group being serenaded by an amazing singer accompanied by an acoustic guitar. He sang for us almost the entire way, I videotaped a couple of clips, and would love to have had the opportunity to do it all, but I think it would have used up all of my recording space!
After our gondola ride, Mario escorted us to a little seafood restaurant on the outskirts of the square. Not being much of a fish eater, I wasn't particularly taken with the restaurant menu, and the prices were fairly high, however everyone in the group who enjoyed seafood loved it, and the lasagna Cecil and I shared was very, very good.
The greatest afternoon of the tour came after the ride. Ten of us decided to make the walk back from St. Mark's to our hotel, and managed to wile away the entire afternoon doing so! It was one of those days that you know will be marked in your heart as one of the great ones ever. Mike, Betty Ann, Elly, Debbie, Wanda, Buddy, Dane, Samantha and the two of us made our way through the winding streets and alleys, taking time to browse in shops and enjoy a couple of drinks at various stops along the way. There was so much laughter as friendships deepened and memories were made. How lucky were all were to be sharing that moment in time, on the banks of that amazing city.
At the end of our day, it was very sad to say goodbye to all of them...hoping that we will have the chance to meet again sometime down the road, but knowing there is a very good chance that our paths will not cross again. The good news was that with today's technology, we can all stay connected virtually, and in fact we all have. Friends around the world! What a blessing!
When we got back to the hotel, we checked into the new one we found. We headed up to our new room and realized what a little jewel we had found. The room was spotlessly clean, and the decor had obviously had time spend in making sure each little feature and detail had been take care of. It was the largest, most comfortable room we've had on our entire trip. The bathroom is a little smaller, and the shower a tighter squeeze than we're used to, but those were minor details considering the other offerings. Unfortunately, I mistakenly erased all the pictures of the hotel from my phone, so I guess you'll just have to take my word for it! It was lovely!
We finally reached our last destination of this tour, Venice. Upon arrival it was overcast and dismal, but the city is still breathtaking, and quickly became my favorite city on the trip so far.
Being a UNESCO protected site, there are no cars or bicycles allowed in the city or on the island, which makes it so much more relaxing to visit and explore. An entirely different pace, much more relaxing that some of the earlier places have been.
We stayed the night at the Hotel Principe, on the Grand Canal. The hotel looked tired and dingy on the outside, as many of the buildings kind of do, but inside it was beautiful and quite luxurious. Our room, on the second floor, looked directly out onto the canal, and onto a world unlike we have ever seen.
Our dinner that night was at the little restaurant two doors down, a lovely Salmon Penne, fallowed by Bass and Salad, and a custard dessert. We were a little concerned about where we were going to stay the next few nights, but walking into the restaurant, someone noticed a vacancy sign in a small hole in the wall doorway. We went to check it out and found a beautiful little hotel, only 16 rooms, with the friendliest lady, who showed us the room we could have at a price of $170 Euro per night, the cheapest I had seen anywhere close in this area. She confirmed it for us on only our word, and we left for dinner more relaxed, knowing where we were going to be, and that it was only two doors down from the Hotel Principe, so we didn't have to drag our bags all over the city looking for our next accommodations!
After dinner we all gathered for an evening tour of Venice. We took a boat over to St Mark's Square, enjoying the sights, smells and most beautiful, the sounds of the square at night, the orchestra that played in front of one of the cafes. The square was fairly quiet, compared to what we found the next day, except for the many peddlars, trying to sell us their roses, spinning night lights, and flying toys. It gets a little frustrating trying to enjoy the experience when you are continually being approached and interrupted by those that I know are trying to make a living, and make their way, but who refuse to back off and take no for an answer.
This mornings trip took us up into the mountains, on a very windy, foggy road, with many tunnels and even more big semis trying to manoeuvre through the dense traffic. The views that we could see where beautiful, but the fog often obscured the view. At around 10am we arrived at Bolgne.
I know when I saw Bologne on the itinerary, I thought it looked like a stop that would have little of interest but many of us on the tour found this to be one of the most enjoyable. The town was one of the cleanest we've seen yet, they even have their own leaning tower. It's the home of the oldest University in Europe, and it's own selection of beautiful statues ad fountains, the most famous being 'Neptune'.
After looking through the city, we connected with a number of our fellow travellers, and found one of the best little restaurants we've eaten at yet. Cecil enjoyed the mussel and clam spaghetti, while I had a pumpkin tortelline in a balsamic reduction sauce. It was amazing....my favourite meal yet as was the baking that we bought at a little shop just down from the restaurant.
A couple of hours after leaving Bolgne, we arrived in another town (look up, starts with P), where we visited another Basilica, this one called St. Anthony's Cathedral. The town had the largest square in Europe, surrounded by statues. The rain started again as we got to the Cathedral. It was massive and huge, with the tomb of St Anthony on one side, and a collection of relics in another room, including his finger, vocal chords and what seemed to be one of his robes.
There was lots to be seen, of course no pictures could be taken, so what we remember will be all by memory, but the challenge we all found was that nothing was expained in English, so for our group, it was a little disappointing, to see so much but not to know what it was that we saw.
We went through fairly quickly, and crossed the street, past the statue done by Donettelli, to the St. Anthony's bar/cafe for a drink with Betty Ann and Mike before loading back on the bus to make our way to Venice!
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