Monthly Archives: September 2006

September 23, 2006. Venice

We made it here. How? Only God knows! Mark has returned to his roots! We have determined that he is not a bad driver… just a driver born in the wrong country. His driving, here in Italy is perfectly acceptable… including his refusal to let a guy in a Kia Sorrento in front of us in a long line of traffic – right down to him yelling “Asshole” to the poor Italian! Dad would be proud. And of course, Shelden threatening, “Mark, I have a Coke bottle back here and if you let that guy in front of us, I’ll throw it at you!”, I think that maybe had something to do with it as well!
The Auto-Grille continue to be a source of amazement for me. The quality of the food is superior and the café bar is crowded with men sipping their afternoon espresso.
Our arrival in Venice was also an experience. After parking in Tronchetto, we had a little difficulty finding the vaporetta stop. But we persisted and finally arrived at our hotel at 9:00 pm, local time.
We grabbed quick showers and met downstairs for a late dinner. We went to a little osteria in the neighborhood of our hotel. We had a delightful dinner and vino rosso and were serenaded by some musicians! We walked around the neighborhood and sat on the steps of the Church of San Simeon and people watched!
Day 1 Pictures – Rome to Venice
This morning, we had some breakfast and are off to explore the city!

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September 23, 2006. The key to successful travel is flexibility.

If something doesn’t work, figure out the best alternative and go with it.We caught the vaporetta (the water bus) just across from our hotel and made our way to Piazza San Marco. It was kind of overcast, damp muggy, actually, and the boat ride was refreshing. As we disembarked, we passed Harry’s Bar and the mask vendors and artists who line the walk way to the main square in Venice. We passed a young man lying in a sleeping bag on the canal side of the pavement. On the pavement, within his reach, stood a fifth of whiskey, a liter of Coca-Cola and a pack of Marlboro Lights. Mark commented, as you can imagine, “Buddy, you’ve got exactly what you need right in front of you!” “And a bedroom”, I thought, “with an incredible view!”
We arrived in Saint Mark’s square mid-morning which is not the best time to be there because it was filled with people just like us. Tons of people. More people, I think, than I have ever seen there. And it is also the time of the Alta Aqua, high water, which causes flooding in the piazza. The shop vendors actually lay out ramps, so people can walk around the square and not get wet. We did see many people wading barefoot through the water. You know me, it made me skeeve.
It was very difficult to stick to our plan of visiting the campanile (bell tower), the Palazzo Ducale (Doges Palace) and the island of Burano. This was simply because we were six people with varying interests and needs. Who wanted cigars? Who wanted a flash for the camera? Who had to pee? Who wanted well, you see how it goes!
We did finally walk into the palace and began to tour. Again, having varied interests, we got separated many times. The art was impressive the rooms, themselves, interesting. Vicki wrote down something in every room. Sue plowed ahead with pages from Rick Steves tour book, explaining each rooms so we didnt have to read every single detail.This was my 1st visit to the palace and I wasn’t disappointed with the prison and the famous Bridge of Sighs. Mark sang a bit of the Robin Trower album for us.By this time, we were ready for some pranzo (lunch).
We found our way to a pizzeria, sat down inside (in Italy, it actually costs more to eat outside!) and made the mistake of asking for a pizza menu and table wine instead of ordering a full, four course lunch and bottled wine. Our waiter changed, faster than you could say Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He rudely ignored us and we were just about to get up and leave when he finally took our order. Another waiter delivered it and ended up servicing us. He got the tip!
We did visit the Bell Tower, with its panoramic views of Venice, and St Marks Church, where I said prayers for my family and friends. And then, we boarded a vaporetta that, we thought, went to Burano. We ended up on the island of Lido which turned out to be quite pleasant. We walked straight through to the other end of the island and rested on the beach where we entertained by a man in a teeny bikini who seemed to be strutting like a peacock all the while showing his butt crack.
By the time we returned to Venice, it was nearly dinner time so we decided to look for the restaurant where we planned on eating. It was near the Rialto but in quiet hidden area. A quick perusal of the menu and we knew Shelden wouldnt find anything to eat. SO we decided to get lost and take our chances. We did find a nice little restaurant, ate a nice dinner with vino rosso and a very nice after drink that taste like limoncello but was milky in appearance.
As we were walking back to the Rialto, we noticed Mark was missing. Jerry joked, Maybe he found some he knows! Now, its not impossible to be in a foreign country and find someone you know. Mark was seeing people all over Rome and Venice and even asked some of them, Do you shop at the Cinnaminson Acme? I swear! Once, Shelden and I traveled to Ireland. I met a former student and her children as we waited for the plane home in Dublin Airport.
It seemed that we had waited quite a while so we walked back to find Mark. There he was- sitting at a table at a restaurant on the Grand Canal talking to an old high school classmate and her husband. I hadnt seen Ann Boland in years probably since she was in the musicals I directed at the high school. We all spent some time catching up, being astounded that Mark, walking with is back to where Ann was sitting, happened to turn around and recognize her. Remembering that Mark had frizzy long hair and wore glasses with adhesive tape on the earpiece or bridge, Ann said If we had known you were going to be so good looking when you grew up, we wouldve been nicer to you! We left Ann and her husband and boarded the vaporetta for Piazza San Marco.
It was as I remembered at night. The lights in the square, the orchestras battling for customers, a bride and groom (from NJ, no less) having a portrait drawn by one of the street artists – the magic that is truly Venice.As one orchestra finished, I heard the next orchestra begin the opening phrase of the Suite from the opera, Carmen. Without even realizing, I moved over to get a better view and sound. And then the tears began, Memories of my grandparents listening to opera on the radio, the first trip to Venice, the sheer magnitude of the realization that I was here again in the city I love.
All too soon, we left San Marco for the last time (this trip) and headed back to our hotel.
Pictures from Venice
More pictures from Venice

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September 24, 2006. This morning, we are on the road to Florence.

Jerry is in the driver’s seat with Mark navigating. We said our goodbyes to Venice and made it back to the parking lot, marveling at how easy it was in daylight! Leaving Venice
The drive to Florence was uneventful, although we stopped again at an AutoGrille for a quick lunch. More sandwiches and bottles of water and we were off. Jerry drove well and we got into Florence after a little episode at a circle.
Unfortunately navigating in Florence is not an easy task and it appears, in hindsight, that we circled our hotel for a good 45 minutes. We got settled in our hotel and soon were asking the clerk for a good place to eat. He directed us to a neighborhood trattoria. Shelden ordered a grilled t-bone which I shared with him. Sue, Jerry, Mark and I ordered ribollita, a Tuscan bread soup that kicks butt! Mark ordered wild boar. Vicki got gnocchi with a crab sauce. We had more wine and limoncello. When we mentioned that we were from Hotel Enza, the waiter comped us biscotti and Grand Marnier.
Then we stopped at a bar and had cocktails sitting outside while the guys smoked their cigars. We agreed to meet in the lobby at 8:30 for breakfast. If anyone was more than 10 minutes late, whoever was ready would get going. Those left behind would be on their own!

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Well, we’re at the airport at a bar until we have …

Well, we’re at the airport at a bar until we have to board. Check-in and security wasn’t too bad. The ride over was uneventful. We had a snack and now Vicki is searching for a lens cover and Shelden went to find something to read. I guess we have about 2 hours to kill – no matter. We’ll figure something out..

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8 hours My technology plan just $hit the bed! I ha…

8 hours
My technology plan just $hit the bed! I happened to try out the new 512M memory sticks we bought for old Sony digital camera and guess what? They’re Memory Stick Pro and our camera is just plain old Memory stick… A mad dash to Walmart ensued.
Pretty much packed~

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