Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ah, Venice 1 - Murano

Day 1 in Italy we were picked up, bright and early at 9am on no sleep and driven home to play a few games, spend time talking with the family, and be zombies. The highlight of the day for EVERYone was when I intended to show how tired I was by lowering my head on to the table where we were playing Alhambra. I misjudged the distance and smacked my head with a resounding thwack. They laughed pretty hard and as Joy started preparing her list of favorite memories, that was included.

Day 2 then we woke up and took the train to Venice. Venice is really a group of about 118 islands with 120 churches. They just added manor house and bridge upon bridge until all the land was filled. There is one Grand Canal the neatly divides the islands. Joy took one look at the map and said it formed two hands clasping. Poetic and accurate!

View Watsons in Venice in a larger map
This is an experiment with Google Map. I've drawn our routes and various stops along them where we took pictures. If this works, I'll try it with other places we visited. This will enable you to see as much or as little detail as you want about our visit.

There are sidewalks and canals in Venice, so their bus system consists of boats. (Sorry, not gondolas.) On the left is my first view of Venice as we emerged from the train station. The bus-boat was very crowded and the kids were kind of cranky, but a ray of excitement shone through the clouds of low blood sugar. For one thing, we got to see a lot of Venice as we sped along around the south edge of the city. (As in the first picture, above, taken from the boat. I think I get extra credit for taking that while the boat was moving.)

Along the way, something strange happened. Don't ask me what. It was so strange, I can't explain it myself.

We got off at Murano, the island (north of Venice proper) where they make a lot of glassworks. This was one of Joy's favorite parts of the city and the trip. It had a peaceful atmosphere, despite the walk being wall to wall shops, colorful and varied scenery, a passersby speaking English (British and American), German, Polish, French, and, oh yes, occasionally Italian. The internationality made me wonder what a street in Zion would sound like....

We set off in search of lunch, though I dragged Joy into a church that stood quietly along the way to explore. The others found a disappointing pizzeria just a few paces down the way, so it wasn't that much of a detour. Turns out, it was St. Peter the Martyr Church, complete with gorgeous paintings and glassworks of a holy bent. Perhaps BECAUSE the rest of the group passed by it and I almost alone enjoyed it, it was one of my favorite churches.

Across the canal from Peter is the bell tower with a modern art sculpture. Joy astutely commented that modern art in Ithaca looks strange, but it looks like it belongs in Venice. (I hope she will forgive me for taking a picture of her while eating.)

Wandering down the canal, we paused to gaze in the windows (and sometimes the doors) of many of the shops. There were the knick-knack shops doing their best for the non-profit organization (smirk) Trinkets for Tourists; the middle class shops with the more decorative figurines, more tasteful coffee table centerpieces, and more artisanal works; and the upscale sellers of chandeliers, glass chairs, and works of such artistry I dared not enter the shop.

Along one small side street we found a 5' tall wheel (about 1' thick) covered in gold leafing. In a shop in that alleyway, I found my favorite of all the Venetian masks I saw in Italy (the one on the left). I spent the rest of the trip looking for one like that in green and gold, but never found it. The vast majority of the masks are for women, and the men's masks really don't do it for me (except that one on the left). I eventually sour-graped myself into saying that we don't go to any costume parties where I could wear it and we have nowhere to display it, so it would have been a poor souvenir. They are impressive, nonetheless.

A last look down the little canal of Murano before we find another busboat to take us to Venice proper.

If there's anything you want more pictures of, just put it in the comments and I'll do so.

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