Sunday, May 17, 2009
Sunday on the Grand Canal w/o George
Maybe inside each 60 year old woman there remains the heart of a 16 year old girl. Certainly I grow misty romantic and so very tralala as I sit in our water taxi or snake through the back alleys of Venice.
When I am away from the hordes, I know in my heart that this is the most beautiful city in the world. Or simply the most magical.
It's mid-May (as you might have noted), but the heat is hot and the crowds are thick, especially during day. Early morning hours and early evening hours are the best when the cruise ships and the tourists with their I [heart] Venezia t-shirts have moved off my sidewalks. Who are these people, anyway? We try to stick to the back parts of town which are more authentic to begin with, as well as more shady and less populated. If Monte Carlo is a sunny town for shaddy people, then past Rialto is a shady spot for sunny people.
Most of the retail seems the same; favorite shops are still there; are still open. Prices are up-- of course. A silk flower from Venezia Stadium is 25 euros, about $40. You can buy your-name-stitched-here aprons or toques for 15-20 euros and a variety of 3-5 euro pieces of junk glass souvenirs.
We actually had a lot of fun in the branch store of the British firm Accessorize, which was stylish, chic and crammed with stuff to want and prices that seemed almost giveaway. Should I buy that razzle-dazzle tote bag for my daughter-in-law? Maybe for me...how will I pack it? Schlep it? Use it? What is the meaning of life?
The TT's (Tourist Traps) are as opressive as ever; many now have enormous PROMOZIONE signs in the windows. Suckers beware-- Sarah and I have seen all this merchandise in Bangkok...and the prices were better there. Yes, even the Murano glass is now made in China...except the art pieces from the famous houses. Every now and then you'll find an artisan at the sewing machine doing up hats or beads or accessories, but for the most part, buyer beware.
The lost heartbeat of our day was when Junior Mint, aged ten and on his first visit to Venice, escaped a tiny and air-conditioned store where I had let Le Ragazzi wander without their leashes. Once I discovered he was missing (seemingly impossible!) I went out on the street and found him in the next alley, wandering around a little dazed. Toffee, meanwhile, did not miss Junior at all and reminded me that he was the Alpha Doge.
Whie shopping has never been Venice's best thing, the eating is quite fine. We had an exctraordinary spaghetti yesterday with tomato sauce, pesto, bacon and scampi in the garden of the Metropole Hotel. This the Met Restaurant, right across the alley from our hotel.
We are spending the weekend at the Bisanzo, a Best Western 3-star that we have used over the years. The Baglioni Hotel Luna was booked-- it is, afterall, a weekend in May-- so we went there for Sunday lunch and pigged out on Venetian specialities-- spider crab, zuchini soup, fresh fish and almond ice. This is an extravagance that lets you into a totally private world of wealth and splendor. Is that Walter Wells over there at the other table? Did that guy just wink at me?
Last night we went to Al Covo, one of the most famous restaurants in town-- a cozy little rustic eatery with top notch food and a hands-on husband and wife team to greet you, take your order and guide you through the meal. This is no Italian couple from the gangsta movies but the Texas born Diane and her movie-star lookalike husband Cesare who has retired from the kitchen and now creates and supervises. His latest lunch time amuesment is a burger, jokingly called the MacCovo.
For dinner, first I ate the centerpiece (please don't eat the daisies) which was a vase full of fresh radishes in water, then we had seafood (house specialty-- always fresh that day) and then we had breaded and fried lamb chops. So much for my diet. Oh yes, I also ate the fried artichokes and teeny skinny potato sticks.
Diane only makes her famous walnut caked in winter months, so I suffered through the home made hazelnut ice cream. There is a new prix fixe menu of 47 euros making this not only the treat of a Saturday night but a lot of great food for a fair price.
Evening strolling hours brought out the soft, pink light across the water and the buildings as well as the Senegalese traders with their fake handbags, sunglasses, belts and rolling carry-ons. They share space on bridges and grand piazzi with giant signs of cartoonish policemen telling you not to buy fake merchandise. Who would do so? It all smells as bad as the canals?