Monday, July 5, 2010

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...

Christer was able to get home early enough to give us a decent amount of time in Venice on Friday afternoon.  We arrived and were checked into our hotel by about 3, and we had the rest of the afternoon/evening to ourselves.  This trip was especially nice because Christine and I were free to do what we really wanted to do and see what we wanted to see.  We didn't have to worry about Jameson or showing other people around, and since we'd both been to the city before, we each had places and things we wanted to see but hadn't yet had the chance to (I don't know if it's possible to see and do everything in Venice in an entire lifetime).  Friday afternoon we took it easy, and relaxed in true Venetian style.  We chatted with Sergio for a bit, shared a prosecco (or two or three), visited a museum in Saint Mark's Square, enjoyed a nice meal in a quiet campo, and just wandered around the city taking pictures.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Venice at night is not something you want to miss out on; It is a completely different and amazing experience.  You haven't lived until you've seen the lights and felt the energy that abounds on the streets.  

The museum we visited is located in the Napoleonic wing of the piazza walls, so we had a straight view of the entire piazza from the second story windows that you see in the pictures.  The view was pretty cool, but I left my camera in the hotel, so I, was unable to take any pictures.  Sergio had recommended the museum as a good overall museum for the history of Venice, and boy was he right.  The building itself was simply amazing.  It was completely unreal to be walking around in the former residence of the king of Italy when he visited Venice, and it was just mind boggling to think of who had been there and what had taken place before us.  The museum houses artwork, sculptures, documents, and anything else deemed important to Venice's history, including coins, original street lamps (which look very much like the pink ones they have now), and clothing from the time.  

The museum had a pair of prostitutes shoes on display, which looked more like really really really tall platform shoes.  Whenever someone of nobility or high class was coming to Venice, they could/would request a lady, who would be waiting for them as their boat arrived, and who would show them around the city and accompany them wherever they liked.  These prostitutes had the classic dresses with the bustier tops and teeny waists, and since it was considered "sexy," they always wore these platform shoes which made them stand much higher than everyone else, distinguishing them from the crowd.  I guess it would kind of be like your modern day high heel, but the shoes they had on display in the museum were a solid foot high, so they would be extremely high high heels.

The best room of all, if you know me, was the library.  It was covered, floor to ceiling, in books dating back to the 16th century, and this was just the museum library.  We haven't even made it to the Venice library yet!  Some of these books had handmade leather covers, with hand written titles on the covers and spines.  Most of the books showed visible use and wear, making them even more beautiful than their age would reveal.  I stole this photo off of the museum website, so I apologize for the poor quality.

After the museum Christine and I were both hungry (we both have fast metabolisms and eat every 3-4 hours, so it works out great), so we walked the 75 or so feet from the Napoleonic wing to the Caffè Florian, which is located in the Procuratie Nuove wing of the piazza. The Caffè Florian is the oldest coffee house in Venice, and is in contention for being one of the oldest coffee houses in all of Italy. Coffee first started being sold in Venice in the early 1600s, and coffee shops started springing up in the early 1700s, with Caffe Florian opening its doors in 1720. The inside rooms are very ornate, with elaborate walls, ceilings, and flooring, typical of the time, and rare artwork and panels in each titled room. Because the caffè was so elegant and prestigious, many notables frequented the shop, including the playwright Carlo Goldoni, Cassanova, and even Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, and Charles Dickens later on. At the time that it opened, Cafè Florian was the only coffee house in Venice that allowed women, which, no doubt, attracted many male customers, and it even became a meeting place for people from different social classes. Nowadays you can sit inside in one of the historic rooms, with almost all the original decor, or you can sit outside in the piazza and people watch and enjoy the orchestra situated on the front steps. We chose to sit outside, because, quite frankly, nothing beats the people watching in Venice. It was really pretty cool to sit in the plaza looking at Saint Mark's Basilica and all these other historical buildings with a live orchestra playing 10 feet away. Something 2 lovebirds should do to enjoy each others company in such a romantic atmosphere while sipping their cappuccinos. Christine and I on the other hand? The splitting of our sandwich was as romantic as it got. (And just as a forewarning if you're visiting Venice any time soon, you will be charged a whopping €14 "orchestra fee" for enjoying the music. Maybe if we had Christine's ear plugs we could contest.)

After lunch/early dinner at Cafè Florian, we went back to Rialto bridge to see Sergio again and share a prosecco.  This is when he walked with us part of the way to our dinner locale, and along the way we watched the sun set on the Grand Canal.

After dinner we walked over to Saint Mark's Square to take some nighttime pictures.  The piazza was just a little less busy than during the day, which is still quite busy, and arguably the busiest place in Venice, but was so unbelievably beautiful that you just forgot about all the other people.

It was very hot and very muggy, even at night, and most places don't have air conditioning, so we were pretty parched by the end of our photo session.  On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a stand to get:

The water heaters in Venice are very small because of the size and structure of the buildings, so I decided to take a shower at night, and Christine was going to take one in the morning.  When I got out of the shower Christine was already in bed with her earplugs in (she wears earplugs to bed every single night), so I got in bed quietly and was sitting there reading my Kindle (A Tale of Two Cities) with my book light and tried not to disturb her.  Once I was situated and it was quiet, I kept hearing a noise coming from under my side of the bed.  Everyone's had this experience.  Once you hear something at night, in complete silence, you can't STOP hearing it, no matter how hard you try.  And the more I laid there and tried to not think about the sound, the more I started thinking that it sounded like a mouse or a rat under my bed.  I didn't want to bother Christine, but I was too afraid to stick my head under the bed and find an entire colony of mice, or worse, have one of them attack my face while it's intruding in their nice, dark home.  I know this sounds crazy, but I had a mouse AND a rat incident in New York in November, so my mind was just going 1,000 mph.  I mean, it IS Venice.  They did have issues with rats awhile ago (albeit 380 years ago), so in my mind, this was all reasonable.  I couldn't stop hearing the noise, and I couldn't stop thinking of the colony of rodents under my bed, and I couldn't wouldn't check for myself, so I had to pull this:

"Christine?  Are you still awake?"
"Yeah, what's up? (as she pulls her earplugs out)
"I think there's a mouse under my bed."
"A what?  A mouse?  Why?"
"Well I keep hearing this noise, and I can't think of anything else that it could be but a mouse." (at this point, it occurs to me that I didn't even consider anything else that this noise could be.  My mind instantly went to rodent, and stayed there.)  "I'm too afraid to check to see if it really is a mouse under my bed."

So Christine lays across the bed, and puts her head down on the carpet and lifts up the covers to find whatever it is underneath the bed (mind you, this is the worst possible position for checking the whereabouts of the rodents in the make believe scenarios I've played out in my head.  I would have gone with a more strategically safe approach, turned the bathroom light on, and laid on the bathroom floor to peer under the covers...much safer and further away from any rodent attacks to the face in my mind.)  I've got to tell you, it was an intense couple of seconds where I was waiting for either a negative verdict, a scream, or a rodent attack, and I was trying to mentally prepare myself for the latter 2.  Finally Christine leans up and assures me that there are no rats or mice under or around the bed, but merely water pipes under the floor that I can hear through the carpeting.  Ahh...awesome.  I woke Christine up and made her check under the bed because I was afraid of the water pipes, like I was 4 years old or something.  Mom, you've scarred me for life!

Sergio had brought us a dessert from the oldest bakery in Venice, and since we were both awake after the mouse incident, Christine and I dug into it in true girl fashion.  We were both in our pajamas, laying in bed, eating cookies off of the tray that was on the bed in the middle of us.  The cookies were also our breakfast the next's a good thing we were doing a lot of walking!

Today my favorite thing about Italy is:  People watching.  I know it's kind of cliché, but there's nothing like people watching in another country.  It's just and endless pool of possibility and amusement.

---Since you all have been so kind and let me share my stories with you, I thought I should share the link to someone else's stories for you to enjoy.  I have been following Matt Logelin for over a year now, and his words honestly never cease to amaze me.  His wife died from complications after giving birth to their daughter the day before, and Matt was left with the most joyous and most horrific feelings in the world at the same time.  He became a father, and the next day, a widow, and he took to blogging as a way to help him express and cope with the situation.  It has now been 2 years, and he is currently working on a book that will be published early next year.  For now, take a minute or two to read some of his work.  I promise you won't be disappointed.  Matt, Liz, & Madeline 

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