Saturday, June 26, 2010


Christer got back in town yesterday, so today we were celebrating father's day.  He had to go to the states to give his passport to the Italian consulate in Chicago, and couldn't return to Italy until his passport was returned to him.  Yes, it's as crazy and nonsensical as it sounds.  Long story short, he's been in the states for the past 2 weeks, and today was his first full day back.  We decided to celebrate by going in to Sacile and doing some shopping and going to Le Contrade for lunch.  Roberto's wife, Lorena, and 2 1/2 year old daughter, Allegra, were eating lunch, so we got to meet them and Jameson got to meet his new future playmate.  She is sooo cute and very very shy, but once they got acquainted Jameson was ready to play!  For the past 2 weeks Jameson has been very listless and acting unusual for his normal, active, steam-roller self.  He's been going down for his nap and for bed super early, and just been all-around cranky.  Today, of course, he was a completely different child.  Christer doesn't believe us because it was like Jameson went to bed and woke up a dream child.  He sat through the ENTIRE meal at Le Crontrade, which is a first, ever, for any meal out, and then was such a sweetie when we were shopping afterwards.  He was being so cute I had to take some pictures.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bird in Space

When we were in Venice, Christine and I were able to sneak away for a bit one day and check out the Peggy Guggenheim museum. Christine had always wanted to go, but just never actually had a chance to in all of her trips to Venice. She's normally touring first-timers through the city, so there's little time for museum hopping. The list of artists Christine was naming before we decided who (out of the 4 of us) would go along was impressive, and I'm SOOO glad I was able to go because it turned out to be of of my favorite days in Venice.

Peggy Guggenheim purchased a house (Palazzo dei Leoni) on the Grand Canal in Venice in 1948, and spent the later part of her life in Venice, exhibiting her astounding collection of modern art and garden sculptures. Peggy was born into a wealthy family, her father's family having created a fortune mining metals. She grew up in New York, and her father died heroically in the sinking of the Titanic when she was just 14. She dedicated her life to protect the art of her time, and opened her first gallery at the age of 39 in 1937 in London. Peggy was good friends with many artists, including Marcel Duchamp and Constantin Brancusi, and was extremely well connected in the modern art world, even though it was a new and often un-well received form of art at the time. She got a bit tired with her gallery, and began conceiving an idea for the first modern art museum in London in 1939. The list of artists for this museum became the basis for her collection, and, oblivious to the war, she set out relentlessly in search of pieces for her future museum. She purchased a piece from Fernand L├ęger on the day Hitler invaded Norway, and the acquired Brancusi's "Bird in Space" as the Germans approached Paris, where she was living at the time. In 1947 she exhibited her collection for the first time in Europe at the Venice Biennalle, which was also the first time Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko had ever been exhibited in Europe. Soon after, Peggy purchased the Palazzo dei Leoni in Venice, which she would call home for her 30 year Venetian life. She opened her home to the public during the summer months, and in 1962 she was named an honorary citizen of Venice. When she died in 1979, she left her entire home and collection to her uncle's foundation, the famed Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and since then her house and collection have been permanently opened to the public.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Venezia

We haven't really done much exciting this week, so I don't have any new pictures to post.  The baby birds learned to fly today, and have not yet returned to their nasty pile of sticks and poop on my windowsill.  I wonder how long I have to wait before I can take a shovel and a fire hose to that sucker and actually let the breeze in.  We've taken Jameson and Levi on walks through Santissima the past 3 days since we're able to get out of the house.  We were going to go a little further up the mountain to this park that has a petty zoo of sorts, but it was cloudy and overcast pretty much all day, so we didn't want to chance the rain.

After our walk we needed to get gas and run some errands.  It was probably somewhere around 2-2:30 when we were leaving, so guess what?  Everything was closed.  Even the gas stations.  Most of the gas stations here are "servizio," which means the attendants pump the gas for you and take your payment and everything, just like in "the olden days."  It's quite nice unless you're name is Carrie and you're stranded on the side of the road because the attendant filled your tank with the wrong type of gas.  Oopsies!  Because we needed gas during lunchtime, we were pretty much out of luck.  We decided to just head in the direction of the baby store that sells the diaper genie refills, and hope we'd find an open gas station along the way.  One thing about Europe that is so noticeably different from the American lifestyle is the absence of the "one-stop-shop."  I worked at Target, so I became quite familiar with having every single thing you could ever need and more right there under one roof.  Furniture, clothes, deodorant, greeting cards, food, film developing, you name it, Target has it.  In Europe, everything is in specialty stores.  You do your main grocery shopping about once a month, and then go to specialty stores to buy your meet, cheese, produce, and bread.  We needed dog food so we had to go to the "pet store" to get Levi's food.  We call it "pet store" because the name is quite difficult to pronounce, but they actually didn't sell any pets.  Hiking gear, gardening goods, and pet needs is what this store specialized in.  The "baby store" that had the diaper genie refills was like a giant Babies R Us, with a very limited selection of toys.  On the way home we were going to stop at the post office (it was well after 3 by this point), but it was closed.  No rhyme or reason.  I think that's one thing that I will never understand about Italy or Italians.  There is absolutely no sense of urgency or daily need, and everyone treats the store closures like it's just another normal day.  If the post office in Oviedo closed down for even just an hour all hell would break loose!  The cops wouldn't know what to do with all the irate citizens, and all the chickens would flee the town.

Because I don't have any new pictures from this week, I'm going to continue posting pictures from Venice.  There's really no order to the pictures, just an accumulation of photos I took while we were there that are good enough to share.

I took this picture standing almost at the water looking towards Saint Mark's Square.  I know it's not awesome, but you can almost get the vastness of the area.  This is actually a view of the "Piazzetta," or "little piazza."  If you walk straight and turn to the left at the campanile, that's what is considered the actual piazza, but it's really all just the same.  Up until the mid 18th century, the Piazzetta is where all the city's executions took place.  You can see the 2 columns standing as the gateway to the city, then on the very far left you have the Biblioteca Marciana, or "the library of Saint Mark."  The library was constructed and opened to the public in the 16th century, and houses one of the greatest classical text collections in the world, including over 24,000 books printed between 1500-1600.  Right behind the library is the Campanile, or the famous bell tower of Saint Mark that was rebuilt after it collapsed in 1902.  In the very far back, to the right of the bell tower, you can see the St. Mark's clock tower.  This is the oldest digital clock in the world, and was constructed in the 15th century.  It was placed strategically in the square so that it was visible to all the incoming ships in the lagoon, showing everyone of Venice's wealth and glory.  To the right of the clock tower is the famous Saint Mark's Basilica.  There are no pictures that can depict how massive and impressive this building is.  All the enormity of it is overwhelming, but when you look closely, every single detail can be divided into tiny inch-sized pieces. The entire church is just so incredibly impressive.  The building in the right side of the picture is the Doge's palace, which was constructed in the 1300s.  This is the same building in which the columns looks out of proportion on the base level because of the sinking of Venice, or the "rising" of the ground.

You know that saying "Somedays you're the statue, and somedays you're the bird?"  Well the pigeons in Venice are a serious problem for the statues.  There are so many pigeons that they've caused damage to some of the buildings and statues in Saint Mark's square, and the city is at a loss for how to manage the situation.  For awhile it was illegal to feed the birds, but that obviously didn't last long, and now they've moved on to a new, more liberal approach to the situation.  Pigeon birth control.  This is no joke people. In order to "feed" the birds for your awesome photo op, like the one right here, you have to pay for "birdseed" which is actually a special type of food containing some sort of birth control agent.  As you can see, so far this tactic hasn't been too successful, but only time will tell.

The pictures are pretty, but you honestly have to experience the city to really understand and have an appreciation for the city of Venice.  I will have many more pictures up tomorrow.

Today my favorite thing about Italy is: Honey yogurt.  This stuff is amazing.  The kiwi yogurt is pretty spectacular as well, but I'm not so sure it's unique to Europe.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pink is My Signature Color

The entire city of Venice is not actually contained on a single island, but through multiple islands that collectively make up the area we know as Venice.  These islands, oddly enough, form the shape of a fish, like this:

Rialto bridge is located at the very center (the farthest right) of the canal running through the 2 major islands (pretty much the dead center of the fish).  Saint Mark's square is in the lower crook of the fish, about where the "V" in "Venezia" is located. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Man Behind the Mask

Sergio oh Sergio.  Where do I start?  On my first or second day in Italy, Christine was telling me of our plans to take a day trip to Venice so I could see the city and meet one of her good friends, Sergio.  I was, of course, excited to see Venice, but I had no idea what was in store for me in the city and in meeting this wonderful man.  I can tell you that both have left their imprints on my heart, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Venice was founded sometime around 450 A.D. when barbarians started invading Northern Italy.  Farmers and other refugees were literally pushed out of their homes and cities, and settled on the marshlands of what we now know as Venice.  They built their houses on the water, formed their own government, and generally just made the best of a bad situation.  The farmers were no longer able to support their families, and had to look for other ways to survive in their new home.  This came in the form of trade.  Because of the city's strategic position, Venice became the largest trade city in the world, and the most prosperous city in Europe.  In 1000 A.D. the first "Sensa" or 'wedding with the sea,' was held to mark the victory over the Adriatic Sea pirates, and officially marked the beginning of the Serenissima Republic government of Venice.

Under the Serenissima Republic, Carnivale was a grand spectacle and involved the entire city coming together to party and celebrate.  Carnivale comes from the Latin term "carnem levare," which means to go without meat, and is related to the medieval tradition to celebrate, feast, and enjoy entertainment as a way of saying "goodbye" to meat for Lent.  So basically, Venice was such a flourishing city at the time, the government said "let's just party for as long as possible."  The still needed some sort of reason or excuse to justify all the partying, so they claimed it as part of the Fat Tuesday preparations, and ended on Ash Wednesday.  Carnivale was like a 6 month long Mardi Gras, during which the entire city partied and everybody wore masks.  Nobility and commoners, rich and poor, all hid behind their masks and mingled about without being recognized.  Piazza San Marco and other campi became giant stages for theater shows, concerts, balls, games, and even fireworks.  Carnivale became so important to the Venetians that it was sacredly protected so that nothing could interfere with or hinder the fun and enjoyment.  For example, the leading doge (pronounced doe-jay; means "ruler" or "commander," and is specific to the Venetian language), Paolo Renier, died on February 13th 1789, during the Carnivale festivities.  His death wasn't announced until March 2nd, when all receptions and parties had ceased and Carnivale was officially over.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I'll Be Back

(in my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice) I'm baaaaaaaaAAAAAAAck!!!  We just didn't get enough of Venice the first time so we went back for another 5 days, and, unfortunately, were completely without internet connection (gasp! These places still exist?).  Si, seniora, they do.  (and yes, that's pretty much how my Italian works.  I know a select few words, and the rest is just English)

Kathy and Jessica are still here visiting from Idaho, and they had originally planned to go to Croatia and Slovenia all week, which is why we did our weekend in Venice last weekend.  Well Kathy found out the day before she flew out here that she has a fractured tibia, and is supposed to be as immobile as possible.  Hah!! Yeah right!  She told the doctors she was leaving for Italy in less than 24 hours, so they gave her a cane and told her to walk as little as possible and to be very careful.  After all of our walking in Venice over the weekend, she started second guessing the trip to Croatia and Slovenia.  Christine informed her that there are lots of hills and steps, and the stone they use in Croatia for the sidewalks and steps is kind of marble-like and very slippery.  So Kathy and Jessica came up with a plan B (the week in Venice), and EVERYONE was super excited about it.  Christine found us a last minute apartment, we took Levi to the kennel, returned Kathy's rented car, and we were on our way!

Before I get ahead of myself, here are some pictures I took before we left.  Jameson got a haircut the night before we left for Venice, and boy was that an ordeal.  Poor guy screamed bloody murder the entire time.  Christine said it's the last time she ever cuts his hair again.  From now on she'll leave that to the pros.