On the boat towards the Piazza
As Indiana Jones said, as he stepped out of the gondola in The Last Crusade, "Ah Venice." And that's exactly what I said. I swore, while standing atop of one of the many arched bridges found in and about the maze of great Venice, that I could die there. Putting aside the fact that the city is sinking (ironic, n'est pas?), and the water is anything but sanitary, how cool is it to see an aquatic civilization where the only place you can put your car, is in this massive parking garage over yonder?! I traveled by boat everywhere and noticed that the canals have their own way to control boat traffic: stoplights! I was entertained by that silly little fact; one that is certainly not unfamiliar to me. I'm surrounded by them in the slowly overpopulating country of the US! I don't know why I thought that the Italians would have another system; perhaps floating cement squares (now there's an anomaly for you scientists out there), with traffic cops and an advanced whistle system?? Who knew, eh?
I stepped off the boat on to the Piazza San Marco, and felt compelled to jump into another boat: a gondola.
Folks, unless you want to be overcharged by greedy Italians (you hope they are Italian anyway, because I heard a few Romanians there), or if you are with your hubby/hubbiette and wish to be serenaded to by a SINGING Italian (again, you must pick the right ghetto of gondolas to find the singing ones -- or pay more), you are more than welcome to hop in one. Somehow, after a rather univited flirtatious conversation with the Big Cheese of the pack, the whole situation was quickly de-romanticized for me. I walked away disappointed.
Thank goodness for the pidgeons. If it weren't for the fact that it takes very little to entertain me, I think the trip would have ended there! A swarming flock of these creatures over a silly little concept, such as food, was more than enough to re-ignite the fascination of Venice in me.
One of thousands of bridges in Venice
I paid for a couple of bags of the bird seed and proceeded to entertain myself (and the birds, apparantly); watching as suddenly I had almost 50 to 100 new best friends within 30 seconds. Fantastic! I suppose the same concept exists here in the US: take a bag of stale, toasted bread to any pond teeming with geese, and you have the same welcome. I was throughly entertained, and scratched up, after the bird seed had run out.
My next stop was to try REAL seafood. I'm a lover of the stuff -- from crab, lobster, all kinds of fish, shrimp, and (newly) oysters. I just knew I had to have it fresh, instead of store-bought. I skipped the pasta and lazagna sections of the menu and decided on the calamari (since I like calamari rings). I laughed at myself as the meal came in front of me.
The sides of the buildings were gorgeous...
I should have known better than to jump in blindly: I swore there were BBQ'ed tarantulas sitting before me. Ah, well, I tried it, and knew I should have gone for the shrimp (because spaghetti with squid marinated in its own ink was CERTAINLY out of the question). I still like calamari rings, and am a continuous lover of seafood. As an avid cook, and lover of food, and "tryer" of all things once, I also had to have Italian lazagna and spaghetti. This time, I skipped the calamari section (and shuddered) and I was shocked by the real "Italianness" found in the lazagna, as Americans have ruined the dish; but was affirmed by the savory spaghetti, even though Americans have ruined that one as well.
I spent the night in an awesome two-star hotel (who knew?!), and walked the narrow streets.
But I'm not sure how much is historical, and how much might be recent cosmetic changes.
I felt as if I was back home in my local grocery store, as 20 of us all grab for the jar of pickles. Whew, was it crowded! But the nightlife was fantastic, and sensual. I quickly longed for a "squeeze" to feel more in with the crowd. I could have been the only single person there, that night (which may account for the vow of death atop that arched bridge I mentioned earlier....). There was music, conversations, laughter, and smiles all around me. I didn't want to leave.
But I left the aquatic city, and memorized the picture that was in my rearview mirror of my departing car.