Saturday 22 March 2003

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Last full day here. I want to stay a lot longer, to walk all over Venice repeatedly. But if we have to go, I feel we've used our time well. On the walk back last night we were once again stopped in our tracks by the huge and ornate San Moise church facade. I hadn't put the name and the facade together until last night. I hadn't bothered to put it on the list of places to visit because Jonathan Buckley (author of the Rough Guide) does his best impression of Ruskin on this one - he's very fond of quoting Ruskin, and Ruskin had some vile things to say about some of the buildings in this city. Buckley on San Moise: "... runaway winner of any poll for the ugliest church in Venice." "Its facade sculpture, featuring a species of camel unknown to zoology ... and if you think this bloated display of fauna and flora is in questionable taste, wait till you see the miniature mountain he carved as the main altarpiece ..." I look forward to it. Catherine says it's Baroque, and Buckley doesn't like Baroque.

San Moise is quite ... ornate. Look at the pictures - I took a lot. Definitely an interesting place to visit.

Every couple years there's a very famous art show here. So famous that 15 or so countries (including Canada) have built their own pavillions at the site, the Biennale grounds. Right now the only people there were two groundskeepers raking up last year's abundance of dead leaves and two guys letting their dogs play. We found a bench overlooking the water behind the Canadian pavillion.

We got there by walking out along the waterfront and then down Via Garibaldi. We stopped an oriental couple to ask where the man had got his "Pace" shirt. Their english was excellent and Catherine thought they were Canadian while I took them to be from the Midwest. Sadly, they got the shirt in Florence.

Sandwiches ... We just bought four sandwiches each at Al Vecio Panasa for €10. And that's lunch and dinner. We ate two each and drank a tiny bottle of prosecco we bought at Su Ve. The other two mini-bottles and four sandwiches have been shoe-horned into the room's bar fridge. But I wanted to write about the sandwiches, because they're a really wonderful thing. Al Vecio Panasa sports about 20 different sandwiches at lunch, the majority being triangles of crustless white bread stuffed with various delicious concoctions for €1.10 each. The bottom of the case had larger sandwiches at €3.30. Both sizes of sandwich (and the matching price) are very common all over the city. Sometimes the small ones are on small crusty rolls. The variety is astonishing, and they're usually very good. Salmon - tomato - egg - mayonnaise. Tuna salad - tomato. Proscuitto - mushroom - mayonnaise. And on and on. Two is a great lunch, and it's cheap anywhere (before the bars close at 1330-1400).

I bought a very small bronze mask for 9 euros. There are so many places in the city selling Carnivale masks in all sizes and qualities. I liked the style and the plainness of this one.

In the supermarket I found juice boxes - of wine! €0.40 each, red or white. Catherine bought one for her mom.

Why can't we have mini-sandwich places instead of burger joints in North America?

There is nobody obese in this town. Not even anyone I'd call fat. It's not something you notice at first, but Catherine pointed it out a couple days ago. I can understand it with the locals - you walk everywhere. But the tourists? Are they weeded by the need to walk?

We're sitting on the water's edge just east of Piazza San Marco, absorbing the atmosphere in our last hours. But the sun is setting and we're losing what little heat there was.

I bought more marbled paper, and Catherine bought a marbled photo album. We had some gelato (it was warmer earlier). And we visited San Moise - free, no photo ban. Indeed, the "mountain" behind the altar is fairly ugly, but it's hard to consider it uglier than San Marco Basilica. It has some very nice stuff and I took quite a few photos.

Before we moved to sit here, we stood in Piazza San Marco watching the people and sucking up the incredible detail of the Basilica exterior - and the Doge's Palace.

The tethered gondolas are splashing about in the wakes of other boats.

Our flight tomorrow leaves at 0900. Our Alilaguna leaves at 0653. So we're getting up at 0515. We don't arrive in Atlanta until 1950, and by the time we arrive home we'll have been awake for 24 hours. Oh well - the price you pay to enjoy a foreign country.

From our patch of flagstones on the shoreline, we walked back past our hotel and up to a nearby "Wine Bar." We ordered Refosco (a local we hadn't tried before) and Raboso, but they didn't have that so Catherine got a locally made Valpolicella. Both reds. I liked the Refosco better, she liked the Valpolicella. The Refosco tasted rather fruity to me, but I'm incredibly undiscerning about wines.

Catherine wanted another canoli for dessert (we had one for lunch) so we wandered some. When we gave up, we went to Su Ve and bought an Arencia orange (the blood red ones) and a pack of Paprika Pringles. Back to the hotel, dinner of sandwiches, Pringles and an orange. Catherine pointed out that none of the sandwiches had onion in them. Fresh and subtle seem to be the food values here.

Will I ever come back to Venice? Who knows? I love this place, but there are so many others I want to visit too. London, Paris, Sydney, Aukland, the Grand Canyon, Amsterdam. And that's without even stopping to think. The latter is because of Paul, who absolutely loved it.

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by giles