Sometimes I’m a little…shall we say…overzealous when it comes to planning out holidays. I want to see and do as much as possible in the window of time I have in any given location. Lauren tends to want to relax a little more. Quite frankly, she gets annoyed when I plan thirty activities in a day. So I really made an effort to leave a lot of flex time in this trip…once the proposal was finished, that is.
With that in mind we slept in a bit our second day in Venice. Sure there’s an amazing amount to see, but jetlag’s a real bitch sometimes…like when you stay up for 30 hours straight.
Walking back into the streets of Venice is a jolt back to time and place. The streets are busy, but not in that bad way. No cars means no honking horns, bad drivers with Maryland license plates or choking exhaust. That in itself is relaxing.
Also on this trip I don’t think either of us were worried about being super-touristy. There’s always this absurd pressure to stray off the beaten path…but in a city as ancient as Venice pretty much every path is beaten to a pulp. So we headed straight back to St. Marks and grabbed a table in the sun at one of the extraordinarily over-priced cafes. We knew it was over-priced but we didn’t care…call it an experience tax. Sometimes you do things in places because they’re meant to be done there. And so we sat in the sun and watched as people posed for pictures and fed the pigeons and kissed and argued. The bells of St Marks chimed and chimed and chimed again. And we just sat, enjoying the scene and enjoying the moment.
Eventually we crossed the square to Caffe Florian, touted as the oldest cafe in Italy it deserves a stop in. Nevermind this would be like my ninth cup of coffee. (We’ll talk about coffee later.) The place is worn, in that gilded Venetian way. There are several rooms, each gaudy with some sort of theme or fresco. One of the rooms had a bunch of photos showing Italian troops staging in St. Marks Square during WWII, it was oddly creepy.
We kept it simple and sat at the bar. We probably would’ve started out over here but the seats outside were well in the shade. Nonetheless it was a quick drink and a nice little experience before moving on.
It was safely lunch time so we headed back towards a restaurant I had tried to get into the last time I was in Venice…that time it was closed. There was no urgency, so we took our time…stopping for gelato 11 or 12 times. Lauren paid too much for a purse. We checked out a few glass shops. And posed for photos atop the Rialto Bridge before finally trying to find this restaurant called All’ Arco. It’s easy to feel like a rat in a maze in Venice…and sometimes I feel like humans have been lured to this amazing place by a superior species just so they could watch us wander lost. And wander we did.
I never get lost…I know that’s a very male thing to say…but it’s true. Getting lost is Lauren’s realm. So after the third time walking down the same street I was genuinely confounded. What’s more we kept ending up in the same nameless square. We came to call it Lost Square, because inevitably whenever we were lost we ended up there. It was like one of those levels in Zelda back in the day that just kept spitting you out in the same random spot ten screens across Hyrule from the level you needed to be in…9-year-old me didn’t realize it was simply training for navigating Venice.
Eventually, through painstaking calculations based on gravitational and celestial observations we ended up at the restaurant…closed…Ganon always wins…
At this point we were both starving, and seeing as we now had a good tour of the neighborhood we settled for a little pizzeria that we had passed up 6 or 7 times. It was delicious, and I was only slightly bummed at having missed out on the other restaurant.
It was late afternoon by this point, so we stopped by the hotel to plan out the evening. We made reservations at a restaurant recommended by the front desk clerk and bought tickets for a Vivaldi concert after. With a quick stop by the room we were back out and towards St. Marks to get some photos as the sun set.
I was setting up a shot on my tripod under the Doge’s Palace when, as I reached into my bag for another lens, the camera toppled over onto the marble ground. I really couldn’t believe it…when I set up the tripod I forgot to secure one of the leg and gravity did the rest of the nasty work. The camera was fine…the lens, not so much. The focus ring was busted…this is the third 10-20mm lens I’ve broken. It’s just a bad luck lens. But perhaps the only saving grace: although I couldn’t focus, the lens was locked into a pretty neutral position so I could use it and maybe, just maybe get the photo I wanted. Otherwise, I had two other lenses and another camera with me.
We walked around separately taking photos and taking in the scene as the sun dropped. Another gorgeous scene, another time I wish I was a much better photographer. I’m sure not breaking lenses is a good first step in that endeavor.
As the night sky took hold we crossed the square again taking a few nightshots as the street-peddlers changed from selling roses and t-shirts to glow-in-the-dark-flicky-helicopter-thingys. We got lost on the way back to the hotel, drank some more coffee and Bellinis and then found ourselves.
After a quick change it was onto the restaurant, which was just around the corner from where we ate the night before…brimming with navigational hubris we set out sans map. And got lost. After asking directions a few dozen times we eventually found the restaurant, a small ancient little place. We were the only guests for the first half of the meal, which was a little awkward as our waitress just kind of stared at us while we ate. It was a romantic enough place, not nearly as good as the night before…but it fit the bill.
After a bottle of wine or two and a healthy portion of lobster linguine we left for the concert. It was another crisp, cool evening with a spectacular sky. The concert hall was actually a church…not a church of any special note but still more ornate than most in the U.S. The hall was clearly a multi-purpose room, but decked out with ancient frescoes and ornate wall fixtures.
The performers, all women at first, wore the hoop skirts and corsets and powdered wigs of the 18th century style. Eventually a man emerged to play the lead…presumably the role of Vivaldi. The concert was fantastic, and about two hours in total with an intermission. Just another little reminder of the terrific incubator of talent and creativity that this lagoon has been for a millennium and a half. A little touristy…maybe…but again travel is about cultural immersion…and sometimes that means walking among the masses.
And with the Four Seasons ringing in our heads we capped off another wonderfully romantic Venetian night with drinks before not getting lost on our way back to the hotel.