My Travel Book - Once Upon A Time... Venice - Part 2

The following morning, we woke up to the chanting of the gondolieri: «Gon-do-la-Gon-do-la-Gon-do-la-Gon-do-la➚». We smiled. We still were in Venice. It had not been a dream after all.

We really had been to La Fenice for a very beautiful concert... the night before. It is quite easy to feel like your life is a dream in Venice. Actually it is the easiest thing ever.

We never had this kind of feeling anywhere else. It was enough to make you feel like singing along: «Gon-do-la-Gon-do-la-Gon-do-la-Gon-do-la➚» which we did on our way down to a very delicious breakfast.

To those of you who love drinking hot chocolate in Madrid, you have to try Venice’s. So yummy... And the good thing about Venitian chocolate is that you can drink it without moderation since you’ll be walking up and down bridges, through Venice calli, all day long -if you are calorie-conscious, that is.

We decided to walk to San Marco and spend the morning there.

Getting to San Marco was quite an experience. It was extremely cold and sunny. In Paris or Brussels, I would have thought twice about going outside. In Venice, I don’t think I even realized it was this cold!

We could have climbed aboard the vaporetto but we thought it would be much more fun to walk around.

This was a very good choice!

Walking through Venice is amazing. The calli are winding and very narrow. You cross rii over very small and hunched bridges - five or ten stairs up, five to ten steps across and then five to ten stairs down... No need to worry about your five cups of thick and hot chocolate at breakfast, isn’t that right?

I was breathless most of the time... not because I am getting too old for walking around. Only because everything in Venice is amazing and so different from other places. You still are right at the heart of ancient history. Nothing much seems to have changed... if you try to forget that Venice is slowly sinking down even though it is so obvious. Do we have to deny this painful fact when it is so much part of the city? Part of the magic spell too... The slow and unavoidable crumbling of a very ancient and so beautiful world. A vanishing world that we’d want so much to remain intact for centuries and centuries...

End of digression. We finally reached San Marco.

You won’t believe it but I was very surprised. There I was in one of the most famous piazze in the world. And it did not look like what I had been expecting! When you dream about something for so long, it is obvious that your expectations may play a trick on you.

We emerged into San Marco Piazza from the left of the Torre dell’Orologio. Right in front of us, the Bacino de San Marco, quite far away... Lots of people around... The Campanile on our right.

If the sea was in front of us, where was the Basilica San Marco? You see, I had always imagined it was facing the sea... Wrong. It was on our left, so beautiful. So impressive. May I say that it did impress me more than Notre-Dame in Paris even though it does not stand out on its own, being part of the magnificent Piazza and Piazzeta San Marco?

Notre-Dame belongs to my life but the Basilica did affect me a lot. It is awesome.

As soon as we got inside, the perfect blend between Orient and Occident struck us so powerfully that we were speechless. (Hard for me, I know but I really was tongue-tied for quite a while.)

In the Basilica, the mosaics are incredibly fabulous from floor to domes and walls... We were filled with wonder. The altarpiece called «Pala de Oro» from the 10th century was incredibly magnificent.

Usually I do not really like splendor, wealth and treasures in religious buildings. In the Basilica, I felt overwhelmed by its oriental and byzantine extravaganza and breath-taking beauty. No wonder it was used for every formal ceremony of the Serenessima Republicca di Venezia.

The impressive gilded bronze horses (in the museum and their replicas on the Basilica) had us ponder about power, wars and spoils. They were stolen by Venice from Constantinople in 1204. But guess who stole them from Venice? Our Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, of course, in 1797. The horses remained in Paris until 1815. Once Napoleon was defeated, Austria gave them back to Venice. And this is were they do belong. No doubt about it. (I wonder if Turks are affected  by their loss though...)

I hate it that France was such a aggressive nation while Napoleon Bonaparte was ruling all over Europe... I am so glad that the Triumphal Quadriga that tops the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is a replica and not the original horses from Venice. Somehow it would have spoiled my happiness.

New Year’s Eve... We were lucky the Basilica was open to visitors. We only had a couple of hours left before the Palazzo Ducale would close.

A very impressive building we visited at the double. «It’s going to close. Hurry. Hurry.» What can I say? It is a true Palazzo. It does exude power. The Serenissima’s huge power while it was ruling over the seas and the earth so to speak.

I felt lost in those gigantic rooms. I felt awed. But I wanted out after a while. Too much glory. Too much power. Too much... too much...

And out we went, almost forcibly after a few minutes through the prison... which was nice after all, I mean, not staying for too long in the prison.

I almost forgot that I had a wonderful surprise though. One magnificent painting by Bosch. I love Bosch. One of my favorite painters ever. I know...  I’m nuts.
We went through the Bridge of Sighs to go from the Palazzo Ducale to the prisons... Very interesting. You were arrested, judged and jailed without any chance to see the sky again...
It was fascinating to discover the way it does look like from the outside... even though it probably is the most famous bridge in Venice, besides the Rialto Bridge that is.

Such a romantic place from the outside... called the "Bridge of Sighs" by Lord Byron, if I remember right. Thus recalling the wailings of the prisoners who were going into the Inquisition's chambers of torture.

This was Venice... 

Now hordes of tourists wander through the Serenissima but the prisoners keep wailing... The Venetian wonders are always highly symbolic.

(To be continued...)

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


My Travel Book - Once Upon a Time... Venice - Part 1

While I was going through chemo #2, I bought a lot of books. I love to read and yes, this was before Kindle time... So they were “real” books and among them there were several with enchanting titles such as... “100 things to do before you die”, “100 places to see before you die” which shows how optimistic I was!!!

Well, I did skip the “1.000 places to see before to die” but only because I am getting old.

You’ll be glad to hear that among the 100 etc. I had already done and seen quite a few...

But I had a dream then and there. I wanted to go to Venice (Venezia).

Popeye and I, we are crazy about Spain probably because it’s been his home for so many years and because I used to speak Spanish well before I spoke English. So we did skip Italy for many years because we were forever going back to Spain.

I wanted to go to Venice but I was a little bit afraid of being disappointed... Actually I did not really know what to expect. Dreams are dreams and sometimes they should be kept deep in one's heart and unfulfilled.

I was deeply in love with Venice from books and movies... and I was afraid to wake up to some disappointing reality.

And then this winter, we decided that we really wanted to go to Venice, come what may!

We spent Christmas at Les Tertres as usual and we left Brittany on the 28th of December... Wow, this was a big first... I usually spend most of January in Brittany and there I was, going back to Paris where we’d hop on a plane and Venice, there we come!

When we landed at the Venice airport after flying over the Alps and part of the laguna, it was cloudy, rainy and cold. Grey skies and slate-grey choppy water everywhere.

And then the vaporetto entered the Grand Canal and we gasped. We had looked at pictures. We had watched movies. But nothing, absolutely nothing can replace the experience of being on the Grand Canal.

Our hotel was right by the Rialto Bridge. The minute I set foot on the quay, I fell totally in love with Venice. Don’t ask me why. I was cold and wet and tired. I had not been around yet. But I knew right then and there that a wonderful love story was already blossoming.

We took a few minutes to unpack and off we went... right away. We couldn’t wait. We started walking and did not stop walking until the very last minute we boarded the vaporetto to go back to the airport... four days later.

The minute we stepped out of this hotel, the clouds parted. Sunny weather... Venice was smiling at us while we were strolling around.

So we walked from rio to calle, from calle to piazza, from piazza to rio... Eyes wide open. Our hearts bursting with so much happiness and delight. 

("To be continued")