Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Day 5: Second Day in Venice

GOOD MORNING! 7am, the bells ring and the city comes alive. We're guessing this is the agreed upon time that locals can make noise. Right when the bells began ringing, gondoliers were yelling down the canals and people banged their shutters open. Ok, early to bed tonight, for sure!

Side note: locals hang their laundry over the canals to dry. We are all wondering how often do they drop something that is then lost forever? I'm just imagining all the things I would drop with my butterfingers.

Cappuccino from Alessandro
Our hotel includes breakfast with our stay, so it's nice to just head downstairs for the simple buffet. Afterwards, we headed back to Alessandro's hotel to take him up on his offer to arrange a trip to Murano for us. The last time Chris and I did this, the glass shops were closed. We thought it was because it was a Sunday, but Alessandro says it must have been something else as they have always been open to tourism on Sundays. That will remain a mystery.

Also, last time, we paid for a bus ride there. This time, Alessandro arranged for his hotel to take us to Murano. His hotel has an agreement with one of the glass manufacturers there. They both offer complimentary taxis to and from Venice and there is no high-sales pitch to force us to buy anything from their store. I was skeptical but optimistic. Mostly just glad to see the glass blowing in action as we missed it the last time we were here.
Enjoying our boat ride to Murano (they don't mind if you stand the whole way,
just watch your head going under bridges!)
When we arrived on Murano, we were escorted right into the area where they perform glass demonstrations. It took two workers about 10 minutes to create one glass. It was a lot of heat it, melt it, shape it, repeat. There were a few times that both workers were shaping the glass at the same time. No wonder the glass from the Masters is expensive!

The main glass worker made the glass and then made a horse. Funny, Alessandro explained that he grew up on Murano with his dad (a glass worker) who would do demonstrations for the tourists by making a horse (and then the tourists are guided into a room full of glass horses, wouldn't you like to buy?) I can see how it works. It's pretty damn amazing to watch them shape the glass into a horse right before your eyes.

The kids were invited to then try their hand (or lungs) at blowing some glass. There was a bit of confusion as to what they were being asked to do. Since Venice went first, Xander had an easier time of it. But they were asked to blow, and blow, and blow. I kept waiting for the glass bubble to break, but it never did and the workers kept chanting for them to blow, blow, blow. After they blew, blew, blew, the worker smashed the glass bubble onto the floor. Too bad... I might have paid to take that bubble home!

After this show, our host, Stephan, guided us into the show room. He talks a lot about the artists, their work, and says if we have any questions about how the glass is made to ask (I did ask how all the bubbles were made, some are with salt and some are with molds). But he never explained that this wasn't the only showroom. So as we look around, we are seeing price tags of 50K and higher. Um, yeah, we're just window shopping!

We are polite as I wonder if he thinks we're rich Americans who just can't think of anything better to do with our money than purchase a life sized glass horse for our entry way (it was beautiful, by the way).  Then he says there's another shop on the other side of the furnace with a lot more items. Oh good! We get there and I see that one of those glasses we just watched being blown, is marked at 250 Euro. Um, yeah. Still window shopping.

As we wind our way through the glass displays (severals rooms full!) I do see a few things I'd love to take home. Chris and I start deliberating on a few items. Stephan takes them to a table, so we can see one at a time. He and his assistant are never far behind (so we can't have a whispered discussion on how much we want to spend or what we like) offering us to see other similar items or a glass of water. It's not too high pressured, other than we can't get privacy and they linger with us.

We finally decide on a piece we really like. Stephan had said to not pay attention to the price tag, but to ask him what it would cost, as we are friends of Alessandro and he will make us a discount. So, we finally ask about one piece and he shows us the discounted price. WHAT? He's giving us 75% off! Well, holy crap, we'll take some more, please and thank you!

I'm loving the Italian hospitality right now! First several free drinks. Time and touring advice. Now this discount at the glass furnace. Alessandro kept saying, "When I'm in Oregon, you pay. When you are in Italy, I pay." Very generous. And we want to send a big thank you to Granny and Jiichan for being our "delivery address" for these items (no stealing!)

After taking the complimentary taxi back to Venice, we had lunch on the water. It was at this time that we realised we didn't take a photo of any of the pieces we bought! We'll just have to wait to see them again in three months and hope we still like them!

For this meal, Chris ordered sea bass. When the server brought the fish, Chris was away from the table at the time, she asked if we'd like her to clean it. Um, si per favore! Nothing like seeing an entire fish on your plate and not knowing what to do about it. So we got a table side show of the preparation of the fish. It was quick, 30-60 seconds.

On a traghetto gondola ferry.
After lunch, we headed to see the oldest-original bridge in town. It has no side rails and heads to a private residence. Venice snuck on the bottom stair for us to take a photo, then we were on our way to the next thing, a traghetto! In the olden days, The Rialto bridge was the only bridge spanning the Grand Canal. But you could take a traghetto, basically a gondola ferry. For 2 Euros, you are transported from one side of the canal to the other. Short, but fun.

The oldest bridge (left). Venice in one of her new dresses (right).
Everyone was tired and ready for a siesta so we began the long walk back to our hotel. We thought we'd walk through the fish market, which we did, but we were too late, 90% of the stalls were packed up and gone. No worries, we saw some cute dresses in a window and Venice wanted to try them on. So, Chris and Xander continued on for some espresso and then rest while Venice and I shopped a little. We found stores close to our hotel that had all the little glass animals we wanted, so we took note and said we'd come back to buy a bunch of souvenirs later.

The kids were tired and ready for rest, so they hunkered down in their beds with their iPods. Chris and I decided we wanted espresso and that we'd go out and get it on our own. After riding the elevator down, we thought, maybe we could just get a quick espresso at the hotel lobby, but no one was there. Chris remembered there was a roof-top cafe, so we decided to try that instead! No espresso up there, only drinks... OK! So, we had an afternoon cocktail along with some complimentary (or did we pay for them?) snacks.

The view from the rooftop was beautiful. So many red-tiled roofs. Quiet. Lovely. And bonus, we realised we could see our balcony from our table. We Skype'd the kids to quietly come out onto the balcony and look for us. A few seconds later, Venice was out there waving to us. Xander came next!

Now guess what time it is? Dinner time! Seems it's a lot of walking and a lot of eating on this trip! We headed out for one restaurant, decided it wasn't what we wanted, so we walked around for a little, trying another one, until we ended up at restaurant that had outside seating near the water of the Grand Canal. Did we have a reservation? No, but unless you go after 8pm, it's usually ok, so there were plenty of open tables when we got there.

Chris decided to get the eel for dinner. Be adventurous. He asked the waiter,  (who didn't seem to have much of a sense of humour) if that was a good choice. The waiter replied, "No. Do you have it before? Eel is not for beginners. You have something else." We all laughed, except the waiter. Needless to say, Chris ordered something else.
A panorama of Piazza San Marco (with a little warping on the right)
After dinner, I really wanted to see the Piazza San Marco in the dark. I imagined it would be lit up and beautiful. It did not disappoint. It was unbelievable. The lights were romantic. The evening air was perfect. Different restaurants had live bands playing different kinds of music. From jazz to swing to Phantom of the Opera. What a difference a few hours makes.

Gelato on the way home, a perfect way to end the day... until the thunder and lightning started. Xander was a bit nervous with the loud crashes of lightning and had a harder time falling asleep.

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