Monday, November 23, 2009

Almost vegan in Venice II

We awoke the next morning in Venice to an ominously gray sky. It began to just barely sprinkle as we water taxied back to St. Mark’s Square, which looked much drearier than the night before (but was still stunning).

From the Square, we walked to the Murano glass factory to see a glass-blowing demonstration and to ogle all the gorgeous glass creations in their shop. Kim, Isis, and I split off after that and got gelato. At 10am. Yes.

It started to rain harder as we ate our gelato, so when we were finished, we sprinted just a couple doors down to a mask shop. We spent the better part of an hour trying on all sorts of handmade masks—big ones, small ones, colorful ones, embellished ones, dramatic ones, silly ones, and just plain beautiful ones.

There was a break in the rain at that point, so we left the mask shop and wandered some of the back streets. I marveled at all the magical little canals traversing the city...I felt like I was inside the big painting of Venice I have hanging over my fireplace at home.

We stopped at a small bakery to select and share a bag of treats.

During our walk back to St. Mark’s Square, the rain started coming down again. Gangways had been set out in the Square for people to walk on, because the ground was beginning to flood. Kim, Isis, and I sought refuge in the Doge’s Palace. While running towards it, my right foot landed in a huge, deep puddle. I remember thinking "Damnit! Now my sock is all wet!" Later in the day, I looked back on that thought and laughed at myself.

We had hoped that the rain would quiet down by the time we were done touring the palace, but it only came down harder. We stood awestruck as we watched the rain pour off the building and into the courtyard in sheets.

We couldn’t stay there forever, though. Kim left to try to do some shopping, and Isis and I bought hoodies and an umbrella and ran back off down a side street. It wasn’t more than a couple minutes before my pants were soaked from the knees down. The rain got so bad that we had to stop under a café awning to wait (in vain) for it to subside.

My camera could not do this storm justice. We had to turn around and run back to the Square to meet back up with the group, where we officially learned that our afternoon gondola ride was canceled. That was difficult for me to accept—a gondola ride in Venice was among the top few things I wanted to do in Europe. Well...that just means I have to go back.

I met back up with Kim and we decided to try and buy a bottle of bellini. I say "try" because at this point, shops were closing all over the city. Many were flooding—I ran by quite a few where a hapless owner or worker was trying futilely to sweep the water out the front door, but it was coming in twice as fast as they could mop. We had to stop under another store awning when the rain again began pounding down so hard you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of you. But, determined to find bellini, I left Kim there and ran down the street in search of an open shop. There were none. It was right about then that the rain broke my umbrella. I am not kidding—it was coming down like such a hail of bullets that the supports inside my umbrella snapped like twigs. I finally turned around to head back, and ended stopping in the pub right next to the shop where Kim was waiting for me, finally buying a[n overpriced] bottle of [warm] bellini.

My shoes were filled with water, both my legs and my right arm (the one not holding the umbrella) were soaked, and then what did we have to do? Run across town to the dock by the Ponti di Suspiri to meet the group again, even though it was quite clear that our evening lagoon cruise to the island of Burano was canceled as well. Kim and I tried to take a shortcut, and lo and behold, we got ourselves a wee bit lost, in the back streets of Venice, during the rainstorm of the century. 20 minutes later and 100% wetter, we found Bern, Greg, and Bronwyn by the dock. Bern confirmed our cruise wasn’t happening, and told us that she’d instructed everyone to meet at a pub instead. Which pub? Wouldn't you know it, it was the very pub where I’d just bought my bellini. Right where Kim and I started our getting-lost-crossing-Venice odyssey 20 minutes prior. So we turned around, ran back to where we'd come from, and staggered in utterly drenched to greet our equally drenched fellow travelers. Almost every inch of me was sopping wet, right down to my underwear (UGH); my hair was dripping, my shoes were completely waterlogged, my umbrella was trashed, and that pitcher of red wine we shared was some of the best of the trip, I swear.

We tried drying ourselves under the hand dryers in the bathroom to no avail.

That pub didn’t have an enticing menu, so we ran around the corner to another pub to eat and continue drinking. I choked down a few sips of way-too-sweet Sex on the Beach before switching to shots of vodka, courtesy of Greg. We ordered lots of food to share, too. I chose another pizza marinara—simple, classic, delicious.

I also sampled what they called vegetarian bruschetta, but the cheese was a little off-putting.

After the day we’d had, we decided to return to the hotel just after 8pm. By then, the rain had finally ceased. Some of the group had discussed the storm with locals who’d said – get this – that they'd never seen rain like that in Venice in their LIFETIMES.

What a crazy, unbelievable day. I think it says something that despite the mess and trouble, I loved the city as I always knew I would. I just knew there was a reason I'm so enchanted by Venetian history, art, architecture, and so on and on; why I have a huge picture of the place in my living room; why I've fantasized about that damn gondola ride for so many years. Basically, I am thankful just to have been able to go there. I am also now OBLIGED to go back, and that's not such a bad thing. Oh, Venezia, ti amo.

But believe me, we breathed a huge sigh of relief upon entering sunny Austria the next day.

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  1. You looked no worse for the wear. Too bad it had to happen on YOUR day there. You got the right attitude though, just have to go back.

  2. great photos from venice. thx for sharing :)
    what's the drink in the heineken glass?

  3. Ooooh, that ice cream looks yummy! And that is an awesome mask you are wearing too!

  4. Also, that pizza looks killer and it's crazy that you were there for a storm that the locals hadn't seen for lifetimes. lol.

  5. Localguide—The drink in the Heineken glass is Sex on the Beach. Too sweet for me!

    Lindsey—No kidding! Though I felt lucky the next day when, on our way out of Italy, we encountered another tour group just like ours (on a similar 35 day tour) of a different company. Their tour was "budget class," i.e. camping, and everything they owned/brought/packed was soaked/destroyed when their tents flooded. Those poor people!

  6. Oh wow! Poor campers! Although, I think it would be so awesome to go camping throughout Europe!

  7. What a day, at least you can claim to see Venice in a condition as few other Americans have.