Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Guido Brunetti Sent Us” (Rosa Rossa Restaurant)

AdventureMan and I read a series of detective novels set in Venice by author Donna Leon, who lives there. Commissario Guido Brunetti is a patient, thoughtful and smart detective, working under a lazy, corrupt and greedy boss in a country rife with corruption. Each book has a social issue in Venice as its topic, and not lightweight topics – the arrogance of dumping trash, boatloads of trash, off the coast of Somalia (had you ever heard of that before? Neither had I. But it is true, and it has ruined traditional Somali fishing), big pharma and tainted drugs, sex tourism and human trafficking, governmental bribery – Donna Leon fearlessly tackles them all.

Guido Brunetti loves Venice, and he loves his family. His solace in life is his wife, a professor of literature at the university, and his two children. His wife cooks meals that make the reader’s mouth water as they read, or Guido and one of his lieutenants will stop at a restaurant for lunch.

In one of the books, “Blood From a Stone,” American tourists give evidence to a stabbing they witness on their way to dinner. To thank them for their help, he directs them to a GOOD Venetian restaurant, and tells them to say Guido Brunetti sent them.

We don’t say that. No matter how real Guido Brunetti has become to us, we know he is not real, and we don’t say he sent us. But we do take the tiny winding back lanes to find Rosa Rossa, and while we order familiar salads, we also order Venetian specialities for our main courses.

Rosa Rossa on a tiny but busy street:

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AdventureMan’s favorite salad; he loves Caprese:

 

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I had a garden salad:

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I love black spaghetti, or Pasta Nero. It is made with squid, and squid ink, and I first had it at a lovely dinner a long time ago in Damascus, Syria, served by a beautiful Italian who swore t me that this dish is Southern Italian. If so, I ordered it anyway, in honor of Beatrice, and it was delicious.

 

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AdventureMan ordered Pasta with Squid and pepperoncini, and he said it was very piquant, and that he has never eaten so much squid in his life at one time.

 

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We passed on dessert, knowing we still had miles to walk, and possibly a gelato toward the end. We had such a short time to enjoy Venice, searching for and finding Rosa Rossa was a lot of fun, and a great adventure. They took good care of us, and the food was delicious.

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November 14, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Detective/Mystery, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Italy, Local Lore, Restaurant, Venice | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venice and the Vaporettos

This is one of the happiest days of my life. We are in Venice, and the weather is magnificent. Not only not raining, but a little chilly, perfect for walking and walking, which is what we love to do.

When we get up, the first thing I do is look out the window, and oh, what fun, our ship, the Viking Sea, is being towed to port! We watch her dignified passage with excitement.

 

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We have a quick breakfast in the lounge, great coffee, and head out on the shuttle for Saint Marks, then we hike up to the Rialto bridge, crowded, even in late October, mostly with Japanese families. The canal is crowded, too, with people taking gondola rides.

No, we didn’t. We love Venice. We hit the vaporettos.

This is atop the old customs house, where trading ships coming into Venice had to stop, have their cargo examined, and pay import and luxury taxes on their goods. See, the god is holding a piece of coin in his hand?

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Venetian baubles, and masks are everywhere; the windows are beautiful. No. We didn’t buy any baubles, no gondolas, no masks.

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Yes, we did climb the Rialto bridge, along with all the tourists, and I quickly took a documentary, but highly not-artistic shot.

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This is better. We are catching a vaporetto to head up the Grand Canal and I look back and see the Rialto – and parked gondolas. How Venice can you get? This photo was a lot of fun.

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We are lucky, in the back of the vaporetto are two perfect seats, and we watch as the #1 goes to each stop along the Grand Canal. Every now and then, we change boats, and we never know where we will end up. It doesn’t matter, we can ride as long as we walt to.

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The gates going into St. Marks.

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We are starting to get hungry though, so we have to figure out how to get where we want to eat lunch.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, ExPat Life, Travel, Venice | | 3 Comments

Hotel Molino Stuckey (Hilton), Venice

The Hotel Molino Stuckey is a large hotel; some very smart, very visionary person bought an old flour mill and reconfigured it into a luxury hotel right on the canal. It is sumptuous, and has it’s own dock for arrivals and departures, and for shuttles to St. Marks, from where you can get anywhere. There is a lovely walk along the canal, with restaurants, bakeries, tavernas, residences, book stores, and even a hardware store (we love these every day things).

The hotel has lovely public spaces, and a variety of rooms.

How often do you get to Venice? Spend a few more dollars and get one of the higher up rooms with a view of Venice, and the canal, and the churches, and the boats trafficking up and down. This room was worth every penny – great beds, great linens, lovely bathroom with beautiful finishes, and a bathtub, and, well, the view. The view. The view. The sounds of the bells ringing. The view.

 

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The window with the view:

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The wood beamed ceilings and the Murano glass chandelier:

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The Hilton Molino Stuckey has a shuttle to St. Marks every half hour (or more) and charges 4.5 Euros per person for your entire stay. If you are with Viking, Viking also has a shuttle, every half hour but on the 15 and 45, I believe (I could have it switched in my mind), and the Viking shuttle is free to and from the hotel to St. Marks.

Joining Hilton Honors is free. If you join, you get additional benefits, like free WiFi. That, and the upgrade to the executive floor, allowed us to use the executive lounge, which was really nice, quiet, and has wine and snacks in the afternoon, and a breakfast buffet and coffee in the morning. The buffet at the Molino Stuckey is luxurious and beautiful, and it is also crowded and noisy. You can eat peacefully and well in the executive lounge.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Hotels, Travel, Venice | , | Leave a comment

Air France: The Journey Begins

AdventureMan and I have developed a philosophy – how we get there matters. Truly, it didn’t matter so much when we were a lot younger. The government sent us where it wanted us to be; Germany, Tunisia, Jordan, Germany . . . well, you get the idea. You didn’t even get to make your own reservations and choose your own seats, it was all done for you. It could have been awful, but most of the flights were not so full then, seats were wider, aisles were wider, and . . . we were younger. We never really minded, not even the long long flights with a 2 year old active child. On our way to Tunis we were on the same flight with friends who had twin 1 year old babies and a 5 year old. We all survived.

Now, we have a six hour limit to what we will fly in economy. I had thought we could be comfortable enough in economy going to Hawaii, and I was very very wrong. Never again. So now we cough up a little extra and go business class, and, when we can, we go Air France.

Air France is a partner with Delta and with KLM, but Air France is nicer. The planes feel cleaner, and the flight crews are, well, French. Charming and attentive. The food is pretty good. We get on in Atlanta, eat a nice meal and sleep our way to Paris. And that’s how this trip started. Easy. Happy.

When we got to Paris, and were about to board our flight, the gate attendant frowned. “This part of your trip has been cancelled,” she informed us. “Your bags have been taken off the flight.”

This is not a happy surprise.

But this is also not our first rodeo.

“Nothing has changed,” we explain calmly, “We are booked all the way to Venice.”

“I see that,” she responded, “and I don’t know what happened, but I can fix it for you. Just give me a few minutes.”

A few minutes turned into a lot of minutes, as the plane was boarded, all the passengers but us, and we stood calmly waiting for her to fix it. She handed us tickets, same seats we had originally been assigned.

“Are our bags on board?” I asked.

“Not yet,” she replied, “but they are tracking them down and will get them on the plane.”

A half an hour later, when they closed the door to the flight, I asked the attendant to check to make sure our bags had made it. She came back and affirmed “all bags are now on board.”

The really good news: when we got to Venice, people were waiting to greet us and take us to the hotel. The bad news: our bags were not on board, and it took AdventureMan about an hour of getting a number here, waiting there, going over to talk to this person, and then than person, just to fill out the paperwork.

More good news – because we have had this happen a time or two in all our travels, we have all our electronics, toiletries, medications and two days of clothing with us, including our walking shoes. We are not happy, but we can survive. The water taxi takes us to the Molino Stuckey Hotel, where as he registers, AdventureMan upgrades quietly to a room on the executive floor with a view of Venice. As we walk in our room, we could be griping, but the room is beautiful, and this is our view:

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What’s a little missing baggage with a view like that?

We fall into bed and sleep for about an hour, then we get up to take a walk and have some dinner. There is a church I want to visit, within walking distance. It is chilly, and by the grace of God, I have a pair of jeans and a sweater with me, and my walking shoes. We head down to Redentore, The Church of the Redeemer, built to thank God for sparing Venice from the plague. It is simply beautiful, and we sit inside and let the peace soak into our bodies and spirits.

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The hotel is on Giudecca, a large island across the laguna from St. Mark’s. We love this location, and the residential nature of the island. As we explore, there is beauty everywhere.

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Along a side canal, we find a boat building shop, with workers putting together new gondolas:

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We are exhilarated. We had thought we would be exhausted, but we have done 10,000 steps and way more than 10 sets of stairs. We are in Venice, where the light and the water work together to thrill our heart in a new way every time we look. Here is something special for you; the sun going down in Venice:

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It was supposed to be raining. This is late October, and there are signs of rain, but there is no rain.

Dinner is at a small local restaurant, and it is divine. Is it divine, or does it just taste divine because it is our first night in Venice and we are a little jet lagged and maybe a little delirious? At Duo Mori we can eat overlooking the water, watch the vaporettos come and go, and dive into some Venetian specialties, a mixed appetizer plate with all kinds of fish and fish pates, followed by plates of spaghetti with clams and mussels, washed down by a carafe of wine. Service is slow. It’s fine with us. We are happy just to be here.
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The meal is delicious, and on top of that, we have been watching how the vaporetto passengers use their magnetized tickets to open the gate to get to the vaporetto they want. Tomorrow will be a new day, and we have all-day vaporetto tickets which will take us all the places we want to go.

 

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We walk happily back to the hotel, fall into bed. About half an hour later, dumb with sleepiness, there is a knock at the door, and our bags have arrived in Venice to meet up with us. All is well.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Hotels, KLM, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Values, Venice, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment