Monthly Archives: September 2014

Ciao, Venice.

We arrived in Venice at midday. The bus from the airport swiftly delivered us to the Vaporetto, or water bus, where we boarded the #1 and crammed our luggage into the narrow bow seats. We waited expectantly. Once all were on board the boat pushed itself brusquely away from the dock and we chugged along the dingy green canal under a bridge and around a corner. I had to catch my breath.

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DSC_1790Wide-eyed I saw the Grand Canal unfurl before me with all the colorful,decaying elegance its reputation promised. Grand palaces of pinks and yellows and creams reflected in the water like a live impressionist painting. Gleaming wooden motorboats and jet black gondolas scurried in front of our path in a chaotic but graceful dance. As our boat meandered along, we saw great churches shining in the sun and centuries old iron gates rusting in the lapping water. The whole city seemed like a patchwork quilt fraying at every seem, but still you could see the golden thread that held it together.

Once on land, Venice up close proved just as mesmerizing as it did from the water. Every chipping door, every multi-toned window shutter leapt out at us in a technicolor spectacle. The stone-paved vias crisscrossed over the smaller canals which echoed with the musicians who (for a hefty fee) sang for the tourists in their gondolas. These crowded, narrow paths suddenly opened up onto St. Marks Square where the great basilica cast an intimidating shadow.

Why anyone would feed pigeons, let alone pay for the “privilege,” is beyond me.

Icky birds aside, Venice’s charm was not lost on us. And this is just as well, because it seems the Italians do all they can to keep Venice radiating that charm. However, Venice is, in many ways, just a shell of a city. Despite all of the richness in its past, without tourists, the city would have no future. Venice is more an amusement than a town now. Even so, I can’t say we weren’t tickled by its radiance.

DSC_1838The most colorful piece of the day, however, came not from Venice’s vistas, but from its tastes. Dinner that night, I think, gave us a little taste of a garlicky heaven. Just a block away from the Rialto Bridge there is a restaurant I’d recommend to anyone called Da Mamo. We arrived right as it opened, which was a good thing considering it filled up fast. Josh had heard that the restaurant was noted for its pizza, and that Venice was noted for its squid ink pasta, so we promptly ordered both to accompany our house wine. The food came quickly and steaming. On my plate sat the prettiest pizza I ever saw. On Josh’s plate sat the least appetizing black glob I ever saw. Neither of us expected, however, how fantastically good both dishes would taste. All of the flavors of my pizza melded into a harmony of freshness. The taste of the black pasta forced our eyes shut in a Remy-like stupor of colorful flavor explosions. Never before in my knowing Josh have I ever seen him treasure or savor a dish like he did that black goop. Indeed, I saw him tug the noodles towards himself on his plate as though he feared he’d forget to eat them.

photo credit: livefastmag.com

Then the next morning our host fed us this.

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Venice, I approve.

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sunset on the rialto bridge

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gondoliers on duty

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view from inside the bridge of sighs

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Filed under Inspiration and Creativity, Life is good and here's why, Photography, Travel, True Stories

Hello, Dublin.

We are a week into our journey. Dublin, Venice, and Ravenna down; Florence, Assisi, Rome, and the rest of Ireland still to come. Over the next few weeks I will post pictures and stories for you to enjoy. May these images and anecdotes stir your creativity, evoke your sense of wonder, and fuel your own wanderlust. See here for an explanation of Why I Travel.

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Dublin by foot.

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Colors of Dublin

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Josh and the Emerald Isle

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St. Patricks

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Thinkers of the Long Room

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When was the last time someone read something from the top shelf?

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I don’t know what’s going on.

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Filed under Inspiration and Creativity, Life is good and here's why, Photography, Travel

Photo Fridays, #3

Continuing with the Chicago theme…

I have always had a love-hate relationship with Chicago. I think a lot of people do. There is a scene in The West Wing where President Bartlet asks Leo, “What is it with people from Chicago that they are always really proud to be from Chicago but when I see them they are anywhere BUT Chicago?” Leo just responds, “You wouldn’t understand. It’s a Chicago thing.” Many times Josh and I have discussed the paradox wherein we can be so ready to leave and yet so grateful for where we are. Even when I bring this up with my Dad, he says, “I know. Chicago is a strange place–the weather, the politics, the (as he loves to put it) ‘topographical wasteland apart from the lake’. But somehow, I was always happy there.”

On the one hand, Chicago is far from an ideal place to live. Spring usually refuses to start until May, the people keep voting crooks into office, and the potholes can swallow your car if you’re not careful. If you want to go shopping downtown, be prepared to pay a 12% sales tax. If you want to get out of the city, just give up because there is nowhere that interesting to go within a few hours drive, and certainly no hills to climb. If you want to go east and west in the city, brace yourself to wait for a bus for an hour in negative temperatures or, if you have a car, brace yourself to sit in traffic behind EVERY red light on your route. Come to expect that, whenever you see the word “Chicagoland” in the national news, it’s never a good thing.

Despite these setbacks, it is still very strange to think of leaving Chicago for a new home. My brother, a San Francisco resident, recently surprised me by saying he preferred Chicago to San Francisco. “Why?” I asked, incredulously. He said that people were nicer, the vibe was more chill, and the food is hard to beat. All of these things are definitely true. I have made such excellent friends in this city. So much of what you need is at your fingertips, so you don’t get stressed about finding ingredients for a recipe or getting the right book from the library. And the food. Oh the food. In Chicago, the food IS the entertainment. Josh already did a search for Ethiopian restaurants in Nashville. There is one. It better be good.

Chicago can also dress up nice for pictures.

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Filed under Life is good and here's why, Photography, Running Commentary on whatever tickles the fancy