See Venice And Sigh

A classic bridge scene in Venice.

So I finally made it to Venice! There are many ways to get to Venice, from the train, car, boat, taxi, plane, and bus. I tried several times to get to Venice because everyone told me how amazing it was/is. This time, I told no one where I was going and went. When I landed, it was pouring with rain. My taxi driver had no umbrella. The rain splashed up my legs like clamoring cats.

Rain will not stop the tourists.

I bought an umbrella for 10 euro. I found my hotel and they suggested I try their affiliate restaurant for an early lunch. As my room was not ready and I was already wet, I decided to go see this city of mystery and passion.

Someone’s entrance.

There were many small streets and many canals. No trees in sight. I walked around and through puddles taking photos that I hoped conveyed the specialness of the buildings and atmosphere of Venice. Finally, I had spent enough time so that I could go to lunch. It was a lovely quiet place off the main drag. As an appetizer, the chef gave me a “cichetto” (a small open faced appetizer like a tapa) or whipped re-constituted dried cod (baccalo) on a piece of baguette. I was surprised that the appetizer was warm. It was soft. I then had excellent pasta. I was the only customer in the restaurant but the Bangladeshi cooks and the Italian waiter ate their meals before starting their work shift.

Look at the reflection!

Later, as I was finishing up, some Italian ladies came in bringing a cloud of perfume and shiny gold purses, to order their dinner for the pre-arranged dinner they had planned. I was a bit cold from being wet but as the sun came out, I felt that I needed to take a few photos with the blue sky as a background.

Normal people also boat for fun and sport.

Then, I took a nap. Later, I went on a group tour of the canals including the grand canal. It was impressive. I was reminded of the days of the grand tour when everyone was on show. Today, the tourists are not as elegant as those tourists from the nineteenth century but if I squinted, I could imagine them swanning about in their puffy sleeves and silk stockings.

A local.

At night, I was abruptly jarred back to modern times as I tried to find a place to eat that was not touristy or unavailable. I kept getting lost and eventually found a place where they would let me eat. The Three Lions was filled with French, German, and American tourists, but the place felt a bit like a secret place nonetheless. The waiters spoke French and English and they were quite nice.

Gondolas everywhere. The ride is about 80 euro for 30 minutes. Some gondoliers sing.

I went back to my fancy palace bedchamber and listened to the assignations on the street below as I drifted off to sleep.

One of the smallest streets I found.

The next morning, before dawn, I took a water taxi to the airport. At 140 (150 because it was night) euro, this was worth the private ride across the lagoon and into the svelte modern water taxi port at the airport.

The water taxi dock.

So, now that I have seen Venice, what can I say? I saw it. It was lovely and it was easy to find streets all to myself. Would I say that one must see it? I guess so. But, I do not think I would go back.


Cute Curacao

Can a place be “cute?” Yes. If it’s Curacao. According to Wikipedia, one of the explanations for the name of Curacao, is that it was an “island of healing” and cute. Okay, it only says stuff about healing. The photo shows some cute cucumbers with a less cute sized cousin.

Curacao is part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) right off the coast of Venezuela. Willemstad, the capital, is like a Caribbean Amsterdam (this was a Dutch colony and one of the official languages is Dutch), pretty buildings, and walking streets. The outer part, the Otrabanda, is a two minute walk across the pedestrian bridge from the downtown, Punda. But, just to show how small this place is, when I asked a shopkeeper in Punda (downtown) about something in the Otrabanda area, he looked at me wide-eyed and said that he didn’t know what it was like over there. Two minutes away…

When I tried to find a local snack place, I kept walking past the street I was looking for, because the blocks are so small. Of course, I did find the snack place. The photo is from my breakfast at the Royal Dutch Cheesery. Please note that the Dutch like to eat sprinkles (two boxes upper left in photo) for breakfast.

Curacao is less cute once you leave downtown, but that’s a different topic. It’s also kind of pricey, being an island and all… but as you can pay in dollars and credit card, you will probably be able to afford the cheese. Oh, and the blue liquor as you leave through your special cruise ship terminal at the airport… I didn’t, so I can’t tell you about that.

A Canal and a Container – Panama

IMG_2553When I arrived in Panama City airport, I saw lots of people but no signs for an immigration or arrivals. Almost like an afterthought. IMG_2560

Of course, I visited the canal. It’s a fairly easy 20 minute ride from Panama City. Some folks told me that it wasn’t worth it. I found it more entertaining than I expected. It took three hours to watch the film (an interesting version of history) which was fortunately short, and then to watch the huge container ship pass through the canal at some infinitesimally slow rate. I kept looking at the containers and imagined my worldly possessions passing through the canal while I watched from the side. For an hour.

During the passage, there were informational announcements including the nugget that it costs $350,000 (or more) in CASH per ship to pass through the canal!