Saturday, June 30, 2012

Crossing over

Though Venice's narrow calles and passages teem with picturesque curved bridges that provide passage over the rios and inner canals, there are few bridges that cross the Grand Canal itself, so if you want to take a short cut, you have to go by boat.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Moneychangers in the temple

You can't go to Venice without seeing San Marco Square, and seeing St. Mark's Basilica - so I'm told. So yesterday we took a tour of the famous church.

Its glittering 11th century glass mosaics really are amazing, and the huge, gaudy, soaring structure is pretty fantastic. It was a little hard to take in, because the crowds of people ebbed and flowed like the waves in the lagoon. You were herded onto a trail that moved pretty fast, up the side aisle, across the altar, and back down the other side. There were side rooms leading to chapels, the treasury and other sacred places that you could go into if you paid another fee upon entry, though.

I can't really show you any photos of the interior, though, because there were lots of signs prohibiting the taking of photographs.

The only ones I got were from the outside and in the foyer, where there was no such prohibition, near the souvenir stand.

They don't want tourists and their cameras to spoil the dignity of such a solemn house of worship.

House for sale

House for sale. Waterfront property. Historic preservation district.

A bit of a commute.

Actually, the commute was a delight - just 40 minutes on the vaporetto from Fondamente Nuovo, to the dock on Burano Island.  Compared to the 405 at rush hour, it's a breeze.

The place is a fixer-upper, though.

Italy beats Germany

After our daytime adventures, we came back to the flat and took a brief nap. But by 8:00 pm we were hungry, so we went out into the streets.

Strolling along Calle di Boteri, we passed cafes and trattoria where people sat staring at TV screens set up outside.

It was the big game. Italy was playing Germany in the European Championships. As we strolled past, shouts arose at exciting plays on screen.

We wound through tiny calles and sotoportegia, and everywhere we went, we could hear the announcer's voice amplified from unseen speakers, echoing off the ancient brick and stone.

As it got darker and darker and the moon arose, all you could hear all around was the sound of the television.

Everyone was watching the game.

We found ourselves in an open space - the Campo di San Aponal. Across from the church was a pizzeria, crowded with people facing multiple screens.

We asked for a table, and found ourselves right in front of the screen. We ordered a carafe of house white wine, a pizza margherita to share, and then like everyone around us - we watched the game.

Families sat together, watching the game.

Passersby stopped, sat on the well-head in the campo, and watched the game.

When a close play happened, shouts arose. Waiters rushed from the kitchen to watch the replay, and shouted again at the exact same moment.

The owner of the restaurant came out to watch, and when Italy finally prevailed, he held aloft a trophy and bore it triumphantly among the tables. He shook hands with all the customers.

The tension released through victory, we cheered and congratulated our tablemates. What a victory! We met April, from Chapel Hill, NC, and a young Nigerian man who now lives in San Diego. We finished our drinks and exchanged email addresses.

Then it was all over. The crowds fell away. Chairs and tables were stacked and put away. People wandered back through the campo. We found our way home to the Calle di Boteri.

 Italy advances to the finals!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Strawberries at the Rialto mercado
Here's a brief gallery of our first full day in Venice.

Scampi at the Pescado fish market.

A young painter tries plein-air watercolor, at the fish market.

A glass of wine and a snack at the Cantini di Moro

Two lovers kiss in a gondola, as it slips beneath a bridge in Castello. On the other side of the bridge, their gondolier was engaged in a verbal dispute with another boater. Here, two other gondoliers wait under an umbrella for fares.

Antiche Carampane

Not so crowded
Venice near the Rialto mercado on the evening we arrived was like a Disneyland - picturesque and crowded, with souvenir vendors and flocks of young people crowding the nearby campi drinking bright orange spritzes from plastic glasses. We escaped through a narrow alley and searched for a quieter refuge.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Benvenuto a Venice

Venice from the air - click to "embiggen"
 We dragged around Charles de Gaulle Aeroport for some 2 and a half hours, jet-lagged and stressed, with blistered feet from trudging all over the terminal. But finally we boarded the 3:30 pm flight to Venice and only a little over an hour later, we were flying over the Veneto and the lagoon.

We contacted our pre-arranged water-taxi, and rolled our bags to the pier. David, a bronzed young man dressed all in white called our name as we approached. He commandeered our bags and handed us onto a sleek speedboat with a covered saloon fitted up with tufted vinyl upholstered benches.


Well, we've begun our journey and as things go, we've stumbled into a few misadventures.

Our seats on AirFrance were what I'm going to call "Not-Coach." They were an upgrade but they were certainly not First or even Business Class. So they were not as comfortable as we'd hoped.  We did, however, snag the front exit row with loads of leg-room - in fact, there was a full six feet of room in front of our seats.

To our side was a young couple with two children, one an infant and the other a precocious and high-energy boy of about three. They colonized the three center seats and bulkheads, and also part of the floor space in front of us and on the starboard side.  Anyone with kids - that's the section to get  for future overseas flights!

Our plane was a giant two-decker Airbus, the biggest plane in the world, I think. It lumbered like an ocean liner down the runway.

We arrived at DeGaulle with just minutes to spare for our Venice connection, and that's where things went wrong. Following a confusion of signs, we searched for Terminal D, trekking for miles along moving walkways. We followed the signs and even the beckoning of uniformed employees, and found ourselves in a scrum of people going through passport check. "Is this right?" we wondered. Other passengers talked to staff about making connections, so we thought, weird as it seemed, this was the right place.

Yet after the stern-faced French policeman stamped our passports to enter France, we followed the signs and found ourselves out at baggage claim - on the street. What?

By this time, for sure we had missed our connection. I still don't know how we ended up there, but now our concern was to find AirFrance and get another flight. A kind person at the Info Counter sent us to AirFrance Customer Service....who sent us to another AirFrance Customer Service counter....where we waited....and waited....and then were finally helped by a pleasant young woman who promptly put us on the next Venice flight and upgraded us to Business Class!

"Just across from that sign, you can go up to the Business Lounge," she said.

Which is where we are now.

Of course, this plays a bit of havoc with our Venice connection to the watertaxi and our rendez-vous with our landlady - so the adventure continues.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thematic Photographic - Welcome summer!

Carmi, at Written, Inc., posts a weekly photo challenge called Thematic Photographic. This week, the theme is WELCOME SUMMER. Take a picture that supports this week's theme, then share it on your blog or website.

Click to "embiggen"

Ahhhhhh! the beach. This is Sycamore Cove in Ventura County, California. A picnic table awaits beneath a wind-crabbed tree, and gulls fly. Welcome, summer!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A nice send off!

We enjoyed a lovely brunch at the home of friends. Mimosas in the garden, bloody marys, delicious food. Lots of stories and advice about traveling in Europe - always welcome.

Here's the colorful aftermath.

Thanks to our kind hosts!


I just made a batch of biscuits and two mushroom omelets before [The Man I Love] reminded me we are invited to Sunday brunch this morning!

Who's hungry?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

In touch

The first time I saw Jack, he was curled up in a concrete kennel, his face close to the front chain-link, his chin tucked into his paws.

We took him out of the North Central Los Angeles Animal Shelter and brought him home to be part of our family.

He's managed to charm our friends and all the other dogs in the neighborhood with his playful yet non-aggressive attitude.

One of the things that's amazing about him is his connection to the physical world. He is a dog that delights in touch - the touch of a hand, a pat on the head.

When he is sleeping he often likes to brace a paw against a physical object - the wall, a chair leg.

He likes to be in touch.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy birthday to our son

Click to "embiggen" if you like.
 Congratulations to Our Son on his 24th birthday. He is now living in London and we hope to see him in a few weeks.

Here's a photo of him with me when he was small, on the beach in Kalaloch, Washington State. He has always been an explorer. I myself was a lot skinnier then.

The photo was taken by my brother-in-law, Davey.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Squeak Squeak Squeak

My office window opens onto a busy urban bus route, and the sound of traffic is always an undertone to my day. The bus brakes squeak as they pull up to the traffic light, and there are various other vehicle sounds.

So a persistent "Squeak, squeak, squeak" has been going on for a while now before I stopped to pay attention to it. I realized the sound wasn't out in the street, but very nearby, just below my window.

It's this little fellow - I took his picture through the blinds. Actually, it's a whole family, I think. Mama and Papa Mockingbird are raising a brood of chicks in the bushes under my window. They're imitating the squeaky buses as they ward off threats to their nest.

Before I knew it was a bird, the squeaking was annoying. Not, however, as annoying as other wildlife that's been under my window. I once had to call the police on a homeless couple having a complicated domestic relationship interaction in the bushes under my window.

I'll take the Mockingbirds any day!

Wood work

Well the first installment of the tree trimming has been done. A liability of living here in an riparian forest, our oak trees require a lot of work. There are eight large oaks on our property, not to mention some smaller trees in the creek bed bordering our property.

We split the work up into two installments - one yesterday to fulfill the Fire Department's requirement on deadline, with a second job scheduled in July to further the health of the trees. So yesterday there was a crew of four or more guys climbing on our roof and through the trees.

After - can you see a difference?
But Yikes! Installment One was a lot more work than we thought!

They took out this dead limb yesterday. But there's still a lot more to do.

There's still a lot of dead wood up in the crown of this tree.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Report Card

Bookstore in the Gallerie Vivienne, Paris

 Grades have been turned in at Santa Monica College. I got an "A" in my French class!

Delicioso, por favor

Although there's a lot of great Mexican food in Los Angeles, the Westside is not where it's usually found. But there are notable exceptions.

Tacos Por Favor shares a low, cinderblock building on Olympic at 14th in Santa Monica with the Libertad Soccer Club. The neighborhood, bisected by the 10 freeway, is where in days past the old Exposition Line streetcar ran. This part of town is built up with similar low cinderblock buildings - small factories, warehouses, auto supply dealers. There's a plumbing supply house a half block away. A stone and building materials company, where day laborers hang out waiting to be hired.

Though these places are still here, the neighborhood has changed even in the fifteen or so years since we first moved here. Now many of the modest industrial buildings house architect firms, independent film companies, software designers, event producers - part of what the City of Santa Monica calls its creative community.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Just a week!!

Wow, just a week before we fly off!!

Here we are at a Santa Monica restaurant this last weekend, caught in the reflection, enjoying a nibble and a glass of wine in the open air of the top floor dining deck of Santa Monica Place. We're both wearing pink!

But life is still a little crazy. I broke a crown at lunch last Friday, and spent two hours in the dentist's chair today getting a temporary crown put on. The work project is still going on, inching its way to the deadline. The tree service is coming out tomorrow for the first half of the job.

I hope you will enjoy the posts that follow from our trip more than these posts of frustration and impatience!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Thematic Photographic - Got the blues

Carmi, at Written, Inc., posts a weekly photo challenge called Thematic Photographic. This week, the theme is GOT THE BLUES. Take a picture that supports this week's theme, then share it on your blog or website.

Ah, the blues! In the garden, blue flowers are highly prized, although it is hard to find a flower that is true, primary blue.

Here the blues are more celestial, the color of a soft summer sky.

Agapanthus africanus is commonly known as the Lily of the Nile, though it's not a true lily at all, and hails from South Africa's Limpopo region rather than the Nile.

It's an impressive plant, with wide, evergreen strappy leaves that, in early summer, put up tall stalks with huge buds that slowly open, like strange space creatures, unfolding smaller buds within. Opening, opening, opening - and then suddenly they unfold with starry umbrels of blue.

They're drought tolerant, tough, and long-blooming - perfect for a climate like Southern California. These plants were in our front yard when we moved here almost fifteen years ago, and they're still going strong.

Get the blues!