Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Beautiful Venezia

Last month we decided to go and visit Venice for the day with some friends.  It is about a 3.5 hour drive away from here to Mestre, then you can take a train or bus, (if the trains are on strike!) over to Venice.  You can actually drive all the way, but as it was a Sunday, the parking was free in Mestre and the parking in Venice is expensive.

From the station we took the Vaporetto, a water bus, down the grand canal. It was so beautiful.  The buildings are so grand, and even though they show the signs of aging, they are still so majestic. It was a bit of a rainy day, but we were spared the rain on our trip up the canal.  It was so fantastic to see the gondoliers as well as the fancy boat, water taxis.

There was so much to look at, it was hard to take it all in. We rode under the Rialto Bridge, which was truly wonderful and full of people.  I can't imagine how busy it must be here in the summer or even during Carnivale.

 We passed under the Accademia bridge, a large wooden bridge, originally meant to be temporary, but later reinforced with steel.  We were heading to the Punta della Dogana to go to the contemporary art gallery.

First stop however, feed the children, who had been great so far on this car ride and boat trip.  We were fortunate to find a little sandwich bar that we were able to duck into while the skies opened up.  Even local painting students took refuge, saving their paintings from the rain.  We had a quick sandwich and a glass of wine and headed off to the gallery.  I was feverishly snapping pictures of buildings, bridges and canals along the way, too beautiful to only commit to memory.

We enjoyed the Dogana, the space is absolutely fantastic, with high beamed ceilings and views out to the canals on either side.  It really is an amazing exhibition space. There were some great works of art and the children (ours plus 3 of our friends) enjoyed wandering around and taking some time to do some sketching.

We decided we would then walk to Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square).  We wound down narrow streets, over small canals and past the Guggenheim.  I was like a journeying back into time. The railings and grates on windows and doors were ornate and beautiful.  I was completely take with the little canals.  Mieran was a bit upset there were sidewalks.  We made our way across the Accademia Bridge and onward to San Marco, stopping along the way for some cioccolato caldo and cappuccinos.

The piazza was full of people and luckily the sun was out, we enjoyed the views around us.  It was so wonderful to see this famous Piazza that I had seen so many time in pictures.  We walked toward the canal looking back towards the Punta Della Dogana.

From the Piazza we took another Vaporetto back down the canal towards Palazzo Grassi, to another fantastic contemporary art gallery.  Molly was excited to see Jeff Koons Balloon Dog, I thought it was pretty fantastic also.  I enjoyed both galleries, but I preferred the exhibit at Palazzo Grassi.

We wandered back through the streets and stopped for an aperitivo, and grabbed a snack for the children, before making our way back to the main station and then back to our cars.  It was a busy and wonderful day.  I took nearly 300 pictures!!  I just can't express how excited I was to be there in Venice, a city I had so longed to see.  It met all of my expectations and I vowed to return for a longer visit another time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Giro d'Italia

The Giro d'Italia is a long distance bike race that tours around Italy, much like the Tour de France.  It is held over 3 weeks in May/June each year.  My sister and brother-in-law, both keen cyclists, let us know that the Giro would be coming right past our house.  We decided we would go and cheer on the Canadian riders including Victoria's own Ryder Hesjedal, who is the first Canadian to ever wear the maglia rosa (pink jersey).  Sadly he lost it by 17 seconds the day before we were going to cheer him on.  Finn is very keen on cycling and last year had his picture taken with Ryder after the Timbits Challenge in Victoria, so he was pretty excited to watch the Giro.

We drove to Rigutino, not far from our house.  We got there early, brought some sidewalk chalk and wrote 'Go Ryder Go' with a maple leaf in the middle of the road, being careful not to be run over by the vans selling souvenirs, we couldn't believe how many went past.  We of course bought some t-shirts and hats with 'I (heart) Giro' on them.  Funny it is in english, not Italian.

There were a lot of people around and it was fun to see all the cars and motorbikes go by, not to mention the anticipation of watching this great event.  We were quite close to a roundabout where quite a good size crowd had gathered, many to cheer on a local rider Daniele Bennati.  I am fairly certain we were the only Canadians in the area.

The first set of riders went by, a small group of about 4 or 5 riders, then shortly after, the peloton.  As it is a large group of riders moving about 35 km/hour we just yelled 'go Ryder go' to the whole group.  We did see Ryder towards the back of the peloton and though we waved our signs and were only a few feet from him, I am pretty sure he did not see us.  Sadly we had left our Canadian flag at home, which I think would have stood out a bit more.

We all had fun, it was a great experience and amazing to see the amount of support and just how quickly this pack moves through an area.  Within minutes the road was reopened and the traffic began to flow, almost like nothing had happened.  All that remained were some chalk markings along the road.