Thursday 20 March 2003

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It's another glorious warm sunny day in Venice - and Bush has started a war in Iraq. When we arrived, we noticed dozens of "Pace" ("Peace") flags hanging from balconies and in windows. Today a good number of teenagers are also wearing them. Catherine has been turning on the miniscule TV in our room (10 or 11 inches) and watching the BBC.

We got up late and wandered around the San Marco Sestiere mostly in search of marbled paper. We had a stand-up lunch - three sandwiches and a bottle of water for €5 - in a small place off Campo San Luca(?).

I eventually bought two sheets of marbled paper (about 2'x2', €8 each) and Catherine bought a lined hardcover notebook with marbled covers.

We made our way to the train station via the north side of Cannaregio (an area we've both taken a liking to). We got to Madonna dell'Orto, "arguably the superlative example of ecclesiastical Gothic in Venice" (according to the guidebook). The front facade is wonderful. After I found out I couldn't take pictures inside (and having caught a glimpse of much of it from the entrance) I opted not to go in for €2. Catherine didn't either. Fortunately there was enough room out front to take pictures, and it was in direct sun.

To visit Catherine's friends, we bought a couple train tickets for Castlefranco - €7.25 return. The train goes through the extremely industrial town of Mestre to get out to the hills. The trip might have been worth it just to see trees and grass again. There are a couple public parks in Venice: we haven't been to them. I'm not usually prone to claustrophobia, but the closeness of the city does seem to have gotten to me a little.

Jan and John picked us up at the Castlefranco station. Driving out of Castlefranco (in the Fiat Punto Georgia State has lent them - he's teaching two classes here) the land is quite flat. In 25 km you're in rugged hills. John called them "the pre-Alps," properly the Dolomites. No peaks with snow on them, and too hazy for good pictures, but it was beautiful. They drove us to the Canova temple to satisfy our tourist impulses. A Roman building - except it was built about 300 years ago, built by someone as a monument to themselves. There should be pictures.

Then to Asolo (pronounced "Oslo"). Asolo has no level ground, and very few roads that can pass two cars abreast. The drivers were reasonably polite, pulling over to let another car pass when necessary.

We wandered some, then visited a wine bar called "Enoteca Alle Ore" where I had the "Storica Nera" grappa. Storica Nera is made with (the remains of) black grapes, and its 50% alcohol. Very strong flavour, sneaks up on you. Very interesting, not sure I like it ... Finally a very good dinner at Due Mori. I had tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and "speck," a kind of ham. I finished with Nardini Grappa Bianco, the brand John recommends.

Jan and John are vehemently anti-war and anti-Bush. We talked a lot about the war. And then we talked a lot about movies. We hope to introduce them to Udipi and the Vietnamese place in Gainesville when they get back.

We missed the last train from Castlefranco so they drove us to Treviso and we leapt onto a train we were pretty sure was the right one. Fortunately, it did get us back to Venice.

I'm beginning to think grappa doesn't interest me enough to carry bottles (and probably have to deal with checked luggage). The Conti di Cavour was as close as I've come and I don't like it as much as scotch. I enjoy cultivating strange tastes, but if I don't like it as much as scotch ...

We're probably going to Murano and San Giorgio Maggiore tomorrow. Opposite ends of Venice, but what they have in common is needing a transit ticket.

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by giles