Friday 21 March 2003

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The weather is beautiful, again.

We bought day passes for the public transit and took the 82 from San Zaccaria to San Georgio Maggiore. It isn't nearly as big as the Frari, but it's beautiful. No admission fee, and no ban on photography. We hesitated over the €3 fee to get up the Campanile, but we went. And as soon as we stepped out of the lift we knew it was the right decision. Great views of San Giorgio, the Guidecca, and Venice itself. The view from ground level was pretty good too. A really nice trip. We even got a free organ recital, since the organist was practicing.

We took the boat back, and walked to Cip Ciap. I got spinach and ricotta "pie" (crust all the way round, a slice) and Catherine got tomato and mozarella pizza. They sell by weight, which ultimately seems more fair than the arbitrarily sized "slice."

I bought some San Pellegrino "Chino" or "il Chinotto" at a grocery store a couple days ago. I quite like it. Same stuff is available in Toronto. Paul doesn't approve, he thinks it's just a pale imitation of Brio. I haven't seen that here at all. San Pellegrino sells several flavours, and water too.

We did a little shopping after lunch (one shop, looking for more paper), took some photos in San Marco, and caught the number 42 boat to Murano. Murano is very pretty, and quite similar to Venice in its layout - canals, structure of houses. The thing about Murano is the glass - it's been home to glassmakers for centuries. Some of that is for sale in the stores in Venice, and it's all a little ... garish. Loud and clashing colours, in objects ranging in size from a centimeter across to the size of a person. The fondamentas on both sides of the central canal have a truly astonishing number of glass stores. You expect a lot: there are more. We stepped into a couple of the glass factories to watch demonstrations. One worker turned a blob of molten glass into a rearing horse in a little over a minute. I think what amazed me most was that he did this while constantly flipping the blob over because it was sagging - his work material kept changing shape, moving, and yet he knew how to make the final shape. (Horses in plain glass - his was somewhat coloured - went for €8.) There was some spectacular workmanship on show in the stores, but I concluded that "tasteful" and "simple" are two words that have been excised from the Murano vocabulary.

We visited the ancient Santi Maria e Donato, much of which dates to the 1100s. Including the mosaic floor, which the later San Marco Basilica appears to have imitated. Free entry, no pictures. I got a picture of the back, which was heavily shaded. The front was worse, under scaffolding and cloth. The stone in the floor is rather battered after nearly 900 years - even after it was taken up and re-laid in the 1970s. But the patterns are beautiful. Like San Marco, mostly geometric, but some animals.

We rode the 41 to Ferrovia (the train station) where we switched to the no. 1, which stops at every stop all the way down the Grand Canal. It was late in the day so the light was uneven, but we got great views of the palazzos from the very back of the boat, which is open.

We rested in the hotel for a while, then caught a boat from San Marco to Accademia and walked to San Trevaso tavern for dinner (a recommendation of Fodor's - cheap and good). But. Even though it was only 1930, they had a one hour wait. Another place we tried on the walk back was also full. So we ended up at Barbanera. And actually this was not a bad thing: I got Spaghetti Carbonara which was very good (although it had no pepper and they didn't supply a grinder - I had to borrow pre-ground pepper off another table) and Catherine said her "Seafruit" Spaghetti was very good. We split an order of fried calamari (quite fresh) and I had some Tiramisu I didn't need. I got it because it's a regional specialty I wanted to have here.

I am so, so tired.

We don't know what we're doing tomorrow. Catherine wants to shop some more, I don't.

Oh yes, the toothpaste adventure. At 1845 I asked the guy at the desk for the nearest Pharmacy. "North 50 meters, right over two bridges, look to the left around Santa Maria Formosa." Very good instructions. I couldn't see the toothpaste and had to ask: he said "Dentroficia!" and pointed to a shelf. All the boxes were end-on, but it wouldn't have helped much even face-on - they were all Italian brands except for the Sensodyne. After a couple minutes of trying to read Italian, I left in embarrassment. Then I wondered why I hadn't bought the Sensodyne, but wasn't willing to go back. I remembered the "Su Ve" supermarket nearby, and went in there. Rows of wine first. Not much veg, I guess you buy that fresh. Happily, they had Colgate. Not Total, but out of curiousity I picked up the "Nuovo" "Colgate Herbal." Catherine says (and she's right) that it tastes like Ricola throat lozenges.

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by giles