Adriatic Trip: Misc. Notes on Venice, Italy

(I’m traveling now. Follow my trip with daily (more or less) tidbits at SpeedOfWhim. Anything more than a few sentences or photos will be posted here and linked to from the tumblr.)

The look on her face told me she was spent. The shoes resting next to her told me why. The shoes also told me she hadn’t thought about what it’s like to walk a kilometer on paving stones in them.

How not to visit St. Marks. Wander over about 30 minutes before opening time because there was no line the day before. Realize before you reach The Piazza that a cruise ship(s) docked overnight. Platoons sized tour groups snake through the streets, converging on The Piazza. Take one look at the line and decide to return later. Thirty minutes later realized that not standing in line was A Very Good Thing because you’d had a cappuccino, espresso, fruit and yogurt for breakfast, and nature called before you’d get inside.

Next to a fireplace in the Doge’s Palace an ornate bellows was displayed. I was examining the wood carving when someone asked their friend, ‘Is that velvet?’, referring to the cloth covering the accordion folds. At first I thought if a woman named Velvet married Gil Bellows, she’d be Velvet Bellows, which was followed immediately by realizing that’s one of the best porn star names I’ve never heard before.

Tour groups. I need to learn the following phrase in several languages: “Why did you stop your group right in front of door? Are you trying to be an asshole or are you truly that stupid?” As one might guess from that attitude, I enjoyed two aspects of lowering a shoulder and pushing through such a bottle neck. The first was the guide’s surprised look (which occasionally had a ‘who the fuck do you think you are’ component). The second was looking back, seeing others follow my path before it closed.

Walk. Away from the named sights on the map, away from the yellow line showing the direct routes, away from the names you recognize. Experience Gucci to Graffiti in 2 minutes. Tart to Plain Jane. High End retailers with anti-reflection, sparkling clean windows like those on Rodeo Dr. to shops selling boat supplies. Neighborhoods change as fast as walking between the lands at Disneyland. I expect Venice has always been like this.

Always look up while you walk. Shop windows dazzle. Artists spend years leaning how to capture the effect of light and shadow on man made objects, why not enjoy it in real time? Look up.

Can’t go in the Opera house except during an opera.

I want to see an Aussie life saving team surf boat helmsmen scull a gondola into a big wave at outside Waikiki Beach and ride it all the way to the beach.

While walking through lightly traveled streets, several times I saw a woman in a phone conversation that required body language. Broad, expansive gestures. A full range of expressions. Stopping, stamping and starting to make a point. Made me think of recent movies where much of a scenes power came from the non-verbal acting, be it subtle or dramatic. Also wondered are there noticeable cross cultural differences in how easy it is for budding actors to develop non-verbal body acting skills.

One woman pizza and sandwich shop. Take the order, put item in oven or press, return to window, take order, return to oven / press, deliver order, take order, etc. The shop was small, no more than 8 feet from counter to oven. The combination of tile floor, shoes and her physical grace allowed her to slide. So she slid. Turn, step, push, slide between over / press and counter. Never under or over shooting. It was work, play and dance all at once.

== Vaporetto

Leaving early? Ticket booth not open? Machine won’t take your 20? Machine took you 5 EUR note but the coin slot wasn’t open? Don’t despair. Board the vaporetto after you’ve spotted a crew member, tell him immediately ‘no bigetto’ (no ticket). He’ll handle it – but i wouldn’t want to try it with a 50 or 100 EUR note.

I thought of them for point to point transport. I’m in walking shape and expected to find my best photos that way so took one only when arriving and departing Venice. On the way to the train station I realized locals use them to cross the grand canal. A pass would be useful for someone trying to cram disparate sights into a single day.

== Photography

Never have taken so many vertical format shots.

The combination of clouds, varying widths of streets and Campos, differing alignment of streets to the sun and varying wall colors meant adjusting white balance before every new shot location. It also often meant that turning 90 degrees required resetting everything – white balance, ISO and exposure.

== Navigating Venice

Every tourist intro about Venice states you will get lost. I got lost. I can read maps. I didn’t stay lost.

Guidebooks say the maps are less than useful because even though seemingly every street intersection is marked, the names sometimes don’t correspond to the map. Two tips. First, if the names seem like they could be related though their Latin roots, they probably are. If you don’t know Latin roots (weird what stayed with me from studying for the GRE in 1977), make it a game and guess. Second is the signs may lie but the 3 Euro map sold everywhere is spot on for the street layout. It seems as accurate as an aerial photo. If you’ve recently left a known spot and are now at one where the streets don’t match the names, trust the streets.

Best use for the 3 EUR map was for WC locations. Keep 2 EUR in coins handy because the largest change one can get is .5 EUR. Signs abound pointing to the nearest WC but they could be more useful. Assume they point in the general direction, getting more specific and frequent the nearer one is to the WC. But also assume they’re part of an Italian government, not the model for reliability. So, as one passes intersections while heading for the WC, turn and look back. Sometimes you’ll see a sign pointing the way you came.

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