~ Venice ~

After four days in Holland, we traveled from Amsterdam (sometimes called "the Venice of the north") to Venice, Italy another beautiful canal city and spent four days there. Both cities are amazing and similar in many ways...the canals of course, but also the wealth of history, the abundance of art, and the charm of European people and places.

Scott always takes shots from the plane as we take off and land. Above is the island of Venice with the train causeway link to the mainland. It's impossible to believe if you don't see it, but there are NO cars or trucks in Venice. No motorcycles, no bikes, no wagons. We did see baby buggies and two-wheeled dollies to haul boxes. Oh, and thousands of souvenir carts on wheels with all kinds of goods to sell to tourists like postcards, snacks, and trinkets. But the vast majority of transportation is by boat.
Of course, there are the traditional gondolas which are "classic Venice" and a riding in a gondola is a must-do for tourists. But Venetian families also use their gondolas to go places or just to enjoy a Sunday drive. There are also motor boats called vaporettos. They are water buses that have regular routes and move people and goods around the city. There are so many shops and restaurants, and it was mind-boggling to me to think that every single item is delivered into the city by boat.
Yes, everything is shipped in...even the "Coke Light" which I bought every morning from this cute vendor near where our hotel boat docked. I wish I had a better shot of him. He was so pleasant and cheerful. We saw this guy early early in the morning and then late at night - like after midnight - selling his sodas and chips with a smile on his face. I think he must work 18 hours every day. On our last day, I noticed he was sitting on a stool looking at an iPad. It made me happy that his hard work had bought him something special. 
So, for my birthday, which was our first full day in Venice, we took the grand tour by gondola. This is the Rialto Bridge which spans the Grand Canal and is the oldest bridge across the canal (one of about 400 bridges in the city). The bridge is lined with shops on both sides where you can buy anything a visitor would want... including cool, delicious gelato in dozens of flavors.
Everywhere are clotheslines with laundry hanging out to dry - often very high on the buildings and literally hanging over the canals. I marveled at the sight of it and wondered if they ever lose a shirt or sheet and have to run to the water below to retrieve the lost item. 
 Happy Birthday to me! It was a very nice birthday, though weird to not be with family and hear my mom and dad tell the funny story of my birth which they do every year with great delight. Our gondolier, Alberto, took our picture. He is a fifth generation gondolier and had to train for six months before he could actually do the job. Navigating the canals with so much traffic can be tricky - so it takes a lot of training. He was very handsome, but didn't sing.
Venice is built upon 117 small islands connected by canals - about 160 of them.  Along the canals are shops and residences. Many homes have the canal as their front yard and their front porch is a small dock for their family boat.
Scott had his guide book in his hand most of the time and navigated the city like a pro. We saw almost every highlight in that book. (And laughed at the commentary by the author/expert Rick Steves.) We walked and walked, but it was never tiring because around every corner was something delightful to see. And you couldn't walk 500 steps without coming to another outdoor cafe with a waiter out front inviting you to sit and eat. 
If you know Scott, you know that getting him to sit and eat is hard, and I had to stomp my foot a few times to get my pizza or spaghetti. This canal-side cafe was my favorite for the ambience. The food was good no matter where we ate. 

Venice is a city filled with Catholic churches - amazing, old cathedrals. This is San Zaccaria, a church dedicated to Zacharias, father of John the Baptist and supposedly contains his remains. It was built between 1444 and 1515 (yeah, we're talking OLD here) and is filled with amazing statues and HUGE, colorful, beautiful paintings.
This church is the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari or Frari. We had our most amazing stroke of luck here. We had walked all day and because of there was so much to see (and my constant pleas to pause and look at purses and jewelry), we arrived at the Frari after closing time. But that evening, there was a special piano recital in the basilica, and the doors were open slightly. We think they were just practicing because there was no audience - just a huge Steinway on a carpet in the middle of the main corridor. We slipped in and not only saw the incredible art and architecture inside but heard wonderful piano music as we wandered about. I was close to tears at the beauty of it all. 
I loved walking the narrow alleyways between rows of houses and shops. Everything is old - they can't really build new things because of expense. If they do, there are strict building codes that require a certain "old" look. The window box flowers and shutters are always charming to me and require a stop for a photo.
 Scott sketched several times on our trip. One scene was this one from the Rialto bridge. He stood on the bridge for about two hours and drew in his sketch book (he has such endurance). I wandered around the area while I waited, but I was a little nervous to be alone, so I didn't go far.

In the photo above of Scott sketching as the sun goes down, you can see a bit of red on the left side of the bridge about halfway up - that's where I wrote in Scott on the photo, so you'd know where he is. Scott always has people stop and look over his shoulder as he draws or paints and compliment his work or otherwise converse. It's also funny to see people crane their necks as they walk by to see what he's doing. I'll take pictures of his sketches and post them because they are very detailed and good.