11 December - On A Boat

Justin was up at 04:45, as there were people talking outside our room in the square (Campo Manin).  He couldn’t get back to sleep, so he left the hotel around 07:30 to check out the town before it was packed.  Crystal woke up just before he left, and she spent the morning reading, doing crossword puzzles, doing some Hungarian homework, and doing Duolingo.

Justin started his walk by going over to the Rialto Bridge.  The bridge was totally empty, save for 2-3 people and 1 rat.  Then he walked over towards San Marco, and saw a stray cat on one of the streets.  He told the cat where he could find a rat a quarter mile away.  There was mist, but not rain, and he hoped there would be no umbrellas necessary today.  It was low tide this morning, so he was able to walk in the middle of the square.  He saw Doge’s Palace was going to open at 09:00, and that St Mark’s would open at 14:00.  We should have gone to St Mark’s Basilica yesterday, as we should have known that it would be closed on a Sunday morning.

Since we had a 72 hour boat ticket for a fixed price, Justin decided to take the water taxi, getting on near Doge’s Palace and taking the slow boat up the Grand Canal.  There were stops seemingly every 2-3 minutes, but he wasn’t in any hurry.  The hard part was trying to avoid rain or mist on the camera lens.  The wind was blowing droplets around, so even though the boat was covered, near the edges of the boat water would randomly come in.  He probably had to dry off the camera lens over a dozen times.  On the boat ride he saw the Accademia Bridge finally - it was much less fancy than Rialto.  

He got off at the Rialto Market stop, just west of the bridge.  He then backtracked to a spot he saw from the boat, which seemed like it would have a great view.  It did, but it came with some puddle jumping to get there.  He then got back on the boat at Rialto Market stop, headed back to Doge’s Palace, which was now about to open.  He’d pinged Crystal to see if she wanted to join, but she was enjoying a lazy morning.  Arriving at Piazza San Marco, the area looks much more impressive from the sea than the land; it must have been imposing for arriving ships back in the day.

Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, was the residence of the Doge, who was the head of the Republic of Venice.  The palace was built in 1340, and refurbished several times, often after fires, getting an updated style each time.  Justin paid only moderate attention to the audio guide, so he doesn’t remember much of what was special or fancy about the palace, but one room was very clearly impressive, one of the largest rooms without any supporting pillars he’d ever seen.  There was a ton of artwork on the ceilings, and the craftsmanship to put up - and keep up - all that weight on the ceiling was probably due to the Venetians’ skill as shipbuilders.  It’s hard to imagine how the ceiling was installed and able to hold all that weight.  In one of the rooms (perhaps that same room) is the largest oil painting in the world.  The end of the tour went across the “bridge of sighs”, which goes between the Doge’s Palace and the old prison.  Going across it, Justin wondered why it’s such a big deal, other than everyone treats it as one, so it is.

Justin came back to the hotel around 11:30.  We met Dewey and Clarita downstairs around 12:15, giving us some extra time to walk over to the restaurant in case we got lost.  Our lunch reservations were at Taverna Al Remer.  Justin had originally attempted to book it since it was supposed to have a view of the Rialto Bridge.  But when someone from the restaurant got back to him, he said there was no view of the bridge from inside the restaurant, so we held off making reservations.  But then after the Trento dinner where everything was booked, we decided to just pull the trigger.  So today we finally met Carlo, who had gone back and forth with Justin over email.  He was initially taken aback when Justin asked “are you Carlo?”  He was extremely kind and outgoing, just as in email.

The restaurant was a very cozy, relaxing place, and not too busy.  It was fairly dark inside, to the point where everyone had to use a light to read the menus.  Everyone but Clarita ordered a pappardelle with a duck ragout, and Clarita got fried lamb loins - it was the first place we could recall seeing lamb fried like that.  Before our mains, we split a meat and cheese plate, plus some burrata.  We ordered a cabernet from the Carmenere region, but didn’t remember to take a photo of the bottle this time to record the specific producer and vintage.

Crystal was going to go with her parents to a glass museum on Murano in the afternoon, but decided at lunch that she felt like continuing her “beach day” at the hotel room.  So after lunch we went back to the room so Justin could grab his big camera, and Crystal chilled out, spending the afternoon reading and enjoying a few glasses of wine.  Justin walked over to the Accademia Bridge, which he’d gone under multiple times in the morning.  Then from there he got on the boat (getting his money’s worth out of that 72 hour pass) and headed back to San Marco, intending to visit the campanile and St Mark’s Basilica.

On the boat ride, Justin smacked his head pretty good on a short doorway, and he worried about having a Bob Saget situation, so he texted Crystal to ask her to keep an eye on him overnight.  At San Marco, the Basilica line was long, but the campanile line was not, so he started there.  The view at the top (about 80 meters up) was spectacular, but it was also very cold and very windy, with the wind coming off the Adriatic from the east.  When he descended, the line for the Basilica was still long, and he was a bit worried he wouldn’t get in before they closed, but the line moved at an okay speed.

Thankfully it was no longer raining, with just some occasional mist here and there, and no one around was using an umbrella.  Everyone in line was up on a raised walkway, which wasn’t necessary at the moment since the tide was low again.  Standing in line provided a good opportunity to check out the outside of the Basilica, and some of its artwork and statues.  There was lots of construction and repair work going on around the square, so the buildings weren’t looking their best.  We have no idea whether this is the “norm” or not.

The inside of the Basilica was full of mosaics, which seemed similar to the ones on the second floor of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.  After perusing the ground floor, he went up to a museum on the second floor.  With the museum ticket he also had the ability to go outside on a rooftop deck-type area, in order to get views of the square and of Doge’s Palace.  The lights for the Christmas tree and for the surrounding buildings started coming one by one when he was outside - it was about 16:30 at this point.  After getting his fill of everything, he took the boat again, heading back up the Grand Canal.  Some of the buildings along the way were very nicely lit, including the Aman hotel where George and Amal Clooney got married several years back.  Back at the hotel, Crystal was finishing her book, and Justin was attempting to review the over 500 photos he’d taken today.  

We left for dinner, along with Dewey and Clarita, around 19:00.  Our restaurant was in the Dorsoduro neighborhood, on the other side of the Grand Canal, and it was easier to cross the canal by boat rather than by bridge, especially since the water taxi stops seemed to alternate from one side of the canal to the other.  So we walked to the Rialto boat stop, and then went about 3 or so stops to the Ca’ Rezzonico station.  From there, our walk was a straight shot down one road to the restaurant, Pizzeria Al Profeto.  

Inside it seemed super local, but after we sat down we realized everyone was a tourist.  The food was still great; hence the tourists who’d found it like us.  Clarita ordered a Capricciosa pizza (ham, mushrooms, artichokes), Crystal ordered a Maddalena pizza (mushrooms and olives and spicy sausage), Dewey ordered a Noviembrete pizza (radicchio, mushrooms, cheese), and Justin ordered gnocchi with oxtail ragout.  Dessert was semifreddo (kind of like ice cream or gelato), one chocolate, one cream, both with Baileys sauce.  Dewey really enjoyed these, and mixed the two of them after everyone else finished.  Our waitress had green eyes that were so vivid we wondered if they were contacts.  

On our walk back to the boat we saw the moon, which meant the clouds must’ve dissipated, right as we were about to leave.  On the boat ride back towards Rialto, there was a dog on the boat, and he stuck his head out under the gate so that he could take in the view.  His name was Gas (we’re thinking maybe short for Gaston, but not sure), and his owner told us that he was a true Venetian dog.  Back in our room, Crystal read whilst Justin watched the “Witching Hour” of NFL RedZone.  He also went through some photos and uploaded some of the best ones.  We both went to bed a little after 23:00.

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