We had our first bummer day on Saturday; our sixth day in. We came to Venice with no agenda, and I only had one thing in particular that I didn't want to miss. We were content with the idea of taking it easy, and getting lost in the maze of narrow streets and canals. Instead we allowed our cool, but on script, hoteliers guide us to restaurants and must see locations. Their final score came to 4 out of 10 things that panned out. They told us that on Saturday, with the main island packed full of weekend tourists, we should take their free water taxi ride to the island of Murano, famed for their blown glass, take a look around, then catch a ride to Burano to have lunch at the famous Da Romano for "the best risotto in Italy".
Finally feeling over the jet lag, we slept in to the luxurious hour of 8 o'clock, and took our time getting ready for the day. We skipped breakfast so that we would be ready for a big lunch, and headed downstairs to catch our ride to Murano by 11. I was served a piping hot cappuccino to enjoy while we waited for the taxi to arrive. It was a little too hot, and I barely had a chance to sip any before the boat was ready, and I reluctantly left the delicious drink behind. The boat ride out turned out to be the highlight of the day.
A look back at the bridge we crossed on our train ride in.
Bland building, but I it was cool seeing people hanging out on the steps, presumably waiting for a boat to pick them up.
Not what we expected. We docked at a hotel/studio, and were led without explanation to a small workshop to see a master glass blower demonstrate his craft while a barker explained the process, materials, and years of apprenticeship involved in italian and english.
Dog and pony show aside, it was a pleasure to watch a skilled craftsmen at work. Fast, fluid, and extremely confident every step of the way, this guy was in the zone. Like NASCAR, or Cirque du Soleil, I sensed the small crowd waiting for the glass to shatter or for a small glob of molten sand to fly off and end the show in screams and panic. There was a tip jar, we tipped, and headed out to see what the rest of the island had to offer.
Unfortunately, the rest of the island seemed to consist mostly of shops selling glass. "It's a trap!"
After popping into a few showrooms, then seeing store after store extend down the main drag, Julien and I tried to steer clear of the retail scene and find something compelling about Murano.
I thought their dumpsters, found throughout Italy, were super cool. They would look at home on any airport tarmac.
Sweet wrought iron window grill action.
Check out those knockers.
Julien: "It's like Frodo's door. Knob in the middle. Green. Only, not round."
Cute shutter catches. They had faces on both sides.
Brick crenellations, YEAH!
Way to photobomb
my well pic Julien! High five.
Some cool glass, I guess, I don't know anymore.
This guy summed up our cynical view of Murano.
We spent more time than we should have wandering around, and by the time we took the 30 minute vaporetto ride to Burano, lunchtime was over. Most of the restaurants close around 2 or 3, then reopen for dinner between 5 and 7. With a sense of despair washing over me, we made our way to Da Romano, hoping that restaurants located so far from the main island would stay open and take advantage of the weekend surge of customers. Being a 100 year old restaurant, and local favorite of politicians and other notorious Italians, they weren't too worried about catering to a bunch of whiney, sweaty, and late tourists. The kitchen was closing as we entered. The waiter we spoke to was kind enough to check on what was available, but risotto wasn't among the few seafood heavy dishes listed. Saddened, I said thanks, and we exited to find the rest of the restaurants in the square shutting down as well. Angry at myself for being late, and grumpy from the commercial experience on Murano, I stalked back to the docks and took the hour long ride back to the main island.
Back in Venice, tired, grumpy, and famished, we argued and took a few wrong turns trying to find a killer place to eat to make up for the disappointing day trip. Julien was prepared to eat anywhere, but I was being stubborn and didn't want to settle on a mediocre meal. I had read a positive review by chefs touring Italy of Trattoria Due Torri, and it was back at Campo Santa Margherita, where Julien fed the birds. Supposedly it was popular with local workers. Having a destination improved our moods. Unfortunately, the meal, bruschetta with canned mushrooms and artichoke hearts, heartburn inducing penne all'arrabbiata, and another pizza margherita for Julien, was mediocre.
We were full, and in good spirits, and Julien decided to head back to the hotel while I waited for the bill. I asked him if he knew the way, and he assured me he did. We were 10 minutes from the hotel, in familiar territory, so I bid him adieu and watched him walk off in the wrong direction. He corrected his course, smiled and waved, then headed off. With one waiter, and and a lot of full tables, it took me about 20 minutes to settle the bill. Taking the most direct route I knew, I was back at the hotel in 10 minutes, and a little annoyed after knocking on the room door for a few minutes and getting no response. Either he's in the bathroom, listening to his headphones, asleep, or…*gulp* HE NEVER MADE IT BACK!!!???
I got a spare keycard from the front desk, asked if they had seen Julien, they hadn't, and entered the made up room with no signs of Julien having been back yet. Trying not to panic, knowing that this was our last agreed upon destination, and hoping that he found a relaxing spot on the way back to stop and read or listen to music, I took a shower and sat around for awhile. With mounting concern, but no logical next step in mind, I dressed and prepared to go down to the lobby to use the internet and wait. Then the door opened, and I wish I had a photo of the look on both of our faces. Mine would show relief, and the tension releasing, while Julien's would show wild eyes and exhaustion. The 10 minute walk had turned into an almost 3 hour adventure with one wrong turn. I'll let Julien tell his story in the next post.
We had a good laugh about it, and while Julien got cleaned up and rested, I went down to the hotel bar, had a few drinks, and tried to blog, but my host, Posterous, was under attack. I struck up a conversation with hotel staff members, Simon and Carlo. We talked travel, sports, and family. It was a nice way to wrap up a bumpy day.