Saturday, May 14, 2011

You say Burano, I say Murano...

Pardon the delayed posting, has been having some troubles as of late due to some sort of hacking issue, but everything seems to be running smoothly now.

In Venice, there are two modes of transportation: you walk or you float.  Sometimes, the two shall meet when one wanders the labyrinth of calli (lanes), mouth agape, staring up up up at the crumbling facades and the leaning towers, thus bringing on a float-like method of walking amongst the tourists.  One cannot get anywhere in a hurry, oh no, one must float through the crowds, thus being happily forced to browse the windows for Carnevale masks, marbled handmade paper goods, and glass shops proudly boasting that their goods were not made in China, but on the neighbouring island of Murano.  Ah, Murano…

But before I wax poetic and even share some in-the-moment poetry composed about Murano (by neither of us, but a guest blogger who gave me permission to share his words with our readers), I must recap a bit of the last several days on this sinking island.  As you’ve seen happen in the past, the moment Sarah and Steve come into contact with loved ones, frequent and punctual blogging goes out the window (and, in this case, bouncing off of the bridge and directly into the canal outside our studio apartment). 

Day #1 in Venice – well, actually in the ancient town of Bassano del Grappa

We are lucky to have an international group of friends in Vancouver (hi friends in Vancouver, we miss you!) who have connected us with many of their international friends and family around the world (remember Oz?).  One such connection was the ever-growing family of Shanaray, Roberto, and Thomas who welcomed us into their town of Bassano del Grappa 1.5 hours outside of Venice for an afternoon of sight-seeing, dining the Italian way, and catch up on the years since we saw them last in Canada.  Not only were they so lovely to give us their Saturday, but they walked us around for hours, just 3 weeks away from the due date of their second son.   When the amazing parents weren’t telling us the history of Napolean’s conquest in the area, or ordering an amazing meal for us (note to travelers: ask a local to order your meal sometime, you won’t regret it), their first son, Thomas, taught us how to eat cherries while sucking on a pacifier and say grazie the proper way (GRA-tzee-ay).  It was a lovely day out of the city with a lovely family – what better way to spend a first full day in Italy than with an Italian family?

Day #2 in Venice

We had an early treat happen 1 month before our official return to Vancouver – Vancouver friends came to us!  Well, actually, they were on their own amazing Ireland/Italy/Holland vacation, but through the mighty power of the interwebs, we managed to coordinate schedules and meet up for an evening in Venice, satisfying our growing craving for loved ones and making for a fantastic evening out on the town.  Our meet up time was a little thrown off by none other than Mr. Pope who was making a 5 million euro visit to Venice (security’s tight with papal people, apparently), but we managed to not only tell the Pope “ciao,” and we found our friends, Trish and Derek, amongst the thousands of people in the San Marco Piazza crowd!  An evening of prosecco, stories, toasts, memories, squid ink, and lots of self-pinching (i.e., “I can’t believe we’re seeing you in Venice!!”) enfolded, and we left happy travelers, excited for our imminent return to Vancouver at the end of the month.

The days since then…

We had one day to ourselves in the city, in which we performed our usual act of sitting at a café for hours, reading, writing, knitting, sharing our lunch with the birds, and people-watching.

Two days ago, we met up with my stepmom and her fiancé with whom we will spend the next several  days exploring the city. We’ve had a ball so far on the mainland (if you can call it a mainland), but managed to get away for the day to the island of Murano known for its glass art.  Just a 35 minute ferry ride away, Murano (and its neighbouring island of Burano, known for its lace-making) is a welcomed escape from the city, providing a quiet few streets filled will shops selling every type of glass art imaginable: vases, jewellery, sculpture, hair clips, chandeliers, wine stoppers, and endless delicate tchotchkes.  I’ve always been a fan of separating art mediums into different towns/streets/etc., so that one can compare and contrast without being overstimulated by a painting, or a carving, or something else to offset the beauty of the craft itself.  Murano provided such a separation.  The island seems to gather its mood from the medium – one has to be careful and gentle when walking around glass studios as violent sneezes or wayward backpacks can cost you thousands.  I received a well-deserved eye roll from Steve, the carrier of the backpack, when I cautioned him one or two times, “careful, hon…glass houses.”  But Murano is not just for the tourist with an eye on a beautiful (or tacky, in many cases) piece of art almost impossible to transport.  I was astonished by the number of elementary-aged kiddos on a school trip who seemed to be relatively successful in controlling their pre-adolescent limbs.  With the glass-blowing demonstrations and gelatorias, I can imagine the small town being a great place for the kids to get a sense for a different art medium.  If I were the teacher, however, I’d suggest on leaving the oversized school bags behind and sticking to the window-shopping. 

In preparation for our trip to Venice, Steve and I have been toting around The City of Fallen Angels by John Berendt (same author as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil).  In the nonfiction book, he details a dramatic story of one master glass blower whose son copyrighted his name in order to preserve his designs and open up a separate store to sell his father without asking.  Scandal!  There was quite a blow out between the family and the son and when the book was written in 2005, the family had not spoken for years.  We managed to locate the son’s store, but not the father’s – the work, however scandalous, was stunning and worth the hunt. 

Unfortunately for us, the majority of the studios asked for no photos to be taken, but we managed to capture a few of the day’s outing and the island itself…

We each walked away with some glass goodies and a fun adventure, though sadly, not enough time to head to the sister island of Burano, known for her lace-making.  As mentioned earlier, one of our traveling companions was able to put the day’s events into lovelier words than I could for which I am grateful and happy to share here:

Murano Island
Arched bridges of ochre punctuate the ancient canals
Where shoppers wander this island mall
In search of what’s hidden within fine glass.
What do we find to take home?
-Lama Surya Das

We’ve still 3 more days to go in this lovely city, staring out of our two-way mirrored studio apartment over breakfast at the self-examining passers-by (examples below of our daily spectacle), wandering for hours with family in and out of the streets and churches and museums and shops and cafés, and shaking our heads in disbelief that we have less than 3 weeks now before we touch down again in North America.  Fortunately, Venice has its fair share of North American tourists, so we’re being eased back into recognizing the accents (some may not find that a great thing, but I’m sure enjoying practicing my Southern, Midwestern, Tri-state area, and Canadian accents again – much to Steve’s chagrin).  This has been quite the trip of a lifetime, Venice being no exception to that feeling.  We’re not leaving yet, though, so more to come presto (soon) as we travel south through the delicious and exotic Italian countryside and cities – being careful of and intrigued, of course, by the glass houses along the way.   

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