Arrived yesterday in Venice. Getting ready for a new kind of adventure. I haven’t posted in a while because frankly, I’ve been sick, anxious, and painful.
This trip to celebrate our 30th anniversary was supposed to start a week and a half ago with three nights in our favorite hotel in Paris, a flight to Athens, a night in a hotel where you can sit on your balcony and see the Acropolis lit up like an ancient memory, and then a three week cruise around the Adriatic.
Making firm plans is dicy when you are getting on in years. I don’t generally think of myself in those terms but maybe it’s time. My 62nd birthday was a couple of weeks ago. I celebrated while recuperating from gall bladder surgery and a subsequent anxiety explosion when I came off my pain meds all at once.
I know. Dumb.
Spent an evening hyperventilating in the ER and questioning my sanity. Follow up blood work showed I still had gut issues and an MRI identified pancreatic cysts from a congenital pancreatic defect that causes the digestive enzymes to back up and do to my pancreas what they are supposed to do to my food.
So. I have a possible stent placement in my future to fix that but by all that I read it’s an iffy procedure even if the top guy for doing it is at the IU Med School. I am disinclined to have any more invasive procedures. Right now I keep pain at bay by watching my diet and downing pancreatic enzymes made from pigs before I eat anything. It’s working out pretty well for me, if not for the pigs. This vegetarian strenuously objects. When I get home I am going to work on an alternative.
Meanwhile, we are in Venice. After I canceled the Paris/Athens/first week of the cruise portion we still had two weeks of cruise left which is actually plenty, unless you paid for three and failed to insure it.
I know. Dumb. (Hope that does not become a constant refrain.)
Because the planes were mostly full when I rebooked the outbound flight, I bought business class tickets.
Flat bed sleeping direct from JFK to Venice. Shocking waste of money, but I was cozily grateful as I snuggled under my Westin Heavenly Bed comforter. My restless legs meds knocked me out. I declined dinner and woke up to Alps and Lake Maggiore out my window.
So we are at the Hotel Metropole, centuries ago the site of the world’s first orphanage (they say) and also where Vivaldi wrote the Four Seasons. One of these things is more romantic than the other.
Our room is lovely. Just redecorated and positively decadent looking (the wall mirror is actually a gilt framed TV.).
It’s all lavish and fun except the bathroom which is positively Trumpish in its grotesque use of gold. Gold tile. Even gold grout. The concierge said, “Don’t drop your wedding band on the floor — you’ll never find it.”
At least the faucets are all chrome, so there is that non Trumpian-element.
It’s supposed to be a junior suite but it qualifies by only a smidge of extra space. No one who knows me will be surprised to hear that I brought it up with the concierge. He offered to move us this morning but I told him we’d rather stay put but pay the deluxe room rate. He said “of course, madam,” which either means, “of course that is what we will charge you” or “of course that is what you want.” Very smooth, these Italians.
Anyway, we got in, had a light lunch of pig enzymes, a cheese sandwich and what is essentially a caprese salad, and San Pellegrino, which really does taste better in Italy. Then we conked out for a couple of hours of strange jet lag dreams.
We woke up in time for our dinner plan, which was to hire a water limo type thing to cruise us around and give us an overview of Venice, before depositing us close to Il Nuovo Galeon, the place we had booked for dinner after shaking the concierge down for his favorite restaurant, not the one he recommended to clients.
It was idyllic. Imagine a limo, leather seats, bar, etc., but floating. It picked us up at the Metropole and we spent an hour cruising the city, because you can, ending with a long romantic run down the Grand Canal.
The sky was a golden blue, the air soft on our faces, the smell of salt scented the air, gondoliers had lively conversations with each other across the water as their passengers took selfies on fat cushions, and the ancient buildings sitting low in the water glowed with the setting sun. If I could invent Venice from scratch, this would have been the result.
Our restaurant was a short walk from where the taxi left us off, away from Venice’s summer hordes. It’s a tiny place, decorated with many, many carrier bags, the kind you forget to keep in your car to pack your groceries. They came from all over and hung from the ceiling — a singular and cost efficient decor.
We had a table outside, pleased to note that most of the patrons spoke Italian and only one middle-aged waiter could cope with our English. He asked if we wanted menus or preferred to leave ourselves in his hands. His hands, of course. He asked us a couple of questions about our preferences and left us with a basket of rock hard breadsticks and rolls. Ah, Italy.
Before he disappeared I asked him to take our picture, which he did, holding the phone tipped at odd angles. The restaurant was named after a ship he explained, so he was making the photos look like the deck was pitching in the waves. Funny man.
The first thing that appeared on the table (after the rolls) was a “gift” of fritto misto of slivers of vegetables, served on brown paper to soak up the oil. Fried food are not on the pancreatic diet but I was well fortified by pig pills so I had a few. Ethereally crispy, intensely flavorful. A gift indeed.
While we were nibbling, our first course showed up. Served in a can which only emphasized its freshness, it was the evening special of spider crab lightly mixed with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. I thought it was lovely, though it made Jerry remember that he is not all that fond of crustaceans.
Next up was fettuccini for Jerry with prawns and zucchini. It was lemony and fresh and tasted of the sea. I had another special of the evening — eggplant parmigiana — because how could I not. When he mentioned “eggplant” as a possibility my eyes lit up like a million fireflies and he knew he’d hit the jackpot.
It was incredible. I ate only half, determined not to have an attack of pancreatitis our first night out. Paper thin eggplant slices with chewy melted parmigiana in savory tomato sauce, it was not your Italian grandma’s eggplant parm. Why it was so good I couldn’t tell you. It was a mess to look at, a clumpish mix of cheese and tomato, covered with still more cheese and a single basil leaf, simple as could be, and exquisite. I had to force my hand away from the fork at the halfway mark.
The restaurant by now was crazy busy. We had a hiatus in order to realize how full we were. Fortunately we were splitting the main course — grilled branzino, filleted and served with potatoes and an asparagus sauce. Again, nothing to look at, but flavorful beyond words.
Totally stuffed, we wandered back to the hotel. Up one side of a bridge, down another, along the canal. It wasn’t long, but I was dizzy with tiredness and humidity by the time we arrived. It’s probably the longest I’d walked since surgery and the end of a very long day.
As I fell asleep in the canopied bed I drowsily reveled in the fact that, finally, finally, we are here.
On the agenda for today — a free ride over to Murano where they hope we will buy expensive chandeliers, and then lunch on the fisherman’ island of Burano. Possibly dinner at Harry’s Dolci. We are tourists, after all