Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Venice: glass and gondolas

Over the Christmas break, we loaded up the car for another drive to Italy. While the kids affectionately call the car “Blueberry,” I am not on speaking terms with it. Too many breakdowns last year, often in freezing cold weather. But even I was a little impressed. Our loaded down Volkswagen Touran made it up and over the Brenner Pass, the steep Alpine divide between Germany and Austria, not once, but twice. We went slow and enjoyed the views. The kids even put down whatever electronic toys and books they had and stared out the windows at the snowy Alps, close enough to touch.  With his ipod touch, Adam even took pictures of the mountains, throwing concerns about low batteries to the wind . It was just that beautiful.
We drove to Padova, a town famous as the setting for Taming of the Shrew and for Galileo. While we tried to enjoy Padova for its own merits (note our long trek to find Galileo’s Observatory Tower), we really just stopped there due to its proximity to Venice. We stayed in Padova at a hotel with thermal baths, the same hot springs the Romans enjoyed thousands of years ago. As we walked to catch our train into Venice, we passed an archeological dig of a Roman bath site. Coming ourselves from a multiple hour swim outside in heated waters, we all had no problem imagining life there thousands of years in the past.
Venice itself was lovely. With so much to see outside, we didn’t feel compelled to hit all the museums. The kids enjoyed taking the vaporetti, water buses, around. They stayed in the open air part of the boat, rather than go down to the partially covered seats. They waved energetically to other vaporetti passing in the opposite direction and all came down to tell us that they saw another family from school while waving. We toured the Grand Canal, getting off at St. Mark’s Basilica for one of our only indoor event of the day. Another time we took a boat out to one of the islands, known for blown glass. While we did not see anyone blow glass, we saw most of the components of glass and walked through a museum that at least showed us videos of the process. There on Murano, we found a café table in the sun. Unwilling to give it up, we let the kids go back multiple times for gelato until finally even Adam could eat no more.
The last thing we did there was take a gondola ride. When we were in Venice a long time ago with just baby Tori, we decided a gondola ride was not safe for a baby. While it may not be any safer, we went for it this time and enjoyed it. Our gondolier told us a little history as we went down the big canals before turning on to the little canals. On the small canals, we saw normal life; schools and apartments with little doors opening to the canal to bring in food and take out trash. It made me wonder what everyday life was for our kids. And then Royce tried to explain to our gondolier about the fake Venice she visited in a casino in Macau.  We are all a little lost in translation but enjoying the ride.


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