Trip report from Venice. Monday June 14th, 2004
Shopping and Strolling
It is the last day before we return home; time sure flies. There's a new couple at breakfast and another arrives later. It is definitely unusual to stay for a whole week.
There's some last shopping to do. At a small local supermarket they sell mostly biscuits and dried pasta. We buy some grissini and a small round cheese.
In a useless shop we buy a beautiful pen in Murano glass for my sister's birthday; soon she can practice calligraphy. In a cheese shop we buy Parmesan (1 kg) and Pecorino (˝ kg). 27 € and he can close for the afternoon with a good conscience.
In a shop nearby we have seen dried Porcini (mushrooms) much cheaper than elsewhere. He also has a nice selection of grappa, and when I tell him it's for a friend he gets a special bottle from the window, however I think that more than 20 € is too much considering the other bottles are priced at 10-11.
Then he remembers that maybe the price wasn't converted correctly from Lire to Euro and consults his pocket calculator. The price now drops to 14.90, and that seems fair.
This is probably where I get an old 500 Lire coin instead of a 2-Euro. I don't check the change and the coins look alike. So he got the extra profit anyway.
Back home we store the loot in the minibar and then walk to Rialto, over the bridge and into the main post office. This palazzo used to be the head quarters for German merchants in Venice.
There's a centre court with an old well and also an old 24-hour clock. The centre court is surprisingly large, but with a wharf at Canal Grande it has probably been useful.
We walk towards San Marco and the number of tourists and useless shops is incredible. Close to S. Mark's Square we find a semi-local bar, where we can get coffee and rest our feet.
Here people smoke freely. This is illegal, but acceptance by the staff can obviously be used in the competition. My pipe stays in the purse though.
Past S. Mark's Square is Harry's Bar. This bar is famous and I want to see why. I order two spritz, but in this establishment they don't sell spritz, says the white jacket, and instead we get a cocktail-list with drinks from a potent 10 € and upwards.
I have neither Hemingway's thirst nor Aga Khan's wallet and order two humble espressi, which we enjoy by the counter. Don't have a seat in places like Harry's unless your wallet contains an expense-airbag.
An A-merican enters with a pretty birdie in his wake. He is downright dirty and so are his T-shirt and jeans. His arms and face are bushy and haven't been mowed for days.
The white jacket looks stunned, but the A-merican bellows that he wants a table for dinner tonight. Maitre d', who is not in white, checks his papers and borrows the A-merican's credit card.
The reservation is fixed and the A-merican hands out shoulder claps and states: "And you'll be here?" and asks Maitre d' to write down his room number at one of the better hotels - "just in case".
I guess a flood or a gondola-bomb could force Harry's to cancel the reservation. A pair of clean shorts enters, but is discreetly and efficiently rejected by a white jacket: shorts are not welcome in this establishment.
Well, the espresso is ok and 2 x 2.6 € at the counter is cheaper than if you sit at Piazza Navona in Rome; but it is no better than at the local bar where it would be 2 x 0.85.
We sail to San Silvestro and have a sandwich at the local bar where the air-condition is almost as good as at Harry's, where coffee is 85 cents and where the floor has never felt Hemingway's or Aga Khan's famous feet.
Afterwards a bench in the shade on Campo San Polo and later a few steps to softer chairs at the Café with parasols. "Two spritz, please!" Many tourists pass by.
At another table close to us is a German family: a 2-3 years old kid, his parents and one pair of grandparents. While we are there they don't speak to each other except a few words from father to kid; they hardly look at each other, but concentrate on chilling the atmosphere. How nice to visit Venice with the family!
Behind Enemy Lines
THE FIDDLER's ELBOW is on a square 50 meters from Ca' d'Oro - just opposite Antonios' house. This is where they'll show the soccer match between Denmark and Italy on a big screen.
The pub is just opening when we arrive, so we go for a short walk in the neighbourhood. When we return there are a few rows of garden chairs outside the pub and we're able to get seats up front.
The "big screen" is a TV in the window, there's a loudspeaker over the door and two large parasols have been arranged in front and over the window for shade. Beside us is a young Danish couple.
People trickle in and soon the small square is full - it must be impossible to see anything from the back rows. Many sing along when the Italian anthem is played and whistle loudly during the Danish.
The match starts, and as the Danes have a clear dominance during the first part there is little basis for Italian enthusiasm, but when it does happen the square erupts.
Click for larger image
It is my duty to check the toilets; they are the very low squat type, the floor is flooded and you cannot lock the door. Helle makes her Kilkenny last until the match ends 0-0.
When the match is over everybody rises; nobody wants to watch highlights or replays. We go back to San Silvelstro and La Spada, where the mosquitoes and we had a tourist menu the other day. Helle gets an ok tourist menu, while I settle for a pizza with anchovies.
Nightcap and a Hysterical Woman
We cross the alley for a glass of Valpolicella at Vivaldi's. There are people dining, but we can stand by the counter where another couple, middle aged and far from sober, are having huge grappas.
The man says a lot in fast Italian, which we don't understand. However the repeated use of "Danimarca" and "danese" suggests that he is talking about the soccer match.
Between hiccups the woman says that we must certainly be English. We deny this boldly and confess to be Danish, which was very unwise, but nobody could have predicted the woman's reaction.
"Danimarca! Danimarca! Danese!" she wails loudly and dissolves in a flood of tears and snot. Oh my, what happens now?
The bartender tells them to calm down and the man leaves unsteadily. I make a strategic retreat from the wailing and go outside "to have a smoke", but soon the wailing woman follows escorted to the door by the bartender.
No peace here either! While the woman sobs and regularly bursts with "Danimarca!" she explains in a drunken mixture of Danish, Italian and English that she has lived here for 34 years.
She doesn't tell where she lived before that, but I do understand that her mother was Danish, so your guess is as good as mine. Finally she leaves; fortunately the alleys are narrow.
Having seen what grappa can do to people it is a must-taste. I ask the bartender for advice and he tells me that I can choose dry or sweet. That makes it easy: one of each.
The drinks are huge and very strong - the dry one in particular could clear drains. One glass is more than enough and we leave for home before we start to wail "Danimarca!".
Tuesday 15th June - Going Home
Check out is no later than 10.30. We have breakfast, pack and say goodbye. The bus leaves Piazzale Roma at 10.40 and we're at the airport half an hour later.
There's nothing to do but wait until the check in counter opens at 12.20. In the business class line is a girl dressed in shiny black leather and a lot of metal rings and buckles; I wonder how she'll pass security - naked or on the belt like a briefcase?
Surprisingly there's a smokers' area on the top floor and of course the very presence makes a visit mandatory. Signs say in English that smoking is not allowed outside this area, while the Italian text states that it is "seriously forbidden" - maybe no Italian will respect a plain "forbidden".
We find the gate and sit down to wait. The holiday is over.