November 25, 2005

11.19.05-- An American in Venezia

After traveling to Europe for each of the past 5 years, I have come to enjoy the journey as much as the cities themselves. The ache in my back-- the reult of sleeping with my head resting on the tray table-- never is quite welcomed; nor do I ever truly enjoy the symptoms of the cold that tend to develop as a consequence of the trip. (This year, Zycam considerably eased the burden.) I love, however, to listen to the variety of languages and accents. To play my secret game of "Are They American?" when 99.5% of the time I'm right. I love to hear the excitement of the voices of those around me as they embark upon or return from an adventure. This year truly has been an adventure for me. Though last year's trip to Barcelona was divine, it was also familiar and comforatable. I was outgoing and communicative. I wanted to practice my skills, so I made friends with everyone. Contrarily, this year, I am nervous and shy. I fumble, stumble and stutter. My desire to not be mistaken for "another stupid American" has led me to become "another American idiot." The bonus is, it is painfully obvious to everyone that I don't mean to be rude, that I simply don't speak the language. How horrid we Americans are-- we never learn the language! I will go to my garve angry that most Americans are fat, lazy, ignorant and, worst of all, monolingual! My first day in Venice was filled with wonderful missteps which took me to parts of the city that I had no intention of visiting. In an attempt to photograph the view from the Ponte Rialto, I crossed over the bridge, not thinking that this would lead me to a different bank of the river. (I know, duh! But, I haven't slept since yesterday!) I wandered through shops and squares, through lovely passageways that led to private waterways. I discovered that many streets in Venice, even main streets, start wide, but end very narrow-- enough so that only 2 or 3 people can pass-- and then continue on to a square. I wandered past many shops selling Venitian glass, through a market for tourists and a farmers market with fresh produce and dried fruit, and more varieties of pasta than even Grandma could imagine! There were dogs all around, but unlike in Seville, these were all on leashes and most were small. I notices many, many americans. Most were college students, all spoke only English. I remember last year that I did see some students around Barce -- especially at the Parc Guell-- but I wonder if perhaps my ability to pick up more of the language in Spain allowed me to filter out the English more? Along that line, I try desperately to use the bit of Italian I taught myself. However, my wacky brain does something interesting-- I learned long ago to shut off English when speaking onther language, and apparently I learned enough French that now my brain shuts off Spanish, too. I'm left grasping for words that are so obviously similar to Spanish and coming up with the French. Who does that? The bright side is that I can understand it all. Usually, so far anyway, I can just smile and nod. Works for Jessica Simpson, hopefully will work for me!!
What a wonderful evening I've had! First, I wandered around the Rialto for a bit, looking at the menus of a few sparsely filled trattorias. Then, I headed in the direction of a Piazza I had discovered earlier, near the Escuala di San Teodora. There, I simply followed my nose into an over-crowded Jazz Bar, so full I had to stand for a bit before getting a table. The waiter told me he liked the gnocci with quattro formaggi better than the Alfredo, so I got that with a FraBellini and then had a wonderful conversation with Mark and Vanessa-- a couple on "holiday" for a long weekend from Chester, England. We quickly determined that every patron in the bar spoke English (no idea why... and we chatted about Thanksgiving, NYC, Bush and Blair, etc. It was fun!
I followed dinner with a somewhat spontaneous activity that thrilled me to the core. Two years ago, on my trip to Paris, I booked my hotel in the Opera quarter, so as to have an opportunity to spend a "classy" evening out. Unfortunately, the hotel was off a side street and in a section I was comfortable walking in at night. Strike 1. Strike 2 was last year when I searched in vain to see an Opera in Barce.
Here in Italy, I got a fastball right down the middle!! The escuela de Teodoro was showing a lovely Baroque Opera for 22 Euros, so of course I went. The experience was wonderful!! The orchestra and Bass and Soprano were all in Period Costumes. The Band stood on the small raised stage at the front of the open room and when the Bass or Soprano was to sing, they entered from the back. It was lovely. The haromonies, the room itself, with its painted ceiling and high wrought iron windows. The fact that every seat was filled-- I'm guessing all 400 were tourists... And we all just appreciated the music. What a wonderful way to spend an evening. What a delightful welcome to Venice, to Italy!!

No comments: