Saturday, March 1, 2014

Venice is Sinking?

I have heard that Venice is sinking. I don't know if this is true. I suppose with rising seal levels around the world it probably is. I am so glad that we got to experience it now when Venice is still very much afloat and very much alive. We arrived in Venice during the middle of Carnival. I have to sheepishly admit I had no idea what Carnival was, nor that it was happening. Just two days before leaving several people said to me "Oh you are going to Carnival, how wonderful." I smiled not really knowing what they were talking about and just replied "Yes we are going to Venice, the kids are sooo excited" - to which they replied in genuine surprise touched with genuine horror "you are going to Venice with your children during Carnival? Don't ever let go of their hands!"  In response to this I smiled a little more faintly, thanked them for their advice and walked off wondering what could they mean?
Well there is only one way to find out. I admit I briefly wondered if I should cancel the trip, I had received so many adverse reactions, but my mother was coming to visit us. That would mean an extra pair of hands and eyes with the kids, and I had promised my son he would see the city where the roads are water and the cars are boats. We had to go.
So with great excitement and trepidation we headed to Venice. I can honestly say it has been the highlight of our time so far in Italy. The city is beautiful, stunning in fact with architecture so glorious in the sunshine it could make my five year old stop and stare in amazement. The streets are a maze of narrow alleyways, and it is true we never managed to leave our hotel room and NOT get lost even with a map in our hands. So yes it was important to stick together somewhat, as finding each other could be near impossible. But with one adult per child it really wasn't that stressful, the deal was you stuck to the kid assigned to you and if we got separated from the other adult/kid combo we were to backtrack to the last major intersection where we had been to together and wait. If all else failed we would buy another map and meet back at the hotel. In fact the experience was far less stressful then a regular day trying to get home from school in Florence. There were no buses thundering down the street 8 inches away from where we stood, and the streets being even narrower prevented the children from getting very far away at all, the Venice experience was quite relaxing.
As for Carnival.... we could not have chosen a better time to go. People everywhere in massive ornate beautiful costumes wandered through the streets. All with masks delicately painted and decorated with  feathers, jewels and gold. Many of them were period costumes from the 1600 or 1700's.  I was worried at first that the kids might be a bit spooked, but not at all. The costumed characters move around slowly, with a sort of grace almost spectre-like. There seems to be a costume culture in Venice, they don't speak or move quickly, there is a seriousness about it and they will stop frequently in an archway or on a small bridge and pose for photos slowly moving a hand, fan or parasol drifting from one pose into another. As night falls it is like walking through a city of ghosts of Venice's past.
The kids loved it and wore masks of their own. They would run up to pose with the masquerading characters. We were dazzled by the masquerading characters mingling with each other amongst the historical atmosphere that permeates Venice.
At one point the kids got their faces painted to really join in the fun. The Carnival attracts all sorts of photographers, professional and amateur who come to be inspired and take pictures. There are never ending opportunities for "that perfect shot". Once the kids were all painted they became part of the atmosphere that people come specifically to photograph. For a few minutes we got a taste of what life would be being followed by the paparazzi. Little adorable Sadee getting her face painted was enough to draw in a crowd of more than a dozen photographers with giant lenses, literally jostling each other for the best spot to get the best angle. I was killing my self laughing, Sadee took it all in stride, and all I could think was "thank goodness we are not truly famous."
With painted faces and masks we threw ourselves into the fray embracing our roles as tourists. We went for boat rides, a gondola ride, strolled on the promenade, ate multiple gelatos, went to the island of Murano to see the glass blowers, we drank $12 hot chocolates and enjoyed every sip. It was one of the best holidays of my entire life. It cost an arm and a leg, and thanks to my wonderful mother helping to subsidize the trip including our hotel room overlooking one of the small canals we lived liked kings... or at least like "high ranking nobles". It was the experience of a life time. I would encourage anyone who has an inkling or the opportunity - visit it before it sinks, you won't be disappointed!

For this post there are more photos than usual, there were just so many I wanted to share... it could easily be double what I have included below.

Departing for Venice, coffee's at the train station... a little fancier than "Tim Hortons"

We arrive in Venice, evening on the Grand Canal.

Venetian water ways.

Kai, the Lion, the Jester.

Lady in Turquoise

Sadee gets painted

The paparazzi arrive

Kai gets painted

Ghosts of Venice

Men in Black

Texting while driving.... it's still legal in Venice.

Living the good life. Our hotel room.

It's Carnival, everyone's in costume!

A floating city of light, wonder and colour.

Sunset on the way home from Murano.

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