Mesmerized by a Silent Venice Night

cannaregio at night

It’s ten p.m. Ron and I have just finished another amazing Italian dinner. We stroll back to our hotel holding hands, wading in the silence. When we’re almost home, we stop at the top of a stone bridge. We stare down the canal. The air is cool and the water shines like polished marble. [Read more…]

Frantic As My Venice Biological Clock Ticks

venice grand canal at night


I only have two days left here in Venice. I want to get out there and see it all NOW. But I also want to record it in my notebook so I can remember all the little details that I need if I’m going to write about all of this later. I need to note that the natural pistachio ice cream I ate last night [Read more…]

Heaven on Toast: Venice’s Cicchetti

ciccetti venice

You know how at every party there’s that one person who scarfs down whole platefuls of hors d’oeuvres while everyone else nibbles politely? A person who eats so much when they first arrive that they barely have any room left for dinner?

Well, when I go to parties, that scarfer, is me! [Read more…]

Venice Less Traveled

Madonna Del Orto Venice

Is it really too crowded in Venice? I say yes—and no.

Yes, it’s hard to get around when there are dozens of people trying to squeeze through the same six-foot wide walkway to get to St. Mark’s Square.

Rush Hour Grand Canal Venice

And yes, the Grand Canal looks like the aquatic version of Interstate 95 at rush hour.

But if you turn off the main route, it only takes a couple of blocks until you emerge in an entirely different world.

passageway venice

Just pick a random passageway and walk away from the Grand Canal action. Quickly, you enter a postcard. It’s quiet, serene. A turquoise rowboat moors against a 500-year old brick wall. Light sparkles off the canal.

For a minute, you have Venice to yourself.

You stroll along the canal, look up at gothic windows with their characteristic pointed arches. Grip a wrought iron handrail as you cross a bridge.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli Venice

You wind your way through alleys and navigate bridges. You discover a columned church wrapped in marble panels. The varying shades of marble and juxtaposition of vein directions create a soft and elegant texture. It had to have taken years to piece the inlays into place. Just looking at the elegant play of shapes and colors makes you swoon.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli Venice

You cross an arched stone bridge over the canal. After pausing to watch a gondolier glide by, you choose your next passageway.

Gondola Venice

Once again, taking the effort to stray from the main path has paid off. You have no idea where you’ll end up. But do you really care?

Venice Past and Present

Breath by Mark Quinn, San Giorgio Maggiore

I didn’t show you a photo of the outside of San Giorgio Maggiore when I wrote my last post because I wanted to prepare you first.

You see, it is currently the Biennale, Venice’s biennial modern art extravaganza. Which means there is lots of modern art scattered around Venice. EVERYWHERE.

That includes on the tiny island of San Giorgio. That’s right, what you see in the photo is true: They’ve placed an 11-meter high, inflated pink naked lady right in front of Palladio’s masterpiece! She’s really very impressive, swaying gently as she lords over the Venice lagoon.

The pink lady sculpture is titled “Breath.” It’s the work of artist Marc Quinn and is an inflatable version of his marble statue “Alison Lapper Pregnant.” Alison Lapper is an artist who lives a very full life despite the challenges of having no arms and only truncated legs. The inflatable was used in the opening of the 2012 Summer Paralympics.

Why would you put a 21st century piece of art in front of a renaissance church?

I’m not sure if there is an official explanation is, but I’ll share my take. The city of Venice doesn’t want to be seen as a museum of antiquities, but rather a shrine of art and culture of all times. Incorporating modern art around the city is Venice’s way of saying, “Yes, we have a past—but we have a very rich present, too.”

As a woman who just turned 50, I can really identify with that sentiment. I too want to stay active and relevant as I age.

My initial reaction to the pink woman was WTF?!? but I quickly grew to love her. Alison Lapper  is a real-life super hero because she embodies the spirit of human persistence. “Breath” exudes her power. With her chin held high she lords over the Venice proclaiming, “Yes I can—and you can’t stop me.”

Besides, I’ve always loved giant balloons. My all-time favorite–besides “Breath” is Underdog from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

wooden head Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti

Another great piece of modern art we stumbled onto was this amazing head.* Its angled and flattened profile sits in front of Palazzo Cavalli-Francetti, a renovated palazzo near then Accademia Bridge, which is now a conference center. I really like the way it seems to be eyeing the gondoliers as they paddle up the Grand Canal.

*If anyone knows who the head artist is, please shoot over the name. I’d love to give him/her credit.

50th Birthday in Venice

Venice Grand Canal from San Giorgio

For my birthday, Ron and I rode the vaporetto (water bus) to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore to see its namesake renaissance church designed by Andrea Palladio. I studied Palladio when [Read more…]

Venice Finally

Canal from Accademia Bridge

Yesterday was my birthday. Yup, 50 is here. But it’s not so bad because I am in VENICE!

Ron and I hold hands and stroll along the canals. We eat canal-side meals. We scarf Pizza Margherita with amazing thin and perfect crust. You know the kind, crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.

We take things in slowly. One major attraction a day, with time left over [Read more…]

Surprise Gargoyles at Seville Cathedral

gargoyles seville

Gargoyles! I LOVE gargoyles.

I knew that Seville Cathedral, also called The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, was a gothic cathedral, but somehow I hadn’t expected to see gargoyles in Spain.

France, mais oui. The French have gargoyles pretty much everywhere. But Spain? I never even considered [Read more…]

Searching for Patrick Dempsey

Los Angeles Canyon Walk


A final greeting from Los Angeles.

Ron and Lindsey went on a walk through the canyon this morning. When they returned, Lindsey said they saw Patrick Dempsey on the trail. Patrick was walking a pair of big dogs.

Ron concurred, so I believed them. This is Los Angeles, so it’s entirely plausible that they might have seen Patrick Dempsey.

Then Ron said they also saw Samuel L. Jackson. And Cate Blanchet. Ron’s eyes danced as he told me this and his hands gestured wildly. This tipped me off that he was probably lying.

When I questioned him, he became indignant.

“Yes we did,” he said. “We saw Samuel L. Jackson and also Sarah Palin. Sarah was yelling at everyone. ‘Move to the right,’ she said. ‘Move to the right.’”

Perhaps they didn’t really see Patrick Dempsey either.

Lindsey was hoping to spot more famous people, so later in the day we took a stroll by the prescription pick-up at CVS. That’s where we ran into one of the stars from Pretty Little Liars last time we were here. Today we struck out, but we may go back tomorrow. Laugh all you want, but if you think about it, it makes sense. If there is one thing the grocery store tabloids have taught me, it’s that the stars need their drugs.



A Los Angeles Moment

Never Built Los Angeles poster

More greetings from Los Angeles.

Tonight I attended my cousin Sam Lubell’s exhibit “Never Built Los Angeles” at the Museum of Architecture + Design. I was walking through this amazing exhibit of very cool buildings that never came to be with my high school friend Barry.

Los Angeles could have been a far more interesting city architecturally if some of these projects had been realized. (If you won’t be able to see the exhibit, you can buy Sam’s book here.)

As we perused the exhibits, Barry told me about a film he wrote several years ago. This led to what Barry called “a typical LA moment.”

What happened was that a tall and fast-talking, slightly disheveled stranger interrupted us.

“Tell me your story about making a film. I’m making a film,” he said. Barry and I didn’t appreciate the strange interruption.

“I’m not a film maker, I’m a real estate broker,” Barry said. (Barry is a partner at Deasy/Penner & Partners.)

“Oh good, I can help you,” the stranger said. “People trust me because I’m an architect. If you ever have a client who is on the fence about a house, you can call me and I’ll tell them how great the house is so they’ll buy it,” he continued. Then he thrust his business card into Barry’s palm and said, “Call me, we’ll do lunch,” before scurrying away.

Barry and I laughed and shook our heads. What a nut, I thought. If Barry had said he owned a bakery, the guy would have probably said he could come over and ice some cup cakes. If Barry had said he owned a clothing store, the guy would have probably said he was an expert tailor.

First a filmmaker and then an architect on the take. The guy might as well have just walked over and said, “Whatever it is you do, let me in on the deal.” He was like a character that had been plucked directly out of a sitcom.

This was the point where Barry proclaimed the whole thing “An LA Moment.”

Now I understand how TV and movie writers get all those wacky ideas for their scripts. All they have to do to create an entertaining story is walk around Los Angeles and pull from real life.