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Marseille . . . Again

John Liu
3 months ago

Just a placeholder post, for logistical reasons. I'll update this thread in a couple days.

Comments (92)

  • Islay Corbel
    2 months ago

    That recipe looks good but it's usually much simpler. You can see that it's not a French recipe LOL Just half the yolks mixed with mayo - home-made essential if you want good eggs - topped with the mimosa 'flowers' and perhaps half an olive, sprinkle of parsley..... nothing more. It's the mayo that counts, more than adding capers, shallots.......


    John Liu thanked Islay Corbel
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Getting from Marseille to Venice was surprisingly tiring. We took Ryanair, because we are cheap. That meant getting up at 5 am, not a good start to the day, and after the ”hurry up” came the long ”wait” for a plane that was very tardy indeed.

    When I was young and a dedicated backpacker, I’d comfortably stretch out on the airport floor. I’m too old for that now, but DD and DS still have the elasticity of youth.



    Instead, I hunched on the hard plastic airport chair, headphones on, listening to my ”Environmental Sounds” playlist. Rain in the forest, thunderstorms in the mountains, crashing ocean waves . . . all soothing escape from modern air travel and complaining children.

    “If you don’t behave, dad is going to listen to rain” was said more than once that day.

    Finally, after Uber, plane, bus, vaporetto, and ten flights of stairs, we were installed in our AirBnB. DD and DS scuffled over the bedrooms. DS claimed the room with a larger bed and a view of the campanile of St. Marks. DD was relegated to the small room with a Murphy bed. They agreed that in compensation, the bathroom at that end of the apartment would be DD’s private facility, a pact that was promptly broken, to more squabbling.

    I listened to Rain In The Forest.

    The children retired to their respective rooms and immediately fell asleep. I set up my office in the largest bedroom. Alas, one screen has succumbed to travel, but I still have four working screens and a cozy place to work.



    Then it was time to do the stairs-vaporetto-bus journey back to Venice Marco Polo airport to meet the arriving SWMBO. None of the seatback USB outlets on her flight from Portland were working, so she had texted me from Amsterdam to warn that her phone was about to die, so if she wasn’t met at the airport and escorted to the apartment then she, or someone, would meet a similar fate.

    For some reason the express bus from Piazza Roma to the airport stopped along the roadside and we were all herded onto a normal city bus, which proceeded to crawl to every local stop on the way, passengers frantically checking their phones and flight times. I imagined SWMBO expired at baggage claim, inert iPhone in her hand, and even Crashing Ocean Waves didn’t soothe.

    Finally we were back in the apartment. It was night. I looked out the window and decided the day had been worth it.



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  • Islay Corbel
    2 months ago

    “If you don’t behave, dad is going to listen to rain”

    Magic!!! Glad you all got there in the end!


    John Liu thanked Islay Corbel
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    This is the elegiac view from the bedroom claimed by DS



    compared to the prosiac view from DD’s bedroom



    DD has been bossing her employee DS around all summer, so perhaps he saw it as a proletarian uprising.

  • Gooster
    2 months ago

    Love the dynamic with DS and DD --- her being the boss and then being punished with the smaller room. Not certain how that worked, but that is what soothing rain sounds are for. Your descriptions of the journey to Venice brought back flashbacks of our own planes/trains/autos/vaporetto/walking journey. It is so difficult to get there..... look forward to the eating reports.


    I now have a hankering for eggs mimosa and scallion pancakes. BTW, my own flight arrived Sunday and all the flights were super packed. Not a seat available.

    John Liu thanked Gooster
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    I am just going to post a few pictures today.




    Early morning at Rialto Mercato. DD wants to cook.




    The variety and size of the fish was intimidating. DD settled on a big bag of mussels.



    We’ll try meat later, after we go to some restaurants and get some ideas.



    First you rehearse what you’re going to say in Italian, then you say it, and then you have no idea what the shopkeeper’s reply means.



    The produce is so good. In our limited experience, the quality of the raw foodstuff is even better in Italy than in France, although we like the cheese in France better, while the cooking techniques in Italy seem simpler - but that’s all just generalities. Edit: DD is waffling on the first part of that, as she is loyal to France.



    This is the view from SWMBO and my bedroom.



    DD seems pleased with the morning’s shopping.

  • morz8 - Washington Coast
    2 months ago

    I want to go shopping too! There is nothing even remotely similar in this little beach town. Thanks for sharing these experiences with us.

    John Liu thanked morz8 - Washington Coast
  • party_music50
    2 months ago

    Eye candy!

    John Liu thanked party_music50
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    I’ll show you more of the sights later, for now here are a couple posts about the food we are eating here.

    DD has a group of Italian friends in Marseille. D___, who is from Venice, sent her a list of his favorite eating and drinking places. The next three pictures are from one of them.


    Squid ink is often used here, for dramatic black color. This is cuttlefish in an ink sauce, with polenta.



    Unlike in Marseille, in Venice seafood is everywhere.



    SWMBO has a thing for deep fried calamari.



    DD made this tomato basil burrata for breakfast



    To go with these omelettes and mini-sausages



    For one dinner, I made a mussel, white wine, and mushroom risotto, with DD’s mussels from the market.



    DD also contributed a salad



    Another of D____’s favorite haunts is a wine bar. We stopped for prosecco on the way to his recommended lunch place, and ended up staying for lunch. This is very thinly sliced beef, not raw but sort of a “corned beef” flavor, with a tasty cheese.



    We also had a cheese selection. The creamy one was our favorite, it has a horseradish tinge and, it turns out, was from France.



    Creamy fish - what would be called rillettes in France and I’m not sure what in the US, a terrine maybe? - is often on the menu here. This one was delicious and huge. As in Lucca, the waitress stopped us from ordering more, so we didn’t embarass ourselves *too* much.



    SWMBO’s appetite gave up early



    This campo, S. Giacomo da l’Orio, where we ate outside at the wine bar, shown here with the red awning, may be one of my favorite places here. Spacious, with a food store, a few cafes and restaurants, a pretty church, trees and grass and dogs, residential and peaceful, mostly local people walking and eating and sitting, it is a place where I could see myself living.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    For SWMBO’s birthday we went to “Zanze XVI”, a small restaurant by Piazza Roma that recently received a Michelin star. This was a new experience for me, whose food habits run to home cooking, street food, ethnic cuisine, and humble local eateries. I’m sure I’ve never even tried a Michelin reviewed restaurant in Europe.

    I liked it. A lot. Probably not enough to make a habit of such dining, but how often does ones spouse have a birthday in Venice?

    One reason to sample highfalutin food is to get ideas and try new flavors, so I was happy that Zanze’s cuisine was inventive, a mix of “reimagined” Venetian specialties and Japanese influences. Unfortunately, I didn’t take notes as the dishes were introduced, and the menu was not all that detailed, so my descriptions of the dishes will be rudimentary.



    Also, as we got into the third hour, I was getting more worried about my stamina than about trying to remember the ingredients in each dish, only about half of which were listed on the menu or pictured here.

    Yes, it was a very long evening, starting with



    Raw fish on rice crackers, and two kinds of seaweed butter and little boules. We regretted eating so much bread, later.



    Seared cuttlefish, called ”Italian sushi” on the menu, on rigatone



    Octopus- green pea soup with a dashi base, or ”cassopipa”



    Bisque risotto with raw langoustine, the brilliant red is beet powder



    Rigatone with a crunchy topping, I don’t recall what it was, and the green sauce is an herb, that I also don’t recall. DD says it was sunflower, and the leaf was nasturtium



    steamed fish with veloute sauce



    Beef, I think tenderloin, sous vide with three sauces.



    That’s gelato…



    Which impressed DS



    And a sort of unstructured tiramisu



    We left the restaurant near midnight, impressed, full, tired, and took the empty vaporetto water bus down the Grand Canal to our place by the Rialto bridge, which we are about to pass under in this picture.

    Inspired, we watched “Iron Chef” on Netflix.

  • sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
    2 months ago

    Nice to see your travels. I spent a few diffent times in Venice with friends and was fortunate to be invited to dinners with wealthy parents of co-students.

    I always prefer a home/rental/vrbo/air-b-n-b. Coming across random markets with such good produce is intoxicating without a kitchen to enjoy. So nice to see a travel home with a kitchen. hillarious DD/DS relations.

    John Liu thanked sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
  • lat62
    2 months ago

    Thank you for sharing, I try to convince my husband that I am SHMBO and if he will get on board, maybe we'll make it to Venice someday ;))


    The pasta herb sauce, could it have been nasturtium, since that looks like a nasturtium leaf? Tasty peppery flavor, heading out to garden now to see if any of mine are left as it is full-on fall here.


    Enjoy and safe travels, thanks again for this post, fun to follow especially for a stay-at-homer like me.

    John Liu thanked lat62
  • annie1992
    2 months ago

    First, happy Birthday to SWMBO, and what a glorious celebration.


    I did laugh about your children's interactions, that reminds me of when my girls were teenagers, LOL. Instead of Rain in the Forest, my "punishment" was CCR. The girls kept arguing, "Bad Moon Rising" got louder. I think they both still know all the words to "Looking out my Back Door". (snicker)


    The food wasn't nearly as good, and the scenery not as beautiful, though...


    Annie

    John Liu thanked annie1992
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    We photograph and, where possible, pet cats whenever we find them. In Venice, most of the cats we saw were adorning shops. The bookstore by our AirBnB has a particularly sweet orange tabby and we’ve gotten to skritch him.






  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Two mornings so far, we took the short walk to Piazza San Marco for sunrise.



    One of the pair of great columns of the piazza. I read that in ye olden centuries, the space between the columns was used for executions and superstitious Venetians avoided walking there. Today people must be less superstitious, or perhaps some refresher executions are needed, as I saw no change of traffic pattern here.




    Among the workmen loading and unloading boats, waiters setting out tables, and commuters walking to work, are people carrying large cameras and heavy tripods, stationed at key vantage points with intent, shuttered eyes.

    I used to be one of them. On our year of traveling with baby DD, I carried a video camera, a pocket camera, a 35mm Canon kit, a full 6x6 Hasselblad kit, and a robust Manfrotto tripod. Easily 50 lb of photo gear. We returned with fifty rolls of undeveloped film, and never developed it. By then, it didn't matter to me.

    We didn't say things like "living in the moment" back then, but I had begun to sense that the lens and viewfinder were getting in the way of seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, and being. Life rushed on after our return, and those rolls sit, still undeveloped and by now perhaps aged beyond processing, in a box in my house. Sometimes I look at them and think of the memories lost; other times I decide to be grateful for the memories kept. It was arrogance, perhaps, to think that we could always return to those places and find them and us as they and we were then. But that would be regret, which I try to avoid.

    Today, of course, all that photo gear lives in my iPhone, along with so much else that we used to carry - maps, guides, addresses, notes, boarding passes, even money. I take photos with the magic mini-slab, but only quick snaps, and I no longer use large cameras and long lenses. I still love and semi-collect camera gear, and have brought an old Nikon F2 with some B&W film on this trip, but more as a talisman than anything. I carried that Nikon to the sunrise, but didn't use it, and only took a few shots with the iPhone. The images above were taken by DS and SWMBO. DD lives even more in the moment, and took no photos at all. She is too young for regret.

  • Islay Corbel
    2 months ago

    Not a raw fish fan. Your beef here would be called viande de grisons. It's seasoned and dried and originally comes from the Grison region in Switzerland. Often eaten here as part of a raclette.

    It must have been magical going home by boat surrounded by all that beauty.

    John Liu thanked Islay Corbel
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Torcello is a marshy island to the north of Venice, and the original settlement in the lagoon. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, as barbarians invaded what later became Italy, some people fled from the mainland to this island. Protected by the ocean, which the land-bound barbarians could not cross, they built a town and basilica, an outpost of Christianity and the former Roman civilisation.

    Eventually the island settled lower, the navigable channels turned marshy, and malaria and plague drove the settlement of 20,000 to the neighboring islands of Murano, Burano, and finally Venice. Torcello was abandoned and reclaimed by nature. The basilica and its buildings survived. A handful of inns were built centuries later, and today they are themselves very old. Perhaps fifty, or fewer, people still live on Torcello.

    In 1948 Ernest Heningway lived in Torcello, writing his penultimate novel, “Over The River And Into The Trees”. Like much of his work, it drew from Hemingway’s own life and experiences. By the late 1940s his writing had increasingly turned to themes of aging and mortality, and so did this novel. One of his saddest and, today, least read, works, overshadowed among his later work by “The Old Man And The Sea”, the novel written in the small yellow inn on a canal in a nearly deserted island is among the many works inspired by Venice and what people find here.


    The Basilica, whose plain exterior conceals elaborate mosaics.


    This is the ”Devil’s Bridge” according to legend.



    Hemingway shot ducks in the marshes at Torcello, and so did his protagonist in “Over The River”.

    I took almost no pictures of Torcello, preferring to sit in the sun, enjoy the open space and quiet, and thinking about what Hemingway was thinking about here.


    More about Torcello here: https://educated-traveller.com/2018/06/08/torcello-island-of-legends-locanda-cipriani-hemingway-and-venice/

  • Gooster
    2 months ago

    Lovely photos at dawn in the Piazza --- it is so wonderful to see it in that light and without the hordes of people. The morning light is wonderful. (My last trip was grey and in an acqua alta / high water time) Happy b-day to SWMBO and thank you for the culinary tour through that inventive dinner.

    John Liu thanked Gooster
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    I want to come here in the dead of winter, high water, the most unfavorable weather!

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    It has been an eventful day.

    DS left for Portland. At Venice airport security, he realized he’d taken one of our two sets of apartment keys with him, and shortly thereafter he lost his boarding passes. Some panic ensued, frantic texts between him and SWMBO, with me studiously refraining from lecturing him about what he should have done (use his effing brain, etc). He eventually got new boarding passes and is now somewhere over the Atlantic, hopefully wiser and sleeping.

    Meanwhile, our friend T___, who is joining us for a few days, was having a bad travel day. Her flight from Portland to New York was delayed, she missed her connection, stayed overnight in NY - whether in a hotel or in the airport, I know not - and made an alternate connection through Paris. SWMBO went to the airport to fetch T____, and reports that T____’s luggage is lost so they are returning with just her carry-on.

    No word on whether SWMBO was able to fetch the keys from the airport lost and found office where DS dropped them.

    I was a spectator to all this, because it is my “rest day”, and other than a delicious veal liver and polenta lunch at another of D____’s recommended places - here’s a picture, and another of DD’s swordfish carbonara





    - I have spent the day doing laundry, cleaning the apartment, napping, laying on the couch, listening to the two jazz CDs amid our host’s huge classical music collection, and now I will post some random walking around pictures, in no particular order, just to try and catch up.



    A very upscale department store, truly a temple to mode and designer labels. The shopping in Venice is remarkable, unless you gravitate to vintage and secondhand merchandise, like us, in which case we have so far failed to crack the code. But we’re still trying.



    The Venice Jazz Club, where a very capable house band plays jazz and bossa nova standards. DD did something to our table - pushed it with her foot, she says - and dumped ALL our drinks on the floor in a bellyflop of ice cubes, Alperol, and shattered glass. The poor waitresses were mopping and scooping while nearby patrons scrambled to lift their purses and coats out of the flood. I found an urgent reason to go outside for the next two tunes.



    Rush hour. The density of boat traffic is incredible, with vaporettos (water buses), water taxis (shown here) and gondolas, trash boats with cranes, cargo boats loaded with crates and bricks, police boats and little runabouts with mom and two little kids headed off to school or wherever, all deftly twirling around each other in the narrow canals. Everyone is skilled, they handle their craft with aplomb, boats don’t collide, there is less drama than in the typical Costco parking lot. Even when the ambulance boat comes through, siren whooping, it is all no big deal.



    This is how trash containers get hauled away, on garbage boats with cranes



    I am obsessed with Venice’s water taxis, Their sleekness, elegance, convenience , luxury - or so I think, as I’ve never ridden in one. Maybe this week?



    If you are lucky enough to have a door into the canal, receiving is easy. Otherwise, hard-working men have to cart your goods through the narrow alleys.

    P.S. SWMBO got the keys at the airport, T____ had emergency clothes in her carry-on, and - referring back to a post from Marseille - J____ got a cute apartment not far from DD’s place. In fact, a number of DD’s friends have recently moved to her neighborhood or nearby, so I guess they’ll converge on Bar Mongouy.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Venice is a place for one ’s imagination and fantasies.

    Mine run to the dark and murderous, a product of a childhood reading too many Raymond Chander mysteries and similar stories in which everyone is a murderer, an accomplice, a witness, or a victim.

    Many years ago, I unfortunately also started reading Donna Leon’s atmospheric crime novels set in Venice, and am now convinced that corpses lie in every alley and float in every canal, waiting for Commissario Guido Brunetti to bring their killer to justice.

    I look for them everywhere.



    Perhaps in one of these gondolas, a gondoliere who saw too much lies murdered



    Or in one of these windows over looking Piazza S. Marco, a countess has met her fate?



    What dark cargo is this water taxi really carrying?



    Is this man with the hat coming from a gruesome task?



    Who dares venture down this grim alley?



    I really want to be here during a terrible winter storm, someday, with high water, rain sheeting, and lightning flashes illuminating the murder victims who, according to Leon’s novels, litter the city.



    If we interrogate this cat long enough, perhaps she will tell us what she saw, unnoticed from her perch in the store window. Where are all the bodies, kitty?

  • annie1992
    2 months ago

    Oh no, cats are notoriously suspicious. You'll never get her to spill her secrets.


    Find a parrot, though, they never shut up! Yes, it really happened right here in small town Michigan. The parrot just kept repeating "Don't f***ing shoot", in a voice that sounded much like his owner, the murder victim.


    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40665520


    Absolutely, find a parrot, they'll squawk!


    Annie



    John Liu thanked annie1992
  • l pinkmountain
    2 months ago

    At what point will you be starting your career as a travel writer John??!!

    All I can say is "THANK YOU" for sharing your adventures and allowing us to have some virtual thrills!

    You're making me want to retire to Europe, I think the lifestyle suits me better . . . but my family history with Germany is not good, and I don't know much about France and my French is beyond rusty. It would probably have to be Great Britain, the lowlands of Scotland where my peeps hail from or the Netherlands/Friesland which is the damp chilly wetlands area . . . just like home . . . that's not exactly even Marseille as far as all the street culture and outdoor venues possible in a Mediterranean climate.

    Italy would be great if I spoke Italian . . . I have a friend who already has an exit plan for his ancestral Greece. I have relatives in Israel but that area is rather overpopulated and stressful I think . . . Meanwhile I try to channel the Mediterranean lifestyle through cooking and gardening and somewhat with decor . . .

    How is your French? Comme ci, comme ça?

    John Liu thanked l pinkmountain
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    annie, the cat led us on, soliciting more skritches and hinting that secrets were to be forthcoming. Then she abruptly indicated that skritchies were finished and we were left empty-handed.

    I did notice a colorful feather in her chair, but did not think of it until your post. Perhaps kitty spent her morning rubbing out the witnesses? It is chilling to contemplate that she may be not merely a silent witness, but an active conspirator.

    lpink, it would be pretty easy to pick up enough French, Italian, Spanish, or Portugese for daily transactions. Google Translate on the phone works wonders. My French is okay, it gets better after a few days when my tongue loosens up. It was my second or third language, I learned it when living in France as a little boy. But even if it wasn't, things would be fine - a little more of an adventure, but no big obstacle.

    Portugal, Spain, and other EU countries have “digital nomad” visas which are low-barrier and often low-tax. Alas, France does not. Rents for modest apartments are reasonable by US standards, although DD’s renting struggles suggest being prepared to initially resort to a long-stay AirBnB.

    We made dinner last night.



    The usual cheese starter



    Pasta - store bought fresh tagliatelle. Tonight we will try making pasta as there is a machine here.



    I roasted a little lamb shank with a fig-beet-prosecco sauce that was shocking purple and tasted a bit like savory creamy jam



    Beet and ricotta salad



    And I fried courgettes, for the first time

    I have been walking by lots of elegant little hotels, and would like to stay in one sometime. My European travels have always been in modest “pensions”, gites, when I was younger hostels, and in recent years AirBnBs. I can’t recall ever staying in a fancy hotel here. As sleeve said, an apartment with a kitchen is the best choice, for those of us who like to shop and cook (and save money). But someday I’d like to try the overtly pampered life!

  • Gooster
    2 months ago

    john wrote poetically: "really want to be here during a terrible winter storm, someday, with high water, rain sheeting, and lightning flashes"

    That sounds like our last visit to Venice. We do need to go back. The twice a day flood of the streets would not be so bad but at the time the canals were disgustingly dirty. Don't wear nice or favored shoes, is all I have to say.


    There are people who have legal/government opinions on use of the standard long stay visa for digital nomads in France (as long as all clients are not French). For US citizen retirees/not working, France has the most advantageous taxes due to the tax treaty (but the worst inheritance tax), even compared to those with more publicized programs. Sorry, OT from food.


    Your meal looks as terrific as any restaurant, complete with primi and secondi (and antipasti). But what about dolce? Did we miss a photo? Or was it gelato at the local place....

    John Liu thanked Gooster
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    I just had an experience from the past, that I've not had in a decade or more. I will explain.

    We had DD's cilber for breakfast and walked through P. San Marco and from there to the first exhibit center at the Giardini della Biennale, at the southern tip of the Castello district of Venice.

    It was high tide and the center of P. San Marco was flooded. Thousands of tourists were crowded into the dry patches of plaza, hundreds were inching along the temporary walkways set up for those hours. While SWMBO and DD started picking their way around the flooded spots, I splashed straight through, figuring my slip-on beach sneakers don't care about getting wet.

    Right there, standing in six inches of water in the center of San Marco, I realized that I'd left my iPhone in the apartment.

    I stopped dead in my watery tracks. I don't know about you, but I have not been separated from my smartphone since, well, since the first iPhone came out. I've spent the day out with my shirt inside out, missing wallet or keys, wearing house slippers, underwear forgotten, but never, ever, without my phone. My dependence on the magic mini-slab is almost total. Especially in the maze-like streets of Venice, which I have not tried to commit to memory since, well, the wonders of GPS technology nestle in my pocket, along with instant global communication, real time translation, camera, hundreds of gigabytes of cloud data, digital wallet, stock futures, and everything else that we have at our fingertips today. Now, I was on my own. With no fingertips and, for a second it seemed, no brain. And no idea where the others were.

    DD found me, waving my arms and splashing in circles, listened to my gibbering, and sneered. "No, you're not going back for your phone. You know how to get home, you dummy." I think "feeble" and "aged" were implied, rather than said, but can't swear to it.

    So I spent the day at the Biennale then headed, alone, back to the apartment and my workstation, all day phone-free.

    We just talked about living in the moment. It is, I know, deeply pathetic that exploring Venice without my iPhone counts as "living in the moment", but since I don't free solo Half Dome or single-hand across the Pacific, it will have to do.

    Walking home along the waterfront, I looked over the wide mouth of the Grand Canal at the gray dome of Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, the brick red and marble Campanile on San Giorgio Island, and the thousand years of villas, palazzo, storehouses, and ordinary buildings lining the canal. It was a humid, hazy afternoon with mottled clouds over the sun. Across the water, the dome and tower and buildings were a chalk sketch, soft pastel colors, forms suggested, details implied. Waves glittered and winked, boats painted their wakes in watercolor, seagulls were flickering brush strokes, and I realized that none of what I was seeing could be captured by any lens or pixel. It was only in my mind, and there only because I was lucky enough to be in alone in Venice with just my eyes and, now, just a memory.

    The crowds grew denser, and I had to refocus on near things, sharp edged and hard lit. A pink faced boy with green dredlocks. Vaporetto stops blocking a last look across the canal. The twin columns of San Marco. I skirted a remaining puddle, turned under a likely arch, noted a familiar gelateria and recognized shops and then restaurants, stopped to skritch a fat tortoiseshell tabby, and was home.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Gooster, thank you - we didn't have dolce - just spritzes aka liquid dessert. SWMBO prefers Aperol, DD and I are loyal to Campari.


    I have been reading about the various French visas and eventually may retain someone to assist. It seems clear that the French visa system is not something I can navigate on my own . . .

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    So I have been looking in the windows of the real estate offices, and there are many. It is interesting that what seem like modest but comfortable apartments in Venice are not grossly expensive. Say 90 sq meters (a bit under 1000 sq ft) and two bedrooms, not fancy but not needing restoration either, in quieter areas of the city, for EUR 280-340K.


    DD and I have been musing, if one were to have a second home anywhere in the world, where should it be? The hypothesis is that one is an empty nester, sells the big family home, downsizes considerably, and then maybe has the ability to seek a pied-a-terre somewhere very different.


    I don't know if Venice would be the place. Actually there are a lot of reasons why it shouldn't be. But it is fun to think about.

  • l pinkmountain
    2 months ago

    Ironically when I think about a retirement flat, I have to figure access to good health care nearby into the mix. I don't have kids who will do any looking after me in the end. It's not that I have kids who will not look after me, I don't have kids at all. Or even a niece or nephew I could butter up . . .

  • sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
    2 months ago

    Marcela Hazan was in Venice for many years. A second home i think being in NYC as well.

    She settled in south Florida when mobility became an issue. One story home. Venice has many stairs over up and down everywhere. She could no longer enjoy her fresh markets.

    A retirement home or a second home needs to be mobility issue concerns. Sadly the elder years are not that far away.

    In our 50's, no issue. We have been blind-sided in our 60's. We have a farm in the Catskill mountains, 30 years. A coastal waterfront home in a small fishing village in Newfoundland, Canada. 22 years. Our giant NYC 3,00 sq ft loft we left a dozen years ago for a post and beam gorgeous home north of the city. That loft in Willamsburg was a 4th floor industrial walk-up. Would be a nightmare now. It was fine in our 40's - 50's.

    My BIL and his wife just moved from Portland to a new home coastal waterfront one story home. An oyster farm out their front door. Free oysters for life. Looking forward to that visit!

    .



    John Liu thanked sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Good point, sleeve!


    I’m not quite 60, SWMBO is a little over, neither of us are as limber as once but with enough intentionality I hope stairs will remain good exercise rather than barriers for some years more. I figure on going down spitting and fighting with the years than concede gracefully to them.


    lpink, I don’t really know what the French, Italian, etc, healthcare system is like in practice, compared to Medicare in the US. I’d be interested to learn.

  • l pinkmountain
    2 months ago

    My elderly aunts and uncles were very active exercisers and remained able to navigate stairs into their 90s. Was probably not ideal, but they were stubborn about it and didn't topple, although they could have . . . a stroke finally forced my 94 year old uncle into assisted living. I always think about that British sit com "Waiting for God" when I contemplate retiring in Great Britain. We have places like that here though. I dunno, fascism and health care are my big worries, an odd combination . . . Do they let American ex-pats use the health care system on a regular basis in Europe if they live there? What about getting on the assisted living list? I always think of Great Britain as a little more resistant to fascism, they've held out the longest . . . Italy sure jumped the shark recently . . .

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  • Islay Corbel
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Why a second home? It's creating so many problems. Locals can no longer afford to live where they come from and work. It's happening all over Europe. Covid has just made the problem worse. Why not downsize and have the money in the bank to travel and experience lots of different places? Buy a big campervan!!!

    John Liu thanked Islay Corbel
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Islay, I do hear that from our friends in Marseille, although they tend to blame Parisians more than Americans. I asked if they can recognize a Parisian; they said by certain terms and sayings, sometimes by accents, and among the cyclists by their equipment (cleated shoes) and clothing (Spandex, logo kit).

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    We ostensibly came to Venice for the Biennale, the every-other-year art show scattered across two large parks and myriad other installations. It is mostly organized in national pavilions, and we visited several of those yesterday.

    As we emerged from Austria and debated whether to go see Japan or Korea, it occurred to me that it is as if aliens created a human zoo, with an exhibit for each country, but instead of seeing actual Austrians, Japanese or Koreans, you saw a glimpse of each country’s pysche through their art.

    The art was sometimes difficult for me to grasp, which is probably because art is not always obvious, I didn’t understand this year’s “theme” (body, technology, and a non-human-centric world), and a few of the pieces were not good. The latter was my opinion, but I see that the New York Times’ critic also said this years’ national exhibits were in aggregate the weakest in many years.

    I didn’t have my phone yesterday, but here are a few pieces as photographed by SWMBO.



    Denmark’s exhibit was a household of dead centaurs. This one died in childbirth; another hung himself.



    Israel’s exhibit was a sort of mash-up of Islamic images and, I think, science fiction motifs. A lot of the shows drew from sci-fi.





    The US pavilion had a temporary facade that was itself an art piece. The pieces inside were scupltural. It felt like these artists were going a direction different from the show’s theme.





    There are exhibits in halls and houses away from the main national pavilions, all over the city really.



    I don’t usually like art exhibits that rely on video, and I’m not sure what I thought of this one, but it was sort of captivating watching the swimmer do endless laps of the pool on a giant screen.

  • l pinkmountain
    2 months ago

    It's happening all over the US too. If I ever do relocate overseas, it won't be to some fancy tourist spot or a fancy place, just a small place for me and my books. I've lived in a few tourist towns, they are not user friendly for locals . . . We used to hear out in Eastern PA about all the folks coming in from New Jersey and driving up prices . . .

    John Liu thanked l pinkmountain
  • Gooster
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    What a great event to go visit, like a World's Fair for art. And what a great event to share with the family.


    Many of the European countries do have pressures in the most popular cities and touristic areas. It often occurs in the most popular neighborhoods -- other neighborhoods only feel secondary impacts. Think the most popular neighborhoods in Paris, Barcelona, London, Lisbon, Milan, etc. In contrast, they have plenty of property and depopulation problems in rural areas, and run special incentive programs (the 1E homes in Italy, the tax breaks for small communes in southern Italy). Portugal is a classic case where it has gone out of control, with too quick growth in certain areas like the historic quarter of LIsbon and the Algarve. I'm part of the problem, although I would argue it is more balanced dynamic where I've bought, ahead of retirement (it's been going on for over a century, really. Oh, and the consultant advised buying in a building with an elevator, as a way of aging in place).


    Health care in many/most western European countries is considered better than the US. In France, those non-citizen residents on non-lucrative visas become eligible for national health care after 90 days (though it can take longer to kick in). There is a charge (or none, in the case of those receiving qualifying pensions). Top up insurance is also usually taken.


    There is a different type of problem, one that occurs in the US. The concept of "medical deserts", where doctors and health care options are stretched out and insufficient. I just passed by a newstand with a tabloid headline of 22M French live in "medical deserts". I think other countries struggle with this as well --- doctors, especially the younger ones just starting out, often like to live in the most popular areas and cities, not in remote areas.


    Back to the topic of food and cooking.... we're off to Orange tomorrow, in search of tasty treats and to imbibe, a little, in the southern Rhone region..

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  • John Liu
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Ugh, I started getting a sore throat two days ago and now have a cough and what feels like a cold (edit: and now some chills). Will be taking daily Covid tests, first one today was negative. May be staying in and sleeping for a while.

  • Islay Corbel
    2 months ago

    Hope it's not covid. Many in my family have caught a vile flu. A real flu, not people just with a cold exaggerating....

    All round the coast in France the scourge of second homes is making life impossible for locals. One example. Brittany is one of the most popular holiday regions in France. Due to covid, rich people, parisiens or other, bought up little houses on the myriad islands off the coast here. The problem is that now, they can sit in their houses for a week or 2 a year, in splendid isolation because no-one can afford to live there and work in bars, reataurants........ They'll have to cook fr themselves.

    In my town, people were buying houses without viewing them......There is a growing body of people saying that if someone wants to buy a house in Brittany, then they must live here for a whole year before. I hope this gets some real teeth.

    Your art looked a bit challenging! It sounds like you're having some good experiences.

    Get well soon. Have you spoken to a pharmacist? You can ask for a covid test and a flu test at the same time, I think.

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  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    My last days in Venice have been low ambition, what DD calls “no bones” days.

    I spent a couple days holed up in the apartment, dosed up on cold remedies, dozing and nibbling and working. The others were zooming off to the Peggy Guggenheim museum, more Bienalle exhibits, shopping, dining. I made lamb and pea soup and then DD made dumplings and wonton soup.





    After a couple days, thankfully always testing negative for Covid, I felt well enough to venture out for a bit, but too much walking still made me coughy and tired, and my thoughts were turning toward the long flight home.

    There were, however, still some things that I wanted to do in Venice.

    The first was to buy an article of clothing. Normally we seek out interesting clothes in the local vintage and thrift stores, but Venice’s vintage shops were either very expensive Americana (€90 Hawaiian shirts, €300 cowboy boots, €350 bomber jackets) or actual Italian vintage fashion at even higher prices (and small sizes).

    We finally stumbled across a small “charity shop”, which I think was associated with some sort of benevolent organization. It had mostly ladies’ clothes, but all the way in the back I found a vintage Beretta hunting vest, with two front pockets for shotgun shells and a big back pocket for ducks or pheasants. The kind of vest that Hemingway would have worn duck hunting at Torcello. It cost €2.

    The second was to return to our favorite wine bar on Campo San Giamaco da l’Orio, the pretty square with the trees and restaurants and mostly local residents enjoying the day. We got there just before 11 am, which was perfect as it was not too late to have cappucinos, and when those were finished it was not too early to have aperitifs.



    The owner, a cheerful, gracious man, stood in the doorway watching for patrons needing service or tables to be cleared. The two tables on either side of the door, next to the wall, were always occupied by regulars who dropped in, had their coffee, chatted awhile, and went on with their day.





    The third was to walk around Venice at night in the newly arrived rain looking for bodies. I couldn’t do too much of this, in my enfeebled state, and never found the bodies that the kitty had not told me about, but for a moment I thought I had.

    As I turned the corner into a small, poorly-lit, rain-fogged campo I saw, on the small bridge at the other end of the square, two ghostly white figures under the streetlight. One was tall, one shorter. Both were strangely luminous, almost glowing. The white figures turned toward me and drew closer, edges flowing in the rain and wind. I heard British accents. One ghost was holding a sodden map under her translucent white rain poncho.

    That was as close as I got to finding the murdered, or their never-resting spirits, in Venice.

    On this trip, anyway. Next time, I’m going to a tiny alley I ran across, “Calle de Assassini”. It is right next to one of the thoroughfares crowded with shops and tourists, but thirty feet away in this alley there is no-one, just a little cafe where a man sits with a blue typewriter. I found this history of Calle de Assassini, and the little I’ve been able to puzzle out suggests this was indeed a murderous place, worthy of a return visit. https://www.venicecafe.it/rio-tera-dei-assassini-e-la-leggenda-del-fornaretto/



    The fourth was to visit a little antique store whose window was full of small, interesting, not-too-expensive, and easily-packable items. Maybe more vintage tchotke than genuine collectible, but that’s our style.

    DD has visited three times already, but it has never been open. The hand-written notices on the door say “chiuso martedi” (closed Tuesday) and “chiuso lunedi” (Monday), but it has also been chiuso other days, and today a note taped to the door said “chiuso per malattia” so now we are worried that the little old lady (or man, we are just imagining the proprietor) is seriously ill and that the little store won’t be here when we return.



    Return we will, because our list of unfinished business is considerably longer than this. I have been reading “Over The River And Into The Trees” and want to make a list of all the places in Venice where the Colonel goes, and visit them. His first stop is the Hotel Gritti, where it so happens that we stopped for aperitifs a week ago, not realizing that it was a fancy hotel indeed where an Aperol spritz is €27. The swoopy chrome and blue and white leather chairs on the terasse overlooking the Grand Canal somehow made it seem worthwhile.


    Perhaps we will return for the architecture Biennalle next year, in an AirBnB near our favorite campo, and the Hotel Gritti will be the first stop on our self-guided literary tour of the city.

    For now, our time in Venice is almost over. DS is back in school in Oregon, SWMBO is in Barcelona about to embark on a cruise with her friend, DD has an 8:30 am flight to Marseille tomorrow and I have a 1:15 pm flight through New York to Portland (or do I ? Some last minute kerfuffle with my booking, fingers crossed). I have one or two more posts to make, to show you some things not yet mentioned, but they will probably get posted when I’m back in the US.

  • plllog
    last month

    There's a lot of airplane kerfuffle now with the various hurricanes and airline equipment evacuations. I hope your fights get sorted out easily. Safe trip home.

    John Liu thanked plllog
  • Islay Corbel
    last month

    I'm loving the descriptions!


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  • lisaam
    last month

    re: upthread post on the day without the phone. I seldom think to snap a picture and try hard to embed things in the biological kbs but of course memories fade.


    We do enjoy your descriptions and images, John because you make them so interesting and have a very individual style.


    I have a friend who travels numerous times each year. I’ve seen so very many images of her posing in front of the various important sites or raising a toast to the current trip. Do all those pics get filed and saved?

    John Liu thanked lisaam
  • annie1992
    last month

    John, it's like our own personal travelogue!


    I knew the cat wouldn't talk, though, cats are like that. They like to retain their mystery. Perhaps they know you'll have to come back, and that's extra skritches for them. Cats are also self-centered, you know.


    Annie



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  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Some last bits and ends.

    Some friends took us to dinner. We had a sea bass, skeleton extracted through the back and roasted. Elegant technique; does anyone do this at home?



    There was also a very nice roast beef, antipasti and primi piattis.









    And desserts. Back in Marseille, DD has joined a gym and started a diet, and I may have to do the same in Portland. “Have to” and “may” are independent articles.



    Here is a dish of, I forgot the Italian term, “baccalo”? - basically creamed cod in four varieties, at an osteria in Campo Santa Magherita.



    We stopped in this square often because it is large and sunny with two good bookstores at one end. Fish, cream, and flavor. I could eat this stuff all day long. Have done. Hence, the diet.



    We liked seafood so much in Venice that our family sign language even has a sign for “fish”. We started developing FSL on our first day here. There are hand signs for the key beverages, “coffee”, “wine”, “beer”, and “spritz”. “Croissant” (any pastry really), “gelato”, and “fish” have signs. The sign made palm out means “want” the thing, palm in means “have” or “found” it. The left hand’s digits indicate quantities. There is a symbol for “bathroom”, where the left hand denotes “number one”, “number two” and number three means either, urgently. Some signs are either verb or noun, such as “sleepy”, “home”, and “market/shopping”. There are signs for “eat” and “hungry”, and there is even a sign for “HANGRY”. We can sign “and”, “or”, “you got it”, and “you are / that is totally wrong”.

    To sign “fish”, open your hand, place it behind your ear, and flap. Palm forward means you want (are seeking, require) fish, palm rearward means you have (located, secured) fish. Such as, perhaps, these marinated and fried sardines.



    I did finally ride a water taxi, taking DD to the airport for her too-early morning flight. The “motoscafo” was speedy, traveling at least twice as fast as a ferry, and effortless, like hopping in a New York cab and being whisked uptown in a Manhattan magically free of pedestrians or stoplights. The interior was more elegant than any Lincoln Town Car. Having a 30 foot speedboat all to yourself feels and is luxurious. For a group of six or ten, it even makes economic sense. Or, if you’re rushing to get your daughter to her inconsiderately early flight, you just splurge.

    I wanted to see DD through security because of her Jackery portable battery pack, which SWMBO brought from Portland. Flying with larger lithium ion batteries is iffy. They are banned in checked luggage and may be hand carried only if under 160 watt-hours, if the security officer knows that rule. I was to stand at the outskirts of the security queue. If Jackery was rejected, DD would walk it back to me to figure out what next. VCE security pulled Jackery aside for inspection, but let it through. We don’t have a FSL hand sign for “passed security” so the little dot that was DD just waved and walked off. I watched it go and was sad.

    DD arrived in Marseille to find her apartment’s electricity completely out, so Jackery will be Useful After All. Good practice for the blackouts that I expect in Europe this winter.

    Returning to Venice, I sat in the open stern of the empty ferry and watched the sleek motoscafos bounding past.



    On our trip to the airport, we had been the only boat, riding smoothly on sleepy dark water. Now the lagoon was awake and its channels were churned by boat traffic. The water taxis leapt through the ferry wake like porpoises as their drivers pushed on their throttles to overtake us before oncoming taxis closed their chance.









    Any passengers must have been enjoying a sporty ride, but not an uncivilized one, for the Venetian motoscafo is as evolved for its environment as a tuna. They are narrow beamed, with long vee hulls and agile V drives, and handle their home waters with the same assured panache as their drivers.

    I left the ferry at Fondamenta Novo not long after daybreak. It was Sunday morning with plenty of time. Empty alleys and quiet canals in the Cannareigo, the more familiar streets of San Marco, Calle dei Assassini and Rialto. A last little treat.

    See you again, soon, Venice. Fifteen years is too long to stay away. I won’t take you for granted any more.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Annie, with persistence we hope to develop our own network of kitty informants in Venice. Here is SWMBO working on one likely. Polo is the cat of the bookstore by our apartment. We saw and petted him every day, and sometimes he snuck through the gates of our building, where I think he likes to sleep.





    Maybe he hunts for rats there. The cats we saw in Venice were stocky with thick coats, well fed and well liked, with passerby often stopping to admire and pet them. Venice has a rat problem. Perhaps cats are valued here for more than their adorability.



  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    plllog, the ker continues to fuffle.

    The last posts were from JFK Terminal 4, where many of my Venice flight are tucking in for the night. The plane was very delayed. Almost everyone missed connections. The lucky ones are rebooked on early flights tomorrow.

    Everyone said by the time I got to a hotel, there would be only a handful of hours to sleep before returning to the airport for my 5 am check-in. The posh TWA Terminal hotel was nearer, but I’d rather spend money on an experience I’ll actually enjoy.

    My tip for accidental overnights at JFK T4 is to go through security as soon as allowed (midnight before your flight) and spend your night in the gate area, which is much more comfortable than the lobbies and has outlets and food available 24/7.

    With any luck I will be home this afternoon and sound asleep soon thereafter!

    SWMBO and T____ are starting their cruise out of Barcelona. Her initial texts complain about the ship’s unsecured internet network. I’m sorry, but from the floor of gate B20 I’m having trouble wrapping my head around why that’s a travel problem. :-) Her next texts rave about the cuisine, so I think they will have a good time.

    P.S.

    Finally home after about 36 hours on planes and airport floors and benches. Whew.

    Thanks for coming along to Marseille and Venice. I enjoyed showing CF some of the things we did and saw and ate. Sorry some of the posts were long. Writing helps me think and feel and appreciate the trip more clearly, but the posting was real-time and there wasn’t always time to edit.

  • Islay Corbel
    last month

    loved it!

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  • Gooster
    last month

    Thanks for sharing your trip. Sorry your return flight was so terribly long!

    John Liu thanked Gooster