Sunday, May 04, 2014

Oregon Arts Orchestra - Day 10 Milan September 3

Our final day in Italy.  I felt a little emotional about that.  Becca was upset on Sunday about me being away and I had really wanted to talk with her Monday but the kids were in the spa at Grammy's house when we called.  They didn't come out just for a phone call from Mom.  I was starting to feel like maybe it was time to go home.  But at the same time, this has been a wonderful experience.  Each concert was better than the last.  We got to make new friends and increased our friendship with some old ones.  I was emotional.  And I was getting sick.  On Monday in Venice/Burano, I kept feeling like the world was moving.  Whenever we sat still, I felt like I was still on the water, the ground rocking gently beneath me.  By the end of Monday evening I had a migraine.  My medicine helped and I felt much better Tuesday morning, but as we made our 4-hour bus ride to Milan, I started to sneeze and realized my throat was hurting.  I hoped it was just allergies.

We had a very short walking tour of Milan focusing on the Duomo...

and La Scala. 

I was worn out.  I didn't get much out of the tour.

We had time to relax at the hotel that afternoon and Kip wanted to get travel snacks and more chocolate (of course!). I thought it would be nice to see a little more of the area, the less-touristy part, so we went off.  We just kind of walked around after finding that the shop his map program had taken us to was not what we needed. And suddenly I saw a Carrefour, just like on my mission.  If I hadn't lived in France I would never have recognized it.  The windows are striped and mostly blocked so you can't see inside, but I knew the logo and name and knew it meant groceries.  We got our chocolate and snacks at non-tourist prices.  Although, regular Milan prices probably aren't something to brag about.

We had our farewell dinner at a restaurant that took quite a while to get to.  Apparently traffic in Milan is not a pleasant thing.  The staff made sure we knew that most of the menu was already gluten free and that there were just a few things they had done for the three of us with that particular sensitivity.  We had milanese risotto, which tastes a lot like mac n cheese but with large rice pieces instead of noodles.  The main course was pork on polenta with mushrooms and potatoes.  For dessert, most of the group had apple cake (complete with a sparkler-style candle and happy birthday chorus for Emily).  The GFers had flan.  I was starting to feel pretty crummy, so I didn't eat all that much.  I think I have a cold.

The dinner ended with a speech by Cindy and applause for all the people who put so much effort into this trip.  It was a good tour.  We got a few last pictures and headed for the hotel.  After some final packing and a failed attempt to Skype the kids (poor wifi strength and kids in spa) we went to bed a little early.

Oregon Arts Orchestra - Day 9 Venice September 2

Monday was a rare and precious 'free day.'  Riener and the bus picked us up from the hotel at 9 and delivered us to Venice.

The one organized activity for the day was a gondola ride.  A bunch of us had prepaid for a traditional gondola ride through the canals of Venice.  We divided into groups of 6 and took places in several different gondolas.  Kip and I were with Cara, Emily, Jessica, and Maurene.  The ride was not quite as romantic as I had imagined.  Not so much because we were with 4 other people as that the gondolier just wasn't friendly.  He was very skilled at maneuvering through the water.  There were some bridges we went under where he seriously could have bashed his head but he ducked gracefully beneath with the comfort of years of practice.  But there was no interaction with us or with Flavio Piccolo who was getting quite popular among the orchestra members by this time.  One of the other boats had a gondolier with a stuffed giraffe who seemed amused to see us photographing Flavio Piccolo with each passenger on the boat and in different places on the sides.

After the gondola ride, Kip and I and many of the other orchestra members caught the Vaporetto to Murano.  Once there we opted to pass up the glass blowing factories and head straight to Burano, the island known for lace production.  Flavio (Alto) had described Burano as: like a Venice from the distant past before it became rich and showy.

Burano was absolutely charming.  The boat dropped us and we opted to find our own path toward the center of the town. We took quiet alleyway and found ourselves in front of places where local people actually lived.

The brightly colored houses were lined up along alleyways of varying width, some just wide enough for two walking aide by side, some almost wide enough for a car.  The doors were often opened, each covered by a brightly colored piece of fabric as a sort of privacy screen.  Inside, you could hear televisions blaring or people talking.  And there were children!  We saw a pair of 8-9 year-old boys on one street on a cell phone.  They talked into it excitedly, then hung up with a 'gracie, Mama!'  They ran in through a curtained front door yelling, 'she said yes, she said yes!'  (In Italian of course.)

In other alleyways, kids zipped past us on bikes.  Delectable smells drifted from the kitchens of some of the houses.  It was extremely enjoyable to just walk among it.  But it was a guilty enjoyment at the same time.  I could imagine living in one of those houses, conducting my everyday business.  I would be irritated looking out my kitchen window and seeing a curious foreigner staring back.  Residents of the picturesque island must wish tourists would keep to the main street of the town, with its shops and restaurants, and stay our of the little bit of heaven they get the privilege to call home.  I couldn't help myself.  I just had to turn down all the quiet alleys I could find and investigate the peaceful areas where no one was trying to get my money.  I had to see the pink houses next to the blue and green houses and take pictures of the flower boxes in the windows and the laundry on the lines suspended over the alleyways.  It was too beautiful.

When we did end up back at the main drag, we obligingly purchased some trinkets.  We found a shop with Murano glass jewelry and scarves.  The sales lady was nice and I found a necklace and bracelet I really liked.  She offered to shorten the bracelet by taking out a bead so it would fit better, but warned that it would take a couple minutes.  I told her that was fine.  We were on vacation and had all the time we needed.  'At last!' She cried.  'Everybody comes here and is so rushed.  That is not a vacation.' I agreed with her entirely, thinking guiltily that there had been a lot of rushing on our vacation. This just happened to be a day without it.  And I was really glad about that.

Further down the street we found another jewelry shop.  The proprietor of this one was a young woman, early 30s. She had jars of Murano glass beads she sold individually so you could make your own jewelry. Then, she also had complete necklaces and bracelets and earrings.  We both fell in love with a red necklace made with non-polished red striped beads. They were treated with acid and the effect made them look almost wooden.  The girl who ran the shop told us that all summer she ran her shop and all winter she made the jewelry.  It seemed like a wonderful life!

Her daughter (7 yr old) came down from above the shop and went out to play with her friends in the street (no cars, so they can do that). Kip asked if he could get a picture of Flavio Piccolo with her and she obliged.  The picture turned out adorable.  I hope it didn't make Becca too jealous when he posted it on his facebook page.

Eventually, we decided to leave Burano and head back to Venice.  We had planned on stopping in Murano to see the glass shops, but changed our minds.  But we didn't communicate properly with Guy about it, and as our Vaporetto pulled into the dock in Venice, we saw him pulling out an a Vaporetto to Murano.  After waiting for his return, we spent the evening walking around Venice.  We discovered that Venice actually does have local residents also.  There were children on bicycles.  There were buildings with sounds from inside.  We even stumbled upon what appeared to be a Karaoke competition with a woman belting out a pretty impressive rendition of New York, New York.  There are residents of Venice, they just don't come out while the hoards of tourists are thronging the streets.  Or, maybe they do, but you don't see them through the crowds.