Story Blog

Codine's off for the moment, but if you haven't read 'Turning Stones' it's still up there - free read!

Monday, January 30, 2012

January 21st 2012 - Back in Venice

Finally! A ride on a gondola! 

Yes, it's a gondola. Perhaps not the 'proper' tourist ones, but still the form, method of propulsion and everything else is the same. They're on the little Tragetto that takes one from one side of the canal to the other at 50 cents a pop. Lara was delighted. The gondoleer appeared to be quietly amused, too.

Furthermore, guess how many gondolas she spotted on THIS excursion to Venice? Let's put it into perspective. We looked it up, and there are about 400-odd gondolas registered and working in Venice. Lara spotted 204. She is truly obsessed. We spent most of the time indoors, how she managed to cover so much ground is a mystery. In acknowledgement, I (voluntarily, mind you) bought her the tackiest tourist piece of **** you've clapped eyes on in a long time, to her intense delight. A plastic gondola, brightly painted, that rocks back and forth to solar power.

The difference between the Tragetto and the 'regular' barks did not go unnoticed.

"The gondola we went in didn't have red cushions."
"No, that's right. Ours was just a little ride."
"Do the ones with the red cushions go on long rides?"
"Yes, they generally go much further."
"Will we go on a gondola with red cushions?"
"When you're bigger and have an Italian lover, he can take you on a gondola with red cushions."
"A what?"
"You can have a boyfriend who'll take you on a gondola ride."
(Lara Thinks)
"Whaley, when I'm bigger I can have a ride in a gondola with red cushions with an Italian boyfriend, and go for a loooong ride."
(Mother Hesitates)
"You know, strictly speaking, you don't have to have an Italian boyfriend to take a ride in a gondola. It was a little bit of a joke."
"Oh. " (Pause) "It will be a long ride, though?"

... Sorry, bit of a digression.

We actually spent most of the time indoors, this time. The main object of the visit was the Academia. Have to say, the Littles did remarkably well. We were in there for about three hours, and she was looking at the paintings pretty much throughout - and I mean really looking. Mind you, it is a fantastic place, pf course. If you're going to learn about painters, it's not a bad venue to start. She got very good at spotting the following people:

  • John the Baptist (or John the Bactrian, as she kept calling him - probably on account of his habitual dishevelled appearance)  - Dude with the long hair, hairy clothes, and quite often a sheep.
  • St Peter - Old dude with the keys
  • St Paul - Old dude with a sword and book
  • St Jerome - skinny old dude usually writing something, with a sorry-looking lion curled up at his feet
  • (Of course) Mary and Jesus. Either 'baby' Jesus or it's going to be on the cross, or off the cross. As she put it, 'why are there so many pictures of Jesus on the cross?' Well, one does wonder. I tried to explain that they reckoned it was an important part of the story, so they kept painting it. Couldn't help thinking she would rather they had done a few more pictures of gondolas, instead. 
  • 'Annunciation' (still having trouble remembering that word, usually does get as far as the 'An' ) Dopey-looking lady, big angel, lily, pigeon.
  • St George - Dude in armour, usually with something that doesn't look remotely like a dragon.
  • And rather surprisingly, God. There were a number of Gods either in the paintings and even one stuck on the ceiling. She didn't mind the Gods but thought the inevitable putti and cherubs circling about like overfed maggots were really not necessary at all... and I have to say I agree. The ones with just the heads stuck onto wings are the worst.

There was an vast amount of Lorenzo Lotto, whom she got quite familiar with. He ended up being called 'the Piggy guy' because the first painting she say by him was a small picture of two exceedingly ugly women, which she expressed a violent dislike to. However, he improved considerably upon acquaintance and she was not averse to a good number of other of his other pieces. 

There was also a huge amount of Tintoretto. He was reasonably approved of for several reasons. The first painting she saw by him had LOADS of animals and I think was called something like God Creating the Animals. Secondly, his predilection for positioning people at odd angles and shooting them in from the corners of the canvass made for interesting spectating. There was a hell of a lot of St Mark about the place. 

... Just realised you probably don't want to hear quite so much about a six-year-old's views on the Academia. Anyway, we had a jolly good time.

 Counting gondolas from the ferry 

Bridge of sighs

Girl Pigeon, and Tower.

At about this point Lara was deemed a tourist attraction and a random Chinese guy insisted on having his picture taken with her.

Whale found a great pizza take-out for lunch. Added excitement when pigeons joined in. Afterwards there was even hot chocolate and brioche.

Just a passing sign I though was rather amusing.

Whale and Lara on the way home in the train.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

28th January 2012 - Sharks and Confetti

Yesterday, there was MORE hot chocolate and spritz in the square. This edition of the chocolate was quite the custardy-est to date, and it was entirely appropriate to eat it with a spoon. Neither was the degree of chocolate-encrusted-ness at all surprising afterwards. A table napkin simply wouldn't do the trick. She had to be taken to the bathroom and hosed down afterwards. 

There was MORE riding on horses.  This was was an adventure with goblin shark (of course) where goblin shark had lost his ball in a magical storm and Lara and the horse had to go and find it. They did so on the top of the castle that goblin shark lived in, and along with it they found a nice troll, who played ball with them. Then they all went back to the carousel. The end.

Carnival is ever-closer (unfortunately we'll just miss it, I've wanted to see the Venice carnival for decades) and confetti littered Piazza del Signori. Lara streamed her 'kite' all the way home.

Apologies for the colour setting on this day's pics, by the way. I'd set the exposure right down to minimum for the glaring snow of the mountains, and hadn't changed it. It was actually a beautiful bright day, not overcast as it seems

Kite races along the walls

Campari does terrible things to knees. We stopped off at the playground on the way back, and somehow I found myself chasing the Littles round and up and through the equipment, to hysterical shrieks. Crawling through wooden apparatus designed for 10 year olds, in dress and tights at the age of 40 means you come away with dusty knees and a slight hint of bruising.

After a stupendous lunch, with more cheeses than I can remember to count, salami so delicate and tender it was almost like carpacio, and copious salad, Lara had a shark party. As usual, she invented lots of shark games. At one point we had to close our eyes while she hid stuff in a pile of toys, and the Whale took it rather too seriously. Getting very close to his afternoon snooze time.

At the end of the party we had to throw the toys in the air and shout 'Hurrah!'. So we did.

After the shark party, the Whale went to bed and the rest of us went to the playground and to buy more shark jellies respectively. Did I tell you about the shark jellies? I think I did. What a coup. We've not got more than enough to last us until customs in Australia. I wonder if we'll end up declaring them again - last time it was jelly babies.

 Ah, now here we have something quite extrodinary. We stopped by at the Mino's after the park. One of the things she happened to talk about was her porcelain collection. This is a cup dating from about the late 1800's, which belonged to her grandmother, I think she said. See the thing across the top of the cup? Guess what it's there for. Go on, guess.

It's for MOUSTACHES. To keep them out of the tea.

Told you, Late 1800s. Fantastic.

In the evening, it was the Markets restaurant. MMM. Gosh, it was good. Lara had swordfish. Here she is, being a swordfish.

I had snails - fantastic. (Lara did try them but didn't like it. Still, kudos for trying.) How I'm managing to stuff so much in is a mystery. In the words of Scooby Doo, 'stop, stop, when the buttons pop.' They also served the best Zucotto I can remember tasting. Another nice touch was that they had a huge array of cooked vegetables laid out in one corner, and you just helped yourself to what you wanted. Things like roasted peppers and aubergines and baked leeks and radiccio.... Did I mention we enjoyed ourselves?

Jaws was getting up to all sorts of naughtiness at table....

eating the last castagnolo... typical shark..

swimming in the deep

W&W with the owner - they're regulars here, of course.

Absolutely marvellous. Lara went to bed at 10:30, which has to be a record. Have you noticed her front tooth is finally coming out? Hope it fills up that gap relatively soon, she could really use some more gnashers.

January 22nd 2012

We've been engaging in collage activity on a moderate to heavy scale. What are ALL the collages about? Yep, you guessed. Sharks, sea creatures, deep sea animals. The one they're engaged in here is a deep-sea collage. We were also busy planning Lara's party on the 12th... Thinking up shark games, finding suitable music, etc.

22nd must have been a relatively quiet day... you'll see why when you see the post from the 21st.  I'd imagine it involved quite a lot of playground, card games, drawing and cutting, helicopter flying, campari spritz, and rolling about.

In the evening, I went out with Alessandra, Gianmarco and Iole. Simply lovely. Chat, eat, chat, drink. Took camera but forgot all about it until we got back home, so this photo's from just outside the flats. They're all so fantastic. It's been wonderful to see them again and catch up. 

January 23rd 2012

On the 23rd, we went to Castelfranco. About 40 minutes' drive from Treviso. We arrived armed with stale bread for ducks: Castelfranco on a Monday morning needs ducks to spice it up. Initially the ones we found were disappointingly replete and spurned our offerings, but eventually we found four that were satisfyingly hungry. Lara named them 'Near He and Near She, and Far He and Far She' as there were two pairs, duck and drake each, one swimming closer to the bank than the other pair. She found the names incredibly amusing and yelled them out each time whichever one of them it was got a bit of bread. Ah, the joys of being six. Well actually it was quite amusing to see even if you were forty.

Here's Lara being unavailable behind the Whale and in front of the walls, 

and here's the lion on the clock tower. I hope you appreciate this one as I nearly got run over in the process of taking it. OK that's an exaggeration. I was a tad ... incautious.

Ah, now the geese were quite a different matter. Highly voluble and more eager than was strictly healthy for my fingers, as usual. If there's a bird around, you can trust me to end up with fingers in its beak. Lara was much more sensible in feeding them.

We tried to have a look at the cathedral but, just like the last time we came, it was shut. After lunch we wandered back, and hey presto it was open - at an hour it shouldn't have been, too. Upon moseying in with considerable eagerness, we found it was open in preparation for a funeral - with the result that we couldn't see the famous painting by Giorgone in there, but still, we saw the church, which is also nice. That's not the main thing, though. On the way out, we saw the notice for the person whose funeral it was. Some magnificently sprightly lady of 103!!! There was a picture of her and she looked great. ONE HUNDRED AND THREE, as my knees are nobbly. Then just yesterday there was a snippet on the news that (something like) 170,000 Italians are centogenarians. I tell you what, that Mediterranean diet must work wonders. What's even better, is that they don't stint on their wine rations, either. Full steam ahead for me, I'd say.

Then there was LUNCH. Noontime, in a quiet medieval city, and one simply gets the urge to dine on tripe in broth. I didn't resist it. Reckoned it would be a jolly long time before I got the chance to try tripe in broth, so carpe diem - or carpe tripe. For those that are curious, it was much less of an extreme flavour than you might expect.  Rather highly seasoned, simply in salt and pepper, and the tripe itself had the consistency of croutons that haven't melted in the soup yet - and somehow don't quite disintegrate. Fairly mild, relatively interesting.

However, the LITTLES had a pork chop. A pork chop about as big as her head. It came a little later than mine or the Whale's items, and the waitress put it down in front of her with a 'buon apetito' and left with a supressed giggle at the expression of shock on Lara's face at the scale of the task ahead. By the time she cleared the plate away, the shock was on the face of the waitress and Lara was barely moving from pork-induced coma. See this here? Honest, we didn't give her any wine. Just pork.She even managed to have a canolo afterwards.. or at least part of one. 

In the car on the way home. Playing with sharks, of course.

Later that day, we went to pay a visit to Iole and Aurora at their place. Kids played, we chatted.

... Chatted, and played with cats. They have two cats and one dog. Heaven.

Still later, the Marchesin family came over for an hour, and kids played, we chatted. On this occasion, Filippo and Lara just disappeared off into our bedroom and we saw no heard hide nor hair of them. Filippo speaks English so communication wasn't an issue, it seems. Here's a photo that I took, but perhaps the self-timer ones we found later on Lara's camera tell us more about what they were actually up to.

Self-timer specials....