September 4 – September 25, 2013
This was the month Daddy Barry and I went to Europe for three weeks; one week in London, one week in Paris, and one week in Venice. We had a great time. We travel well together. He was protective of my energy beans, and I was protective of his back pain.
We had different travel roles: His was packer (just one big bag and one carry-on). Mine was keep-tracker (keys, Passports, tickets); and interface if he were frustrated and about to bite someone. Only needed to ask to handle something a couple of times (like “Please let me talk with the British Airways ticket rebooking lady”) and they went well. Only once at the end of the trip, after a long day, after a frustrating experience (gristly beef from the Sofitel buffet), did he have a mini-melt. Similarly a couple of times, maybe more, I snipped at him when he was trying to help me with something and it triggered a fear response (like when he tried to reach into my bag to hand me something while we were in Customs).
But in the big picture things went exceptionally smoothly. We were both happy to be on vacation. Going to Europe was a life dream for Daddy Barry, and together we were making it happen. And for the most part things went pretty darn smoothly. (For even further details of the exact excursions we purchased, see the documents that Debbi created, now called 2013 Europe trip D …. London, Paris & Venice.) And the biggest normal weather variable What would the Agua Alta in Venice be like? turned out to be a non-issue. In fact Venice was beautiful -- 72 and sunny – our whole trip. We loved it. And we had a beautiful room overlooking a canal, with serenading gondolas going by. But I get ahead of myself…
My big logistics concern heading into the extended excursion was whether I’d have enough meds to cover the whole trip, as I only get a 30 day supply and not all of them can be filled at the same time. It worked out fine.
Here is what the 23 days (21 plus 2 extras) looked like all packed up in separate Ziploc bags
Wednesday September 4 – Thursday September 5
The trip over was sweetly uneventful. We were both thrilled with how big our British Airways “Economy Plus” seats were, and the food was good. Excited! I don’t think I slept a wink. Watched Olympus Has Fallen. It was much better than I expected. Action, action, action!
Both of us thrilled at the large seats and generous legroom of “Economy Plus”.
The border queue at Heathrow was loooooong...
...it even had waiting estimates posted like at Disneyworld.
Flying San Diego – London, and then going through the border, is a long day. If I did the trip regularly, I’d sign up for one of the no-waiting at the border IRIS scanners. Our flight departed 8.25pm Wednesday and we arrived at 2.00pm Thursday. Then there was the border… Other than the long queue to have paperwork checked, we were both stunned that nobody checked our luggage.
There was little energy for much else after checking into our hotel, The Russell (at Russell Square). It was a nice choice. The lobby is beautiful (if a bit dark). The dining room for the free breakfast is lovely. And as expected, the hotel was conveniently located near an Underground stop.
Our room was nice. It was spacious. It was up on what Americans would call the 3rd floor but, since the English apparently start counting with the ground floor as 0 we were on a UK 2nd floor. It was up just enough to miss much of the street noise, yet overlooked a park across the street. It was low enough to really see the people walking below and in the double decker buses going by.
There was a civilized little sitting area for two in our room. The desk had an American plug, which was helpful for charging the Toshiba Thrive tablet. The bathroom was also spacious. And there was a refrigerator in the room, which made it straightforward to get things like a sandwich for a late-night snack, and perhaps ice cream if it were late enough in the day… WiFi coverage was iffy, which we knew about ahead of time, but ultimately free as hinted at upon check-in.
This may have been the evening we strolled by and into The British Museum. Loved the Egyptian works particularly.
Lovely breakfast room
Handsome guests : )
The London City wall from the Roman era 2000ish years ago
We took a two-person personalized black cab tour of the city, suggested by Debbi. It really was a good way to start the trip. We went to some little places that would have been overrun by a regular tour. It was really interesting to stand next to a wall built about 2000 years ago during Roman times when the city was Londinium. Another highlight was getting to see an active marketplace – with a yummy cheese shop nearby. At the beginning the cab’s windows were a bit steamy and it was a bit hard to hear the driver, but both of those improved in time. Another civilized part was, since this was our tour, simply stopping for coffee and a snack to keep the energy up and to empty the bladder : )
My one packing mistake was I got part of the cord for charging the iPhone, but not its counterpart tiny brick that plugs into the wall. (My iPhone cord plugs into the USB port on my computer for its juice – or that tiny brick which I don’t normally use unless travelling. But I’ve got to remember it when travelling or my USB cord is useless – unless by chance there were a computer to plug in to.) Daddy Barry gave me no hazing about it… as we got an iPhone 5 charger in the UK, in France, and again in Italy. Just one of those things. So, after our black cab tour we went to the fairly nearby Apple Store and got a UK charger.
Antalya Restaurant with elaborately hand-painted walls
Dinner was at Antalya Restaurant (Turkish). We loved the elaborately hand-painted walls.
Loved the "My room is in a muddle" sign.
Today we went to the ticket center and got our “London Pass with transportation option”. We really should have done it on our first day, but we were pooped. Now we had our Underground passes, for which we’d already paid a few. Oh well.
The biggie was this is the day we got to see “The Book of Mormon”. Daddy Barry had been trying to get to see it for about 5 years. It came to Los Angeles. Sold out. New York. Sold out.
When we started creating this trip in the spring, once we had an outline of the dates we’d be in each city, the first thing we did was come online and book great Book of Mormon seats. Then we moved forward with the rest; like airfare.
The show was delightfully irreverent. I didn’t have the soundtrack, so the only singing I literally remember is a black guy banging out “I have maggots in my scrotum!!!” And the lead girl character dreamily talking about “Salk. Lake. See-tee”.
Great seats -- fourth row center
Dinner tonight? The Old Malfi Italian Restaurant, perhaps two blocks from our hotel. Daddy Barry’s: Linguini with prawns with chiles in olive oil. Mine: Linguini basilica con pesto & king prawns.
Going down the looong escalator at Leicester Square Underground
On the street adjacent to our hotel.
Daddy Barry in the London Eye
We took in The London Eye in the morn. It was a great way to get a good view, and the weather definitely cooperated.
London Eye, different view
With one downpour exception, and numerous little sputter exceptions, the weather held up pretty well throughout the trip.
Pretty carousel at The London Eye.
We also took in a short Thames River Cruise, and an AA meeting at West End Live And Let Live (1Frith St W1D 3QS London United Kingdom).
Tower of London
We were all for food experimentation throughout the trip. So today dinner started at Ceviche Peruvian: Sea bass ceviche - not good – and pollos skewers. A disappointment, but we gave ourselves bonus points for trying. We wandered some more until we found Nicholsons Freehouse English restaurant. There Daddy Barry had a warm brownie with vanilla ice cream and I had a satisfying Venison sausage and mash.
Today we went by foot to the Tower of London 9-noon. The timing really was good. We arrived before the throngs. Got to see some cool stuff – like body armor – before the school kids came in numbers.
Later Daddy Barry took in Harrod's where he saw many cool things.
Art deco wall sconce
Shrine to Lady Diana and Dodi Al Fayed
I wrote a TripAdvisor.com review of Hotel Russell.
“Something wrong each day for a week”
Reviewed September 9, 2013
When we arrived I had high hopes. Lovely
lobby. But things went south when we hit our room and again every day when we
1) The lights are controlled by a card reader which requires your room card be left in it. So we arrived to a dark room and it took some time for hotel staff to tell us what was wrong.
2) The "king" bed was two twins pulled together with a doohickey down the seam to supposedly make it a King. It was noticeable.
3) There was no top sheet on our bed. When we requested and received one it disappeared when the bed was made again.
4) Wireless for more than one device is cryptic.
5) Phones to the front desk went unanswered. Over and over.
6) There are no washcloths. Body towels and hand towels yes but no washcloths. Bizarre.
7) There is no ice machine. So we called down to have a bucket sent up. See phones going unanswered.
8) We used room service and requested a bucket of ice. It didn't arrive with our food and drinks.
9) Our chandelier had one of its 6 bulbs dead. A let down.
10) The "electric kettle" for the instant coffee was befuddling. No directions. Call downstairs. See phones going unanswered.
You get my drift. Excellence not delivered. At this price point it should happen seamlessly.
On the plus side the breakfast is quite a spread and the location great.
Would I recommend it? Only with major qualifications.
In the evening we took in Night and Day pub restaurant.
Stonehenge, 3000-1600 BC
This was the day we took a tour directly to Stonehenge. Very cool to be next to something 5000ish years old. And somehow sweet. Long day.
We took in nearby Byronhamburgers.com after the tour. Daddy Barry had a caramel and honeycomb sundae while I had lemonade and a burger.
Dinner proper was at The Chambeli (Indian) Restaurant. Daddy Barry had the chicken tikka masala while I ate the lamb dhansala.
Being our last night in London, Daddy Barry packed us to head to Paris.
Before we departed we had a talk with the manager of Hotel Russell. Things were largely fine, but little things kept slipping through the cracks. The bed originally didn’t come with a top sheet (an English thing it turns out) but when that was changed, it disappeared again when the bed was re-done. Then the bed wasn’t made well at all – the wrong size sheets were put on the mattress and you could see its bare sides. The large bed was made of two twins zipped together somehow, and that could be felt. Etc. Got it off our chest and were done with it.
Today we travelled on the high-speed Eurostar via the Chunnel to Paris. Man was that a lovely experience. It was like flying in the old days. Plenty of room. Attendants. Magazines. Food. The ride itself was smooth. Once again, nobody checked our luggage.
But when we got to our destination hotel, the Cosy Cadet, it was unacceptable. In the big picture it looked like a scuffed up dorm room. And we’d paid something like $2,000 for the week. I took pictures and notes. We didn’t accept our room. We didn’t accept the hotel. It took some doing, but Debbi – who was departing the States that day -- worked with Gulliver’s Travels to book us elsewhere. They were insistent that protocol was that the hotel have a chance to fix the problems with another room, and Daddy Barry was insistent that that protocol was not acceptable in this instance. The entire process took 3 hours. It was going so slowly (we situated ourselves in a quieter tavern down the block so that we could talk on the phone when needed; and sit and sip and eat) that essentially once we got two hotel options we headed directly over to the one we wanted before things were finalized. We were so pooped! We chose the Hotel Murano Streets. It was an up-charge of $600, but it was worth it.
The shrine to Elizabeth Taylor -- and lights that gently throb with changing colors.
Again our room has a small refrigerator which we stock with Cokes and delivered ice and a small sitting area. We also picked up chocolates and cookies : )
We tipped the receptionist who moved us from a nice but small room to a lux standard room when one became available in short order. Good tipping was the order throughout our trip.
Here is the review I wrote for TripAdvisor.com
“Refreshing, clean and hip”
Reviewed September 13, 2013
We moved here from a horrible almost-stay at the dumpy Cosy Cadet with a permanently broken lift. What a breath of fresh air. The room was lovely. Staff - especially Maria at Front and Nicholas at Bellhop - were spot-on. Particularly amused by our room's shrine to Elizabeth Taylor and the lights that gently change color. Appreciate the refrigerator and washcloths in our Standard room (temporarily had a small one without either). If there were a coffee maker I'd have added a 5th star.
We went to the Hard Rock Hotel in the morning to pick up our Paris Pass, then on to the Eiffel Tower for our smaller group tour. That was lovely. Very informative. Skipped the huge line for general admission.
Took an outing to the nearby SRF store to get a French iPhone 5 charger.
Dinner was at Cafe Petite (52 Rue Rene Boulanger 75010 Paris +33 (1) 42 03 30 16).
Daddy Barry had croque monsieur. I had salmon a la palcha.
Café breakfast. We both had omelettes.
Coin laundry day
I believe I started helping with this, but was sent back down the few storefronts to the hotel to nap. Regardless, when I got up I thought “It would be very civilized to sit in the nice lobby and have an Americano.” When he returned we took our Little Village, as we came to call the two of us working together (as in “It takes a village…[to get X done]”) inside the bar area and had lunch together.
Dinner was at Café Canaille, inside the underground Louvre pavilion. Slightly upscale fast food.
Evening Louvre tour. (“Skip the line semi private Louvre Museum Tour Paris, France” Tour supplied by Dark Rome Ltd) Our guide was Damian – and he was boring. There was one other couple on the little guided trip and they bailed early. But regardless of our guide being boring, he was informative. So I learned quite a bit as we meandered the huge (world’s largest? oldest remaining?) art museum. I was ready to call it quits – we’d been at it for 2.5 or 3 hours – when Daddy Barry’s back really hit him. We went out in the gardens and he took a pill and we sat for a little bit.
Today we tried the Hop On Hop Off bus of Paris but it was raining. We returned to the hotel and took a 3 hour nap. In the evening however we meandered and found Jacques Genin fondeur en chocolate and ate at Le cafe de la poste. Daddy Barry had an omelette and I had chicken. We also called Chris for his birthday.
Fellow San Diegans Eric & David from the Leather meeting. David saw me in the throng (thousands?) outside and made his way over. Our tours then dovetailed and I got to snap this shot inside where it was PACKED.
Today we had a tour of Versailles. We stopped at Metro Cafe Lounge before the tour. Daddy Barry had a croissant and a Coke. I had an omelette and coffee. The tour was lovely. The tour leader had a small head microphone, and we had earsets to hear. One of the most interesting things I learned was that beds were short because people sat up in bed, as laying down was associated with death.
Daddy Barry at Versailles' Hall of Mirrors
The rear of Versailles as morning arrives
Daddy Barry had enough energy afterward to go to the flea market Les Puces de clignancourt.
But we needed money. So he stopped at a nearby bank. The ATMs outside weren’t functioning, so people were getting funds from an ATM inside a foyer. When he started his transaction suddenly a guy appeared on his left and right and brochures were being put in front of his face. From behind a gal said “They’re trying to rob you!!!” He hit Cancel and then shoved them hard. They were startled and afraid, as Daddy Barry was yelling “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!!! GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!!! GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!!!” They thought they had an easy mark for a mugging but were mistaken. The gal called the police. It was understandably rattling for Daddy Barry but once he had them in a corner he went about his business and got his money from the ATM.
Meanwhile back at the hotel I get a txt shortly afterward that says:
“I almost got robbed at the bank but a couple helped me and called the plice. I gave both of the boys a shove and told them to get away from me. All is well. YDLY.”
I was stunned. I wrote back:
“Just got mssg. OMG!!! Thank goodness for Good Samaritans. So glad you’re ok. YMbLY Sir”
Later, after meandering around Les Puces, Daddy Barry still had energy. We went in a new direction. (Throughout the trip we tried to incorporate “Which direction haven’t we gone?” and then head in that direction.) I needed food. We stopped at Noctudine creperie. Daddy Barry had crepe Nutella et banana et vanilla ice cream. I had galettes complete - ham egg and cafe crema.
Then we enjoyed a lovely walk around La Marais during the Jewish New Year period. Streets were blocked off and there were just lots of people out enjoying the perfect evening. We particularly saw some really beautiful clothes.
Daddy Barry at the high Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Basilica with a view of Paris below
In the morning we went to Sacre Coeur Basilica. It was quite a schlep, even with the funicular. Then I rested while Daddy Barry went shopping to Printemps & Galeries Lafayette.
In the evening, we explored the Rougier & Ple art supply store, then ate at La Royale. Daddy Barry had pasta du jour and a Coke. I had steak and coffee.
Much of Paris is from quarried limestone. This is a sculpture one of the miners made.
Today we toured The Catacombs underneath Paris. It’s where the bones of six million people were moved from former church cemeteries, in part to help clean up drinking water from wells.
We began with breakfast at Metro Cafe Lounge, 19 Rue de Malte: omelette mixte & coffee for me, and a croissant for Daddy Barry. Then we sat at Cafe du Rendez-vous having coffee and hot chocolate, and using the water closet, waiting for the tour to begin. Afterward we ate at Cafe d' Orleans, I a ham sandwich and Cokes for both of us. But the big meal was at Au Royal Couscous (Moroccan): tajine for Daddy Barry and couscous mechoui grilled lamb and water with gaz for me. Being our last night in Paris, it was also packing day for Daddy Barry.
Today we awoke at 4:45am to be ready for our Easyjet flight from Paris to Venice. A taxi got us effortlessly there. The flight itself took some time getting off. Not all the crew were ready, so after having us wait standing on a bus outside, doors open, engine running, fumes drifting in, Daddy Barry getting a bit nauseous, they finally took us back indoors. Wouldn’t have been so bad but for whatever reason they re-checked everyone’s passport and ticket when we did get underway shortly afterward. The flight itself was easy.
When we arrived in Venice, once again nobody checked our luggage. But we were met by a perky gal named Susan who was our arrival guide. Good thing, as it’s not particularly intuitive. You go outside, and roll your luggage down to the docks where there are water taxis. Then she made sure that we were picked up by someone who had our prepaid taxi voucher. There were plenty of taxis, and it appeared many of them did not know where our hotel, Dell'Opera, was. In short order someone spoke up and we were put on that boat. We tipped Susan 10€ and she was thrilled. It really felt good. She also mentioned something unnerving: This weekend there would be 15 (14?) cruise ships arriving; a record. Venetians didn’t know how they’d handle all of them.
Then we were whisked across the water in the handsome taxi. When we got close, the driver said “I may not be able to get you all the way to your hotel – high tide.” This sounded backwards to me: If there was enough water couldn’t he make it all the way? But it soon became apparent that he meant the high water made it increasingly difficult to successfully pass under the fairly short bridges. But he was a trooper. He kept at it until we were literally at our hotel’s front door. We tipped him 20€ for all his work.
Hotel Dell’Opera’s boat landing
Our room was on the “1st” floor (second floor American counting); these right two windows
When we arrived it was perhaps noon? We went down the way and I had an Americana while we waited on our room. When we returned, it was ready. The desk clerk, Giovanni, said sweetly that we were getting his favorite room. Check it out:
Our room at the Hotel Dell'Opera, built in the 1500s.
It turned out there were three tiers of rooms: something like Standard, Superior, and Superior with Canal View. We’d been upgraded. He got a big tip.
Here’s how I reviewed the hotel for Google Maps a week later, the hotel’s first review there:
Classic, convenient, attentive
From the moment we arrived staff went out of its way to make our experience lovely. We stayed for a full week in September 2013 in a "Superior room with canal view." When we entered the room our first time we both gave a mutual contented sigh that we were staying in such a handsome room. We had the same experience in the morning when we saw how nice the room for breakfast is. We had repeated special requests (We just arrived, where would a good place for coffee be?; Please send up a bucket of ice [we did this every day]; We're heading out for an hour now could our room be made before we return?; Please book a water taxi to the airport; [at breakfast] Would you make me an espresso with hot milk?) and most were done with aplomb. Having its own docking spot made getting to and from the airport simple; though pricey (115€). And we found the location convenient. Charming gondola serenades went by several times each day. We'd definitely recommend Dell'Opera.
* The beautiful stone building can make WiFi spotty. (Cell data coverage was nearly seamless however.)
* Our bathroom had lovely tall ceilings and windows but no shower in the tub. (On the flip side, we discovered that sudsing up the bathing partner while he stood was a sweetly intimate workaround.)
* Throughout our European trip we found it uncommon to get a _full_ bucket of ice even when the request was phrased that way. Dell'Opera continued that rhythm.
That afternoon we got an Italian iPhone charger : ) In the evening we ate dinner at Piccolo Martini: tortellini Bolognese, café; and spaghetti carbonara.
Then at 7:30 we had our gondola serenade. It was lovely. Perhaps eight gondolas with about 2-3 couples each departed in unison. One had the singer and accordion player. My one disappointment was that we were seated perpendicular to each other in front, as opposed to side-by-side as the other couples were.
Daddy Barry as seen from a serenaded gondola brigade, the moon rising over Santa Maria della Salute.
Arriving at Venice's St. Mark's Basilica, covered inside with beautiful mosaics. (Photographing inside prohibited.) Note the planks to walk above high tidal waters.
Today was our walking tour of San Marco & Doge's Palace. The mosaics in the basilica were amazing. The rooms and paintings in the Doge’s Palace were enormous. Signs requested no photographs be taken. All in all we were gone about 6 hours. It was a lot.
Atlas at Doge’s Palace
Wednesday and Thursday there had been plenty of people present. I was nervous about multitudes more from the cruise ships. We figured 15 ships * 3,000 people/ship = an additional 45,000 people on the isle. I couldn’t imagine how uncomfortably crowded it would be. Daddy Barry was concerned for my comfort. He asked if I would be comfortable the weekend? I said if there were 45,000 more people I definitely would not be. Was my preference to leave or stay? Here was the rub: I could see Daddy Barry was loving Venice. And we’d already paid for a week. So, could I ride out one weekend? I suggested this: We leave tomorrow; or, I need to cope with the throngs by making it like a hotel getaway weekend and remain in the hotel. If he could be comfortable with that then staying remained an option. He wasn’t quite comfortable with it. So then it became a question of do we really have any practical means to return early? I began to make calls. Or at least I tried to.
It turned out that Daddy Barry’s phone could place calls. Mine could not for whatever reason. We used his to call Verizon roaming support. A very helpful lady was on the other end of the line. I went through the debugging I’d already done in trying to place calls. She had one added suggestion: When the instructions said call +1 xxx xxxx, that really meant to use the PLUS sign. But my number pad only had 0-9 and the two special characters # and *. She found the iPhone instructions and said “Hold down the ‘0’ key”. I did and a “+” appeared. But I still was unable to make a call with my phone. So what she did was conference call me to British Airways and stayed on the line until I had reached a human who was helping me. Her help was incredible. There turned out to be two gotchas: One, nothing available unless we upgraded to Business. Two, even if we did we would have to take a slightly different path: Venice -> Gatwick -> Heathrow -> San Diego. It became obvious it was simply unmanageable. I thanked the agent for his help. Now we had done the footwork and knew what to do: Stay through the weekend.
We closed out the evening by eating at Hostaria Galileo: Spaghetti Mama Mia and Gnocchi ai formaggi. It was on a plaza and a quartet was sitting across the way playing with a case open for tips. They were lovely. I tipped and thanked them while we waited for our food.
Daddy Barry during our excursion to the nearby beautiful beach isle of Lido.
Today we activated our vaporetto passes. It was not intuitive. But with a ticket man’s insistence that the machine we were using would give us what we wanted, we kept at it. Finally I touched the screen on something like “Contact us” (it wasn’t that exactly, but it was similarly vague) and up came the next section. Our small village moved on.
The vaporetto – essentially a water bus – took us from stop to stop. We got off at the beach isle of Lido, sat and Daddy Barry had a Coke while I had a Cafe American with hot milk* at Cafe Belvedere. We wandered around a bit until my energy started flagging, then headed home. (* The gal who oversaw the breakfast at Dell'Opera introduced me to the joys of this: The hot milk would lightly caramelize a dusting of brown sugar, introducing delicious bits as I sipped my drink. During our excursions I variously heard it called “coffee with hot milk”, caffè macchiato, and espresso macchiato.)
Part of an amazing convergence of *hundreds* of bicycles near Lido's water taxi hub to Venice.
Friday was also laundry day. I had used Google Maps to locate a laundromat. Daddy Barry used Google Maps to get there, and left me at the hotel to rest. When it was going on 3 hours and he hadn’t returned, I knew he was going to be exhausted when he got back. I went and had two caffè macchiato at Caffe Brazilia, then returned and prepared for his return. I cooled the room. I put on my most soothing piece of music, Anugama, and put it on infinite repeat. I got fresh ice delivered and poured a fresh Coke over it. He got back exhausted. And frustrated. The laundry lady sent him elsewhere for a coin laundry. Google Maps, its GPS fucking up in the narrow alleyways surrounded by 6 story buildings, had sent him in circles. He was worried too that the clothes were wrinkled.
I gave him his Coke. I began hanging the clothes. They’d be fine. He laid down. I gently closed the blinds.
Later, after recuperating a bit, we discovered the rooftop terrace. Then we meandered to an ATM, where Daddy Barry got dizzy. I figured his body was just catywhompus. I steadied him and we found a pub where we got Coke & a Danish to recover. After it passed, we explored the neighborhood beyond Rialto to its south. We found “Trattoria Pizzeria "Artiste" da Piero”. Daddy Barry had tortellini with prosciutto. I ate ravioli with meat. Then we wandered some more and eventually got to promenade St. Mark's Square's dueling orchestras. Lovely. I was thoroughly tuckered. We headed back.
On one of these evenings we were watching BBC’s Culture Show doing an episode on Funny Women who would be performing at Edinburgh. Daddy Barry loved the image behind the comediennes.
BBC’s Culture Show: Funny Women
Dragon flying with tri-colored globe made of three umbrellas; near Campo San Rialto, Venice
The morning was serendipitous: There was a nice flea market on the way to the barber. Then we headed on for haircuts at a barber near Accademia Bridge. After washing the hair and recovering a bit, we headed to Coin department store. We topped that off at Osteria Leon Bianco. Daddy Barry had spaghetti a la ragu with Coke, and I had mixed salad and veal scaloppini with gaz water.
Later we had desserts at le Cafe Restaurant: chocolate cake & Coke + ice cream sundae, and chocolate cake and coffee macchiato. We had a bit of a bump when it felt to him that I was short with how I said No, I didn’t want a sundae. But I apologized for any abruptness and we went on our way. We explored the area west of Accademia. At one spot there was a protest against the giant cruise liners.
Daddy Barry outside the avant-garde fetish haberdashery in Campo S. Stefano, Venice
In the morning we decided to explore west toward Giardino Papadopoli. It seemed like quite a little trek. During our return we stopped at Trattoria Agli Amici and Daddy Barry had a custard donut & Coke while I had a tuna sandwich (half; all the sandwiches in Venice were halves) and gaz water. These refueling points were really helpful.
Boat on canal
But related, I really needed to use the restroom as we were getting closer to the Accademia bridge. Thankfully it was open. I went in and Daddy Barry remained outside to watch a charcoal artist do his craft. It took me some time. Perhaps 15 minutes. But when I came out Daddy Barry was thrilled. Look at this! I’ve been standing here watching him and he did all that while you were in the restroom! Indeed it was remarkable. And he wasn’t working from a photo. “How much?” “20”. Wow. Daddy Barry said he’d take it. Marco went to work on completing it and Daddy Barry explained “No. I’ll take it just like it is!” Marco said “Perhaps you might like a finished one better.” He dug in his work and pulled one out. It was also amazing, but complete. “How much for that one?” “20”. “I’ll take them both.”
Charcoal by Marco, Venice, Italy, September 22, 2013
Daddy Barry & Marco, Venice, Italy, September 22, 2013
In the afternoon Daddy Barry wanted to find the Leon Doro Boutique where we’d seen a cool hand-made Venetian mask of a green devil’s face partly obscured by the devil’s hand. When I had tried it on the other day my eyes sparkled from behind and Daddy Barry said “It’s you.” But the 150€ pricetag, and 50€ to ship, was a bit of a shock. Beautiful work, but nonetheless expensive. Leon Doro had given us a card with his information “in case someone wants to give it to you as a gift”:
Leon Doro Boutique
San Marco 1770
+39 041 52 03 375
“LEONDORO Boutique, situated very close to ‘La Fenice’ Theatre, was established in 1990 by the artistic creativity of MARINO GASTALDI. The shop is a centre for some of the craft-artist inspired by the venetian tradition. Their work takes shape in the form of fascinating masks and excluve, expertly-made marionettes sculpted in wood, glittering costumes (for hire and sale), ‘commedia dell’art’ carillon, puppet theatres, miniature bookcases, collectable porcelain dolls and many other ageless venetian curiosities and precious object of art that today are the expression of the eternal quality of Venice. Deliveries everywhere.
This time one of his helpers was there. When we scoped out the mask and inquired of its price we were quoted 160€. Daddy Barry inquired what her best offer might be. She made the call to Leon Doro. 140€. Sold. She wrapped it up tightly in bubble wrap and assured us it would make the trip packed in someone’s luggage. Daddy Barry opted to hand-carry its bag as his carry-on. It was lovely.
We headed on and ate at Kori Grill: Spaghetti with meatballs x 2, water x 2.
I had difficulty sleeping around 12am so I decided to take some additional Prosom and go hang out on the upper terrace while it kicked in. I realized in short order that I’d left my key card in the room. I went downstairs to get another and saw that the front gates were closed and the desk clerk was sleeping under a sheet. I really did not want to wake him. But around 2am I was ready for bed. I went to our room and called inside from my phone. It rang four times and rolled to voicemail. A second time. The third time I started to hear a stirring in an adjacent room. It was time to wake up the desk clerk. I did, and he was quite startled awake. I gently explained what I had done. He came up to the room and let me in. I asked him to be very quiet as someone was asleep inside. I gave him a 5€ tip and headed in.
Today was the day we toured Murano, Burano & Torcello Venetian isles. On Murano we stopped at Fornace Estevan Rossetto and watched them blow some glass, then took in their handsome showroom. Torcello was my favorite. It once had 20,000 people, but now only 12. It appeared it was being turned into a nature preserve island. On it was the handsome Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta.
In the afternoon we retrieved Daddy Barry’s pressed shirts from Gabriella. Then we went on the hunt to find a Mad Max / Borg esque mask we’d seen at Ca'Macana Venezia on the way to Giardino Papadopoli the other day. This was a possible Halloween option for Daddy Barry. But it was in silver, and just didn’t quite fit his tones. Similar ones had different objections, like not being able to see out of one of the eyes. That made the choice simple: Something else.
We ate dinner at the nearby Cason Dei Nobili. Daddy Barry had fettuccine a la ragu and I ate lamb chops with a mixed salad.
Sculpture outside Instituto Veneto di Scienze,, Lettere ed Arte, Palazzo Franchetti, Venice
Playfulness in Venice on our last day
Daddy Barry near our hotel on one of these smaller side canals.
In the evening we had the desk clerk book our water taxi for Tuesday. And Daddy Barry packed.
Once again I had difficulty sleeping from this time from 1am-3am. And this time because my nose was running and running and running. I took a Claritin Reditab. Then Benadryl. Then 2 more Claritin because I was out of Benadryl. Things finally settled down.
On bridge over canal outside our window
The water taxi was right on time. It was nice to have a direct path to the airport, instead of using the drag-luggage-to-the-train-station option. We got on BA 0595 for 12:50. It was a little late leaving. The flight was otherwise uneventful – until we got toward London. Apparently Heathrow had experienced fog in the morning and was still sorting out the mess. We circled about three times before we were cleared to land. We both knew we now had a very tight connection. Thankfully a BA gal met us at the gate and whisked us to Fast Track. Unfortunately, our gate had just closed. Bummer. Daddy Barry was sooo disappointed. The gal guided us to the rebooking area and put us in the Business / First line. She whispered “They’ll try to move you to that longer queue over there. Tell them I put you here and insist on staying in this queue.” When I finally saw what she was referring to, it was perhaps 3 hours of lines for rebooking. OMG. As it was, our little queue still took 45 minutes. But that wasn’t too bad. But Daddy Barry was getting mad that he was in this situation at all. I asked if I could be our interface with the agent. Then it was our turn. I gently explained what the BA gal had said and asked if she would simply book us on the exact same flight, tomorrow. (There’s only one direct flight a day.) She was happy to. “You two have been the most lovely people I’ve had all day.” And even though the glitch was caused by weather, they gave us a voucher for the airport’s Sofitel Hotel, including dinner & breakfast. Then it was over to the UK Border crossing. That took well over an hour. Daddy Barry was exhausted.
Then we started having some hiccups in service. First we were assigned a room with two twin beds. We went back down and I said “I wasn’t clear. We need one bed.” That’s all it took. Then we headed to the restaurant. It wasn’t open yet. We went across the way and got room goodies from the little grocery store in the airport. When we returned, the restaurant had opened at 6pm, but the buffet would not be ready until 6:30. Etc. Finally we are seated and get some food. The two options were 1) chicken in beans, which Daddy Barry couldn’t have, and 2) beef. We both opted for the beef. Unfortunately, his portion was inedible. He let the junior maitre’d know. He said he’d speak with the chef. Then never returned. As time went by Daddy Barry got more upset. Finally the maitre’d lady came over and he told her how frustrated he was. He wanted to wring that kid’s neck. She was gentle, and eventually came up with the solution to order something off the a-la carte menu and they’d comp it. But by this time Daddy Barry had lost his appetite.
We went upstairs and I asked him what that kid’s actions reminded him of. It was indeed one of those primal things. While growing up the rich kids ignored him; and even the wealthier side of the family ignored him. I understood.
Once again my nose kept me up from 1am-3am. I took Allegra, then a Claritin RediTab. (When we eventually got home I did a sinus wash before bed and indeed there was some muck on the left.)
Today we were heading home.
But the BA gal had said to be at the gate by 1pm, and we dutifully tried. The gate assignment didn’t happen until about 2:20 however. Meanwhile, we ate at Gordon Ramsey’s “Plane Food.” Daddy Barry had orecchiette, water, and Coke. I had the sole, water with gaz, and espresso with hot milk. It was a relaxed way to pass time not amongst the hordes.
Our one disappointment was that while we had two seats together, our section was full and they were unable to book us back into our side seating in a 2-4-2 configuration. So instead we had the two inner seats in the “4” part. Thankfully the guy to Daddy Barry’s left, Eric, was friendly; and the guy to my right was small and turned sideways without complaint when I needed to get up. But these inner seats did add to that Day That Never Ends feeling, as Deputy later called it.
Our plane landed maybe 8pm? And we were home via taxi about 9pm? We were exhausted. It was about 6am London time.
But we were home and could sleep in our own bed.
Even ceding the challenges getting home, it was a great trip. We got to thoroughly take in three world-class cities. We did indeed travel well together. We were considerate. We saw and did lots of interesting, informative and fun adventures. It was indeed a trip of a lifetime and we both loved it.