Thursday, November 23, 2006

From the windows of the palazzo

Watching from the windows is a Venetian habit - well, it is everywhere, truth to tell. These are some views from the windows of our apartment: I spent hours there, watching the world go by,with great pleasure.

This is the hotel next door to us, which has the most wonderfully warm coloured walls and roof. It is near the Bridge of Marvels, and closer to the Grand Canal. The birds - Venetian pigeons for the most part, I think, but starlings too - colonised the roofs at various times of day.

To describe this as a view from our kitchen window is stretching the definition a little, as I had to lean out of the window with the camera pointing back towards the apartment wall in order to photograph this little chap. He and his twin have a job of work to do: holding open the heavy wooden window shutters when they are not closed, to stop them blowing about in the wind. He would not ordinarily be seen by anyone, being so far from the ground, and it was by chance that I spotted him at all. There are many hidden details/treasures like this around Venice, if you have your eyes open - one of the many joys of the place.

This grand building across the Rio San Trovasino, on the corner with the Grand Canal, is undergoing radical refurbishment, and watching the arrival of deliveries and the slow progress of work was part of our days there. It has wonderful Gothic features and will doubtless look even more splendid on completion.

Faded grandeur is commonplace but so is refurbishment and restoration. It is good to see the past so revered and cherished, and such vital signs that life is going on amid the glories of antiquity.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ice Cream at Nico's


Just down the canal, on the Fondamenta delle Zattere, the ice cream coinnesseur can find an ice cream outlet which boasts some of the best ice cream in Venice. It is so sublime, and in so many varieties, that we could not wait long enough to photograph our cups and cornets long enough to photograph them. As it cost more to sit on their seats on the pontoon, we perched a little further along the fondamenta on the stacked duckboards which form elevated walkways during the acqua alta, or
highest tides (which flood the pavements), and these photographs represents aspects of the view we enjoyed while we did so, over the neighbouring island of Giudecca. Posted by Picasa

Meanwhile, Back in Venice

For the first day or two, Venice was in a pearly, misty,rather romantic soft-focus mood.

We caught our first sight of St. Marco from the vaporetto, looking so familiar.

Likewise the Doge's Palace, which is so very pretty and clean-looking.

Our first Venetian sunset, a view over the Giudecca, just at the end of "our" canal.

Children in Need Appeal


The local schools make much of the annual BBC Children in Need fund-raising appeal. My son's school has a non-school-uniform/fancy dress day, when the children "pay" for the privilege of not wearing their usual garb. This appeal has a mascot called Pudsey Bear, and Ben decided that he MUST go dressed as Pudsey. With the blind confidence of the young, he also decided that I could produce said costume. Well, after days of pondering and not a little discussion regarding what was possible and what was not, especially bearing in mind the need to be suitable for a reasonably normal day in school, I spent the evening over a hot sewing machine, and this is the result, photographed just before he left for school. I would say that he was a very happy Bunny, but perhaps a very happy Bear would be more appropriate. The mittens/paws are attached but have a slit so the hands can easily be uncovered for writing/eating/etc., the shoes are non-slip thanks to a layer of Copydex on the soles (a tip garnered from my rug-making course) and please note the fashionable tulip hemline at the bottom of the tunic, to give the illusion of fullness in the body (so clearly a look for me to avoid!) The fabric is a very cheap crushed velvet jersey, with a satisfactorily furry surface without being too hot or hairy, and I used offcuts of black sweatpant fabric (having converted a pair into gym shorts for my younger daughter) or black permanent marker pen for the black details. The mask is a layer of the velvet jersey backed by two layers of firm iron-on Vilene, ear inners in painted vilene and held on my elastic concealed by a sort of balaclava helmet head. I used a pair of jersey pyjamas as a rough pattern, plus worked a paper pattern for the head until I got the fit right. After a lot of fretting, it was very satisfying to rise to the challenge and see his pleasure in what I'd made.

Meanwhile, here is his sister, wearing her non-school-uniform and looking far too mature to be at school!

  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Venetian Dawn

On our first morning on holiday, we woke up very early (before dawn) and the children were still asleep. So what did we do? Well, the truth is that we went up to the roof-top terrace and watched Venice come alive as the sun rose. I went a little mad with the camera, and all I could see on reviewing them was a series of black rectangles, more or less. However, both my camera and Photoshop are powerful tools, and here's a selection of adjusted images

We had arrived in the dark, so had only a sketchy idea of our surroundings. Next morning we discovered that the building next door was being renovated, and the workmen started their working day very early. Another large building across the Rio San Trovasino towards the Grand Canal was also undergoing a significant overhaul, but in both cases there were apartments being inhabited within despite the construction work. Everything came and went by water - building materials, ingredients for the kitchen of the restaurant opposite. As time passed, more and more footsteps could be heard on the pavements below, probably making for the Vaporetto stop of Accademia, where we disembarked the night service boat the night before.

It was very misty and all surfaces were damp and shiny, as if there had been rain.
Gradually more was revealed as the light won over the mist to show what whad been hiding further away. It was strange to hear no sound of road traffic, just the purring of boat motors, the lapping of water against the canal sides and the brisk clip of shoes on paving stone.

Gradually the grayness of night became suffused with colour and the warmth of the terracotta roof tiles was revealed. We could see staff moving along the corridor of the hotel on our other side, and gradually more and more lights came on as the world got moving.

This last photograph below is one I find extraordinary. It was taken with a lot of zoom and brought to life with Photoshop, but no special effects have been used. I think it is quite magical, with a surprising range of colours.

Friday, November 10, 2006


We had a week in Venice during the recent half-term holiday, staying in an apartment in a canal-side palazzo. There is a gothic theme running through my life at the moment: first Tyntesfield, then Venice. The water andlight there create a whole new dimension, however.
Although weather caused some difficulties with the travel out - contributing to a two and a half hour delay to our flight from Bristol, and causing my eldest daughter and my mother to be diverted to Trieste from Stansted, thereafter it was mainly sunny, dry and quite warm for the time of year, and we had a terrific time.

I've come home with over 700 photos taken on my camera, some by my son and some by my husband but mostly by me. Do not panic, I'm not going to inflict them all on you - I'm a bit overwhelmed myself - but here is the first installment.

We were staying in the area known as Dorsoduro, just off the Grand Canal and close to the Accademia art gallery, which we never once entered. There was some very good art on the walls of the appartment anyway, and the weather made us want to spend as much time as possible out of doors. On "our" canal, the Rio San Trovaso, lies (one of?) the last working squiero, or gondola boatyard, in Venice. At the other end of the canal from the Grand Canal was the Giudecca Canal and, on its banks, a wonderful ice cream parlour called Nico's, which naturally we visited more than once.

No cars or bikes in Venice that we saw. Public transport means boats, or vaporetti, which run an excellent service, and I found getting around very easy. Otherwise, Venetians walk. The only traffic lights we saw there were on a canal and I'm unsure whether they indicated a one-way bridge or a special crossing for wheelchairs.