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Sunday, June 27, 2004

Family vacation notes: Venice (via email) 

According to plan, we arrived at Venice on Friday, met the woman who had
rented us the apartment, and travelled by water bus and foot to our digs in
the heart of Cannaregio, the historical location of the Jewish ghetto. The
apartment is quite small, but very clean and nice. There are three little
bedrooms, a living room and a fairly spacious kitchen. It is also quiet,
being up a couple of stories and well away from any canal. Indeed, Venice
in general is almost unbelievably quiet for such a densly populated bit of
land. It is easy to forget how much noise we live with as a result of cars,
trucks and other motorized vehicles. But for boats, Venice gets by without
the internal combustion engine. You don't have to be an unreconstructed
Greenie to appreciate a few days away from the noise.

In the two days we have had here we have covered San Marco square and its
attractions, including the palace of the Venetion doge (the leader of the
Venetion Republic, elected for life) and the 940 year-old Basillica, and the
glass-blowing factories of Murano. In between, we have sustained our
commitment to eat gelato every day.

Now, when the average American thinks of San Marco square, he may remember
that loathsome DeBeers ad, wherein an affluent looking fellow with flecks of
grey in his hair intimidates a few pigeons and then yells out "I love this
woman!," gives his lover a DeBeers diamond, and then she hugs him and
whispers "I love this man." Makes me want to vomito, as they say in Italy,
every time.

In fact, nothing like that ever happens on San Marco Square, at least not in
good weather. The place is packed with tourists, vendors, and pigeons. And
vendors of pigeon food, which goes a long way to explaining the unbelievable
pigeon population. It turns out that pigeon food - at a single Euro for a
little bag of corn - is the best entertainment value in town. For that Euro
you get ten to fifteen minutes of pigeon love, for they flock to any child,
or grown-up child, with a bag of corn. If you fill your hand with corn and
extend it, pigeons will flock to your arms and peck away at the corn and
each other until it is gone. Wild pigeon times, I'm telling you.

Naturally, "Mary Poppins" comes to mind: "Feed the birds? What rubbish!
What do you get if you feed the birds? Fat birds!" And a bag of food is no
longer tuppence. It's a Euro.

Tomorrow, we grab an early train to Milan, and thence an afternoon flight
home. We will miss Italy, and also be happy to be home. Conventional
blogging returns Monday night.

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