Wednesday morning was another early start, this time to meet a dear family friend of mine, who happened to be in Venice the same week we were. What a marvelous coincidence! She treated us to breakfast at her hotel, so we drank strong coffee and ate the yogurt, croissants, and a variety of cheeses on offer. I also stuffed my purse full of food, just to make sure we were getting the most bang for our buck. Yes, I am one of those people.

It was wonderful to see a friendly face from home, to feel grounded even in that strange and far away place. At the same time though, it made me all the more homesick to see her taken out of context, and to realize that while she would be going back to California, we would be going back to another strange and far away place for another month before returning home. I tried to just put all this aside though and enjoy the day, because why let thoughts like that ruin your time in Venice? I mean really.

She’s an old pro at Venice, so she introduced us to the vaporetti (which are a fabulous way to travel – pretty sure I could spend all day just riding up and down the river on those things.) We were aiming to explore the Jewish ghetto to the north of the city, but when a freezing rain started up while we were on the boat, and then the boat turned around and kicked us off before our anticipated stop, well… we thought maybe a different plan was in order.

So we hopped a different boat back down to Rialto, waved goodbye to our friend (who was sticking with the boats), and went back into the area where we’d had dinner the night before to explore a bit. We found a huge fresh fruit, veg, and fish market that we’d seen from the vaporetto, and the variety of produce available as compared to Lisbon almost made me weep.

By this point, I was absolutely freezing once more, and decided to take action. First we bought me a pair of cheap Thinsulate lined gloves at a street stall, far too big for my hands but affording much more warmth and protection than the thin fingerless gloves I’d been wearing. Then we set off to revisit a leather jacket that I’d tried on the day before, which I’d made myself walk away from at the time because I didn’t want to make an impulse buy motivated entirely by how cold I was. But a day later, I was still thinking about it, so we went back and got it.

Combined with the gloves, the addition of leggings underneath my jeans, and a beanie underneath my brimmed cap, I was at last slightly less than freezing when we went back out again after lunch. I was still cold, mind you, just tolerably so. Thank God.

The late afternoon consisted of a visit to the Doge’s Palace and the St. Mark’s basilica, both of which were fairly near our apartment. The Palace was of course vastly impressive, although I for one would never have wanted to be doge. It was an elected position for life, one with little or no actual power – completely a figurehead. What’s more, he couldn’t leave the city without permission of the council, and then only for a few days at a time. Strikes me as a bum deal, no matter how grand your house is.

We marveled over the huge rooms and paintings, grimaced at the weaponry displayed in the armory, and perused the three Heironymous Bosch triptychs in disgusted wonder. We also of course dutifully walked across the Bridge of Sighs, and then took a turn through the basilica, although seeing anything other than the main church cost extra.

We emerged from the church just in time for sunset (if there was one, through the clouds), and to witness the police saluting the Italian flag as it was taken down. This seemed like as good a time as any for some refueling, so we found a snack bar where Gabe could have a slice of pizza and I a cappuccino.

Much revitalized, we took the vaporetto up to the other end of the island, where another of our landlord’s recommendations awaited us for dinner. The vaporetto ride was our longest yet, taking us around the outer and more industrial side of the island instead of the more picturesque Grand Canal. It dropped us off on a long promenade running alongside the water, and we dove into the snarl of little streets alongside, eventually finding the restaurant we were looking for – which had one person inside.

Since we weren’t starving, we wandered around some more, and were rewarded by seeing some aspects of actual life in Venice that we hadn’t seen in the more touristy areas. A few minutes away from the restaurant, we saw a huge crowd of people by the water, all of whom had wheeled grocery carts. Turned out they were picking up their grocery delivery out of a boat filled to the brim with plastic grocery bags full of vegetables and other foodstuffs. What a fascinating way to get groceries! We never did figure out where they were coming from, but it was obviously a well-worn ritual and gathering time for the people in the neighborhood.

Once we returned to the restaurant, there wasn’t actually anyone new eating, just the same person. But we sat down anyway (in the thinly-enclosed outdoor patio, which was still freezing despite the heater turned on full blast right next to us) and had a delightful meal: spaghetti, a whole fish, and amazing tiramisu, washed down with red wine and a whole lot of sass and personality from the guy running the place, who spent the entire time speaking Italian/English with the Indian chef. What a mix. It was definitely an experience, and one we wouldn’t have found without a recommendation from a local.

We took the vaporetto home, through the lights and palaces of the Grand Canal, and had an early night of it.

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