Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Venetian Experience

This hotel was originally two separate palaces which have been joined to create the Westin Europa and Regina. One of them was the Casa Alvisi, which belonged to a New Yorker who became a famous Venetian hostess who was the model for Mrs. Prest in Henry James' The Aspern Papers. Our room is on the second floor and small, but quite elegant. The two, shuttered windows open onto an air shaft, so there's no view. There's no clock either, which I find a bit odd. And no ice. Henry James would not have been impressed.

We breakfast on the terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. It's a breakfast buffet, and I am intrigued by the thin, lacy, translucent Venetian bacon. So is Xingxing. The sea gulls like it, too. One of them swoops down and snatches some from the startled diner next to us. Little motor taxis potter back and forth on the canal.  Opposite, the white domes and cupolas of Santa Maria Della Salute gleam in the morning sunshine. I just sit and and watch the Venetian world go by. Xingxing is more interested in the bacon.

This morning we retrace our steps across the Academia Bridge to go to the Peggy Guggenheim museum. I notice that there are hundreds of padlocks attached to the railings of the bridge, although I have no idea why and make a mental note to ask the hotel Concierge about this. The most interesting thing about the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is not the art -- although there are a couple of interesting, early Jackson Pollocks -- but the villa itself. You get a real sense of what it might be like to live here. The dazzle of water and light, the airiness. Of course, it wouldn't hurt to be fabulously rich. There's a black and white photograph of Peggy in her bedroom, sitting on a four-poster bed with a Calder mobile dangling overhead, looking happy.

After a light lunch we explore the small garden near our hotel, just past the water taxi station. In the old days it was the site of the city granary.  The little garden that was subsequently built on the site was originally private, but now  it's open to the public, a shady little enclave of gravel paths and benches. I thought Xingxing might like a change from the concrete and paving stones, but he makes it clear he prefers the Campo San Moises where tourists queue up for gondola rides. 

The 9-hour time difference has affected each of us differently.  I'm having trouble sleeping at night, and find myself needing an afternoon nap. Xingxing is sleeping well enough, but seems a little bit off his food and needs to poop at odd intervals. Just as well we have these few days to adjust before boarding the Azamara Quest.


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