DAVID: Once more, my amazing Eurail Pass from RailEurope.com was my simple and economical way to travel, this time from Florence to Venice. The train was sleek and comfortable and fast. And there were plenty of willing hands to help me on — and after an easy ride complete with included newspapers, orange juice, and cookies — off the train with my heavy suitcase.
Every one – every man woman and child – should visit Venice at least once in a lifetime. It is the stuff dreams are made of; Disneyland on the water, a city to get lost in (literally; but who cares!) A place to fall in love for the first time, or all over again. And when the mist drifts in, Venice becomes haunted. The churches, the monuments, the piazzas, the people all take on a ghostly appearance. Romantic and lyrical.
For me, on this trip, the only thing missing – my wife.
JACKIE: Look around; I am there with you, one of the ghosts.
DAVID: Well, not in my hotel, the wonderful Londra Palace, a few steps back from the lagoon with all the water traffic – from gondolas to delivery boats to Vaporettas (water buses), to huge cruise ships – just beyond my room and my balcony. Thanks to General Manager Alain Bull (dapper, handsome, charming) and Stefania Vaccari, his Assistant GM (welcoming, helpful, and knowledgeable).
I was more than comfortably housed in a Junior Suite facing all the splendor of Venice. The passing parade – hundreds of tourists and dozens of water craft – entertained me constantly. Inside, the walls of my room were covered in striped pale blue and gold fabric; the draperies and carpeting picked up the antique pattern, and my sitting room and bedroom each had a flat screen TV and doors leading to the terrace and balcony. Only the excitement of Venice beyond could lure me out. I had to dodge my way through the hoards of tourists as I walked up and down the massive bridges leading to Piazza San Marco with its Ducal Palace, Basilica, Campanile, and everywhere everyone taking pictures, eating gelato, kids chasing pigeons, and a few couples dancing.
JACKIE: My favorite thing, best memory of Venice on our first trip, you and I dancing in the middle of Piazza San Marco to the music of Tuxedoed orchestras in restaurants on both sides of the square.
DAVID: So come on over; we’ll dance again. Or – I’ll continue following the canals, watching the gondolas, and window-shopping as I passed a zillion small stores with souvenirs and several with high fashion or high priced jewelry or Murano glass. Finally exhausted, I returned to the Londra Palace, my room, and my rain shower. Fresh again, I went down stairs to the hotel’s restaurant Do Leoni where a Grey Goose with lots of ice and a slice of fresh orange prepared me for the dinner to come prepared by Chef Loris Indri. To start, a thick slice of cold Foie Gras served with a fabulous cherry crumble, moist and delicious. Poor us; we can send a man to the moon, an explorer to Mars, but we cannot produce foie gras without harming the goose.
JACKIE: I enjoy the duck foie grass, you know. A victory for the geese! Perhaps our priority should be to first cure cancer and reduce crime and….
DAVID: OK, love; point taken. Meanwhile, the second Maitre d’, Luca Bisaro, brought a half bottle of lush, deep Masi Costasera Amarone ’07 to accompany my al dente spaghettoni in sauce with bits of scallops, courgettes, and saffron. Half the half bottle later, bright pink slices of roasted rump of lamb with escalopes of green pea puree. Also, a much needed insalata mista (mixed salad). My dessert was white chocolate gelato with wild strawberries and a flute of Laurent Perrier champagne. Bravo, Do Leoni! Excellent meal on my first night in Venice.
On the last day, after arranging a porter with the help of my hotel’s Concierge, Alvise Zavagno, I absolutely had to hit Harry’s Bar. This, the original, established in 1931, has become synonymous with Venice. Elvio De Marchi, Harry Cipriani’s manager, brought my brief trip to a happy ending with the celebrated Bellini. One for the road!
JACKIE: Next time, and perhaps in 2013, Venice is possible for all. Happy New Year we’ll Travel….