lundi 31 octobre 2011

Murano.....more to it than meets the eye!!

10 minutes by boat from Venice is the island of Murano, famous for its glassware - but we found out that it also has other treasures! With my addiction to visit old churches, we simply had to go inside this one and take a look...................

San Pietro Martire is, quite simply, a stunning little treasure. The original church and Dominican monastery, dedicated to St John the Baptist, was built from 1363 and consecrated in 1417. A tablet on the far right of the façade commemorates this. The church then burned down in 1474 but was rebuilt and enlarged, reopening in 1511 and dedicated to St Peter Martyr.

Now wouldn't this gold couronne make the most divine ''ciel de lit" bed canopy - but I thought someone might see me leave with it under my coat!

I also, just for a second, looked at of  those delicious Murano glass chandeliers; wouldn't they just make a magnificent pair of earrings, if only I could get them out!

At one side of the chapel was a small doorway pinned to which was a little paper sign with an arrow pointing towards the vestry advertising a museum of church antiques - and with a 1.50 Euro price tag.   There had been no mention of such a museum outside the chapel (nor in any of the tourist literature we had read prior to our visit) so I was naturally intrigued.

And that was possibly the most wonderful 1.50 Euros  I have ever spent!!  The first room (the vestry itself)  was  breathtaking - all four walls of the room were lined with the most beautifully-carved figures.

But the next floor simply took my breath away. Row upon row of early reliquaries  - some of  the most amazing pieces I have ever seen.

I had to take this photograph for Tartelette; with her addiction to all-things pink, she would have adored these little pink, flame- topped jars with handworked velvet reliquaries tucked inside. All closed with a wax seal too.

I only wanted one. I would have settled for just one...I`m not greedy!!!.. but they must have known I was on my way as they were tucked away behind glass - but how wonderful to see them, along with gorgeous old vestments, religious and crosses.

And these doors too ...I so need them. Both of them please!! Aren't they just wonderful?

 Rooms full of absolute treasures that no-one seemed to want to make any song and dance about! During the twenty or so minutes we spent looking at the treasures, no-one else came into those side rooms! And then we walked back outside to come face to face with the piece everyone was making a fuss about !!!!

Wonderful I know (a Murano glass 'special' in the central square) but, to me, it was not in the same league as those amazing glass jar reliquaries I had just seen.


samedi 29 octobre 2011

A gondola traffic jam...............

So what do you call a gathering of gondolas? A "gondle".....a "paddling"?....perhaps a "gaggle"? 

I adore Venice despite its few shortcomings! I dislike, for example the multitude of shops, seen everywhere,  selling  Murano glass in bright, gory shades........... but adore the odd gold foil 18th century pieces on view that are never for sale.

I hate the mask shops selling tacky, mass produced carnival masks..... but adore the traditional theatrical mask makers who produce the most amazing mysterious creations.

But as cliched as they are the gondolas and gondoliers fascinate me.

 I can`t say I have ever had the urge to be "gondled" (!) - but I do love to sit at a cafe in the sunshine beside the Grand Canal watching people precariously trying to get in and out of them. Lots of wobbling, panicking, shouting, almost going overboard ....and grasping for anything available on shore to gain a little stability!

I particularly love the gilded embellishments...............

.......they fascinate me and I  have to stop and stare!

Although I have no desire to be gondled... and refuse to do it .. I have, however, taken to the water in the 'traghetto'. Similarly shaped to a gondola they take passengers directly across the Grand canal from one bank to the other and are rowed by two oarsmen, not the traditional one. These gondolas have no fancy silk damask chairs or cherubs  The locals, who use them as we would a bus - to go shopping,travel to work, or perhaps visit friends -   invariably stand up for the short 4/5 minute trip. I most definitely did not stand but gripped on for grim death - but I was most impressed by a very elderly lady who stood carrying a shopping bag laden with vegetables in each hand without having the slightest wobble, even though the canal water was quite choppy. She must have been Venetian born and bred and it obviously  came second nature to her.

Gondoliering has always been a very male Italian macho profession with the right to work as a gondolier being passed  down from father to son - a job filled with tradition and history as the first gondoliers appeared in the Venice waterways some 900 years ago.

In the 17th and 18th century when Venice was at its most decadent there were eight to ten thousand gondolas in operation, each highly embellished and most with a "felze", a silk-lined cabin to protect passengers from the weather or from prying eyes!   Its windows could be closed with louvered shutters - the original "venetian blinds", and no doubt well used by Casanova himself whilst romancing some fine lady!

 Today there are around 400 gondolas and Venitian law decrees they should be painted black - and that law even applies to the now rarely seen 'wedding gondola'. This gondola is highly decorated with gilt and the gondoliers are allowed to wear a white uniform with gold trim.

All of the gondoliers working the canals today are male - except one. The daughter of a retired gondolier has fought a hard battle to become the first female gondolier in Venice. Giorgia Boscolo, 23, overcame one of Italy's last all-male bastions and become a certified gondolier after passing the city's exhaustive gondoliering course.

Two other women had enrolled on the same course as Mrs Boscolo's - a course which consisted of 400 hours of instruction, but neither made the grade. One of them has since accused the Venice Gondola Association of being sexist and of deliberately blocking her attempts to join - but the Association said she was simply not good enough!

I  love this quote from a local newspaper:

"Her (Miss  Boscolo's) new qualification will enable her to make a decent living. The rate for an evening gondola tour of Venice is 100 euros (£92) for 50 minutes, with each additional 20 minutes costing 50 euros."
Her father, Dante, said he was proud of his daughter but was still unsure whether women were up to the task of a profession which has been handed down from father to son since the 11th century.
"I still think being a gondolier is a man's job but I'm sure that with experience Giorgia will be able to do it," he said.

Local talk reveals that she has had a hard time, with her fellow gondoliers unwilling to move out of her way and making her work as hard as possible. I did look out for her but never spotted her.  I wonder if she is made to paddle some quiet backwater to pacify her?!! Had I found her I would have finally taken that Gondola ride as a matter of principle - and would have demanded to be paddled right down the centre of the Grand Canal at rush hour!!

A la prochaine mes belles..............or should that be Ciao or Arrivederci?

mercredi 26 octobre 2011

ooooooh Venice..............

What a close call that was nearly a miss for me this time! But as soon as that plane left the tarmac I finally relaxed!

When we arrived at St Marco airport we bumped into a huge group of nuns that Mark thought was a hen party! A few minutes later we saw a  large group of Monks too....................the stag party? No most definately not but quite a funny thought all the same!!!

Venice as wonderful as ever, as captivating as ever and no matter how many times we visit I will never tire of the unique atmosphere, the bustling palazzo, the silent back streets where even your hushed voice echoes.

 Just a few streets deeper into any area of Venice if you leave the tourist trail you are soon immersed in "real" Venetian day to day life. Washing hung out to dry and at dusk a glimpse inside family homes reveals wonderful chandeliers and painted fresco ceilings in buildings that look so crumbly and neglected from outside.

 It was beautifully sunny and warm in the day but cold enough at night for me to need to wrap that wonderful vintage velvet hooded coat around me! We went to the opera, a Vivaldi concert in the church he actually practised his music, the theatre for a wonderful period costume event and of course hot chocolate at Cafe Florian the haunt of Cassanova.

A coffee and a hot chocolate if you sit out on St Marks square between the marble pillars whilst being seranaded by their quintet of musicians is 33 euros................

....I know!! I know!!! Extortion .....but it`s once a year, it`s Venice and I am not sorry to say that I put the Cafe Florain gilt embellished paper napkins in my bag like a kleptomaniac!

I had heard that in the 18th century many of the merchants who owned the beautiful individial palaces that line the Grand Canal were incredibly rich and lived amazingly decadent lifestyles. I was told that they ate from gold plates and rather than wash them would simply hurl them from their windows into the grand canal below!

We had seen Venice`s cemetery Island sitting out in the sea between Venice and Murano and decided to take a boat there.

I thought that decadent living usually meant a decadent end and went to see if the churchyard housed any angels and cherubs. All I can say is that I have never ever seen such wonderful marble figures, plaques and no way macabre or sinister....all just simply amazing and hopefully the photographs below show just how stunning. ( you can double click the photographs for a better look).

Huge lifesize angels in fine Italian marble and tiny individual aristocratic chapels.

Who were these princesses I wonder? Those crowns and crests are amazing.

And who was this ballerina? The silk shoes were still amazing............

Hosts of verdi gris cherubs.........

So many statues draped in 19th century rosaries...........

Am I going to bore you with my photographs this week?

You bet I am!!!

A demain mes belles

lundi 17 octobre 2011

Oh what a close call...............................

Our  travel plans for our (late) holiday this year had been finalised months ago;  we were to leave for our 'stay-over' hotel in Beauvais today ready to take the flight to Venice tomorrow morning. All organised, all booked - all sorted. But not quite...............

Last week I felt a little dizzy everytime I stood up - so I booked an appointment for a check up. All was fine at the check up and my doctor asked me to have a routine blood test on Friday morning and we would look at the results when we got back from Venice next week. I went back home and did a little gardening,  feeling fine.

5 o`clock the phone rang  - and I missed it as I was far away in the garden. Then as I made my way back into the house my mobile went off and on the way to answer it the house phone rang again. It was my doctor telling me that I had to go to the surgery as a matter of urgency. Of course we dropped eveything and went right away.

What is going on with me this I getting as crumbly as the chateau steps?!!!

The doctor called me straight in as soon as I arrived and told me that as the blood tests had revealed that my blood count was so low I had to go directly to hospital for a transfusion! So off we went - and to cut a long story short they started the transfusion almost immediately and I was drip-fed four huge bags of A- ;  and a very nervous time followed. I have had every blood test possible and every IV on the go at once and I look a bit like a pin cushion! Throughout the weekend I kept  asking if I would be allowed to go on holiday but no one would give me a positive reply as it all depended on my blood tests. But today at 3pm I was released - and our holiday was 'on' again!

I dashed home, packed a case and we left at 5pm! So here we are at the hotel. I am battered and bruised and  definitely ready for that holiday now.

Do you think  all that additional French blood now makes me half French? I wonder whose it was? Did they have any special talents I will inherit? Will I be able to play the piano? Will I be a master patissier? I may become an onion seller. Will I start wearing a wrap-around apron and wellies and have a yearning to milk cows? Who knows!!!!

A la prochaine mes belles - and, hopefully, no more mishaps for me!

jeudi 13 octobre 2011

The mouths of truth...............

Since my last visit to Venice I have read about the mouths of truth and that is why I am so desperate to go back..............I have to find them!  This is what I read which started it and I know I cannot rest until I see them!

"Wandering around the alleyways of Venice you will probably come across the stone faces of lions and gargoyles set into the walls of public buildings. In Renaissance times, when Venice was an independent city-state, these mouths of truth were used as places where malicious Venetians could make a denunciation by posting a name into the lion’s mouth. Two witnesses were needed in order to bring a suspect to trial, but these were cruel times and punishments were harsh"

"So voracious was their (the Council of Ten) desire to pry that, throughout Venice, they set up the famous Lions' Mouths, by which Venetians could inform the Council anonymously of their suspicions of their neighbours."

It has been said that many a person regretted posting a note as soon as it left their hands - but once posted, it could never be retrieved.

 These anonymous letters were taken very seriously and if the charge was found to be false, the accuser would be put to death!

The most famous mouth is in The Doges palace. Each mouth was for a specific crime — one being for tax evasion. Two others are missing from the wall;  they were destroyed by Napoleon since they were in the shape of Lions, the symbol of the Republic of Venice, which Napoleon conquered.

I have been told that in the Jewish Quarter there is a hidden mouth of truth that was only for women - enabling a woman to denounce her neighbour for adultery, laziness or jealousy. I simply have to find that one!

The legend was that if a woman told a lie with her hand placed inside the mouth, it would be bitten off. One priest is reputed to have placed scorpians inside so that anyone telling an untruth would have their fingers stung!

 I wonder how many women hidden by a hooded cloak swept through the narrow cobbled streets at the dead of night to slip a note into that mouth?

"These were the terrible Lions’ Mouths. These were the throats down which went the  anonymous accusation thrust in secretly in the dead of night by an enemy, that doomed many an innocent man to walk the Bridge of Sighs and descend into the dungeon which none entered and hoped to see the sun again." - Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

When I find them will I have the courage to slip my fingers inside?

mercredi 12 octobre 2011

A chateau full of textile addicts!

Why is it the minute I go outside to photograph anything all of the animals arrive? First froufrou`s puppy Count Kipper arrives...................

..............followed by Sir Digbert Fanshaw Brownshaw................ who hates Kipper and has no time at all for the cheeky young whippersnapper! When Kipper is here Sir Digbert is far too aristocratic to deal with a young tearaway and he spends all of his time with his back turned on him!
Then along comes Charles Le Baron du Breuil..................
Are they all textile addicts too?