Monday, November 3, 2008

Venice, and then some...

Tonight, just after sunset, we walked across Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal and we again realised why we fell in love with Venice.

It's the most romantic, beautiful view there is.

The past two days has seen some sensory overload for us, as we spent most of time wandering around the Venice Biennale. It's a massive international design and architecture expo, well known in those industries.

The Biennale is set in various parts of the Venice island, a large part of it in the docklands and industrial area, in old, huge warehouses, which gave the exhibits a very 'renewal space' ambience. The other major part is set in a large, treed park with counry pavilions, which gives it the feel of the Easter Rand Show in the seventies. The exhibits were varied, ranging from very technical architecural designs and theoretical displays, through to heavy intellectual, critical and philosophical interpretations of architectural and urban design, and a large portion of modern and sometimes whimsical design and art forms.

The lasting impression we left with is how diverse and varied interpretations of the spaces we live in are. And that a brick is not just a brick.

We went out of our way to see the SOuth African pavilion, which was in a remote part of the expo, but it turned out to be closed. Eish...


We visited an area early this morning known as the Ghetto. Like Ghetto areas elsewhere in the world, it was the space where urban Jews lived, often under less than ideal circumstances. It doesn't look much different from other parts of Venice, though the sound of Hebrew is in the air suddenly, as Israeli tour groups pass through. Sitting on the 'Ghetto Square' we were fascinated by the reception these groups received from the local Chabad. It was a kind of a welcoming ritual, which involved some singing, blessing and reading from the Torah. I got the impression for some of them visiting the Ghetto was a kind of pilgrimage.

There were also a few Jewish curio shops in the area. A tourist is a tourist is a tourist...
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Friday, October 31, 2008

Venisie, dag een...

...en hoe beter om te begin as met 'n twee-smaak roomys. Maak nou nie saak of dit yskoud is en honde en katte reen nie (dit doen, en is), maar 'n pistachio en aarbei horinkie is 'n ritueel wat ons nie hier sal misloop nie. Lam-in-die-kniee lekker!

En waarna ons weer terug is uit in die reen, soos ware toeriste, sambrele in die hand. Ons is nerens eintlik heen nie, net rondgedwaal in Venisie se eindelose gangetjies, stilgestaan by eiendomsagentskappe (R2-4m vir 'n eenslaapkamer-woonstel) en ons verkyk aan die winkeltjies wat so eie aan Venisie is - pottebakkery tot drukkerytjies en koper-ornamente, en die alomteenwoordige Venisiese maskers.

Teen twee-uur was ons albei behoorlik papsopnat ten spyte van die sambrele. Voor huistoegaan het ons eers in 'n kafeetjie gestop vir 'n pizza en 'n glas rooiwyn. Die pryse was nie te sleg nie, maar die eienaars van die plek blyk toe Chinese Venisiers te wees. Dus was die pizza maar, sal ons se^, Chinees-Venisies. Eetbaar, maar nou nie vars uit Mama se kombuis nie.

Ons hotel is 'n hele ent van die hooftoeloop van toeriste in 'n stil deel van Venisie, 'n hanetree van die naaste Vaporetto-stasie af. Ons't gistraant aangekom sonder probleme, en is heel gelukkig met die kamer, wat tipies Venisies gemeublieer en versier is - ligblou gordyne en beddegoed, goue, fensie spieelraam en Murano glas plafonlig. Als lyk of dit nie te lank terug nie oorgedoen is, baie netjies en skoon. Ontbyt was die gewone Italiaanse affair - koffie, croissante, konfyt, en natuurllik, 'n Italiaanse onbyt is nie volledig sonder sjokolade-smeer nie.

Venisie voel steeds soos 'n tweede tuiste. Die rustigheid is tasbaar, die verloop van die lewe waarskynlik getemper deur die eeue waartydens nie veel omwenteling anders as nuwe straatlampe gebeur het nie (Venisie is nog nooit in onlangse heugenis deur oorlog geteister nie). En natuurlik Internet, gratis in die hotel, waaroor ons baie bly is. Dit het gehelp om ons bietjie op te voed.... iets in die lug het gese^ more is 'n vakansiedag, en na 'n gegoogle het ons uitgevind dis 'All Saints Day' more, en Sondag 'Day of the Departed'. Amper soos Halloween, maar meer heilig. Dankie tog...
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tata Barcelona

We started off the day yesterday morning with a visit to the rental agent to negotiate the ridiculously high late check-in fee and report the broken bed we've been 'sleeping' on. Fortunately they were quite amenable and we reached a settlement that we were fairly happy with.

I'd woken up with a stomach bug that haunted me the whole day, giving it a strange Dali-ike quality as reality shifted in and out of focus as we negotiated rain, traffic, queues and sidewalk crowds. So it only seemed logical that we would take a two hour train journey to the town of Figueres to pay a visit to the Dali Museum and get a closer look at the native Catalonian artist life and work.

Figueres is Dali's place of birth, and without that notoriety, or fame, it would just be another provincial Spanish town. However due to the presence of the museum in the downtown area, it now has a fashionable shopping district, the usual curio and touristy shops, and neat, clean pavements. Maybe towns like Somerset East, birthplace and home to the Walter Battiss museum, should take a few tips.

While the museum, a mix of the grotesque, monumental, curious and artistically intrigueing is a visual experience, it was extremely overcrowded and noisy. Museums/art galleries lose their impact very quickly when you simply can't look at a painting for more than five seconds without being shoved or someone walking past in front of what you're trying hard to make sense of. So we had to continuously dodge out the door into the cosy garden courtyards to catch our breath and escape the camera flashes.

Also, and this may be part of the Dali-ousness of the museum, there is very little information given about anything inside it, nor is there a logical flow guiding one's visit, and nothing that feeds the visitor's innate need to 'know'. Having to constantly dodge people didn't help, so by the end of the visit, I felt compelled to buy a museum guide to give the whole experience a bit more meaning. Probably very un-Dali, but then, I also don't have such a great moustache, either.

Interestingly enough, a fairly small part of the the whole Dali collection was classic surrealist, 'mad' painting and sculpture; it seems he also did a lot of work in other styles. Live and learn...

After an uneventful return to Barcelona and early-to-bed evening, we got up early this morning, Adeline went for a run, and I shot a few last photos around town. We're packing for the flight to Venice this afternoon, going in a sense 'home' to the place we both love. Don't know what the Internet connectivity will be like there, but hopefully we'll be posting more updates!
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