Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Travelogue – taking my laundry out for a stroll

Tuesday, July 24

I'll get today's frustration out of my system first. It is time to do laundry again. It is one day earlier than I would have liked, but one of my shirts has a reddish splotch on it. I'm sure it isn't food. It could be ink from something in my suitcase. I counted the days remaining in my trip and I'll have to do laundry twice more anyway. So. Time to find a laundromat.

My guidebook says: “Self-service laundrettes are few and far between in Venice. The best places to find one are in the university areas of San Polo and Santa Croce.” Both of those districts are rather large and his description isn't specific enough to go looking.

This morning I asked about a laundry at the hotel desk. The clerk said there is one near the hospital not far from here and he circled a particular street. I went there on my way to Piazza San Marco. No business having to do with laundry on that street. I'll come back to the Piazza in a moment.

After my day of being a tourist, I went back to my room to actually deal with laundry. I did not want to drag the suitcase around the city, even if it only had a few clothes in it. So I put all the dirty stuff in my backpack. I decided I would avoid the problem of putting clean clothes in a dirty backpack by washing the backpack too. It does have a sweat stain or two.

Before heading out I checked Google for “Venezia lavanderia.” It gave me four hits in the city. Two were listed as “secco” which I know from my music percussion class means “dry” – a dry cleaner. So I noted the location of the other two and headed out.

The first one was wrong – there was no laundry there. I even asked a shop clerk. I decided a quick dinner at a cafeteria was in order so I could save time. The good part is it was only $20. The bad part is I would have paid about $6 for that meal in America. I left the cafeteria at about 8:00.

I was close to Piazza San Marco, so I thought to ask the tourist information centers there. The one on the Piazza closed at 7:00. The other, by the canal, closed at 2:30 (that's worse than banker's hours!). On to the other Google suggestion, this one by he Arsenale. It was a pleasant walk along the waterfront, lots of people about, good views across the water.

But no laundry where Google said it would be. This was actually a residential area. Yup, Google struck out twice.

So I went back to the area around the hospital and checked every side street. No laundry.

I got back to the hotel at 9:00. The sun had set and it was definitely twilight. I asked the evening clerk and he indicated two possibilities and I marked them on my map. Neither is near the hospital. I thought of going out again, but I'm not keen on trying to navigate this city in the dark. I always have a map with me and consult it frequently. When I don't it is very easy to go in the wrong direction (this from a guy who has a very good sense of direction).

So, I took my laundry out for a stroll. Though frustrating, it was a pleasant evening. I saw parts of Venice few tourists ever see. I guess I'll be wearing the stained shirt tomorrow.

Back to the touristy things.

My first stop was Museo Correr. I went here first so I could buy a museum pass without a long line. The museum is part of the buildings that wrap around the piazza. One section is the royal apartments used with the ruling Hapsburgs (Austrian) were in residence. Another section has coins, another is archaeological. There are even a couple 17th and 18th Century libararies. No photos – they weren't allowed.

I had left my backpack at the cloakroom and picked it up before going to the cafe. I asked about the toilet and the cloakroom clerk told me to go through a door and down a flight of stairs. The cafe provided a quick lunch, but I had drunk enough water that I thought I should visit the toilet again while I could. A different clerk in the cloakroom and this one said going through that door was not possible. She said I should use the toilet in the museum. I tried to explain my ticket was good for only one entry and I had already been in. But I recognized a battle I couldn't win. I didn't need to go that badly.

On to the Ducal Palace. This was quite a place! This where the Doge lived and where the various city governing bodies met – I couldn't begin to explain the various committees, legislative bodies, appeals courts, etc. Each had it own hall with suitable paintings on the walls and ceilings to impress outsiders and give the impression that Jesus and Mary had granted these people the right to rule. Venice was a democracy, with complicated rules for electing the next Doge to insure no corruption. But it was democratic only if you were part of the aristocracy and there were ways to make sure that no riff-raff became part of the aristocracy. One room towards the end of the tour is a hall big enough to hold representatives from all the important families, perhaps 2000 in all. It is the largest room in the city and one of the biggest in Europe. The photo is of the courtyard.

I'll go back to the Piazza for the Cathedral, but I'll do it when I don't have my backpack with me (perhaps tomorrow while it is still full of laundry). They won't let that in and they don't have their own cloakroom.

It was only 4:30, too early for dinner. So I wandered around the San Marco district and found the instrument museum. This comes with a soundtrack – Vivaldi's Four Seasons. In addition to displays of old instruments there were signs describing the life of Antonio Vivaldi. This was his home and the location of the girl's school where he taught for many years. It is also where he composed most of his music. The photo is of some old oboes.

There are advertisements around town for concerts of the Four Seasons, but I won't go. They seem geared towards the tourist. Besides, I'm not a big fan of his music.

On the way back to my hotel I passed the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge.

I got an email today asking why I'm in Italy. The cuisine is probably totally wasted on me.

Yup, I don't do well on Italian cuisine. Pasta and pizza are both too high in carbs. Seafood usually means shrimp and calamari. I don't like garlic and don't drink wine. Gelato has too much sugar. Prosciutto can be weird (the word means “ham” but it can be dried instead of cooked). The food is quite expensive.

So why am I in Italy if not for the food? Art, architecture, history, getting to explore another culture (if not the food), seeing Venice while there is still a Venice to see. Because I'm in Europe and haven't been south of the Alps before.

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