5.18.12 Venice Vidi Vici

Grand canal moonlight 790 xxx
photos by george billard
I've had fun all over again this week, going through the many photos from our vacation. I've showed you some highlights, but I haven't really shared the impetus for this trip. It all began with an invitation to celebrate the 50th birthday of my beloved college roommate in a palazzo on the Grand Canal. Who could refuse? Sixty lucky souls turned up at the Palazzo Loredan dell'Ambasciatore for a black-tie fête on the night of the super moon. It truly felt like the most special once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I hope we'll all end up back there when she turns 75. The palazzo was everything you might imagine: vast, lavishly furnished (including ornate Murano glass chandeliers) and complete with its own mustachioed butler. You could ride up to the palazzo in your water taxi, leap gracefully onto the small wooden dock and pass through the iron gate to the ground floor's echoing marble hall. What a life!
Loredan 790 xxx
enchanted palace
I loved perching on the edge of the balcony, next to the planters overflowing with ivy, taking the morning sun and watching the comings and goings on the canal. A vaporetto here, a gondola there, a ferry barge, a floating ambulance. Life on the water...
Grand canal at night 790 xxx
night on the canal
This is the view from the palazzo as the sun was going down.
Palazzos 790 xxx
high rises
Most of the Grand Canal waterfront is taken up with these grand buildings. A few even have remnants of the original frescoes that used to adorn the façades. They're covered with the legendary Venetian plaster in varying states of disrepair, and the muted colors and occasional bright awnings are truly beautiful.
Courtyard 1 790 xxx
enchanted garden
Our rather more modest digs were still quite wonderful. We rented a little two-floor apartment in the Dorsoduro sestiere, about a 5-minute walk from the palazzo Loredan, on Ca' Carmini. Our building was on a small canal, and opened onto this lovely courtyard, with a gorgeous garden beyond. Our door was the brown one on the right.
Courtyard 2 790 xxx
how do you say pied à terre in italian?
We had our own darling garden, with potted herbs and climbing roses. The bedroom had Venetian red walls and the lovely sitting room with its blue velvet couches was lined with shelves crammed with art books. Home sweet home, indeed.
Veg barge 790 xxx
barge right in
A stone's throw away, en route to our morning cappuccino (when in Rome Venice...), was this wonderful vegetable barge, loaded with fresh produce. Purple artichokes, stacks of zucchini with their puffy yellow flowers still attached, curling burgundy leaves of Treviso radicchio, fat white asparagus—I longed to cook at home one night, but we couldn't bear to stay in. I did buy a couple of small baskets of tiny wild strawberries just to bury my nose in their exquisite perfume.
Canal blue sky 790 xxx
wild blue yonder
One afternoon we took a boat ride for a couple of hours along with a few pals. Our driver (captain?) was a proud native Venetian who knew so much about the city, and imparted all sorts of history and lore. As you can see, the weather was perfection and, with the wind in my hair and that fresh saline air in my face, I've never felt so alive.
Old canal 790 xxx
age before beauty
Around every corner you never fail to encounter the most picturesque vignette or breathtaking vista. Let me share just a few of the moments G captured with his marvelous eye for detail.
Blooms 790 xxx
the city was resplendent with blooming plants: wisteria, roses, honeysuckle, hydrangea
Blue canal 790 xxx
the encroaching evening bathed everything in moody blues
Statues 790 xxx
signs of the cross: every neighborhood has at least one (ancient, glorious) church
Gondolas 790 xxx
we chanced upon the shipyard where the gondolas are built and repaired
Africans 790 xxx
african queens: these lovely ladies were selling their wares
Ls gb 790 xxx
g and me, traveling in style (photo courtesy of k. busby)
We came, we saw, we conquered. Or were conquered, more like it. Utterly slain by the magical beauty and irresistible romance of Venice. We shall return!Wishing you could bring a little Venice into your home right now? Whip up a risotto, pour a hearty red and settle in to watch this. Or this. Or this (but not for the faint of heart). xoxo


It's like a little vacation, reading this and gazing at your pictures. And I have to say, you look gorgeous in the last picture, like a movie star!
Cathy on May 18, 2012 at 3:21 am —
Sweet of you to say, Cathy! xo
laura on May 18, 2012 at 3:56 am —
thanks so much for sharing this week. am excited to go back armed with your recommendations. you look wonderful, relaxed and happy. love bread and tulips.
g on May 18, 2012 at 5:37 am —
Thanks for the mental trip to one of my most favorite of western European cities. Your joy in life, and in G, is palpable, and it gives me joy for both of you. I'd like to think of you two, back in Venice for that 75th birthday, but most definitely before!
Carol Tanenbaum on May 18, 2012 at 5:41 am —
Hopefully Portland is up next, Giovanna!
laura on May 18, 2012 at 6:05 am —
Here's to that, Carol!
laura on May 18, 2012 at 6:06 am —
well, you know we will feed you!
g on May 18, 2012 at 10:33 am —
I am so looking forward to that!!
laura on May 18, 2012 at 10:59 am —
A gazillion years ago I went to Genoa. On my own. I ate out one night at a lovely and very expensive restaurant, and the waiter persuaded me to have the dessert of fresh strawberries. This was the first I had seen of these tiny, intensely flavoured berries. When I came home (Australia) I grew some, but unfortunately my beloved basset loved them even more than me. She would bare her teeth and delicately pluck off the fruit. It was a sight to behold.
Christine on May 18, 2012 at 6:06 pm —
Christine, that is such a hilarious image! Smart dog.
laura on May 18, 2012 at 8:21 pm —
AMAZING! Sounds like the gathering of the century. How fun. Thanks for sharing the photos and memories.
Mily on May 18, 2012 at 8:50 pm —
You look so serenely glamorous in this last photo, Laura. Must have been spectacular to see that giant moon reflected in the grand canal!
David on May 23, 2012 at 1:28 pm —
Thanks, David! Dying to hear about your Asia travels...xo
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