LeRoy asked me how I felt these compared to the beloved mountains I grew up with in Utah. In comparison? The Rocky Mountains are beautiful in their own right. As are the mountains in Glacier National Park. As are the gorgeous Cascades in Northwest Washington. And the Sierra Nevadas. Mountains are mountains. There's something about them that takes the breath away. As my girlfriend, Amy, wrote in her blog about the mountains in Malawi, "God had fun when He created this area." Exactly.
It took us almost 7 hours of driving through the Alps before we finally drove into Aviano, situated at the base of the mountains. By the time we located the American Base and checked into our room, it was almost 8:30 PM.
Though we were pretty travel-weary by this time, we were stoked about getting to connect with friends from Spokane. There's just something about being with "family" in person that does something for... well, (ahem)... yes, homesickness. I know I say all the time how much we love it here -- and we do. But we are forever longing for the sweet fellowship of those we love back home. So, I have to say, the Alps were beautiful, we were excited about being in Italy, but the best part of the day was, by far, getting to visit with Stacy and Jesse. We missed being with their babies as they were already tucked in bed sleeping, but we had a fabulous time laughing and connecting with the two of them. Of course, their way-cute dog was extremely playful with our children and pretty soon our kidlets were revved up. Stacy and Jesse were totally cool with them, responding to their craziness with this tranquility that I strive for in my motherhood. Jesse shared stories with them about some of his playful "jokes" he's played on Stacy and my children were hooked. In fact, all day the next day, our children asked, "When are we going to go hang out with Stacy and Jesse and their children?"
October 27, 2008 ~ The next day we drove to Pordenone (pronounced pord-uh-no-nay... right, Jessica G. S.?) where LeRoy and I got into one of our infamous parking fights. Serious, we thought parking was an issue in the States... Ha! We've gone to a whole new level, Baby! I'm not sure there's a marriage counselor out there who could help us now that we're trying to park in Europe! But wait, we're not to that part yet. The picture above is of two policemen who were directing traffic in the intersection. We thought it pretty quaint.
We arrived in front of the train station with plenty of time to spare to catch the next train... if only we could find a parking spot.
I'll spare you all the sordid details and just tell you that almost 45 minutes later, we bought our tickets, ran full speed through the tunnel leading to the train with LeRoy yelling to us, "Follow that man!!" and barely got on the train just as it was about to pull out. Breathless, we stood in the back of a train car, laughing our heads off at the way LeRoy instructed us to chase after the man with a suit, tie, and briefcase. It was classic... and it was just the comic relief we needed...
watching the Italian countryside go by.
About an hour later we stepped out of the train station and were met with sights and sounds similar to what we'd envisioned... only better. For several minutes we stood there taking it in. LeRoy and I looked at each other... Venice! We were actually in Venice!
There's something I've never told you. When I first arrived in Germany over a year ago, I cried pretty much every single day for the first several months. They were tears of joy. Everyday I awoke and would go throughout my day overcome with so much gratitude to be living here that the tears would just come. (Those of you who know me, know that I get deeply touched, but tears are rare.) Eventually, the tears weren't so frequent although the gratitude hasn't lessened. But now I found myself blinking back tears again for the last few days as we took in the Alps, got to be with friends, and now... Venice!
Now, to try and tell you about our day... I don't know exactly how to describe something so romantic...
(I originally posted 67 photos on this blog! Yikes!) I wish I could tell you all kinds of cool details about what we saw, and the history we learned about, and the names of bridges and statues and such, but, alas, Venice was a bit of a spontaneous trip and so I didn't walk along with my nose in the Rick Steves book like usual as we had nothing of the sort. I knew about "some famous square where there's a lot of pigeons and a building with famous horse statues" and I knew about a famous bridge called the... Rio? Rilado?
We bought a city map. Oh! Right! The Rialto! I knew it was something like that. So this ended up being one of those days that fits like a glove with my personality -- super spontaneous and absolutely adventurous! Uh, my man... kinda likes to have an idea of where we're headed, some vague notion of a plan... So now you have an idea of what kind of dynamics were in play between LeRoy and I. smile.
Laundry hanging on the line.
This tree was growing out of a small amount of dirt in a windowsill!
Isaiah read the guidebook that came with our city map, but it wasn't very detailed. No matter, every time we came to a landmark he'd stop all of us and read the few lines about that place: "Okay, it says that this church is Chiesa di San Moise and it was built in the 8th century." We'd look up, admire the building (for some reason...), say "cool" and move on. We just thought it was totally cool that we were in Venice.
Well, we figured out on the map where "the famous Square" was and attempted to head in that direction. We've found we're pretty directionally challenged in cities with canals, (...Brugge ...Amsterdam). We literally wound our way through the narrow streets, me along for the whole big adventure, LeRoy satisfied we were headed somewhere, Isaiah more than happy to play tour guide and head the navigation, (with LeRoy's help), and Eli, Zeke, and Israel their usual leaping, jumping, climbing selves.
Eventually, the children reminded us that food is still a necessity even in Venice. Walk down two more streets, cross another canal, turn the corner and ta-da, the Ragusei Cafe! We ordered panini sandwiches, a "wrap" (that was called something else in Italian), and coffee for LeRoy and I. I mean, espresso! I told the man, "No, just regular coffee, please." He smiled and nodded. Then he brought me and LeRoy tiny cups with about four small swallows worth of coffee in them. I felt afraid. I braced myself. I sipped. I then refrained from drinking it too fast. Delicioso! (Is that Italian... or Spanish?) Anyway, stomachs full, we continued on.
Zae & Zeke
There are no cars in Venice. People walk or take a boat taxi, gondola, or water bus.
What to do in Venice when you've "seen one canal, you've seen them all:" put your stick from your cheese and crackers snack in your nose.
We really need to bring a Rick Steves or Frommer's Tour Book next time!
We stopped to peek inside this antique shop.
Zeke walking down a street with laundry hanging overhead. I have no idea why I find laundry hanging out like this so romantic, but I do.
What fun to walk down these narrow streets with my family, exploring, looking into shop windows...
I admired the Venetian lace, linen, and needlework while my boys carried on dialogue with one another in which they are constantly cracking each other up, (when they're not pushing one another's hot buttons).
We finally reached the Grand Canal and realized that we were slightly turned around. While Zae and LeRoy figured out which way to go next Zeke and Israel did the only logical thing to do while waiting when there's a lamp pole nearby -- climb it.
Zae being his cute self on yet another bridge.
All day we walked down narrow streets and alleys and crossed bridges. The children and I tried to imagine day to day life in Venice. What kind of work would we do? What would weekends be like? What would it be like to step out our front door into our boat to run to the grocery store? The more I thought about it, the more I decided that I'm definitely adding Venice to my list of "Places I'd like to live in the world."
At one point we got caught up in a throng of children on a field trip. We purposely walked along with them for quite a while just so we could listen to their sweet Italian chatter. I think maybe I'd like to be a school teacher in an Italian school... or maybe we'll learn Italian and then I can be the teacher of my own little Italian class...
"Oh, Zae! Could you imagine a high speed boat chase in this canal?!"
Goofballs. Free spirits. Thoroughly enjoying ourselves!
I could just leave it at that. I could choose not to tell you that they were fighting and as a consequence I made them hold hands until they worked out their differences. (I told you... I wasn't joking about that "Double Violin!") I think it worked.
At last we made it to Saint Mark's Basilica and the famous Piazza,
...where we found the pigeons and managed to feed them without getting bombed.
This turned out to be the highlight of the day for the children. Me? Oh, I was teary as I stood there watching my children, their laughter and childish voices mingling with the low gurgle of the pigeons. A live orchestra played Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D Minor. The arched architecture surrounding the piazza acted as the perfect frame for all the poetry and romance contained in the moving, living collage.
The outside entry of Saint Mark's Basilica.
The famous horse statues I mentioned earlier, (but don't know anything more about... yet).
Pasta. It was everywhere in every kind of color and fun shape imaginable! This is just one little example.
Ever feel like time is just "slipping away?" There were so many fun shops as we walked along!
At last, the Rialto Bridge!
Zeke, me, and Israel on the Rialto Bridge.
The famous Rialto Bridge
Dinner along the canal...
We ordered two pizzas because we had to experience Venetian pizza! And we ordered a steak (24 Euros for a steak no bigger than a large fist; a small slice of zuchini; an even smaller slice of carrot; and a sprig of parsley). smile. Ever have one of those "been there, done that" moments when you consider how blessed you are to have experienced something but know that you probably won't choose to experience that particular thing again?
After dinner, LeRoy opted to take the water bus back to the train station rather than try to weave our way back -- in the dark no less. He's so wise! I don't think I would've considered something so rational. I might still be there at this very moment trying to get turned in the right direction only to end up going in more circles... ever-oblivious as I'm caught up in the romance of Venice!
We got back to the train station but then couldn't figure out which train to get on. When a conductor finally pointed us in the right direction we arrived in time to watch it leave the station. No worries. Another train was leaving in a little less than an hour.
At last we boarded and got comfortable in our seats. The children were tired but wired... meaning it was silly comedic theatre all the way back to Pordenone.
Deliriously all giggles by now.
"Mom, can I take a picture of myself with the camera?"
"Now you pose with Israel and I'll take a picture of you two."
Eli and Zeke hammed it up all the way home.
...while I monitored, attempting to discern the line at "rough housing" as my dad called it when we were growing up.
Once we got back to the lodging on Aviano Base we got comfy in our pj's and then the children watched television (a rare event), while LeRoy and I got treated to a visit from Stacy. It was a fantastic end to a wonderful day!
The next morning we started for home and although we traveled through Salzburg, by the time we got there we realized that we had to keep on going or we'd never make it home in time for LeRoy to get a bit of sleep before work the next day. So... we'll have to go back! We arrived home that night at 11:30 -- a 14-hour drive from Aviano to home! Thank You, Jesus, for safe travels!!
Now, we are doing our research backwards and instead of reading all about a place and then visiting it like we usually do, we're reading all about Venice and learning about what we saw! smile.