Aug 15, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

Florence to Venice

The weather today was much better – more like Paris. Jeannette was still shaky so Allen, Harry & I left her at the hotel and went on a tour. We caught a bus for Piazza de Marco and in the Academy of Fine Arts, saw the “David”. It is beautifully displayed in a gallery along with several other works of Michelangelo – mostly unfinished – but still very gripping & impressive.

We taxied to the Bargello or National MuseumThe Bargello, also known as the Bargello Palace, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, or Palazzo del Popolo (Palace of the People) is a former barracks and prison, now an art museum, in Florence, Italy. where there is another room of Michelangelo’s works – the Bacchus, David – Apollo, a Madonna with Child, bust of Brutus. This museum too was fascinating – many sculptures, armor, guns, etc. Hard to leave.

We went to Pza. d. Signoria and had a beer – the crowd there is always interesting. Then went to Ponte Vecchio looking at the shops, made a couple of small purchases, and walked back to the hotel.

Jeannette was much better – in fact, had done some shopping. We ate, rested, packed and left on the train at around 4:30, arriving Venice at around 7:20. Allen & I played gin almost the whole way. The countryside was lovely as usual – vineyards, olive groves, peach orchards. Sometimes we went thru miles of tunnels thru mountains.

We arrived just at sunset & went to the Hotel Luna by a long gondola trip. The absence of traffic noises was amazing – but to see how the gondolier maneuvered was equally amazing.

We found our hotel right off the Grand Canal and only a few steps from St. Mark’s square. Our room was disappointingly modern – not atmospheric as you might suspect. But I’m only kidding – it was air-conditioned & fully furnished – even to a large piece of porcelain in each bedside table we didn’t know what to do with. Our bathrooms look European – completely marble, the bidet (of course) a sky light, and a towel as large as a sheet.

We had drinks in the hotel bar and ate outside – the walk outside our our patio seemed to be a a main thoroughfare. After dinner we joined the traffic to St. Mark’s Square. We had heard music coming from there during dinner – to our amazement, there was a huge symphony orchestra, hundreds of people milling around, tables set up out around the square. We sat for awhile – I had coffee then Tchaikovsky’s 4th lulled Harry to sleep so we folded.

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Aug 15, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

Venice, Day 1

Harry & I had breakfast in our room, joined the tour downstairs outside the hotel. It was a ‘walking’ tour of St. Marks Square, the Cathedral & the Doge’s Palace. But to our surprise, it was much easier on the feet than we had expected – benches in every room of the Palace. The last part of the tour was a motor ride to Murano to see how the Venetian glass is blown. It was fascinating to watch and to do! Harry pushed me up to volunteer first to blow some glass; naturally I did itMy kingdom for a picture!! – and after you blow & blow – the strike the glass & break it. All this is a come-on to buy – so I did – a dozen gobletsWish I knew where these are/if she liked them/if we still have them!! I do hope I like them when they get to Waco – some several weeks hence. All are hand-made (or hand blown) of course and etched.

Back in Venice we bought some beads for Willie MaeOur housekeeper and one of my keepers while they were on this trip. Family will know this, because I harp on it, but I was only 2 when they went on this 6 week journey. in a store – then around the corner found the same for about 1/2 as much at the stand outside our hotel. After having some drinks, we decided to go to St. Mark’s at 2 for the pigeons. It was wild – the air was thick with them and like the tourists we are, we bought grain and fed them & took pictures.

Had light lunch at the hotel, then a gondola tour along the grand canal with a stop at one old palace – Rozzonico – wehre Robert Browning had stayed and died.

We walked back thru St. Mark’s Square – such commotion – hundreds of tourists, bands playing. I believe there are more tourists here than any place we’ve been – or else it seems that way because they’re all concentrated in or near the Square. And what an assortment of people – all nationalities , all kinds of dress – it defies description.

We changed clothes and caught a bus (motor boat) to Lido just at sunset – we had a lovely view of both Venice & Lido. We looked at the beach with its hundreds of cabanas, had a drink in the Excelsior bar, went thru the Casino, then motored back to Venice. A French couple sat with us and we made friends with them on the way back – they spoke a little English. He was a surgeon in Paris.

We had dinner at the hotel – 4 courses leaving us miserably stuffed. Desert was “Doge’s Kirsch” a specialty, fixed at the table & lighted. Harry & I took a couple of turns around St. Mark’s to walk some off & to hear the orchestra – the music was so good. But we were too tired for anything else & retired early.

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Aug 15, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

Venice to Stresa

We left the hotel about 9, rode in a gondola to the station. It’s best not to look at the water in the canal too closely -ugh! We had decided to take the train instead of the bus, a 6-hour ride vs. an 11-hour one. We bought wine & sandwiches at the terminal & ate them for lunch. Allen & I played gin & the trip was over quickly. Even so, I was pretty tired upon arrival.

Our hotel, was on the lakefront and our room on the 5th & top floor overlooked the water with mountains all around – surely must be the Alps in the distance. A beautiful sight – we could hardly leave the window. After resting & some drinks, we had dinner – practically alone – in the huge dining room. This is an Excelsior Hotel, the first we’ve stayed in, and tho’ our room is excellent, it seems a bit stuffy.

Harry and I walked on the wide promenade for quite a while by the waterfront. All the big hotels seemed deserted or just quiet, while further down, the cafes were jumping with music – both real & canned. The mountains in the distance with lights of villages were most interesting.

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Aug 15, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

General Comments and Observations

(this was inside the diary for August 15, but was general thoughts on the trip to date)

I’ve been meaning to take time to comment on a few things, i.e.

Whiskey – we have always been able to buy bourbon, scotch, gin in the bottle for drinks in our room – usually at lower prices than at home. For instance I found a bottle of Canadian Club in Florence for 2600 lira – about $4.30 – and Allen & Harry found Gilbey’s Gin for $2.00 there. We have not had bourbon or scotch in any bars since leaving the ship, but usually have beer or wine – I like “Vermont” on the “rockes”.

Water – mercy, it’s hard to get at the table. I’ve practically died of thirst after asking a dozen different waiters before it appears in a tiny carafe. In Italy, we drink out of the tap.

Ice – is even harder to get. When we order it for the room there’s hardly enough for 4 drinks & sometimes in such large chunks, it won’t fit in the glasses.

Service – is consistently good. Every hotel room in France & Italy has buzzers for the maid, porter & usually (tho’ not always) the waiter. They appear promptly & when we have breakfast in the room, it’s always brought quickly.

Laundry – we have managed to do most of it ourselves tho’ lately Harry has been sending shirts out – they’re back in 24 hours. He’s had dry cleaning & pressing done too – quickly and for about what it costs at home. We’ve had little use for the iron – it’s just a nuisance.

Packing – I haven’t really unpacked since we left Rome – it just isn’t worth it for these two-night stands. Harry usually unpacks his suits & our top coats but otherwise we’re really living out of our suitcases. Even so there’s always a mad scramble to get ready to leave each hotel.

Hotel rooms – on the whole, have been comfortable tho’ there is usually insufficient light over the beds and dressing table. In unair-conditioned rooms, it seems strange to open the windows & find shutters, but never screens. In some hotels, soap is furnished but not all. Toilet paper varies but is seldom good – we carry our own – soap too, tho’ we can buy it (& Kleenex) anywhere. I’m sure you can get any cosmetics you need – I bought an Italian brand of hair spray that is very good. The beds on the whole have been comfortable – in France there is, in addition to the pillow, a bolster Harry calls a “Dutch wife”. Sometimes the pillows are as long as the bed is wide (as here in Stressa) and as hard as the floor. Generally the rooms are larger than those in hotels in the States – this is fortunate because often there are no closets but a large wardrobe.

Traffic – is noisy and there are jillions of compact cars & Vespas & bicycles. Once crosses the street at his own risk altho’ in Italy there are numerous white uniformed policemen directing traffic – very few traffic lights.

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