When Harry Met Erik…

This blog entry about the events of Monday, June 18, 2007 was originally posted on July 04, 2007.

PART 1:  Ah, Venice.  Arguably the most romantic city in the world with its winding alleys, endless canals and wandering gondolas, it couldn’t have been a better locale to start a romantic getaway for a couple of “jetsetters.”  Steph and I had decided to use Venice as our rendezvous point as it’s common ground; we’d both been there before already and it was a small enough city to get around on foot — when you’re not lost of course, or trying to find each other.  Steph had arrived about an hour before me from Tuscany, only to wait for me at the jetty that I didn’t arrive at from the airport.  Meanwhile, I had arrived at a different jetty and had gone to our room in the eastern-influenced-but-classicaly-Venetian three-star Hotel Noemi, only to find it empty.  Our first hour in Venice was simply a game of text message phone tag:

Meet me here

Im walking there

Im here

Im walking over

Where are we meeting?

etc.

We eventually found each other and embraced after a hiatus of just ten days since we last saw each other in Michigan.  “Hey, welcome to Venice!”  At the first opportunity, I bought her a couple of long stem roses.  “No one’s ever given me a rose in Venice before,” she told me.  I figured it was the least I could do; she had gotten me a gift from Pisa — bright green underwear to match the pair that she got for herself.

ROMANTIC VENICE, the first destination of our globetrotters’ jaunt around Italy and beyond, is not without its significance on the world stage.  Not only was it the center of a great trading empire when tea and spices were more precious than oil, but it has, to this day, drawn visitors from around the world to marvel at its one-of-a-kind — and often imitated — aesthetic.  It was Venice that international literary superstar Ernest Hemingway wined and dined with the Italian elite; it has also served as the perfect stage for fictional globetrotting characters:  it’s where X can actually mark the spot for Indiana Jones, where James Bond (in the form of Daniel Craig) can escape the life of a secret agent for a romantic getaway with his lover Vesper, only to be betrayed by her — ultimately leading to her tragic demise.

(I’ve just realized I totally gave away the ending to Casino Royale.  Some of you may have not seen it yet; my bad.)

The real-life romantic getaway of Steph’s and mine was like many couple’s visits to Venice:  browsing the merchants of Venice in the alleys and on the Rialto Bridge for things like murano glass, carnival masks, ceramics, stationery, local artwork and other trinkets; getting lost in little plazas and neighborhoods off the tourist strip and wondering what it’s like to live in their houses; posing like everyone else in front of the Bridge of Sighs; watching string ensembles practice for evening Vivaldi concerts; enjoying the buskers playing music, puppeteering, or being statues on the city streets; lunching in little restaurants with a view of the smaller canals (picture above); peeking in at the Peggy Guggenheim museum; browsing the local fish and fruit markets; and playing amongst (or avoiding) the hordes of people and, most particularly, the famed masses of pigeons in St. Mark’s Square.  “How can anyone find that appealing?” Steph said, seeing a guy with dirty pigeons perched all over his arms and shoulders.


THE CLICHÉD VENETIAN EXPERIENCE ASIDE, my interest in returning to the city of canals lied in a man named Harry, as in Harry Pickering, American partner to Guiseppe Cipriani, founder of the worldwide — and world class — Cipriani restaurant chain.  (Coincidentally, Steph and I had our company holiday party at a Cipriani’s in New York.)  Harry is the namesake of the famed Harry’s Bar, one of the Cipriani properties, a former celebrity hangout in the days when the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Truman Capote, and Ernest Hemingway were seated by Harry himself. 

Figuring I’d already been to other places on the Hemingway trail — Key West, the Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Pamplona, Spain — I figured I’d stop in for a martini to pay homage to Papa Hemingway and of course, Mr. Bond (not necessarily in the form of Daniel Craig).  Contrary to what I had heard, there was no long line to get in the door — although we couldn’t exactly get in so easily.

“[You can’t wear shorts in here,]” the snooty host in a white tux jacket told me.  I thought such a place might have a dress code, so we merely came back in proper attire — Steph in a dress and me in a dress shirt and dressy shoes that I had packed for such an occasion.  The host smiled in approval and led us to the bar.

With all the former glory of Harry’s Bar, today it is as I was warned: an anti-climactic experience, a place with overpriced $20 drinks for Bellinis (supposedly invented there) and little martinis (stirred, not shaken), served in little glasses.  It was a fun cocktail hour nonetheless, watching the stern, apathetic-looking staff in white tuxes bustling around, and chatting with Steph, beginning corny jokes that would continue throughout our travels together, such as:

“What time is it?”

“Time to get a watch.”

At the end of our Harry’s Bar experience (only about half an hour), I got what I had come for.  “You know why we came here?” I asked my girlfriend.

“Why?”

“So I could name this blog entry ‘When Harry Met Erik…’” 

She rolled her eyes.  “You’re so cheesy.”

STEPHANIE’S INTEREST IN RETURNING to Venice was not for a man named Harry, but a woman named Veronica Franco, one of the more well-known courtesans of Venice in the sixteenth century — she was the inspiration of the 1998 movie, Dangerous Beauty.  Steph’s interest in Veronica Franco and the courtesans was so great, it was the topic of one of her college theses.  “The courtesans were the most educated women of their time,” she told me.  “Oh, and they were prostitutes.”  High class prostitutes that is, although there wasn’t much obvious evidence of them in our wanderings of Venice.  Steph tried to find Veronica Franco’s old address on the internet, but had no luck.  Instead, we went looking for a particular church she had written about in her paper.

“Where do you think we can find a church around here?” I asked sarcastically, passing several in our stroll. 

The church we wanted was San Zacarriah, which Steph had learned about in her research as a history major.  “The second daughters of the rich people in Venice came here,” she told me.  “The families couldn’t afford more than one dowry, so they sent their other daughters to the convent instead of marrying them to someone of lesser status.”

“To become nuns?”

“Yeah, but they all had lovers.  It was like summer camp.”  Steph continued touring me around as if she’d been there before in a former life, through the church, the crypt, and all the accessible back rooms.  I was quite impressed with her; it was the serious, well-educated Stephanie I’d come to know and respect, which was only contrasted by the other times she was just plain silly, doing her rendition of the Starburst “Berries and Cream” song and dance by the Grand Canal, and quoting lines with me from one of our favorite YouTube cartoons, “Planet Unicorn”:

“I’m hot, Tom Cruise.”

“My ambrosia salad doesn’t have any cherries.”

“Your nose looks like a cat.”

“I don’t like your shoes.”

“It’s back to better!”

OF COURSE, a romantic getaway to Venice is not complete without a candlelit dinner of Venetian food (seafood risotto, in our case) over fine Venetian wine, and above all, a classic gondola ride.  Most of the city had shut down by the time we finished our late dinner, and only a handful of gondoliers were on-call that Tuesday evening around midnight.  Luckily we had found Danio, who was doing one more ride for the night, from the Grand Canal into the maze of smaller ones.

“Married?” the curious gondolier asked me.

“No.”

“Fiancée?”

“No.”

“Girlfriend?”

“Yes.”

Stephanie and I rode under moonlight, with Danio behind and our feet in front of us, as silhouetted bridges and shadowy figures surrounded us, and the sounds of water trickled at our side.  “This is so much better than being in a gondola with my family,” Steph told me.  Unlike gondola rides in the bustling day time, it was very quiet and peaceful, enhancing the romantic vibe in the air — we didn’t mind that Danio didn’t classically sing for us, although we heard him hum some tunes.  “Did you notice what he was humming?” Steph asked me.  “Moondance.”

“I thought I heard some Michael Jackson in there.”

The only thing that blemished the romance was the smell of the canal in some areas — Venice’s canals also serve as their sewer systems.  “It smells a little bit like New Jersey over there,” I joked.

“Would you stop comparing everything to New Jersey?”

Over all, the gondola ride — the entire 24 hours in Venice for that matter — was a truly romantic and special experience for me, shared with a very special girl.  Unlike the events of James Bond and Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, my second trip to Venice wasn’t so tragic; in fact, the beginning of my romantic jaunt with my girlfriend Stephanie in the boot-shaped country and beyond had a happy ending after all.


FUN FACT:

We were awaken in our hotel room of the Hotel Noemi in the morning by the sound of a power drill coming from across the street.  “I hope that guy’s not a dentist,” I said.





Next entry: Practice For The Amazing Race

Previous entry: Surprises




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Comments for “When Harry Met Erik...”

  • FINALLY, one entry up… More to come as I crank these out…  Enjoy!

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  07/04  at  06:52 PM


  • i think the BH’s want their poo pics back!

    haha… j/k

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/04  at  06:58 PM


  • damn..livin the james bond life.

    venice only smells like the part of jersey that lies between exits 13 and 16 on the jersey tpke. 

    damn bellinis costs as much as a lapdance.

    i would say enjoy the rest of your trip but you’re already back.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/04  at  07:29 PM


  • OL’DIRTYBASTOS - it also smells that way on julia st.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/04  at  11:30 PM


  • im telling mr. cobb u said that…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/05  at  02:24 AM


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This blog post is one of twelve travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Two in The Boot and Beyond," which chronicled a romantic getaway through Italy, plus jaunts to Croatia, Switzerland, and London.

Next entry:
Practice For The Amazing Race

Previous entry:
Surprises




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