Saturday, November 19, 2011

One Week Left

Sunset on the Grand Canal

Gondola Ride through the canals of Venice

Only one week left out here!  Can’t believe it went by so quickly.  Up until now the weather has been amazing.  We’ve been lucky not to experience the extreme flooding of acqua alta, and the days have still been beautiful.  That was of course until yesterday.  We got our first taste of Venetian winter weather yesterday when the city turned into a scene out of a Steven King horror movie.  
Doge Palace
This intense mist and bitter cold rolled in, overtaking the whole city.  The once incredible views of Venice are gone.  We can barely see five feet in front of our faces.  Vaporetto rides are slightly disconcerting now.  I’m sure the Italian water bus drivers have mastered the art of maneuvering though the waters without seeing anything, but with every ride there is a constant feeling like we’re about to recreate the final scene from Titanic.  Sadie can’t help herself from screaming, “ICEBERG, DEAD AHEAD” every time we get on a vaporetto.
On the Spanish Steps in Rome
Two weeks ago we took our last trip.  It was back to Rome with more of Sadie’s friends.  Yes, that’s right, more of Sadie’s friends!  Her friends and family have put on quite a display of support over the last few months.  Here’s the list of people who have come out to visit Sadie during her time out here...her parents, cousins Brian and Rebecca, NYC friends (Magaly, Aaron, Sabrina, Alexis, Adam, Sherry, Frankie, Sarah Fe, Damian, Roy).  Along with that, her sister, Kasia and childhood friend, Vandana, will be coming out next week to share in our last weekend in Venice.  It’s been incredible having so many people share in our experiences!
Magaly and Sadie in Piazza Navona
We’ve taken quite a few trips to Rome over the past few months and aside from seeing the obligatory sights with our guests each time, we’ve constantly found new things to see and do.  One of the things we always make time for is seeing portions of my family in Rome.  Sadie has been bombarded with wave after wave of my extended family, which I’m sure has been overwhelming for her at times.  She’s finally able to put all the names with the faces, which isn’t the easiest task in the world.  It is on par with trying to memorize the “D” section of the Italian phone book.  
Campo di Fiori Farmers Market
There were two new Rome experiences that we hit up this time around.  The first was the Capuchin Crypt on Via Veneto.  The Capuchin Monks were quite the artists.  They took all the bones from their fellow monks after their deaths and they created elaborate designs all over the walls, ceilings, and floors of this crypt.  It is amazing and incredibly creepy at the same time.  Every bone in the human body was used in some unique design.  There had to be over a thousand monks spread throughout the rooms.  Creepy indeed.  Sadie, as I expected, had a hard time appreciating the artistic aspect of what we were seeing and could only focus only on the creepiness of it all.  She powered through the exhibit, but I could tell she was not really enjoying the whole thing.  As we exited, we had another incident similar to the Como bus ride from a few months back.  Fortunately, she was able to compose herself after a few minutes and yet another crisis was averted.  
Campo di Fiori
St. Peters Square
Best Pizza Shop in Rome
Cacio e pepe at Restaurant X
We had Anthony Bourdain to thank for our latest restaurant experience.  We were in search of a Rome speciality, cacio e pepe.  Nothing fancy...just pasta with percorino cheese and black pepper.  But when done right, it’s phenomenal.  He had labeled one of his favorite Rome spots that served the dish, “Restaurant X,” on his TV show because he didn’t want all his viewers to find out where it was located.  Fortunately, a quick Google search of “Restaurant X Bourdain” led us right to it.  The meal absolutely lived up to our expectations.  The pasta was served in a molded bowl of parmigiano cheese that was otherworldly.  Oddly enough, the waiter who had served Bourdain in the show was our server as well.  We mentioned the show to him, and at first he acted like a reluctant movie star who was spotted by his fans in public.  “No, no, no.  Eye-a don’ta know wat you talk about.  Eye-a don’ta know questo Antoni Bor-dane.”  Sure you don’t buddy.  Two minutes later, he was back singing the theme song from the show, talking about the experience and how it’s lead to some other restaurant opportunities that he was in the process of mulling over. He loved that we had recognized him, which worked out well for us because he ended up giving us some extra glasses of grappa on the house at the end of the night.
Cacio e pepe, our homemade version
The meal was so good that as soon as Sadie and I returned to Venice we recreated the meal at home.  It was a valiant first attempt.  Not quite like what we had in Rome, but passable for pasta making beginners such as ourselves.

The Bet:
I didn’t really want to put this on the blog, but a week has gone by and the wounds have healed a bit.  Last weekend, my Stanford Cardinal football team faced the Oregon Ducks.  Stanford was ranked 4 at the time.  Oregon, 7.  Stanford undefeated, a very real shot at a National Championship birth on the line.  Oregon had lost it’s first game of the season to the current number one team in the country, LSU, but had since run the table and was looking stronger with each week.  It was a battle of epic proportions (at least to those of us with Pac 12 affiliations).  
Sadie is not an official Duck herself, but it’s impossible to deny her connection to the school.  Just about every person in Sadie’s family is an Oregon alum.  Parents, grandparents, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles...on and on.  Sadie’s home state pride is hard to match, so when this game rolled around we knew we had to come up with some kind of wager. 
After much discussion it came to this.  If Oregon won, I would have to jump in a nasty, filthy, freezing Venice canal.  If Stanford came out on top, Sadie would have to eat a delicious piece of top quality prosciutto.  Being a vegetarian, this was a horrific thought for Sadie.  It must be noted, that the bet was Sadie’s idea.  I had no intention of making her eat meat, but to my amazement she came up with these terms, so it was agreed upon.
The night of the game (it started at 2:00am Venice time) I woke up to check the score of the game.  I checked right about the time that Oregon began kicking Stanford’s butt.  It got ugly quickly, so I decided to go back to sleep and forget about the way Stanford had teased all of us Cardinal fans into thinking they were a legitimate National Championship contender this year.  
Or at least I tried to go to sleep.  Sadie isn't a big sports fan.  Football probably being her least favorite of them all, but this didn’t matter one bit for the game.  The Ducks spanking Stanford turned her into a super fan who refused to let me sleep.  She watched every play on the computer letting me know each and every time Oregon scored their 53 points.  It was torturous.  I’m sure she was happy Oregon won, but I think she was more excited about not having to eat prosciutto.  
I kept my end of the bargain as best I could.  After reading up of canal jumping we found out that swimming in a canal is illegal, as well as disgusting.  With my previous run in with the police forces of Lido, I thought it was best that I don’t do anything to bring unnecessary attention to myself during my last few weeks in Venice, so a compromise was made.  I, instead, jumped into the freezing cold ocean on Lido.  It isn’t quite a canal, but it satisfied the bet for Sadie, so I was in the clear.

Video of my arctic plunge...

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