Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chalet Shenanigans - Chapter 18

 My Stunning Venetian Toilet Brush

It’s 10:30 p.m. here at the chalet on a Sunday night and Mr. Big is totally engrossed in his Olympics, even though it is taped and he already knows the results of every event.  I thought I’d finish the last little bits about the Venice vacation and then we will move on to other things.

Y’all know the saying that “it’s a small world”, right?  Well, one of the gals in my bridge group back in the US has a dear, old college friend who currently lives in Venice.  I had promised my bridge group pal that, if I ever went to Venice, I would look up her friend and say “hey”.  Not only did I say “hey”, I ended up staying in this friend’s apartment, meeting her husband, going out to her house for cocktails and proceeding onto dinner in their little neighborhood resto.

This Venice connection friend, whom we shall call She With No Filter, was fabulous.  She originally hailed from Charlotte, North Carolina, but she has lived in Venice for 30 years.  She met a local yokel there 8 years ago and married him.  After she married Charming Italian Guy, she moved out of her apartment and into his because he had more square footage and a better view over the Grand Canal.

Keep in mind that she did not know either me or Mr. Big from Adam.  I just emailed her out of the blue and named-dropped my bridge gal’s moniker and told her we were coming to Venice and would like to meet for drinks.  Y’all.  It was ridiculous.  From the very first email, I could tell that we were going to be fast friends.  She was CRAAAAZY.  She With No Filter was firing email questions at me like it was her job.  When are you coming?  Where are you staying?  Where?  Oh, God, no, don’t stay there.  It’s full of tourists.  Park here.  Take a vaporetti there.  Eat here.  Drink there.

We ended up staying in her Bachelorette Apartment because she coerced me into cancelling our hotel reservation.  She scared me and y’all know I don’t scare easily.  If you could have heard that phone call to Mr. Big, y’all would have cracked up.

Me:  Hi, honey.  Whatcha doin’?

Him:  Um, working.  What are YOU doing?

Me:  I’m finalizing our plans for Venice.  By the way, you need to cancel the reservation at that hotel downtown.

Him:  Huh?  No way!  I was the last guy to book it on booking-dot-com!  It was recommended by 834 other people!  It was like neck and neck between me and some dude from Sweden just to get the last room!

Me:  Sorry, bub.  It’s gone.  Just let it go.  We are staying in a private apartment, nowhere near downtown, in a place with no air conditioning and we are going to love it.  I am being a good friend here and you just have to go with the flow.

Him:  WAAAAAH!  Why do you do these things to me?  Who are these friends of whom you speak and why do I always agree to this shit that I really don’t want to do?  Why, why, why, blah, blah, blah. . .

You get the picture.  Anyway, we show up in Venice at She Who Has No Filter’s apartment fully expecting to meet, greet, exchange keys and money and be on our merry way.  No.  We were there 8 seconds and our hostess had dropped the “F” bomb twice, invited us to dinner at her favorite local restaurant and charmed us thoroughly.  I am trying to find someone to compare her to.  Y’all remember the swimmer on the Poseidon Adventure, Shelley Winters?  Well, she was an Italian Shelley Winters.

We met at her and Charming Italian Guy’s  apartment for a drink (or three) and walked to their neighborhood restaurant.  Unbeknownst to us, she had arranged earlier in the day for a table directly across from the TV because Italy was playing in the World Cup (soccer tournament) and she knew her husband would not agree to go out of their apartment if he could not watch the game.  So, the boys sat on one side of the table and watched the game and the girls sat on the other and chatted.

There were no menus involved.  She Who Has No Filter told us what she was going to order for the table and we all agreed to try everything.  I ate a whole plate of sardines.  It was delicious.  In between courses and conveniently timed with the football/soccer time-outs, the restaurant owners came out onto the patio and played live music.  A magical, magical night.

Turns out, Charming Italian Guy is retired from. . .wait for it. . .one of the Murano glass factories.  Remember, I was an antique dealer for 20 years.  I was swooning, swooning, I tell you, when I found out this factoid.  But, here’s a clue to my level of ignorance.  I thought “Murano” glass was from ONE factory in Murano, Italy.  No.

You must, if you go to Venice, take the vaporetti out to the island of Murano, where you will find, about 12 “fornaci” or furnaces or, in layman’s terms, factories where they fire the glass.  We spent an entire day out there on the island.  It was not tacky, it was not cheesy, it was just cool.  Back on the mainland, every gift store sells “Murano” glass but it is not the real thing.  It is made in China.  BEWARE!  Go, instead, out to the island and buy the real thing.  It is pricey, but it is cool.

Us, we didn’t buy a durned thing.  Ha!.  No, really.  Over our living room coffee table in Lausanne, we have a Murano glass chandelier that we found at an antique market for 80 euros.   Mr. Big was like, um, no, Trailing Spouse, we will not be paying retail for our Murano glass.  We will continue to buy our odd bits and pieces as we stumble upon them at random, out there in the wild.  I wholeheartedly agreed, but that did not stop me from drooling over the things that OTHER people were buying.  Here’s the cool part.  If, you, you North American person you, buy something on the island of Murano, they are well-versed in how to get it to your house in Des Moines.  The UPS boat, yes, boat, pulls up in front of the showrooms every day and takes your well-wrapped vase to the Venice airport across the bay and deposits it on a plane.  I had never seen a UPS boat before and I was like, well, that’s friggin’ cool.

We did buy an awesome toilet brush.  We stumbled upon a tiny store, back in the main part of Venice, called MEE, (  As you know, we are redoing the powder room at the chalet.  Lo and behold, there before my eyes was the coolest toilet brush I had ever seen.  “Toilet brush” was actually on my list of things to buy, but never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I would find it in Venice!  I thought I would find it in Home Depot, ya know?

Also, in MEE, I found a ceramic cow riding an ice cream soda dairy cart.  Well, you know I bought that puppy, right?  Mr. Big was like, why do we need this cow?  And I was like, we need to buy this artsy cow to sit on the bar as an art statement BECAUSE WE LIVE IN THE ALPS WHERE THERE A LOT OF COWS.  Duh.

While we are in this shopping vein, let me caution you about the ubiquitous Venetian masks that you will see in every gift shop made of plaster of Paris.  DON’T BUY THEM!!! THEY ARE MADE IN CHINA!!!  Go a few blocks off the beaten path and find the studios of the actual theatrical maskmakers and buy your masks there.  Here’s the clue:  real masks are made of paper mache.  They are light and they don’t weigh a thing.  We bought a big one to hang on the wall in the bathroom.  It makes me happy every time I go in to pee.  Actually, She Who Has No Filter informed me that even my mask is a fake.  If you want the real, real thing, i.e. a mask that would actually be worn in a theater, it can only be black or white.  No paint.  No color.  No decoration.  I didn’t say anything to her (because I am still kind of scared of her), but that is just boring, right?  I wasn’t actually planning on performing on a Venetian stage; I just wanted something to hang in the bathroom.  No offense, SWHNF.

In a nutshell, go to Venice, but try not to go in summer.  Even though it is surrounded by water, it’s still hot.  Oh, and if you have a Venetian connection, run with it, because there is nothing like an authentic Venetian meal in a non-touristy area.  And, definitely, definitely, go out to Murano.

You remember that I started this epistle with a reference to “it’s a small world” because one of my bridge friends in Camden, South Carolina had an old college friend who lived in Venice now, right?  Yeah, well, I can beat that.  On the way home to Switzerland from Venice, we stayed the night on Lake Como, in Italy.  We took a ferry to the little village of Bellagio, which sits out in the middle of the lake.  Some of you may know the name because George Clooney used to own a house there and, also, I believe, there is a rather large casino in Las Vegas named after it.

Anyway, I was waiting at the pier in Bellagio to get my ferry back to the town where we over-nighting, and I hear, out of the blue, “Trailing Spouse!  Trailing Spouse!”  (You understand, this person was not actually yelling Trailing Spouse, right?  She was yelling my actual first and last name, get it?)

It was yet another person from Camden, South Carolina, population 7,500.  What are the odds?  Everybody has one of these stories, right, where you happen upon a person in some random place?  I swear, it makes your brain go crazy.  I was like, Random Friend from South Carolina, what THE HELL are you doing here on this dock in Bellagio?  Are you looking for George?  Or what?  Because he is long gone.

No.  Silly me.  She was shopping.  Of course.  It’s how we roll, we Americans.  Toilet brushes, leather shoes, Venetian masks, whatever.  Nothing, nothing, however, beats the purchase we just made in St. Petersburg two days ago for the grandkids.  But that is still two blog posts away, so you just have to wait!

No comments:

Post a Comment