Posted by: jeanne | March 1, 2017

show stealers and a rowing lesson

yesterday we all got our costumes on (marie and connor) and went down to san marco for the early morning photo sessions.  it’s the last few days of carnival, so if we want to get photos to paint from, we have to be active.  unfortunately, being a weekend, we could expect more fricking crowds, so we went with mixed emotions.

the wonderful thing about getting up before dawn (4 am in our case, so we could enjoy a slow wake-up) is that there’s nobody else out, and the vaporetto seems like our own private water taxi.


we got to san marco with plenty of time to spare.  there were very few costumes out, and very very few photographers.  marie struck a pose,


most of them congregated in front of her in worshipful poses, and i tried to send connor in to pose with her, but the photographers were clearly disgruntled by this, so i whisked him over to his own lamppost, where he was ignored.


all this time he was becoming more and more difficult, whipping off his wig and hat and saying he didn’t want to be there, that i’d gotten him out of bed before morning, etc etc.  so finally i told jim we were going back to the house, and grabbed his hand to march back to the vaporetto.


but after he realized i was serious and we had a little cry, he changed his mind, donned his wig and cap, and we went over to the water’s edge to pose.  one cameraman came up, then another, and then they started making posing suggestions – a little to the right, put your hand on top of the cane, turn slightly – and he followed direction and looked happy to be there.  he’s learning.  it’s hard to be a star; there’s a learning curve…



jim was off getting his own pictures,




while marie was being the star of the early morning because while other models just stand there looking simpering, marie strikes dramatic poses, channeling annie jefferson.  the photographers love a bit of life in their models, and she had them eating out of her hand.

the sun came up showing this wonderful pillar, which lasted for quite some time.


once the sun was up, a procession appeared at the clock tower end of san marco, and marched right out to the piazzetta.  they ended up stealing all the thunder from the models, and danced and posed for about twenty minutes.


the guy with the wings was the ostensible leader, and directed everybody else.  he routinely swept the perimeter with his wings, making sure spectators stayed back, and nearly putting out several eyes with the sticks of his wings.  rather imperious, i thought, but then i don’t take direction well.




jim was standing very illegally on the base of one of the pillars of san marco, which is roped off because the little putti at its base have eroded down to shapeless lumps.


connor was having none of it, and ended up playing chase with a delightful american nanny who was here on holiday.  we had a short conversation on politics and solidarity.


then connor and i went home, passing a water taxi stand where a cat was busy nosing up to the drivers.  connor can’t resist an animal, and at home our cat won’t let him get near, so he was over the moon.



and jim and marie continued to take photos until the tourists outnumbered the costumes and photographers by 20:1.  the dance troupe also dispersed, and so jim and marie wandered off as well.



si si si, we are searching everywhere for a little boy in a white wig and his suspicious looking grandma

on the way home they found something to look at.  i must get the story from them.  oh, right.  they were staring at a selfie stick.  of course.


then, after a nice nap, marie and i were ready to go to our extra special adventure.  instead of taking us out to some restaurant and blowing a hundred euros, marie and i had decided to take rowing lessons, and boy was it worth it.

this isn’t us; this is a relatively new phenomenon in venice, the dangerous practice of renting kayaks to people who don’t know how to handle them – people could die

a traghetto is another way of getting across the canal, much nicer than crossing bridges against tourist traffic.  only 2 euro a trip, unless you have a resident’s pass.  then it’s only 60 cents

one of the only bridges without railings


but we took a batellina coda di gambero, a shrimp-tailed rowboat.  since venetians have turned to boats with motors, these boats are no longer used by people who live here, so the mainly women who have renewed the practice have renovated and caused to be built a small number of these boats, that used to be the predominate everything boat in venice, used to move pe0ple, as well as goods and services.


it was very interesting to be on the water, seeing venice the way it was originally supposed to be seen, before all the islands were linked by bridges and it became a walking city.  originally there weren’t any bridges, just planks thrown across from one shore to another, and everybody had a boat or paid a fee to somebody to ferry them across.

we passed a number of water doors on our trip down the canal

our boatwoman with the customer before us, turning into the home stretch, passing one of the few squero boatyards left in venice


our teacher was a wonderful person named sofia, and she was raised in mestre but decided a few years ago that she was going to live in venice, which is tremendous.  we hope she has a long and happy life in venice, and introduces many more people to the art of rowing.

it’s not so difficult.  you depend on wrist movements and use your legs rather than your upper body strength.  the movements are very similar to aikido exercises i learned 30 years ago, so i found it quite easy to pick up.

we rode down the northernmost canals (the one with the house of the camel) and then crossed the boat lane on the north side of the city, where if there hadn’t been a police boat loitering nearby there would have been boats speeding by and leaving large wakes for us to cross.  but we made it to the outside of the channel markers, where sofia showed us how shallow these waters can be – the oar went down perhaps four feet before hitting bottom – you can stand up if you fall in, she assured us.



there, she let us take turns steering the boat, standing on the back end, up in the air where it would be easy to pitch yourself into the water should the waves get sloppy.img_5729

and then she sat in front and took pictures while marie and i rowed the boat all by ourselves across the traffic lanes and back to the canals.



when we got to the small canal and it was time to turn the boat, we sat down and sofia rowed by herself.  at this point we were fairly tired, because altho it’s not difficult to row, and you don’t need much strenght, it takes a toll on the legs and the shoulders.

wonder what all those chimneys are for?

so when we got off and walked back to strada nova, we were taking shorter steps and not hurrying at all.


it was the usual carnival madhouse, but i paused to take a picture because in a few days this will all be history.


you may not be a fan of mcdonald‘s (i’m sure not), but i just had to go inside to see the prices,  6 euro for a burger, 7, 8, 9 euro for a meal.  that’s highway robbery.


outside the irish pub appeared this vision of loveliness , who kindly allowed me to take her picture.  i want to paint her.


because marie is a bold one, we waltzed right in to ca’ sagredo, an ultra-exclusive hotel, and went up to the piano nobile to have a look.  frescos on the wall and ceiling, statues, grand views.  grand prices.

waiting for the traghetto back to our side of the river

because i’m running behind, i’m going to have to encapsulate the last several days of carnival into my next post.  we have less than two weeks left in venice, and that means lots to do and little time to do it.



  1. Fantastic pictures and commentary!!!!


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