...past windows with all manner of comic and grisly masks on display...
...even HM the Queen had found her way there, with little animated figures on display that waved regally and little corgis whose tails wagged with equal gravitas!
The weather being so glorious, every gondolier was out and about, poling his customers this way and that -- and not above talking on his mobile at the same time.
Us November birthday kids were pretty happy with all of this!
Soon we were in sight of the Rialto Bridge, arching over the Grand Canal.
The view from the top of the arch was just spectacular!
Over the other side, we came to the oldest church in Venice, San Giacomo di Rialto, parts of which date to the 11th century. Legend has it that it was first consecrated the year that Venice was founded. Today, it's mostly a 17th century restoration and overshadowed by bigger churches throughout the city. I loved the fact, though, that it has held on to its original place in the city. The lovely sundial clock-face casts a warm aspect onto the surrounding "campo".
Outside another church in another nearby square, this couple posed prettily in classic Venetian costume, parasol raised against the lovely November sun.
Another turn, another bridge over another little canal, with the gondolier ducking his head as he goes under. It was about here that I really began to realize what a magical place Venice is. There are no cars, no bikes, a few baby strollers and an occasional wheelchair. Everyone is either on foot, or in a boat. How cool is that!
And this is where we were about to make the switch from walking to paddling.
Paola had arranged to do a big walkabout with us that would end at a water's edge, where her Venetian friend Dario was waiting in his wooden boat, built by his father some years ago.
Suddenly we were afloat, poling along quiet backways...
...past the family laundry hanging out to dry...
...across the Grand Canal to reach...
...another, quieter backwater.
After an hour of meandering past one beautiful stretch of water after another, we pulled in to shore in the Cannaregio area, tied up, went ashore and had just the best lunch at the Osteria Al Bacco!
Here, I had my first taste of one of Venice's most typical antipasto dishes "Sarde in Saor", sweet and sour sardines that have been floured and fried and slathered with the sweetest, softest onions, sultanas, pine nuts and a touch of vinegar. Yum!
After lunch, on a broader stretch of water, Matthew tried poling the boat -- trickier than it looks!
With Dario back at the helm we returned to quieter waters for a while, drifting happily along, totally captivated by this place.
Monday, a little cloudy but dry, we devoted to the Piazza San Marco, where, on our own, we visited the Museo Correr, overlooking the Piazza, which gives an excellent introduction to the history of the city. It also houses some stunning Renaissance paintings by Carpaccio, Bellini and others.
In this 3-panel work by Leonardo Boldrini, the center panel has one of the most adorable images of Baby Jesus I've ever seen. Click on the photo to enlarge and check him out -- he's got one hand behind his head, his legs casually crossed. He hasn't a care in the world...yet....
My favorite, though, was this Madonna and Child by Giovanni Bellini, unusual in its day in that the Madonna's veil covers only part of her head, and is fastened with a brooch.
We took ourselves off for lunch in the Castello area, looking for another little known restaurant, Osteria da Alberto. It's very easy to get lost along these narrow streets that suddenly open up...
...and you find yourself in a large square...
...which keeps opening up, with yet another glorious church coming into view! I really loved these almost cinematic reveals.
Back to the San Marco area after lunch to visit the Palazzo Ducale, the seat of power of the City State of Venice. It did not disappoint!
From the imposing marble stairs...
...to the glittering Golden Staircase...
...with its exquisite detail that begged for further scrutiny.
And this was all before we even got to the first of many reception chambers, with frescoes by Tintoretto, canvases by Tiepolo, ceiling panels by Veronese...
...climaxing with the Grand Council Chamber, 50 meters long, 25 meters wide, which held 2000 members in the 16th century!
The scale of this room just takes your breath away. Portraits of the Doges form a frieze around the top of the walls, there are more works by Tintoretto, by Veronese, by Bassano. Sitting on a bench against the wall, you are transported to a time of immense power, opulence, politics, corruption, and, in the end, downfall. What a place!