Saturday, July 3, 2010
Still in Paris. It’s rather stormy today. Thunder, lightning, etc.. I’m grateful because it should cool things off. It’s a little after 9:00 am. Cierra is still sound asleep and I’m listening to the storm. We’re staying in D’Alesia, a neighborhood in the left bank in Paris. The apartments in Paris a TINY. This one is supposed to be one of the larger ones. All I can say is that we American’s are so used to SPACE, we have no idea how little space you can live in. We are five here right now, Mical and Claudia, Miraa, Mical’s mom, and Cierra and I. Miraa flies home on July 5th, and Cierra and I on the 8th. It’s a one bedroom, and a small living room. I have always complained about the size of my kitchen at home but this kitchen is half the size of mine! I’m going to take some pics of the apartment to give you some idea of the space, but it takes me a while to upload my pics on this computer because I'm usually fighting over it with Cierra.
Somehow it’s working out fine in the apartment, even having Mical and I being sick, and in the heat and humidity. I think you learn how to move differently in smaller spaces, and to simplify what you do.
Not sure what we will do today. This evening we go for dinner to a home of some of Claudia’s cousins. Her step father, Jacky, is French so this is his side of the family. Maybe we will hit a museum before that.
Anyway, I want to try to catch up and I must write about Venezia. When I booked a hotel for us, I ended up finding a pretty good deal in what I thought was Maestre, the City on the mainland closest to Venice, about 10 minutes by train or bus. But where we actually stayed was in a place called Magheara, a town just south of Maestre. This would have been okay if we had a rental car, or even if there were more busses going in to Venice, but the reality was that we arrived on Thursday evening June 24th and we were told by the people at our hotel there would be a strike of all the busses, boats, and trains on Friday from 10-1:00. I asked her if we could go earlier in the morning on the 9:15 bus, and she said yes, they would be running earlier. So we went up to our room and got ready to head into Venice for the evening, to look around and have some dinner there. We had a nice evening, though we were tired, and were able to make decisions about what we would do there the next day. Our bus back to the hotel left at either 10:20, or not until 12:00 midnight. So we caught the 10:20 p.m. and got back about an hour later. The bus was not so nice. People were drunk, some smelled bad, and it was packed.
The next morning we got up early to have breakfast and catch the 9:15 bus. At this point in the trip, I had started getting sick with a cough, and I was trying to ignore it as best I could because we had to see Venice! So we had breakfast and went across the street to wait for the bus. We got there about 5 minutes early. There was one bus that came, but was going into Maestre not all the was into Venice, so we didn’t get on that bus (1st mistake). We waited with a large group of people, mostly all tourists trying to head into Venice. There was a group of Russian Gymnasts, about 8 little girls, their parents, and a couple of their guides. They began to worry too when I explained what I knew about the strike. We all waited anxiously for almost an hour and eventually many people began to give up and go back to their hotels. Two young women from England said it was about 9 Kilometers to Maestre. I figured we could walk there and see if there was a cab or maybe a train we could get to Venice. 9 Kilometers is not quite six miles, but I was determined and we didn’t want to wait half a day in the room. So we started off (2nd mistake!). The walk went through a kind of industrial area. There was very little shoulder on the side of the road for us to walk, and the cars were whizzing past us. Cierra was mad, I was frustrated, and felt so powerless yet determined to get there somehow. This would have been a good time to practice letting go, trusting, and waiting, but I was stubborn. We walked for about 4 miles. Eventually we saw a place across the street we could get some water and I wanted coffee. So we went there and had a rest. Cierra went to the bathroom and I looked across the street and saw the bus pass!!! I was furious. So we went on walking feeling liked we had been tricked. Somehow I took the stupid strike personally. I began to beat up on myself – the failure that I am and putting Cierra in this situation, and this was the low low point. I started crying and asking God what I should do. About another mile later we saw a hotel across the street and we decided to ask how much it might be to take a taxi to Venice. They told us it would be at least 40 – 50 Euro, in other words, a LOT. But then another bus went past. He told me that the strikes do not include everyone. Individual drivers decide themselves if they will drive. So we went back across the street and waited for the bus and eventually another one came!! We took that into downtown Maestre and then caught another bus, who also was not striking, into Venice. We got there at about 11:30 a.m. If the woman at the hotel had explained that not ALL the busses would strike then I might have avoided the mistakes.
But getting into Venice after the morning we had had was wonderful. We started wandering through the streets, stopping in shops, taking pictures, etc.. The day was great. It was a Friday and we knew from the guide book that there was a Jewish section of Venice, where the original Ghetto was. There are about 5 synagogues there and since we felt in need of some sense of connection, we thought we might even be able to attend Friday night services. I had a small hope that we might get a feeling of belonging, something I knew I was in great need of, but I also had more doubt than hope that we could find this feeling of belonging in Venice Italy, of all places. So we took the boat to the ghetto, and when we arrived, we started to see some kosher food shops and restaurants, shops selling Jewish items – mazzuzahs, posters, manoras, etc.. We came to where the synagogue was and met a man who looked religious, a white shirt, black pants, wearing a yarmulka. We asked him about services and he explained that they started at 7:30. He gave us some candles and told us the women first go to light their candles at the Gam Gam restaurant around the corner from the synagogue, and then they go into services. He also invited us to have dinner with everyone from the congregation at Gam Gam afterwards. I still had doubts that they would really let us eat dinner with them, or I assumed if they did it would cost a fortune, but I was open to what was unfolding. We almost were not allowed to go into the synagogue because we did not have our passports with us, but they just asked me a bunch of questions and sort of “screened” us, and told us not to leave before the services ended. So in we went. The women sat separate from the men, and we had this kind of wooden barrier between us and the men, not without holes carved in it, but enough so that we felt very separate and it would be hard for the men to look at the women. I am assuming this was the point, because the men should not be distracted from their prayer..? The service was, of course, all in Italian or Hebrew. There were other visitors there too, so Cierra and I didn’t feel out of place. But the Hebrew was spoken so quickly, and not very lyrically, which is what we are used to. I was able to recognize a song, and Cierra was able to recognize a little of the Hebrew, but it was a vastly different experience than we are used to at our reform synagogue in Marin!
After services we timidly walked toward Gam Gam, and once there, were welcomed by the rabbi who asked where we were from and then ushered us to a table! He was so warm and friendly, I felt like we were being invited into a friend’s home. We sat with other Americans and some Canadians, and had one of the most delicious meals we have had on this trip, and of course we ate challah. I was very very grateful throughout the meal. Cierra couldn’t get over the experience of having plenty of food to eat.
When it was getting close to 10:00 p.m., the meal wasn’t over but we thought we should catch out bus home and started getting ready to leave. The Rabbi asked us why we were leaving and I explained that we had to catch a bus. He then invited us to stay over because he had an extra room!! I was completely floored. We decided to stay later to catch the later bus and finished the meal. We left very full and happy, and were not charged a dime. So it was as if we had a home away from home for the evening. The Rabbi also invited us back the next day for services and then lunch, but I said we were leaving the next day for Vicenza.
So that is the Venice story. Pretty amazing and wonderful after a rough start!
More soon. Ciao!