Venice

Santa Maria della Salute on the Canal

Rain smells different in a sinking city. That distinctive smell, usually earthy and comforting, elicits childhood fears of lost civilizations and forgotten history. After a lifetime under the vague impression that the city would one day collapse under its own weight, Venice wasn’t what I expected. With its winding pavement and irregular intersections, it’s easy to lose yourself in Venice. There were times when I forgot that I was surrounded by water, times where I didn’t silently consider each raindrop another nail in the coffin of a watery grave.

 

The Gondolier

 

Piazza San Marco

 

Venice Shop Window

 

Scala Contarini del Bovolo

 

Santa Maria della Salute

Venice is beautiful. Everyone should go at least once, to experience the gondolas, the architecture, and the shop windows. I was supposed to visit a Venetian glass-blowing demonstration, but I got lost and missed it. I did, however, pick up an intricate, lace masquerade mask from a street vendor. My advice: don’t be afraid to ask for help once you realize you’ve wandered too far into the labyrinth. Make note of the following, and you’ll be fine.

PRO-TIPS:

  1. Watch your back. The cobblestone roads are too narrow to accommodate trucks, so deliveries are made by handcart. Deliverymen are on a mission; they don’t care if you’re having a life-affirming moment, gazing out across the vast expanse of tomorrow’s Atlantis. They give fair warning by yelling at those in their way, so expect to be bowled over by more than the beauty of the city if you don’t move.
  2. Don’t fall into the canals. Two words: raw sewage.
  3. Carry extra cash. By the time I made it to Rome, I’d learned to look for signs outside restaurants boasting no cover charge. I wish I’d known in Venice. When we received our bill, there were several extra charges, including a service charge for the cooks and cover charge for entrance. Gratuity was added, though it was a small group, and our waiter suggested we also tip on top of that. Basically, they saw us coming.
  4. Enjoy your water taxi ride! I regaled everyone in my vicinity with the story of The Mystery Man in My Bed.

I’ll save that story for tomorrow, though. It deserves its own post.

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Food for Thought

travelchannelshows

Clostridium botulinum – or more specifically, the botulism toxin it produces – will kill you. Botulism triggers paralysis; first arresting your extremities, before seizing your respiratory system, and effectively asphyxiating you. I took Food Science 101 in college under the false assumption that it would be easy. Each lesson was like watching Investigation Discovery, only the killers weren’t Wives with Knives or Evil Twins, they were listeria, E. coli, and salmonella. For most people, food safety concern begins and ends with a cursory glance at a use by date. Water treatment has washed cholera from our minds.

Far from being afraid, modern society is obsessed with food. Instagram hosts hundreds of thousands of in memoriam photos of dinners gone too soon. I’m pretty sure Yelp exists solely as weapon of emotional blackmail over restaurateurs. Food is shared amongst our social media plates, but it’s also consumed on TV. Between Food Network, Cooking Channel, daily Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares marathons on BBC America, The Taste, and every other MSG-fueled grab for our attention, we should be full. Somehow there’s room for more. Travel Channel, despite seemingly devoting itself to the subject of travel, has devolved into a veritable smörgåsbord of food programming.

I understand that food can be wonderful and terrible, sometimes simultaneously, as in the case of deep fried lemonade. Food is colorful and varied, and in some ways serves as a metaphor for the people who eat it. We are what we eat. Eating is often a shared experience, a way to bring people together and forge connections. Cuisine is intrinsically linked to culture, yet it is only a fragment of a nation’s identity. Entomophagy, the human consumption of insects as food, fascinates those of us who would much sooner run from a bug than put it in our mouths. Though insects are eaten on every continent, we cling to the narrative that the practice is unique to places like Thailand. We satisfy ourselves with this glimpse into their culture, the Bizarre Foods they eat. I wish Travel Channel would live up to its name, but food is easy, right?