Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day 14: Venice to CdG to E-ville, Observations

Day 14: Venice to E-ville

Suitcase therapy animals

Weather: Hot and smoggy in Venice, hot and humid in Paris, cool and terrific in E-ville

Quote of the Day 1: Conceptual art: work such that no one knows what is going on
One last shot of the hotel
Quote of the Day 2: The plane? Where’s the plane? Where's my bag?

Wake up call for 6:30, start packing and ready for breakfast a bit after 7. Check out: a terrific room with a view at the Centurion was $500/night with taxes included and a bathtub in the room instead of the bathroom; truth in advertising: several of the others traveling alone thought their rooms were small. Included a great breakfast. Drinks were steep, then you got to drink them in a lovely courtyard a few steps from the Guggenheim.

San Giorgio island
Shots from our last water taxi ride:

The shortcut to the Marco Polo airport

Delivering construction mateirals

Boat club members getting ready for a morning ride

Share a taxi to Marco Polo airport with the Mortician and the Redhead: they were told to leave at 9am, we were told 9:30-9:45. THB’s rule: always go with the earliest time anyone wants to leave; $65/couple. We’re at the airport 20 minutes before the flight starts checking in. Relax and continue creating blog posts.
Check-in at Marco Polo
The plane takes off on time and lands on time. Good thing: we’ve got an hour and 40 minutes to make our connection and in Chuck dee Gaul; that can be considered minimal. No problema we’re told in Venice: only a 5 minute walk between terminals.
We saw these combo backpack/toys several times 

CdG signage: we're looking for Terminal 2E, Gate M31; combining two uses of letters shows how hard it is to "codify" locations

To buy a $3 bag of suck-upons you have to show your boarding pass which gets scanned as part of your checkout process

HAH!! We’re in the front row, first off the plane. It takes 5 minutes to find the departure board. We land in terminal 2F and we’re leaving from 2E, gate M31. Fortunately, passport control is only another 10 minutes walking. Take an elevator down one floor, and there’s the bus to take us to 2E (DB squeezes in a visit to the toilet, hopping aboard just as the bus is ready to pull out).
Say what? 

Even THB can see the toilet symbols

Smokers garden

Hey, we’re in the right terminal, big success story at Charlie Dee. Wait, our gate, M31, is at the far end of 2E Another 10 minutes walking and we’ve made it, only about an hour until the flight leaves. So, 5 minutes is really 40 minutes, we’re talking the conceptual Air France now.

Time to board, we’re one of the first through the electronic boarding pass verifier when DB is pulled aside; she’s one of the 33 passengers undergoing a surprise security check: carry-on bags opened, body scanned and patted down, etc.  Okay, she’s passes and now we’re walking downs some stairs…no jetway? Aren’t we heading to the plane…wait, where’s the plane? There is no plane. There are more buses. No plane?
Priority boarders moving from bus to plane

The French quarantine the plane? That's another steep set of stairs for the old and disabled

Hey, this is great, we’re getting a stand-up (there are about 7 seats on the bus for the 30-35 of us aboard) tour of the backroads of the outskirts of France. Lots of stop signs, even a tour of Terminal 2F (where we deplaned), under roads, through meadows with wilted wildflowers, arriving finally well away from anywhere to see our plane…again, no jetway. For a moment, THB even had visions of seeing the Tour de France go flying by (Stage 23, St Moritz to Chaz der Gull, Terminal 2F sprint finish).

Imagine if you were in a wheelchair. Or needed a knee replacement operation. Air France conceptually might explain to you in what parallel universe they would use to get you to your seat. At least we checked both our suitcases so we’ve lightened our load to two small carry-ons.
The middle two biz class seats have a divider: here's where the store them if you want to chat with your traveling partner (1-2-1 seat layout)

Pre-meal snack comes in a a bag in a box...not too ecological

Amuse bouche, salmon in cucumber custard

So, we’re aboard the plane. We’re in biz class. Life is good. HAH! The plane is still on this obscure part of the airport 30 minutes after the departure time. No problema, we’re told, we’ll be landing in SF right on time. Maybe AF thinks we’ve actually departed! After all, they appear to have lost the plane and it could be 30 minutes towards SF (there was an old joke about Southwest Airline: they taxi you halfway and fly you halfway since their gates were at the far ends of the distant airports they started flying out of). THB actually took a short nap while the plane was still at the gate and woke up with a start thinking he was still in Venice. Scary!

Salad course

DB has shrimp

THB has polenta and lamb

Nectarine target

Ice cream, two or three spoonfuls (THB supplements later with another small portion as his mid-flight meal)

The coup de grace: DB's bag doesn't make the plane, along with lots of other people's bags. It's due in the next day. The final supposition: the bags that didn't make the plane were going through extra security checks and then couldn't find the plane out there in the Charleeze der Gotcha 
Hope it worked for these two
Enough, THB has to get those damn observations done to get this post out the door, shoved off from the gate, off into the cloud, committed to the dregs of history, so that he can get ready to send you blog posts about how exciting it is to visit yet another major league park (#51!) and go snorkeling 6 days in a row without posting a single underwater shot of great looking fish and coral.

Suggestions welcome on how to tart up blog during the next trip! Perfectly okay to suggest that THB manage to collapse 6 days in Bonaire into one post…emphatically suggest. Maybe THB can convince LB to write a few of the posts!! Maybe the followers can demand LB write all the Bonaire posts.

Book Review: The Honeymoon, Dinitia Smith (novel): Based on the life of George Eliot (pen name of Marian Evans), the book starts off as Eliot, in her 60s, is on her honeymoon in Venice with her much younger husband (who it is clear she doesn’t know very well), returns to Eliot’s life history and finally bogs down about half way through as it becomes more “greatest hits” (Middlemarch, Adam Bede) and meeting famous people. More a Wikipedia entry than novel. Not enough novel, not finished, not recommended.

THB in fedora, with D in front of Judd in Munster

Hats: THB is riding the fedora wave; baseball hats have gone the way of spats. So, even teenagers are going bare headed now. Did everyone convert within 2-3 months without THB noticing? THB thinks if you go to baseball games or live in Warriors territory you are seeing 85% of the baseball hats seeing daylight. You get fooled into thinking that is the reality.

DB and THB on top of the Peggy Guggenheim collection

Venice and Amsterdam: In the city centers they are crowded to beyond 100% of capacity (in sports, that’s called Standing Room Only tickets left). Americans are no longer the dominant travelers, the crush is worldly. Everybody can afford to travel. May as well, climate change is gonna make things obsolete for the younger travelers. Time to see things as they were. These kids will experience the changes coming. Venice public transportation seems slightly more expensive, to be expected when it is boats vs trams/cars. The food in both cities ranged from decent to exceptional. The top new neue nouvelle restaurants can be found anywhere in the world now. Breda vs VOIT vs Local: can’t tell what city you’re in when dining in these places. You can when you are at Alle Testiere.

Munster and Kassel: Doubt many tourist types visit these cities except when the big art shows are taking place. Munster leaves a lot of the art up so the city can bask in the glory of the every-ten-years skulptur event. Kassel is much more industrial, most of the art work done between Documenta shows is less “experimental”.

Weather: THB got lucky, very little rain, nothing in the 90s, for most part humidity bearable, and only two days in the Pulitzer fitness center. Could have been a lot worse. Good news: shorts were the lingua common for the men on the trip.

BAM and OMCA: Actually, pretty close. Good meals, well organized, nice hotels, special events, tons of art. Probably the only difference was that BAM’s curators added a lot of value and usually the OMCA trips relied solely on the local curators. And, maybe it’s not a fair comparison as the BAM trip really was an event trip and OMCA trips included lots of visits to artist studios and private collections. Since OMCA is no longer doing trips, THB and DB will be ranging farther afield for these organized tours.

Skulptur Projekte, Documenta 14, Venice Biennale 2017:
THB immensely enjoyed all three events and, for those of you young enough, give 2027 a deep think. Consider a trip later in the year, when the crowds have diminished (it’s likely that by 2027 the weather will be brutal even in spring and fall, summer will be death defying). If you go early, particularly to the Biennale, you are more likely to be able to see performance art. Take a tour or fork out the big bucks to hire locals to give you keen insights. Plan on 11 or 12 days to give a bit more time in Munster and Kassel.

Munster on a bike and two full days will give you the pleasure of seeing everything. Hell, it’s on once every ten years, spend three full days and ride slowly and give the bike good rest and watering periodically.

The Biennale has an advantage in that the two major sites are well laid out and contain a ton of art. Documenta has the advantage in that most of its main sites are relatively close together in Kassel city center (well, if you don’t count that Documenta 14’s second largest site was in Athens!). Documenta’s stated themes of loss, separation and migration made much of the art poignant to our times; art at all three events had plenty to say (conceptually and explicitly) about the state of the world’s destabilization.

Documenta and the Biennale are reliant on the selected chief curator’s vision (though that’s not saying too much when you’re talking conceptual art). THB saw a lot of artists’ work for the first time. That’s a good thing, really good. And, damn, contemporary conceptual art runs the gamut from awful and trite to fresh and exciting.

And, at some point, great curators will be like great chefs: really well known and with tons of followers. This is probably true now except for the “tons” part of the statement. Art insiders already know; maybe the fringe folks like THB will figure it out too.

Voorlinden: THB and DB are blessed to have visited a number of the great public and private museums around the world. Don’t miss Voorlinden. It’s not easy to get to and it is well worth the effort. Great art in a great space (and there must be a great curator or two somewhere behind the scenes that THB should be able to name and give appropriate credit). While you’re visiting The Hague also seek out the Turrell up in a foothill off the beach. That’s a unique two-fer not many have done (since Voorlinden hasn’t been open that long).

Sister piece at Voorlinden to San Giorgio version by Pistoletto

Wine: THB rarely had a decent glass of red wine. However, THB didn’t pay a lot for a glass either, usually less than $8 (there weren’t a lot of expensive choices by the glass). THB can’t really explain this. Could easily be random or coincidental. The same seemed true for the pre-selected wines at the group dinners. It could be the tour operator selected wines that fit some criteria that was price driven or what might appeal to the broad range of travelers. In any case, THB didn’t think a lot of wine got drunk at the dinners, at least among those he sat with. Or, just like just about everything else, THB could blame it on climate change. The grapes have to migrate with the change in climate as things warm up in Germany and Italy. Or, THB doesn’t know shit about red wine anymore. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Day 13: Venice

Day 13: Venice

Weather: Low 80s, low humidity, hot in the sun

Quote of the Day: Conceptual art: work such that no one knows what is going on

THB is feeling refreshed, we sleep in past 7, breakfast as always: fruit, pastries, coffees, bacon, and eggs. The last full day in Venice, and we’ve carefully plotted out and optimized our path: Olivetti showroom, Woven Forms (near the Fortuny Museum), cross the Grand Canal, shopping and lunch in Toma, the Russian exhibit near the hotel, and a short hop over to San Giorgio Island for two more exhibits.

Leave around 10, cross the GC, join the mass of humanity heading to Piazza San Marco, edge around to the Negozio Olivetti showroom, pay our $9pp and, for the first time, pay an extra $2.50 to take pictures. The small showroom was redesigned in 1957 by Carlos Scarpa and features ceramic and a few enamel pieces by Ettore Sottsass (oh, and of course a few ancient manual typewriters). It’s sort of like Frank Wright took a shot at the showroom and historically sound ceramics were on display.

 Ettore Sottsass

Ceramic that looks like glass

Obsolete communication device

Scarpa "eye" there's another to the right, the light is too bright to catch it

These are above, THB catches them from below

That’s enough to make us reconsider the plan and add back in a visit to Scarpa redesigned museum, Fondazione Querini Stampalia. It means heading back through the millions awaiting gondola rides in the opposite direction of Toma. We make it to the plaza where Querini is located and then have to ask for help: it’s tucked off in the far corner, and it is another revelation.

An auto locker system that requires a full-time attendant. Maybe it is still in Beta mode?

Our usual check-in karma: one person has to help every visitor use the auto (AUTO!) machine for getting a locker; the cashier is nowhere to be found; and a group of youngsters (we theorize that they are architecture students) are trying to get exact change to make sure everyone ends up paying the same amount. Somehow the cashier extracts herself from stocking the gift shop, shoos the students off to the café to find change, and takes our $11pp entry fee. THB should’ve paid the photo fee, somehow ignores that and gets you, faithful followers, a few pics.

The crowd in front of the cashier, trying to find one euro coins, they seemed to have already checked in

DB is pointing out a compass in the Anselmo piece
Other shows include: Giovanni Anselmo’s granite stones (in Scarpa’s redesigned rooms downstairs); Hadassa Goldvicht’s coverage of Aldo Izzo’s guardianship of Venice’s Jewish cemeteries; Maria Morganti’s treatment of the café’s walls.

Another Anselmo piece

Scarpa has done (his usual?) FLW imitation, lot of squared off lines, continuity throughout the lower floor including the addition of a new bridge.

The redesign is terrific, the garden is very well laid out, features here and there are outstanding (THB wanted to desperately to take home the 25 foot wood sheathe in one of the long, narrow hallways), and for the most part the exhibits are also very good.

DB framed by a "hidden" door

The "front" of the building is on a canal that seeps in

Common? A window looking into the window of the building next door

The best show is an installation by Elisabetta DiMaggio: she’s integrated her new work in amongst the old, traditional decoration/furniture of the permanent collection (this floor was not really redesigned by Scarpa). She’s cut  up various materials with a sharp scalpel and then integrated them with the old stuff: used “fake” ivy (and what looks like real ivy) to drape around settees, new lace to cover walls, soaps, and porcelain. Extremely well done!

DiMaggio work

The Dimaggio "work room" is more like a pantry full of her various pieces installed throughout the floor among the old furniture and paintings


A shot from the video

Bridge built by Scarpa, more "modern" and angular than others around town

Thank goodness THB and DB are flexible and accommodating: combining Neogozio Olivetti and Fondazione Querini Stampalia in one day is astounding.

We decide to scrap lunch in Toma and eat in the museum café outdoor space next to the garden: panini and drinks, $16 (yep, $16!). And, the panini are made with the same bread as we saw as part of the Encyclopedic Pane/Bread installation at the Arsenale).

After lunch, we cross the famous Rialto bridge (thankfully, only moderately crowded), window shopping all the way (lots of jewelry shops, nothing bought) to another installation near Toma: Stephen Chambers at Ca’ Dandolo, an Official Collateral Event. DB likes the work a lot, it is a bit “naïve” for THB.

Rialto Bridge, thankfully not too full of bodies

We've crossed into the land of fewer tourists; in the arcade on the other side of the Rialto THB can take pics at his leisure, in the shade.

New Fornasetti, not vintage

They close for siesta, 1-3

THB gives it a thorough look, decides we don't need to wait til 3

We're on the vaporetto when up comes the other Hirst site...big unimpressive work here too

Vaporetto to Accademie, purchase two more all day passes, $23pp, and cool ourselves with two scoops each of gelati from Nico’s, sitting outside along another huge canal (the one that the cruise ships slide in and out on), $11.

The pigeons are very aggressive after the diners have moved on

A stretch limo

Finally we visit VAC, hosting the Russian installation (not the official Pavilion; that is at Giardini). No photos allowed…Vlad, are you hiding something? The guard roaming the exhibit sure looked and acted like a Russki. Overall, the artists seemed a bit (not a lot) brave to engage with old and new Russia.

Vaporetto to San Giorgio, a small island with a big church. There are 8 installations, we're here to see only two.

Pistoletto is one of the two and we get a shock at the end of his installation (all in the church)

Pistoletto is big on mirrors, THB is not, thinks it is gimmicky

Church, not Pistoletto

the other exhibit is Ettore Sottsass (from Negoizo Olivetti showroom) has a huge show of glass. THB is not all that fond of designer glass, there are a few nice pieces among a tone of his work

One of the other 8 installations, by Pae White

Back to Sottsass

Sottsass when he was young man

Sottsass as an old guy

Pistoletto work, part of four pieces in this installation representing four religions. The Buddha piece appears solo in Voorlinden; THB didn't think much of it there. Here, in text of larger work, it is more appropriate

Dinner tonight was a reco of several: Alla Testiere. It lived up to the advance billing: 22 seats, very agreeable service (not rushed, no long waits), and very good food. We shared gnoechetti with squid ink and tiny squids (and maybe meat, hard to tell) ; the grilled fish platter, every item cooked just right; nectarine tart and chocolate torte for dessert; bottle of still water, a bottle of Pinot Bianco, $185. In and out in exactly 2 hours. A terrific trip-ending meal, easily the most Italian of our meals. 

Tomorrow we're off around 9 via water launch to the Marco Polo airport and, Chuck de Gaulle willing, a flight from Paris to SFO.

The restaurant fills up by 7:30 or so, and at least 3 couples are turned away

Presented whole and then divvied up: each item is perfectly cooked

A car ferry?