books + venice

Two good reads I reccommend: Running Away to Home: Our Family’s Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Came From, and What Really Matters by Jennifer Wilson and The Notice by Sean Chandler.

The first is written by a wife/writer/mom of two young kids from Des Moines, Iowa who ‘drags’ her family to Mrkopalj, Croatia seeking a connection to her ancestors that emigrated from there 100 years ago as well as a connection to her immediate family away from the “American dream”.  Running Away to Home is an insightful tale of their time in a small (population less than 1500) Croatian town that could probably be compared fairly to Appalachia, USA. Mrkopalj is located in the mountainous region of Gorski-Kotar, “The Green Heart of Croatia”.  The author shares an acquaintedness not easily attained. First-hand experiences while not all enviable (such as eating puh/varmint, sheep brains and balls) are certainly appreciated.  Check out the author’s blog for some great photos, including the puh (aka giant rat)!

The Notice is a novel based in Bosnia in 1992 as war surrounds the fictional town of a young girl who witnesses and courageously contends with the changes that create fractions and bring war to her home town even before the arrival of bombs and militia.  The novel is based on actual accounts and is framed in a way that presents interesting historical information.

Perhaps it oversimplifies a very complex conflict, as probably do most fiction and non-fiction books on the subject, but it clearly depicts the realities of its horrors.  A good introduction for me, I’d like to read more but need to lighten my reading list for now.

I tried to find a fun read that doesn’t involve war, when I came across The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman.  After reading the following excerpt of a Q+A with the author, I was hooked.  A beautiful story of love and loss, I am really glad I read and I highly recommend it.

I had been hoping to write a novel where I could explore an artist’s experience during WWII and the Holocaust. So I started to do research about how certain real life artists were still able to create, even under these horrific and dangerous circumstances. But I didn’t know how I was going to frame the novel. Then one day I was getting my hair cut at a local salon, and I overheard the stylist next to me telling a story he had recently heard from another client. It was about a woman who had recently attended a wedding where the bride’s grandmother and the groom’s grandfather had not met previously. At the rehearsal dinner the night before, the groom’s grandfather insisted he knew the bride’s grandmother “from somewhere.” At the end of the evening, still convinced that he recognized her (despite her denials), he asked her to roll up her sleeve. There the six-number tattoo from Auschwitz was inked into her skin. He looked at her again, this time more closely. Studying her face one more time, he said: “You were my wife.”

So we are in Venice and just happen to be staying at the home of the author and Venetian historian Andrea di Robilant.  He kindly left a copy of his A Venetian Affair: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in the 18th Century on the bedside table for us to read.  After just reading the introduction, Kevin and I are quite intrigued.

We are staying on the island of Giudecca, the ‘biggest – though off the beaten track – island of Venice’.  We’ve figured out how to take the vaporetto or water bus, but need to go now to buy passes for the week.  We’ve managed a few free rides but I now I fear the Carabinieri!  We’ve been told that there will be a national strike tomorrow, but have been assured that the vaporettos have to provide service to Giudecca – just not as consistently – but hopefully we will not be stranded.

Here’s a few pics of our cozy place decorated with fine Venetian furniture, maps, drawings and of course shelves of books.  There are two turtles in the backyard and a jujube fruit tree.  Oh, and there’s a bin of Legos in the boys’ room!




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Art and Architecture in Venice

We drug the kids (no, it’s not what that sounds like) around to a few art museums and an architecture exhibit over the past few days.  Lot’s of choices to enjoy the arts in this beautiful city, but here’s a sampling of things we’ve done so far (the post seemed too long for the main page).

The 13th International Architecture Biennale Exhibition includes displays of architecture from around the world.  The venue, known as the Venice Biennale dates back from 1895, when the first International Art Exhibition was held.  Since then, the exhibitions have been expanded to include music, cinema, theatre, and most recently architecture.  Many nations have permanent exhibition buildings (similar to the World Fair pavilions) and there are temporary exhibits through the city.  This biennial was organized around the theme of “common ground,” and while the focus of the exhibits was how architecture brings people and ideas together, they ranged from very conceptual displays to building mock-ups you see in many architecture offices.  Here are scenes from our visit:

[I lost my head over the one above]

We also made it to the Palazzo Grassi overlooking the Grand Canal.  We saw a variety of multimedia/cinema presentations – some of which were over our heads.  We made a stop to see the Peggy Guggenheim Collection; a wonderful collection of modern art.  Calder, Pollack, and many others.  Some of are [ed. note: ack!] favorites are below (Willem’s favorite sculpture is the granite block with the two concave shapes).

[Calder earrings given by the artist to Peggy G.]

[The pink dog is from the Grassi]

I also saw some interesting sculpture in a private hotel garden… I’m not sure I was supposed to be there, but I ended up getting my first haircut of the trip on the grounds; see below.

Great fun and we’re lucky the kids are interested enough to let us get to see some of these sites.

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Art and Architecture in Venice

We drug the kids around to a few art museums and an architecture exhibit over the past few days.  Lot’s of choices in this beautiful city, but here’s a sampling of things we’ve done so far (the post seemed too long for the main page).

Galleria S. Eufemia

I forgot to mention we have a nice art gallery right next door to our apartment in Venice, Galleria S. Eufemia.  One artist currently on exhibit is Katia Margolis who has a career in graphics.  You can see the blending of her art and graphics design skills in her work.  I thought the progression from photograph to painting to graphic art was interesting.  Images below aren’t great, but the best I could find.






arrivederci venezia

Saturday we left Venice and drove to Antibes, France.  We love it here! Just around the corner is the most amazing market.  Our townhouse is beautiful — filled with light, great art, and views of Cap d’Antibes across the water.

It is a contrast from our stay in Venice where the weather was reminiscent of foggy, grey, wet Seattle.  Our apartment was cozy but dark.

Venice is an amazing place.  Living there would not be easy — always difficult to navigate; hot, crowded, mosquito-invested, and rank in the summer months; damp, foggy, flooding, and chilly in the winter months.  Yet here is an undeniable romantic mysticism and such ornate opulence!

St. Mark’s Basilica from the outside enchanted and overwhelmed us.  I’m sure the boys would have enjoyed the armory and prisons of the Doge’s Palace if we had gone inside.  Willem absolutely balked at entering Ca’ d’Oro.  He had already endured our visits to the modern Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Palazzo Grassi, and many exhibits of the Architecture Biennale at that point.

If we had more time, I think we would have enjoyed seeing the colorful island of Burano , Glass in Action at the Abate Zanetti Glass School in Murano, and the Natural History Museum.

If we had more time and loads of money, I would love to luxuriate at the Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa on Giudecca Island.  I had just a taste of its beauty to fuel my fantasies as I wandered around its beautifully scented lobby and gardens.


photos credits: Antibes townhouse + Baurer Palladio photos from their sites, Burano Island by LaurieA