Travels With Dad: Venice, April 1984

I dreamed about Dad last night. We were sharing a bottle of Clos du Bois and laughing while we made dinner. Buddy (my cat who died in 2000 at the age of 18) watched us in his Buddy-way: as if we looked silly, but something good might come of it. In my dreams, Dad and Buddy are never dead. A friend once told me that dreams like this are visits. Maybe they are.

April 16, 1984

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day & when we caught the “bus-boat”, as Dad calls them – the vaporetto – it was the most beautiful time of day, the time before the sun sets.

We sailed down the Grand Canal in the golden sunlight, past the palazzi where Browning lived and Byron died; past little alleys that are rivers, bridged with tiny arched bridges of stone, marble, or wood, with trees and bushes hanging over the water; walled, mysterious gardens, houses with balconies, elaborate stoneworks, & everywhere, plants and flowers in pots on windowsills. The “garages” are for boats, below the houses, or steps leading to the water, where you moor your boat instead of your car. The street lamps are very art nouveau-looking, in wrought iron, with pink glass!

The hotel was a minute’s walk from the famous church of San Marco and the piazza thereof [Really! I sound like a wannabe lawyer]; the Doges’ Palace & the famous clock tower, built in 1497 [It still worked then, and probably still does]. We went to San Marco the next day, with its amazing mosaic and gold screen, studded with jewels. The words “beautiful” and “old” have lost their meanings for me here, since everything is so very new where I come from. We climbed the marble roof to see the lovely, ancient bronze horses, green with age, still, you can almost see them breathe.

Next, we went to the Doges’ Palace, which has a marvellous facade, pink & white marble, very oriental looking. In one of the large conference rooms, the famous Tintoretto had been removed for no apparent reason, but there were portraits of the first 45 Doges around the edges of the walls – one, a traitor, had a black curtain where his portrait should have been. We went through the Bridge of Sighs – it was very pretty from the outside, white stone elaborately carved – but horribly dark and claustrophobic inside, leading to even more horrid dungeons, where there was a remarkable collection of arms and armor from the 12th to 16th centuries. [I don’t seem to have heard of a run-on sentence then!]

The following day, I visited the Guggenheim collection alone, since Dad had dismissed it as “rubbish”. [He was never a fan of modern art, and was pleased when the Tate Gallery in London moved all the “rubbish” to the Tate Modern down the river.] I loved it. I enjoyed it more, I’m afraid, than the ancient, venerable things. The garden is very lovely and peaceful, walled, and full of sculptures. There Peggy herself is buried, along with her beloved dog – a simple stone marks the place. Her house itself is beautiful and plain – all on one level, in white marble; facing the Grand Canal, with a small garden also facing the canal, full of flowers. She had a remarkable eye for art. If I had to choose one thing, it would have been the wonderful silver headboard, made for her by Calder.

It was again a beautiful afternoon as we left Venice; it is truly a city of enchantment.