Lately, it’s been extremely difficult to keep an ear-t0-ear grin off my face. I am having such a great week after the Tour de Ski; relaxing, getting to see new places and getting some easy smooth distance skiing in.
Matt and I were in Predazzo for a couple days while Liz and Noah were each with their parents in different parts of Italy, getting some family time. Since I was at “camp Matt”, and Matt was at “camp Jessie”, we each decided it’d be fun to see someplace new, someplace beautiful with a lot of culture. We decided on a day trip to Venice!
The drive was about 3 hours each way, and we spent about 7 hours in Venice, but the travel wasn’t stressful at all and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. The city was so cool and old…and apparently slowly sinking! The city is an archipelago of 117 tiny islands with stone buildings built over wooden piers, and 177 canals connecting everything. The fastest mode of transport is by water, or just walking. The canals are filled with greenish murky, silty lagoon water that smells of fresh salt and sea and sometimes fish. The city was grimy in a genuinely old kind of way…besides cigarette buts (nearly everyone smoked) there was no trash in the streets, only a faintly green slippery coating over the stones.
All the buildings were stone with wooden doors and iron railings or bars over the windows, and some had wrought-iron gates to the courtyards. The stone buildings were a variety of colors – some plastered over in pink! – but there wasn’t a speck of green till you peered into the courtyards where shrubs, trees (palm trees too) and lots if ivy grew. Laundry hung out windows and stretched out over canals on lines, though how it dried in the foggy humid air I don’t know.
There were small boats everywhere, some super-touristy gondolas with the traditional striped-shirt-and-cap-wearing gondolier punting through the water, but the grand canal was full of faster transport boats and ferries. The “bus route” with a floating dock system was all done efficiently on water.
Matt and I did the best thing you can ever do in Venice…get lost! We wandered down tiny narrow alleyways, through courtyards, and unintentionally turned circles in the heart of the city while only actually setting foot in the same places a handful of times. We saw the shopping, touristy areas, the plaza’s full of screaming children playing ball as soon as school let out, and the dogs running unchecked through the quiet streets where the citizens actually lived – the most modern and least hectic, slow-paced part of town.
Of course, we saw St. Mark’s plaza, the basilica and click tower, and walked over the Realto bridge, but some amount of charm was lost upon discovering that the bridge was also a shopping mall – there were literally shops ON the bridge.
The food in Venice was such a cool experience. We stopped for lunch at a small café alongside the water (well, of course…everything is next to the water…) and ordered our meals. The waitress asked us exactly how many scallops we wanted, then 5 minutes later we saw a man walk in the door with 2 bags of fresh seafood that he’d probably picked up from the boat we saw 10 meters from the café. He strode back to the kitchen doors, and 10 minutes later we were eating the freshest and most delicious scallops I’ve ever tasted, served in the shell! I also tried the local special – cuttlefish served in their black ink sauce, a murky, jet-black dish that was delicious, and would probably really stain your teeth if you ate it often!
I’m so thankful that we went, and got to experience another amazing city that skiing probably won’t take me to! After getting back to Predazzo, we left for Seiser Alm, this absolutely gorgeous place up high in the Dolomite mountains in Italy. We are staying at the Panorama Hotel, which is at the top of one of the alpine runs. To get up to the hotel, you need to either take a snowcat (my favorite!), ride the chairlift or get driven up a steep and super snowy road. Once you’re at the top, you’re overlooking the town and have a 360 degree view of so many gorgeous peaks.
It’s hard for me to pick one favorite thing about Seiser Alm…there are so many amazing parts! The skiing is out of this world, with a couple feet of snow and perfect tracks. The classic skiing is outstanding, and one of the trails on the upper loop looks like you’re about to ski off the edge of the earth. You can also drop down to the stadium, but you have to plan your ski because there’s about a 40 minute climb back to the hotel!
The food here is delicious, and mealtimes can take up to an hour and a half because of so many small courses being served. But maybe the best part is the sledding! There’s a sled run right out the hotel door that parallels the alpine hill, and it carves down the hill with some really steep drop offs and road crossings. It’s so fun that I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I heard we’d be going to Seiser Alm last spring!
Yesterday was Liz’s birthday, so we took a couple awesome runs together. Matt kept reminding us to take is easy (the Olympics are coming up, after all) so we toned it down but were still going wicked fast! 🙂
My second day here I picked up a slight head cold that’s been running around, so I’ve been taking it really easy and recovering quickly. It’s hard to be in the most beautiful ski area ever and not get to ski as much as I’d like, but it’s more important to be smart and recover well! On Thursday, we drive the 9-ish hours over to Poland for the skate sprint and 10km classic mass start World Cups there. I’m looking forward to it!