|Venice, Italy and Venice, California are each famous
for their own reasons but I just recently learned that
we have a little bit of Venice right here in San Diego.
Because we live on opposite coasts, my brother has made
a habit of sending gift certificates for major holidays,
birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Typically, these gift certificates
are redeemable for “mini-adventures” or other unique experiences
that you would not typically buy for yourself… everything
from spa packages to glider rides. The most recent of
these was a gift certificate for a gondola ride.
wife and I scheduled our gondola adventure for a Saturday
evening about an hour before sundown. As usual, the weather
in San Diego was beautiful, 70 degrees and sunny with
a light breeze out of the West.
Upon arrival we were greeted by our gondolier, “Giuseppe”.
Giuseppe was attired in the traditional garb of a classic
gondolier with white striped shirt, black trousers, a
red sash tied at his waist and a flat-brimmed straw hat.
Giuseppe quickly uncorked our bottle of red, presented
us with a nice anti pasta platter of meats and cheeses
and led us to our gondola.
The Gondola Company, located in Coronado, California
operates a fleet of four authentic gondolas. (See:
http://www.gondolacompany.com/) Two of their hulls
were imported from Italy while two others were constructed
to authentic standards here in the United States. While
my wife sipped her wine and enjoyed the scenery,
I took an occasional moment here and there to study
the gondola’s construction. The hulls were fairly straightforward
plywood on frame and were deceptively long--approximately
32’ in length with only a 4’ beam. The Italian hulls were
immediately obvious and bore much more ornamentation than
the home-built versions including some beautiful hand-carved
deck panels. All of the hulls were equipped with the traditional
long oar and carved oar mount, called a “forcola”, which
were imported from Italy.
Once we were settled in our seats, Giuseppe deftly stepped
onto the aft deck and maneuvered our gondola away from
the pier. We asked him how long he had been plying his
trade as a gondolier to which he replied “about two months.”
Despite his brief career, Giuseppe appeared to have ably
mastered the art of maneuvering the slender craft down
the narrow channels of the Coronado Cays.
“O Solo Mio” playing on the stereo, Giuseppe quietly paddled
while my wife and I took in the sights, nibbled on our
anti pasta and sipped our wine. My wife admired the extravagant
estates lining the shore and I surveyed the accompanying
yachts tied up at the neighboring docks. It was easy to
forget that another person was standing just twenty feet
behind us… until we would pass another gondola that is…
Each time the gondolas would pass each other the gondoliers
would exchange a friendly wave and a hearty “Bona Sera!”
Other passing yachts and even two barking poodles on a
nearby dock received similar greetings.
After about an hour, we returned to our starting point
with the sun dropping below the horizon in the distance.
It wasn’t Venice, but it was a lovely evening just the
same… and with what we saved on airfare to Europe, we
enjoyed a lovely dinner after the ride. (With enough left
over to build my own gondola!)