Thursday, January 31, 2008

VENICE TRAVEL TIPS - Grocery store

Most folks travel with a few standard guidelines; they don’t want to spend too much money, they want to “see the sights”, and they don’t want to go places that waste their time – like a grocery store. You might say to yourself “why would I want to go to the grocery store, we’ve got one at home?” I tell you this: if you want to put your finger on the pulse of a place, if you want to learn more about the locals, go where they shop. Whenever I travel, I try to hit a supermarket – you can people-watch, look at the kinds of products they choose, and buy some to bring back to your hotel. Heck, you might find one of your favorite products with a whole new label, or printed in another language – some make great gifts or souvenirs. If you’re trying to learn the language or just want to brush up a bit, the grocery store is as good a place as any, although don’t try to have a long conversation with a cashier when there’s a big line behind you. One other benefit to visiting the grocery store – the prices are almost always cheaper than the myriad of retailers who sell primarily to tourists, not to mention the hotel minibar (heck, anything’s cheaper than the minibar).

In some places, supermarkets will sell some of the same t-shirts and hats that souvenir retailers sell but at better prices. If you’re travelling in Europe, chances are you’ll grow tired of all the crowds who are all there to “see the sights”, at that point, a trip to the grocery store may be a welcome diversion.

Two months after you’ve returned home, you’ll brush your teeth in the morning, notice that the toothpaste label is in Italian, and smile as you remember your trip, and your visit to the grocery store.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SNOW ON GONDOLAS - photos 6 and 7

photos by Rene Müller

A big thanks goes out to gondolier and friend Ingo Stahl who rows his gondola in the very southern part of Germany on Wörthsee. I haven't been there yet, but it's definitely on my list.

Ingo sent these two great shots of snow on his gondola there in the first half of September, 2007.
Yes, that's this winter, and apparently the first snow was a bit unexpected - falling on a couple's wedding cruise. As you can see from their smiles, they took it in stride, as did Ingo - looking good with a big smile.
I'll bet they won't ever forget that day.

Thanks Ingo, you have a beautiful gondola and a great attitude!

To learn more about Ingo Stahl and his gondola operation, go to:

If you're a pathetic gondola fanatic like I am, you'll want to pay a visit to Wörthsee real soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

PHOTOS FROM VENICE - two wedding gondolas

Not all gondolas in Venice receive the kind of TLC that they ought to because there’s not one guy, obsessing over every centimeter of the boat. Sure, there are many privately owned gondolas in Venice, but many of them aren’t treated like the proverbial Ferrari GT California in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ah, but there are a few. Often they can be found in the most coveted places, like in front of the Hotel Danieli or Bauer. Some of the nicest ones I’ve seen have been near the Rialto Bridge.
Here are two such gondolas. Not surprisingly, they are both wedding gondolas, and each has several custom items which sets it apart from other gondolas.
Look closely and you’ll see varnished floorboards, custom chairs and benches, and both have highly ornate scimiers (the carved piece which sits atop the main seat).
One has an ornately carved forcola while the other has striped remi. Both gondolas have the unique cape-like piece on the back of the main seat with matching pillows. The most expensive pieces on the gondolas are likely to be the cavalli (seahorse statues), I’m sure they are coveted by many gondoliers who row past these boats. There are many different styles of cavalli, and these are among the best and most expensive on the market, but these have been gold plated rather than kept in polished brass.
I didn’t find these two boats near the Rialto or even along one of the hotel moorings on the Grand Canal, they were just tucked away at this little quay I like to haunt. It’s the same place I shot the photo of the gondolier’s with brown shoes from the blog post on 12/12/07.
There just always seems to be something interesting there.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Clever use of a Vespa tire

Every time I go to Venice or look through photos of the gondolas there, I see some new "method" used by the gondoliers there to protect their gondolas.

I laughed the first time I saw Vespa tires hung from the side. Long skinny black hoses draped along the side has been one of my favorites - it just looks so, I don't know..."festive/industrial" for want of a better term.

Tires have long been a favorite among mariners. Sure, you can go out and pay big money for the shiny, inflated, fancy-shmancy ones at the marine hardware store, but old tires are almost free. Plus, they use 'em on tug boats and any guy knows that tug boats are cool - right up there with fire trucks and race cars. Chances are most of the guys reading this are "grown-ups" now, but I'm sure you can identify with the whole tug boat thing.

I'm still not crazy about tires on a gondola though; it doesn't always look good. I'd rather see them mounted to the place where the gondola ties up or loads passengers.

All the same, here's a guy who cracks me up. He's obviously has had "issues" with the tail of his gondola bumping, rubbing or perhaps smacking up against something, and he's chosen to solve the problem in a cheap and effective way. I've decided to call it the "stick a donut on it" method.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

POSTCARD HISTORY LESSON - Gondola at Ross Fenton Farm

This postcard dates back to 1925 in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

In Monmouth County, New Jersey, a piece of land was bought by Charles Ross and Mabel Fentonhusband; a pair of vaudeville performers who were husband and wife.

This piece of land was in the Wanamassa section of Ocean Township, and while it was a farm, it was also a resort - one which attracted famous and well-to-do folks from New York.

Along with the farm, there was a large lakeside hotel, two casinos, and several guest cottages.

The typical water related leisure activities popular at the time were present, along with at least one gondola.

Considering the date of the photo, we can assume that this gondola was constructed out of wood. Fiberglass wasn't around yet. And steel construction, well, I'm pretty sure a gondola would sit a little bit deeper in the water if she were made of steel. No, I've never seen a steel gondola, I'm simply trying to list all the options.

In my opinion, she's not a Venice-built vessel, but a decent reproduction.

As with most of the images I post up, you should be able to click the photo to get an enlarged view.

When you look closely, you'll notice a few things that made this gondola unique:

1. the boat was not black. At first glance, one might assume she was white, but one of the gentlemen in the canoe behind the gondola was wearing a stark white shirt, giving the viewer a point of reference. Next to the man's white shirt, she appears to have been painted tan or a washed-out yellow. It cannot be seen very well, but the deck appears to either be exposed wood or painted brown.

2. there was a series of vertical boards known as "coamings" surrounding the perimeter of the salon area. This is not seen on Venetian gondolas but used to be quite common in American vessels, especially sailboats.

3. The curvature of the bow was less than on a normal gondola. Don't be confused by the presence of the dark canoe - every time I look at this image, that canoe tricks my eyes into thinking the bow was higher and darker than it probably was.

4. The ferro had four fingers in the front and seemed to have been mounted higher. It also appears that the ferro was either made of brass or painted in a gold-tone.

5. the deck at the back was smooth, with no cutouts or open spaces with trasto-boards. In fact the layout of this boat is quite similar to the ones in my December 31st post on Florida gondolas in the 1920's. The canopy isn't as long, so I would assume it's a different boat, but I wouldn't be surprised if they came from the same builder.

I love these kinds of images.

They tell a story while spinning a mystery at the same time.

Spend some time looking up gondolas in the US and you're likely to get an impromptu education on gondolas that graced the waters of:

Venice, California,

South Florida,

or Central Park in New York City.

But now and then I come across a boat I've never heard about until suddenly, there it is, staring right back at me...from a postcard.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ferro through the fish-eye lens

photo by Rick Rosen

This image has been among my favorites for years.

It was taken by one of my very favorite photographers - Rick Rosen.

Rick is one of the most impressive and versatile photographers in Southern California, and for good reason, he actually taught under Ansel Adams.

This shot was taken in January of 2000 during the restoration of the Curci Gondola - a privately owned gondola here in Newport Beach. I had the honor of handling all of the metal elements on this stately wedding gondola that had been built in the early 60's.

The Curci Gondola has a classic aluminum ferro, complete with the three decorative pieces between the six fingers.

The ferro was heavily pitted from decades of oxidation.

I brought it to an old man named Paul Blyth. Paul is still alive but he recently retired. He did an awesome job, and was always there whenever I had something that needed to shine. But Paul was way too old for that kind of work, the only things older than Paul were the machines he used. It was neat to watch him work, and I'm not sure what to do now that he's retired.

Over the years I brought at least 12 or 13 ferros to Paul, the Curci ferro was definitely the oldest and most pitted, but he brought it back to life with character.

I spent many days working on the brass trim of the gondola. Each piece had to be removed, marked, charted, polished, clea-coated and then re-installed using the chart, markings and period-correct fasteners. Rick Rosen had expressed an interest in seeing the operation, so when the ferro came back from Paul Blyth, I brought him to the yard, knowing that the installation of the ferro would produce some dramatic photos.

Rick shot a number of different kinds of photos, with several different lenses, but the fish-eye was my favorite.

To see more of Rick's images, take a look at:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

One-armed rowing

I chose this photo for a reason: two days ago I managed to do some major damage to one of the fingers on my right hand. Fortunately I'm left-handed, but this has been an eye-opener. Initially I was worried that I might lose feeling in that finger, but I'm happy to report that all the nerves are still there - and working! I've got more feeling in that finger than I've ever had there before! Since the injury, I've been doing everything with one hand, so I thought it fitting to post up a photo of a gondolier rowing with one arm. I am pretty sure he didn't injure himself, but you never know.
I shot this from the Rialto Bridge (yes, I know, "how touristy").
I especially like the gondolier's carpet; it's a bold pattern but fitting on a gondola.
Here's hoping my finger heals, so I can type better - It took me forever just to type this!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Have you seen this man?

There aren’t very many of them these days, but you can still spot one from time to time. They are most often seen at large gondola operations in Venice. Their name: “Ganzer”, is as unique as the Venetian dialect it comes from. Nereo Zane (born and raised in Venice) tells me that a “ganso” (“gancio” in proper Italian) is a hook. So “ganzer” can be translated into “hooker”. Yes, yes, feel free to insert your favorite off-color joke here. The hook we are talking about here is a boat hook, which is fastened to the end of a short pole and used to help pull the gondola in. I’ve seen photos of old, ornate boat-hooks from Venice – decorated with gold coins and precious stones, but whenever I’ve seen the men who use the hooks in Venice, they’ve always been using standard boat-hooks, like you’d see on any boat. Ganzer is the most typical spelling but I’ve also seen it as “ganzar” and “ganser”. Usually a Ganzer is a retired gondolier who works at a traghetto (gondola service), helping the gondoliers in and out, and receiving tips for assisting passengers as they board and climb out of the gondolas. Often, he will have an upside-down hat located nearby for passengers to place tip money in.

In Gilberto Penzo’s book “La Gondola”, the Ganzer is an old gondolier, unable to do the job. He earns tips helping passengers out of the boat, while holding the gondola in with a hook.

In the book “Free Gondola Ride” by Kathleen Ann Gonzalez, (see post from October 20, 2007 for a review of the book), Kathleen writes about her visit to the San Moise traghetto, noticing it was one of the few stations that always had a ganzar.

Like so many things in Europe, the job, and the men who perform the job are becoming scarce. In my opinion, there will always be old gondoliers who want to stay in the realm they grew up in and had so many great memories of. I hope I’m correct in the assumption, that while the gansers may dwindle, they will never fully disappear.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Zebra Mussels in California

Jennifer Orth over at the Invasive Species Weblog has in interesting post on the Zebra Mussel's recent "invasion" into the San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County here in California. The county is in the San Jose-Sunnyvale metro area (Northern Cal.) but it is a cause for concern in that it serves as an indicator of the mussel's effective western "movement". Take a look:

Jennifer's blog is a great source of information. I started monitoring her posts because of my concerns over Zebra and Quagga Mussels. I've since learned a lot about the many different animals and plants who are living and thriving in "places they shouldn't be".

If invasive mussels interest you, check out the Gondola Blog posts from November 16th and 19th of this year.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Snow doesn't just fall on gondolas in Venice and Germany. The gondola in the photo might look familiar - she was the one we rowed down the Hudson River in October. This photo was taken a few years back at my location in Irving, Texas. We got about 3 inches that day. It didn't stick around very long, but there was enough to make a vertically-challenged snowman.


Here's another view of the gondolas adjacent to the Rialto Bridge. You can see a small piece of the Rialto in the background, and the campanile of the church of San Bartolomeo in the upper right corner.

And here's another shot Nereo Zane took in the Campo San Giacomo da L'Orio with a few inches of snow covering the ground.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Nereo Zane took this on the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge. It looks like there was a true snowstorm - enough to make snow stick to the sides of the ferros on some of the gondolas.

Monday, January 14, 2008


As I mentioned in an earlier post, the first Australian gondola operation I discovered was in Sydney.

They called it “Grande Gondola” and I found it while searching the internet; it was a very simple website that I found.

By the text and an artistic logo, I could tell that they truly were doing a “Venetian gondola thing” and not operating ski lifts or other things called by the name “gondola”.

I have to hand it to them, they were on the web early, which speaks well of their business savvy. With their website, they did something that guaranteed my fascination: they had no photos. Telling a gondola fanatic about a gondola service in a unique locale, but not showing him the boat…well, that’s just torture. Mind you, I’m not judging them for their lack of photos, back then if a website had photos, they had one, and usually a poor one at that.

As I investigated and eventually contacted the Sydney gondola operators, I learned a lot about gondolas in Oz. First of all, I was fascinated to hear about Peninsular Gondolas (I’ll go into detail about these great boats in a future post), and I was impressed with the level of quality and dedication these Aussie gondoliers were putting into their servizio. These days the company is known as “Sydney Gondolas”. When I was looking over their website I found yet another item to that piqued my curiosity: “Sydney Gondolas are proud of our alliance with the Tribal Warrior Association - an Aboriginal training organisation - who provide most of our Coxswains.” So I looked up the Tribal Warrior Association and learned from their website: “The Tribal Warrior Association was established by concerned Aboriginal people with a view to spread and vitalise Aboriginal culture, and to provide economic and social stability.” Now I’m from Southern California. Aboriginal people are just about the most exotic folk I can think of. I’m ready to get on a plane and fly 17 hours just to meet an Aboriginal Gondolier. Leave it to the Aussies to fascinate me with everything from their boats to the gondoliers who drive them.

Because the Sydney gondola is a Peninsular, she’s got a motor, concealed in the stern. I’m told it comes in handy with all the crazy ship traffic there, not to mention strong winds and big chop. The harbor there isn’t always smooth as glass but the gondola tends to stay in the more calm waters of Pyrmont, Rozelle and Glebe.

The folks at Sydney Gondolas offer some great catered cruises through Nick’s Seafood in Darling Harbour. Options range from a “pre-dinner”, to a “seafood feast”, to fresh desserts.

One of the more unique offerings I’ve seen in the gondola world is the “Harleys and gondolas” program going on at Sydney Gondolas. A one hour Harley ride followed by a cruise on the gondola – this would be a great way to see the area from a different point of reference (no tour-bus here).

I've seen a lot of photos of Sydney, and they always seem to be taken from the water, so if, scratch that, when I get to Australia, I want to see Sydney by gondola.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Ina Mierig sent me this shot from Hamburg, Germany.
She hauls her gondola out each winter for dry-storage, but sometimes they get an early snow.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Nereo Zane shot this photo at Bacino Orseolo in 2001.
It doesn't snow often in Venice, but when it does, there's nothing like the contrast of white snow on black gondolas.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Nevada Sunset

This photo was taken in November out at my Lake Las Vegas location. My on-site manager Sarah Longson is not only a great gondolier and manager, she's quite an accomplished photographer. Sarah took this from the gondola while on a cruise. We don't always get this type of fiery finish out there, but when we do - it's quite a spectacle.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fancy upholstery gondolas

I found this group of unique gondolas on a canal not far from Piazza San Marco. What caught my eye, of course, was the extra attention given to the upholstery. Most gondolas have the standard seats, with the Naugahyde type vinyl panels bordered by shag-carpet-like fringe, and always in solid colors. These guys appear to have set out on a mission: determined to break the tradition. I don’t know where they found the materials but they are perfect, in an over-the-top, almost gaudy way. If it weren’t on gondolas, and if the other decorative features weren’t so well-suited to tie in the upholstery, this would not look good, but they succeeded and I hope their business is a success as well.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

“Born to push a pole”

Any gondolier who has been on the back of a gondola long enough has been asked: “why aren’t you pushing with a pole?”. This is not the only misconception of gondolas, but it’s one of the most prevalent here in the US. Some time ago a friend sent me this comic, years later I still get a kick out of it. There are so many things about it that crack me up:

First, there’s the caricature gondola – with it’s extremely high ferros…on each end.

Second, the gondola has flames painted on the side.

Third, the gondolier looks more like a member of the Hell’s Angels, complete with beard, tattoo, jeans, fingerless gloves, and the jacket with the sleeves torn off. With all these things, the authentic gondolier hat is quite a contrast.

Fourth, “BORN TO PUSH A POLE” on the back of the jacket.

Fifth, the gondolier’s “old lady” – she’s classic! She’s got a cigarette in her mouth and that wonderful sort of “white trash” sensibility (meaning she looks bored, pissed, and dangerous all at the same time).

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Canottieri Treporti

I shot this at the 2005 Regata Storica. I was looking across the Grand Canal and saw a gondola da regatta and caorlina in bright yellow and white. I'd never heard of the Canottieri Treporti, so I did some research and found out that they occupy the barrier land at the top of the Venetian lagoon.

Take a look at the Google Earth map compliments of Nereo Zane.

It turns out that one of our 2007 Hudson River Expedition members, Enzo Lizska comes from the area.

I found the website and was very impressed with their photo gallery. Someone over there does a good job photographing a regatta.

Take a look at the gallery for yourself:

Monday, January 7, 2008

LOCAL GONDOLA TRADITIONS – Rhubarb Pie in Minnesota

There are lots of gondola operations in the US – around 35 at the moment, and many of them have been around for a decade or more. Most gondola companies outside Venice try their best to emulate the culture and traditions of their Venetian counterparts, while at the same time, some have developed traditions of their own.

Here is one such tradition:

The “Minnesota Rhubarb Pie” tradition

People who spend enough time around the water, eventually end up in the water. For years I’ve said that there are “two kinds of gondoliers – those who have fallen in the water, and those who are going to fall in the water”. Well, at Gondola Romantica in Stillwater, Minnesota, they’ve added a tradition to the mix: if a gondolier falls in the water, he or she has to bake a rhubarb pie for the rest of the staff. One gondolier named Joe Mitchell even gave the tradition a name: “Humble Pie”. Joe has a nickname of his own: “Single Dip” because he’s already gone in once. Joe’s older brother, also a gondolier there in Stillwater, is “Double Dip”…you guessed it, he’s had to bake two pies so far. The Mitchell’s sister who has just started with Gondola Romantica is determined not to follow in their footsteps. We’ll see.

Owner John Kerschbaum and his staff have kept this tradition going for 6 years now and it doesn’t look like it will go away any time soon. Gondoliers will undoubtedly keep falling in the water, and those around them will keep reminding them of their pie-baking responsibilities.

Gondola Romantica's website is:

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Incised ferro

I took this photo while standing in the “casotto” (gondolier’s shack) at the big servizio in San Marco. Having commissioned the production of several ferro blades in California, I was no stranger to the new water-jet technology and had considered making a ferro like the one above.

Then, in 2006 I saw it and all at once I was thrilled to see the idea in real life, and also disappointed that I hadn’t been the first to do it. For the record, I am not certain whether the foundry that produced this ferro used a water-jet. If they didn’t, well, they sure must have spent a lot of time doing it.

Either way, it looks great and I couldn’t resist getting some photos of it.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


We’ve got some precipitation coming at us here in Orange County. I spent the afternoon removing some seats and preparing for rain, and as I write this, I can hear it coming down outside. I'll probably hole-up in my garage for the next few days varnishing the tables I took off the boats.

Over the years I’ve gained a lot of experience in the discipline of “keeping more water on the outside of the boat than there is on the inside of the boat”. In the early days of gondola ownership here in Newport Beach, we had bilge pump issues, and tended to “baby” our boats - freaking out any time it would rain. With that admission revealed, there were times when it really was necessary to obsess over keeping the water out of the boat. Here in Southern California, we get some pretty heavy rain during some winters. Of course the news media has taken great pleasure in giving it a name: “El Nino”. Who could forget "STORMWATCH 2000"? Oh my gosh, I thought we were all going to float away and die as I listened to the forecasters. It turned out to be just another rainy few days. The rain comes in from the Pacific, often referred to by weathermen as the “Pineapple Express” if it comes from the direction of Hawaii.

Bilge pumps have come a long way in the last ten years, and we have made small changes to some of our boats so we don’t have to scurry around the dock so much.

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail to a friend back in the late 90’s. The gondolas mentioned in the text are ones with canopies which can be draped with plastic and bunched around the perimeter.

If you are a gondola operator, no doubt you have spent some quality time in the bilge. Next time you’re out there fighting the elements armed with a fully loaded shop-vac, remember that there’s a guy in Newport who knows what you’re going through all too well.

Here's the e-mail excerpt:

Yeah, so we had our first real heavy rain tonight. That means that I get to spend some quality time in the morning with my shop-vac while wearing duck hunting boots. I really never wear them for hunting, just slogging around in the bilge! HA! Although there HAVE been times when I've wanted to go down to the docks with a shotgun and take care of the rainwater problem once and for all. I've never done it though 'cause it's tough explaining to your wife that you got tired of pumping out your boats so you just shot holes in all of them.

So tonight we were alerted ahead of time: my father-in-law called from the freeway up in Torrance to tell us that it was "POURING". So I crawled through the garage, grabbed plastic sheets, rope, and a pack of zip-ties and lead-footed it down to the docks. As I was pulling into the driveway of the office the sprinkles were just showing up on my windshield. By the time I got on the docks it was raining. Another gondolier and I got one gondola covered and it was officially pouring. God was good to us tonight - two of the three mahogony boats had last year’s custom made rain covers still stowed under the bow so it was an easy boom-boom covering job. Then Steve Elkins showed up. Steve is one of our gondoliers. He scooted into the marina as fast as possible considering he had two passengers and a full dinner laid out in the boat. They'd been out just long enough to finish their meals and get as far as possible from the docks before the downpour began. They came back pretty wet but poor Steve was sopping. We cleared out the gondola and got it covered in minutes. During the clear-out Steve set his champagne glasses on the dock box, I poured them out and set them down again, after only 15 minutes there was a half inch of rain water in those glasses!

All in all it was a great "rain wrap".

But here's what it's like when it SUCKS:

It's around 2 o'clock in the morning,

The rain has been dumping for about five days,

I'm on the docks once again - pocketful of zip-ties and bungee cords, wearing my raincoat, boots, baseball cap, and other sacrificial clothing.

I spend fifteen minutes shop-vacing the water out of a few boats during which time the wind blows back the hood on my raincoat allowing some water to roll off the back of my baseball cap and down the back of my neck.

As I amble down the dock towards the office to put the shop-vac away, that same water manages to trickle down my back making me twitch a bit when I walk. Nearing the ramp to the docks that trickle has made it down to my underwear...imagine how funny I'm walking now.

Thinking that I'm just moments away from getting into my truck and driving home to dry clothes (mainly dry underwear), I look over the raincovers and notice that one of them is off of its gondola. I drop the shop-vac and pull the plastic raincover back into place over the canvas one that just keeps the dust out of the gondola.

This cover has been giving me trouble for days and I realize that it's been off for quite some time. So I climb into the gondola, stumbling around with a flashlight I shop-vac out the water in the bilge, and climb out again.

As I climb out, the edge of the canvas cover catches on my cell phone and peels it right off my belt. I hear a small splash between the gondola and the dock and wonder what it is. As I assess the various possibilities I reach down and realize that I've just lost another cell phone into the saltwater abyss. I stomp around angrily, swinging my arms and muttering things I wouldn't say in front of my mother. The whole thing looks like some kind of weird tribal dance.

Once I've regained my composure I notice that the reason the plastic cover keeps blowing off is that it needs to be tied down. I crouch down next to the gondola, attach a bungee cord to the edge of the plastic and begin to stretch it down toward the cleat on the dock.

At that very moment the wind shifts and two things happen, one right after the other:

1. the shifting wind blows the back of my raincoat up exposing the back of my waist

2. that puddle of water on the roof of the three story building behind me is also suddenly affected by the shifting wind and ends up being blown over the edge, into the air, falling three stories and...




my underwear.

That, my friend, is what it's like when it sucks.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


photos by Greg Mohr

Order the house red.

That's all you need to know.

If you're going to be drinking wine in Venice, or any part of Italy for that matter, order the house red.

In pretty much anywhere other than the Chianti region, you'll get some of the best wine in the world this way.

Why? It's simple really. The Italians figure that the rest of the world doesn't know wine like they do, so they keep the best for themselves.

Why waste time putting it in 750 milliliter bottles? They bring it to town in giant basket-wrapped vessels and siphon out the wine by the glass.

I've been to a lot of places, and had a lot of really good wines.

I live in California where we have vineyards everywhere. But by far the best wine I've ever enjoyed has come out of one of those huge bottles.

Sure, they put it in little bottles too, but more often than not, the best vino in Italy comes by the glass.

Order the house red - you'll be glad you did.

Local wine sits on the deck of a moto-topo, waiting to be enjoyed by locals...and a few savvy tourists too.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's "happenings"

For New Year's Eve, I took the standard gondola cruise: with a young couple, a thermos full of coffee, and a reliable watch so I could tell them exactly when to kiss. The temperature was in the high 40's with no wind.

It was a great cruise, and quite similar to the ones I've done on many past New Year's Eves.

New Year's Day was a nice treat and quite a bit different: we had a wedding on board.

The bride and groom and I were on the Wedding Gondola with a photographer, while the wedding guests rode on two of our canopied motorized gondolas.

Gondola weddings aren't that unusual here but two things really set this one apart:

1. the groom was a professional wedding photographer, and the designated photographer on board with us was his daughter - suffice it to say that the two of them gave the gondolier a lot of "challenges".

2. the gondolier was Tyson from Sunset Gondola in Huntington Beach (see Because it was New Years Day and I was saddled with the job of officiating the wedding ceremony, we had a shortage of gondoliers, so I pulled a favor from a friend and could not have been happier. Tyson had never rowed the Wedding Gondola before and he piloted her like an old pro.

He put up with the many demands from the "photo peanut gallery" (which also included me), and rowed like the professional he is.

Nice work Tyson, I'm glad I picked up the phone.

In the end all the gondoliers did a great job, the bride and groom exchanged their vows with their best friends and family looking on, and everyone on board had a blast.

After the ceremony, I turned around and rowed a bit in the forward station. As we were in our final approach to the dock, Tyson looked over at the other two gondolas and said "Hey Greg, I think we can take 'em", so we stepped it up a bit and overtook two motorized gondolas. Too much fun.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from the Gondola Blog.

Have a great 2008.

Now quit reading this and go kiss your sweetie!