As much of a shame as it may be, there are currently no gondolas on the water in Venice, California.
There are as many as nine gondola operations regularly taking passengers in several Southern California locations, but Abbot Kinney's Venice is not one of them.
This wasn't always the case, in fact it was our "Venice of the West" that inspired so many of the gondola operations that sprung up in the US about a century ago. Many of those operations in turn inspired some of the modern servizios afloat today.
By all accounts, there were roughly three dozen gondolas in Venice, California - all had been brought over from Venezia by steamship, accompanied by the men who came out to row them.
That's a lot of gondolas, and way more than you'd need for the current canal system in Abbot Kinney's new neighborhood. Originally there were a lot more canals, and in fact if you look at some of the old photos and maps, you'll notice that many of the canals of yesteryear, are streets and thoroughfares today.
One such roadway is the traffic circle at the end of Grand Boulevard. This traffic circle inhabits real estate that was once the "Venice Lagoon", and leading into it was the "Grand Canal" (you guessed it - now Grand Blvd.).
Today there are no gondolas afloat in California's Venice, but if you drive around, you just might see one - especially if you make your way down Grand Boulevard and go around that traffic circle.
This vessel has been in the area for quite some time (although I've yet to get exact date info), and for the longest time she was displayed on the lawn in front of a bank on Lincoln Blvd. (see my post "The Washington Mutual Gondola - Venice, California" for a view of her back in 2008.
At some point she was brought from the lawn of the bank, to a place where gondolas actually used to grace the water. Blue continues to be her main color, but some of the yellow details are gone.
I was up there a while ago with my friend, Tim Reinard of Sunset Gondola, and we happened to have a pupparin on trailer. We thought maybe we could travel back in time if we drove around the circle enough while chanting things in Venetian dialect.
In the end, all we managed to do was annoy other people trying to navigate through the circle, and confuse some guy who was working at a copy repair store - as I stood in front of his shop and yelled like a maniac.
Next, we decided to park and get a closer look.
Tim brought along an oar, just in case there was any unexpected flooding.
We noticed a curious sign on the bow:
What a shame.
A gondola in "Venice", that you can't even step onto, much less row.
We had an oar, the boat had a forcola, so we waited around for a tsunami, or maybe an unexpected sinkhole to open up - bringing Venice back to her former glory, but it wasn't meant to be.
So we got back in our four-wheeled vehicle, looped around the traffic circle a few more times, and headed towards the freeway by way of Grand Boulevard - all the while thinking how different it would be if the asphalt were replaced by water.
It's not unusual for me to drive down a street and wonder what it would be like if it were a canal.
This may very well be the first time I did so on a street that once was a canal.