The Liberty Gazette
April 1, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: While visiting the traveling exhibition "The Age of Impressionism" at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, as I stood mere feet from the very canvases made famous by Pierre-Auguste Renoir 140 years ago, Mike noticed a familiar sight. Being a world traveler there are many places familiar to him, but maybe not so many that are the subject of museum paintings.
Mike: Though it’s been ten years since I stood in that very spot, the one in Renoir's "The Doge's Palace, Venice", his painting takes me back. The Learjet we flew in was but a speck as we crossed the cold waters of the North Atlantic to Spain and then on to Verona in Northern Italy. The passengers were timing their business trip to take advantage of the August opera season in the location where the real Romeo and Juliet’s story took place, the same one Shakespeare penned.
We had a few days open for sightseeing so my co-pilot and I became Gentlemen of Verona, exploring the city, and the places described in Shakespeare's play, including the balcony where Juliet beckoned “Wherefore art thou?” Her balcony is in a courtyard, basically the squared-off end of an alley, and is covered with thick green ivy. If she did call to Romeo from there the neighbors surely knew because every sound there echoes.
There must have been a dozen different performances of the play in parks and places throughout the city. But one can only see so much of a tragic love story so we spent the next day on yet another adventure: Venice.
The best way to enter Venice other than by boat is by train, avoiding parking a car on the opposite side of the bay to catch a shuttle over the bridge only to be dropped off further from the city than Venice’s train station.
On that sunny summer morning we stepped from the train and checked out the tour options: cattle car tourist boats, and “gondolas” that float down side canals. We opted to walk, which took us to bridges over smaller, curiosity-enhancing canals, and along stone walkways. The city became a maze as we explored, sometimes reaching a dead-end at a hidden canal, forcing us to retrace our steps and find another route. We were on our way to see the Basilica di San Marco and the Piazza San Marco, a spacious public square dominated by a tall red brick clock tower along on the Grand Canal, on the other side of town.
We made it there, but seeing the crowds in the square we passed on a tour though the Church of St. Mark. After three hours of walking on stone pathways, when it was time to go we hailed a water taxi back to the train station. The tourist boats only sailed the deeper canals, but water taxis with their knowledgeable skippers could make the trip in short order and give us a great personal tour in the process.
As we pulled away from the dock at Piazza San Marco the blue-green waters created a foreground for a charming scene. Behind us, on the other side of the Grand Canal was Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore, a church seen on many postcards. These stone docks are where I believe Renoir stood as he brushed into creation the painting that brought back so many good memories, and I walked up behind Linda in the museum and said, “I was there.”