A Nest for Celeste Archives - Eva Varga

August 24, 2016

Our journey continues today north across the dramatic Apennine Mountains to the romantic city of Venice. Here we also make an excursion to the colorful island of Burano.

venice buranoWe departed Assisi en route to Venice excited to get underway. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at Ristorante Albergo in Ravenna at a family restaurant where we enjoyed a wonderful homemade lasagna. After our meal we had a short time to wanter about.

Tip: Click on the links of the notable sights to enjoy a photo sphere in Google maps, a 360-degree panorama.

S. Apollinaire in ClasseWe took in the local Basilica di S. Apollinaire in Classe (interior view) and a statue of Cesar Augustus, founder of the part of Classe. We also saw four water buffalo statues but our guide did not know the significance.


Upon our arrival at the bus terminal near Venice, we boarded a water taxi and headed to the heart of Venezia. We walked about just a little and the Basilica of St. Mark’s was pointed out to us. We then immediately boarded a gondola. I observed that our fellow travelers all grouped up in groups of sex, leaving us on our own. As a result, the musicians boarded with us – quite a treat!

Jeffrey and Geneva snagged the best seats, the little squirts! I loved the narrow alleys and “backstreets” of classical Venice.

gondola veniceWe then immediately boarded a third floating vessel, this one more like a small passenger ferry, to return to the bus terminal. We ultimately made our way to Hotel Il Burchiello (street view), located in Mira on the mainland. Fortunately, we would have another day in Venice and didn’t feel as rushed as we had in the previous cities.

The following day we returned to Venice. Our first stop was the Museo del Vetro on the island of Murano to see how the artisans create the hand blown and sculpted glass for which they are so famous. Venetian glass was developed in the thirteenth century and toward the end of that century, the center of the Venetian glass industry moved to Murano.

In the showroom, the guide showed how durable the pieces with silver and gold infused inside the glass by literally banging it atop the table. We selected a rose bud vase on behalf of my mother-in-law as well as a pendant for myself.

modern veniceFrom there, we had the option to join the group for a tour of the Cathedral Basilica di San Marco however we opted to explore on our own. Geneva really wanted to visit the Peggy Guggenheim museum which we had observed from the water taxi the day prior and we wouldn’t have had time otherwise.

Along the way, we stumbled upon a Vivaldi museum featuring a diverse collection of string instruments from his time. It was a lovely hidden gem that we wouldn’t have experienced with the group and one that we all enjoyed.

vivaldiThe winding streets of Venice are indeed a labyrinth. I’ve always prided myself on my sense of direction but the narrow alleys and many dead-ends, it wasn’t easy. I blame it on the poorly drawn map we were provided. I swear it wasn’t drawn to scale. We continued on and upon crossing the Ponte dell Accademia, we knew we were close.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection (interior courtyard) was also spectacular. Original works by master artists – Calder, Dalí, Kandinsky, Picasso, and brothers Jackson and Charles Pollock among others. One of my favorites was an untitled collection (pharmacy) by Joseph Cornell. Seeing the pieces in person was just stunning.

Thereafter, we made our way to the Ponte di Rialto as we had passed under it on the water taxi and that side was under renovation. We wanted to see it from the reverse. It was a significant distance away and my navigation skills were again tested (click to see the crowds) but we prevailed.

lost in veniceAs we made our way back to meet our group we did a little shopping. I found the most wonderful glass shop that showcased very intricate sculptures of insects by Camuffo Giovanni. I had a difficult time selecting one. Now that we are home, I wish I had purchased a couple more. He seems a little lonely. I haven’t been able to find them online, sadly.


At 2pm, we met up with the group and took a ferry to the island of Burano. The colorful homes here are very vibrant. It was clear the residents of this island enjoy a simpler, less hectic pace of life. Sadly, many of the homes are also for sale. Giuseppe explained that the young are selling their inheritance and moving away.

burano fishermanHere, we enjoyed a nice seafood meal at Ai Pescartori (street view) with clams in a tomato-base, seafood risotto, shrimp, grilled fish, and calamari. Dessert was a light tiramisu style torte with a crispy top layer. So good!
sketching buranoAfter our early dinner, we wandered about taking photos. Geneva wanted to sit and paint so I stayed with her (we both would have liked to stay here longer to relax) while the boys continued to explore.

We returned to the hotel relatively early in the evening. Patrick and I walked to a little market a few blocks down the street for snacks. Thereafter we retired early.

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This post is part of a five-post series, The Italian Scene: Falling in Love with Italy.  Join me tomorrow as I share our experiences in Verona & Lake Como.

Hopscotch-August2016My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing.

June 28, 20102

I love quality children’s literature. Living books that captivate their readers and cast a spell over them. A Nest for Celeste is one such book – inviting young readers into a fascinating story of a young boy as he begins an apprenticeship.

A Nest for Celeste: A Story of About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home is Henry Cole’s first book for older readers.  Beautiful drawings accompany the text in a style that is sure to engage young readers and encourage them that the 352 pages is not as daunting as it appears.

Celeste is a lonely little mouse in search of a home. She has lost her family and has found a new home inside a plantation house where she must watch out for the family cat and two nasty rats. Her life truly changes when she is caught by John James Audubon’s new apprentice Joseph. He, too, is lonely and looking for a friend, and he finds that in the mouse he names “Little One”.

Celeste has several adventures on the Louisiana plantation. Here she learns about friendship and what truly makes a home.  While this is a simple story, Celeste is an engaging character who has some human characteristics. At one point Cole refers to Celeste using her hands instead of her paws, but for the most part the reader believes that she is a mouse. The drawings are soft and do much to further the emotion of the story.

A Nest for Celeste charcoal art

Sensitive readers are forewarned that there is some violence in the book, but it is brief and not at all gratuitous.  After all, it is a story about a little mouse who is looking for a home.  You can imagine what happens when she meets up with cats and other predators.

While Celeste loves watching Joseph draw and being carried around in his pocked they are both horrified by the ways Audubon collects the birds that he is drawing.  This is one aspect of the book that I loved; how Joseph and Celeste address the notion of having to kill animals to be able to paint or draw them.

The story is compelling and the characters, both animal and human, are multi-dimensional and interesting.  Henry Cole is a talented illustrator whose charming charcoal drawings bring the story to life.