Monday, June 13, 2005

Naples Isalnd : Slice of Venice in southern california

Rendition of O' Sole Mio..
Do labzon ki hai, dil ki kahani
ya hai mohabbat, ya hai javani

This melodious song composed by RD in movie The Great Gambler made my first impression of Gondola ride and Venice. Boat rides on Thames in London, La Siene in Paris, Amsterdam Canals or even Nile in Cairo didn't bring a semblance of ambience to what the above song picturization did for Venice.

It did come as surprise when I learnt that not so far away from downtown Los Angeles lies a piece of Venice- known as Naples Island on Long Beach. Why the Naples and not Venice, I never understood. But thats USA.

Naples Island is a manmade island along the Long Beach adjacent to Belmont Shore. It has crisscross of picturesque canals with either side lined up with exquisitely designed multi million-dollar homes with as much expensive and impressive yachts along the Gondola Getaway. You can either hire motor driven Gondolas or take a ride with Venetian looking American Gondolier who amuse you with stories about Long Beach history and neighborhood. During Christmas, canals are lit up with dazzling reflection of beautiful light decoration on these houses. Though Gondola rides start from noon, prime time is evening but as evening descends chill breeze can unnerve you. So dont forget to carry wind cheater or sweater.

A gondolier wearing a traditional striped shirt and Venetian straw hat personally escorts you to the Gondola. They provide French bread, Cheese, Salami and also ice bucket for wine. In the Venetian style of rowing, the gondolier stands on the edge of the deck, faces forward, uses only one oar, and steers the boat by placing the oar in one of six positions on the forcola (oar post). The forcola, which is made of solid walnut and carved in Venice, is shaped in a double curve. It seems the art of rowing is most difficult and in order to assess their skills Gondoliers from Naples Island do compete in annual gondola race held in Venice's Grand Canal.

There is an anecdote that if couples fail to kiss during Gondola ride, Gondolier will fall into the water. Naples Island has ensured that there are enough bridges along the canal for romancing couple to kiss while passing under. But if you want to play O Sole Mio or Do Labzo ki song, you better get your cassette with you.

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