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Darlene and Elaine Freeman

(posted august 2019)

© 2019 Boudoir Galleria Ottica Venezia

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On one of her daily New York City subway rides Darlene freeman noticed a unique pair of eyeglasses on a particularly stylish woman sitting opposite of her. It turns out she was from Italy and – after striking up a conversation – she shared the designer of her glasses with Darlene. Coincidentally she would be going on her annual trip, with her sister Elaine, to Venice the following week – and after searching the internet – she discovered that my store carried the brand. Days later these two sisters found themselves in the shop. Since that time, ten years ago, Boudoir has become their first stop on their annual weeklong Venice stay, the second stop is a fresh haircut at Carbone Parrucchieri.  Their loyalty to Boudoir has to do with appreciation of the personal touch I'm trying to give to the service and the unpressured approach.


- You live in a big metropolis, actually the city that most people look up to, as the universal melting pot, the place of endless chances and possibilities... In New York you can find everything and more : art, events, culture kitchen and obviously shopping. I know of some really good optical stores in your city. I'm happy to surprise you every year with something new and hope to have you as loyal clients for many more years.  When you do shopping, what do you find in Venice that you don't find in New York? Is it maybe the fact that you're on holidays, you have free time and shopping is more fun or is the overall buying experience different?

Darlene. I think it’s the overall buying experience. Shopping at smaller local stores are our preference both in Venice and in New York, but the experience is generally very different. New York shopping is about making the sale, closing the deal. In Venice shopping is more like visiting a friend, much more social than straight business.

Elaine . I'm not a "shopper," per se, but I love the culture of shops in Venice -- a good shop is an environment and social center as well as a place to sell things.  The owner's personality is is reflected in what is created (glass beads, a haircut) or curated (clothing, jewelry, glasses).  While I am sure  shops of this sort exist in New York,  we are inundated by the sameness of chain stores and mass fashion, plus indifferent or high-pressure salespeople,  High commercial rents make it very difficult for small shops to survive. In Venice, what began as an attraction to the products became a connection to the owners.  Over time our visits evolved into friendships.  Vis-a-vis the glasses experience, Boudoir is simply the best!  I have been wearing glasses most of my life and am almost always tempted by the latest collection.  Not only the frames -- Alessandro is the most skilled technician ever and his prescription lenses are always perfect.  Our Venice ritual starts with a 9AM haircut with the fantastic Angelo Carbone, just across the way.  By the time we are done, Boudoir is opening and we are looking our best.  That helps, too!


-You are sisters, but definitely not twins. You look, act and think different, though one can tell you are siblings. You always bought totally different looking glasses, only once you got the same style . ...and then you changed your mind. How was that again?

Darlene. Ah yes, I remember that time. Very unusual for us to get the same glasses as the contours of our faces are so totally different, as are our styles. For some reason that particular pair seemed to work for both of us. A surprise for all of us! However, we did get the glasses in different colors, hers in black and mine in a kind of magenta.​

Elaine. I am the older sister but Darlene is the more "Alpha" sister.  She commands a room (probably from being a teacher) and I am best one-on-one.  We have similar New York styles (a lot of black) but her outfits are more varied and creative while I tend toward a basic uniform. Her glasses are more of a signature frame.  Mine are more of a glasses wardrobe to accent that basic uniform, so I have more of them.  Though we both have short grey hair and similar mannerisms, our face shape is different, hence different shaped frames.  We only once bought the same frames (the metal cat's eye -- I was initially unsure of which color to get -- colors always look great in Italy but too bright back in NY, and I ended up with the black. She bought them in magenta. I have both pairs now as she went back to her signature frames)


-You know Venice very well, you love the city and know how to get the best of it. Please tell me what's the main reason for you to come back every year (in November, when fewer people are around) and what you would change if you had the power to.

Darlene. This is a very special annual “sister trip” that we’ve been taking for the past ten years – husbands stay home! Although we both live in New York and are in constant touch with one another – every day, throughout the day – texting and emailing – our 10 days in Venice is a time for us to just be together. We go in November because there are fewer tourists at that time – even fewer pigeons – and it’s easier for us to take time off then. We’re also able to catch the end of the Biennale and all the collateral exhibits without the crowds. The only thing we would change is the ability to stay longer!

Elaine. Although I'm analytic by nature (I'm a Virgo) and profession (I'm a psychotherapist), It's hard to define all the elements of my relationship with Venice.  Here are some of them:  

The usual (art, culture, history).  We genuinely love the museums, the architecture, the  Biennales, the concerts (especially at Lo Squero).

The Sister Trip -- Darlene and I are not Those Sisters in New York.  Growing up, our 4-1/2 year age difference meant we were from different eras.  As adults we have different social lives and groups of friends, although we do manage to get together almost weekly on our own. We have had periods of sister vacations on and off through the years.  Before Venice, we had a series of summer trips to various parts of Japan.  Then a few years off.  The Venice series began when I replaced my brother-in-law at the last minute when he had to work. I had been to Venice several times over the years, but always felt like a tourist.  This was Darlene's first trip.  We had such a good time that we decided to revive the tradition. It's great chance to catch up, solve the problems of the world, and enjoy being sisters.

November -- yes, less people.  I always love traveling out of season in general. Also, it coincides with Thanksgiving school vacation -- Darlene is still working. 

The water -- coming from a noisy city, it's wonderful to hear only the sounds of water and boats and to slow down. You can run to catch a subway, but have to be philosophical about missing a vaporetto.

Our apartment (we rent the same one every year) and Castello neighborhood.  I notice that Venetians are very loyal to their neighborhoods.  We  have yet to get our Castello friends to meet our San Barnaba friends. Our friends. 


-You both love Italy, our culture... our kitchen. Have you ever considered the idea of staying here a bit  longer, in order to attend a language school and improve your Italian or maybe cooking classes?

Darlene. Oh yes! As I said, it would not only be great to stay longer – and of course improve my Italian– and maybe even improve my pasta – but also just to be in Venice. It’s like leaving earth, stepping into another universe. There is no city in the world that can compare with the magic of Venice. It’s like stepping into a dream!

Elaine. Whenever I love a place, I always feel that there is never enough time, whether it's a week or a month.  And of course, having traveled most of my life, there are a lot of those places.  There are places I return to again and again and others that are a one-time adventure.  Darlene and I  started out with 6 days in Venice and are now up to 10 days.  If I were younger and single, having discovered the "real" Venice, it would be great to stay for a longer time.  Most of my travels as a single person were to Asia, with return trips to Nepal, Hong Kong and Japan.  My husband is a "European guy," so I returned to Europe, mostly Italy, to travel with him, after we met 23 years ago.  We always try to include a detour to his childhood home in Piemonte.   But we also traveled to Hong Kong and Cambodia in April.   My Italian, which I studied in college, is very uneven.  However, I'm lazy about taking language classes. To improve, I go to Italian movies and read magazines and books, such as "Eroi del Silenzio". But I would love to learn to cook some of Alessandro's delicious vegetarian dishes should he decide he has the time to open a cooking school!


-Enough about Venice. You know I'm in love with NYC ( .. and I've never been ...) . What are the "must see" and the "must do", for a long weekend in your Manhattan ? Maybe you convince me to leave Venice for 5 days and fly over .

Darlene. Hmm.. My favorite Manhattan neighborhood is the East Village with all sorts of ethnic restaurants, and other little shops. My favorite - the authentic little Japanese places on East 9th Street – and my favorite clothing consignment shop. Tokio 7, just a few block down – which, by the way, I think you’d love…And then there’s dim sum in Chinatown, another must. Many other neighborhoods and lots of great ethnic food all over the City. All the museums, the architecture! Just walking and discovering! Let us know when you’re coming and we’ll map it all out!​

Elaine. You would love New York.  I am a native so it seems normal to me.  As a traveler, it's nice to be able to get on a subway and indulge any craving I have for a special culture or cuisine.  Because of all the immigrants here, the experience is pretty authentic, especially in Queens.  We will at least create a dining adventure for you with the country of your choice.  Again, there is the usual -- museums, sightseeing, music of all sorts  An extensive Gay scene -- all sorts of clubs and events.  Of course Amy is a great connection to the entertainment world.  By the way, did I mention that I live near Tziporah Salomon, the fashionista?  I see her frequently at the supermarket and in the neighborhood.  We know one another by sight but -- now that we are blog-mates -- I will introduce myself the next time I see her.  When you visit, we should have a big Chinese dinner with all of us in the Boudoir network!​



darlene freeman, elaine freeman, francesca meratti madera

Darlene was at the Grand central Food market in NYC and half a dozen people have stopped her to compliment the sunglasses.

alessandro, angelo, elaine, darlene, stefano

Darlene was at the Grand central Food market in NYC and half a dozen people have stopped her to compliment the sunglasses.

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