Published: July 24th 2012July 24th 2012
We slept in a bit on Saturday morning, some of the running and multple trains/flights finally catching up a bit, and the shutters on the windows fooled us into thinking it was earlier than it was. We got up around 10:00 that morning and headed out. We didn't really have a schedule for the day so we set out to find St. Mark's Square and the waterfront where the fireworks would be later that night.
There are so many alleys and canals that it's a bit easy to get lost in Venice, but if you try to keep in mind the location or direction of the Grand Canal, you'll eventually work your way back to it and you can catch a water taxi from multiple places along the canal. Just make a note of which stop is closest to your hotel and you'll be fine even if you get lost.
Weather in Venice is quite warm during the summer and our temperatures were probably in the low 90's, pretty close to Milan's weather, although we did get more breeze off the water as long as you weren't deep into the alleyways somewhere. Several people had warned us about mosquitos
and the sewer smells, neither of which we actually had any problems with. There was an occasional alley that might be a bit less than fresh, and one or two suspicious puddles if you wandered off the beaten path, but overall, we didn't have trouble with either issue. And I have to tell a story here that had us in tears and I don't know if it'll be as funny reading it was it was hearing it, but we were rolling!
The three sisters from England that we had met the night before overheard us talking about the lack of sewer odor and that overall the canals seemed pretty clean. One then proceeds to tell us that earlier in the day, they were tired and hot and sat down to take their shoes off and dubiously considered putting their feet in the water. After checking it out, they decided to give it a try, sank their feet in the cool water and commented that there must not be the same issues with the water that they're used to be and it looked fine to them. Now you have to imagine a late 50's/early 60's, bleached blond woman and interject
a bit of a shrill voice with a heavy British accent saying "but what do ya know, I looked down and right there comin straight at us was a TURD!" (especially shrill influence on the last word!) It was sooooooo funny, we were laughing so hard we were crying, both at the experience and at her indiscrete manner of describing what happened. It might have been a "had to be there" moment, but Kirk has had fun retelling that story and does the accent quite well so I'm sure he'll oblige for anyone who wants to hear it with the proper inflections. lol We didn't put our feet in the water there....ever. lol
Throughout Venice there are a number of street merchants selling their wares out of carts in addition to the various stores housed in the buildings. Two of the most unique areas that we found were the Rialto Bridge area where the metal doors open and there are small shops all along the bridge itself. You'll see what I mean in some of the pictures. And the second amazing area was St. Mark's Square itself. The square is quite large and has shops and restaurants that line
all sides except for the Doge Palace end of the piazza.
The Doge's Palace is where the ruler of Venice lived and the first palace was built there in the 800's. It was destroyed by fire in the 10th century and rebuilt and added to a number of times, and repaired and rebuilt several additional times, housing various government offices as well. All government was eventually moved out of the palace and in the early 1900s it became a museum.
Connected to the palace, is St. Mark's Basilica, which like the palace, was originally constructed in the 800's and went through various repairs and reconstructions over the centuries. Much of the adornment of the basilica is more oriental than many other basilicas that we saw. It's considered to be an example of the Byzantine Architecture of the late Roman Empire, although I saw more Ottomon influence (Ottomon Empire or Turkish architecture) here and less resemblance to the basilica's in Rome. We didn't see the inside of the St. Mark's or the Doge's Palace as lines were quite long and the crowd was pretty heavy due to the festival going on that weekend. The interior architecture might have been
more in line with these styles than what we saw from the outside. I do have a number of pictures of the exterior though and also of the basiclia's large bell tower in the square...St. Mark's Campanile. Originally built in the 9th century, it's been rebuilt a number of times after it has collapsed, the last being in 1912. We actually went up into the bell tower for some pretty spectacular views of Venice. We went up in the evening as the boats were filling the harbor and people were already camping out at the top of the tower for the view of the fireworks which was still nearly 3 hours away. I can't imagine being in the tower when the bells ring....they're 5 very large bells that you'd probably hear for days afterwards if it didn't actually cause hearing damage, though several people were equipped with earplugs. lol
We walked around the piazza and noticed a large group of pigeons in the center. Getting closer to see what was going on, there were a number of pigeons actually sitting on people's heads and outstretched arms. I snapped a couple pictures of these. :)
There was amazing glass
Ice cream boat!
no trucks here lol
work in many of the shops and the Murano Glass factory was a day tour from Venice. The factory is located on the island of Murano...funny, they offer you free tours and a free ride over to the island....you just have to pay to get back..nice gimmick. lol Anyway, the glass factory has been in existence for over 1000 years and although they now also operate in other locations, many still consider the glass made in Murano to be the only true Murano glass. The products they make range from the mass produced glasses and stemware and jewelry pieces, to individual works of art and fragile statues and limited jewelry pieces designed around particular famous pieces of art.
Continuing down to the waterfront, we were amazed at the number of people and boats already lining up for the fireworks that didn't start until 11:30. The boats ranged from the largest catamarran I've ever seen (it had a red light on the top to warn planes), yachts, commercial fishing boats, and charters to tiny little two and three person boats that were like toothpicks in a log pile on the water! It was a really unique atmosphere with people bringing
tables and chairs and coolers and potluck dinners, blankets and baskets of snacks just sitting on the ground, and large open grills off the back end of the fishing charters. All across the waterfront you could hear the music playing from groups on the waterfront to groups on the boats and the funny thing was you heard a great deal of American music.....Michael Jackson, Jason Mraz, Black Eyed Peas, Lada Gaga, Goyte, Katy Perry, Adele....though not all these musicians are American obviously, but it's English words. Actually, we heard similar music everywhere we went from the U.K. to Itlay to Switzerland and France, so our influence is quite far reaching.
A side note too, although they like our music, you won't see many of our vehicles around! Ford does make a small car called a Ka that I've seen but that's about it. Very, very few SUV type vehicles at all and if you do see one, it's a smaller one, not our full size SUVs and pickup trucks. The small economical cars dominate the market (all stick shifts) and frankly, on some Italian roads, I'd be deathly afraid to try to drive anything larger on them! Gas prices
here are extremely high, running anywhere between 1.5 Euro to 1.8 Euro per liter, or over $8 a gallon, so fuel economy is critical here. And actually in the U.K. and Switzerland specifically, they're very conservation minded with all the hotels we stayed in featuring eco symbols and eco options for your room linens. They also have a very unique way of controlling the electric use throughout the building. The lights are automatic through the hallways, so it's dark until you step into them and motion sensors turn them on, and once inside your room, a room key must be inserted into a slot right inside the door to turn on the lights and power inside the room.....so when you leave and take your room key with you, voila, the lights go off. :) (We actually had a lady use this in every day conversation with us! We were in the grocery story and she spoke zero English and was trying to tell us that we needed to scan the bottom of the paper bag to pay for it....like Aldi's bags......so she came and did it for us when she saw we had no clue and smiled at us and
said "Voila!".....we had to laugh...it's so movie-esk! lol)
Anyway, back to Venice....I keep getting side-tracked. We wandered around town a good bit, just taking in the sites and sat down and had dinner at one of the many cafes on the waterfront with a perfect people watching opportunity. One of the things that I noticed so much during our trip is that people are remarkably the same everywhere! There were children throwing temper tantrums and pleading for toys, crying to be picked up, sweet curiosity and big-eyed wonder, and tired, frustrated, enthralled and indulging parents that we understood so very well just by the expressions on their faces regardless of what language they spoke. We saw groups of friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, newly-weds (actually still in wedding atire!), young couples with children, older couples still walking hand in hand, groups of nuns wearing backpacks and sadly, a number of homeless people as well. I can't even begin to guess the number of different nationalities represented throughout our trip but you see evidence of so much that is universal about people and our personal interactions and the heart of humanity that makes you forget any political, religious or cultural differences.
After dinner, the crowds are beginning to get heavier and heavier and we're still over two and half hours away from fireworks. Although I would have loved to see them, we were a bit wiped out and decided to head on back towards our hotel which even at that point, took us about an hour to work our way back. The alleys aren't designed to handle a large number of people at the same time and some of them are barely wide enough for three people to walk abreast. You find those alleys in particular if you have to make your way back to find a WC, water closet which is the public restrooms on the islands and costs 1.50 Euros to use. We thought we might be able to see some of the fireworks from our hotel, but unfortunately the buildings right next to us blocked our view. So far, that's about the only thing I regret on our trip and that's not sticking around to watch the fireworks. Although I couldn't take pictures without a tripod, and there would have been nowhere to use or setup a tripod, it still would have been a neat thing to
see, but "tale e la vita"....such is life. :)
Since our hotel rate included breakfast, we went down to the restaurant the next morning to see what they had. Like most of the other European breakfasts we've had outside of the U.K., they're largely just lunch meats and cheese, breads and croissants, a few cereal options and great coffee. They have a really excellent chocolate filled croissant that became one of my favorites with a cappucino, though the thought a good omelet is beginning to make my mouth water!
After breakfast we check with the front desk to see if we've gotten notification of our pickup time for our taxi. No notice has been received, so the front desk guy takes down the numer and proceeds to take care of it for us, which we later learned took him a number of calls and redirects before he was finally able to get our departure arranged. Like I mentioned, wonderful staff here, very willing to help and nothing but great things to say about the Hotel Rialto and their staff!
We wandered the canal front for a bit and into a few shops, but I will say that
although we enjoyed Venice, it does become a bit redundant after a few days. Each section of town is a bit of a duplicate of the next and except for the shops around St. Mark's Square, all the shops carry the same things for the most part. The restaurant menus are mostly pretty similar, though you'll pay different prices based on location. The smaller the alley, the lower the price. Anything along the bay or the Grand Canal was significantly higher in price, as much as 7 to 8 Euros for the same item. Venice is a photographer's wonderland and you can catch some wonderful photo opportunities and views, but again, the festivities of the weekend and the number of people made it more difficult. It's definitely a place to see and is uniquely different than anywhere else I've ever been and I'm glad we included it in our travels. For us, two to three days was just about the right amount of time, and after that we were ready to head onto our next destination.
Our water taxi arrives to pick us up, takes us all the way up to the sidewalk by the airport....amazing lol.....and we get
our bags checked with time to spare. About a two hour flight and we are arriving in Geneva, Switzerland and on to the next part of our journey.
To be continued.... :)
There are more photos below