Day 10 - It's Arrivederci To Pancrazio and Buongiorno to Venezia

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June 30th 2019
Published: June 30th 2019
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This morning we said arrivederci to both the Dolomite Mountains of Cortina, and our faithful driver Pancrazio. Once we reach the outskirts of Venice, we will have no more need of the motorcoach since travel around Venice will be by boat. We really enjoyed the hotel in Cortina, even though it wasn't air conditioned, it was a kind of old world charming. Some of the other passengers complained about the noise, but it didn't bother us at all. We just opened all the windows when we first got back from dinner and cooled the room right down, then we closed them up tight as we went to bed to block the noise. We were both so tired we probably could have slept through anything. After a quick breakfast, we headed off to the bus at 9:00. Today was a little different for luggage as the big luggage piece was being transferred directly to our hotel as usual, but we would need to carry our hand carry luggage with us on our excursions since we were not getting to the hotel until 5:00. Consequently we just transferred as much of our hand carry stuff to our big suitcase as we could to lighten our load. This worked great for Jody and I, but others just weren't able to lighten their hand carry much and had to carry multiple bags all day. I will keep this possibility in mind for our next trip.

About a half hour from Venice, we made our final rest stop and said goodbye to Pancrazio. He is an amazing driver and was always able to get the coach into places I didn't think would fit. Anna took a group picture with him so we will have something to remember. She also handed out the group picture taken on the second day and it really came out great! We will save it as a memento of an awesome trip. The bus dropped us at the water taxi stand where boarded a private water taxi for the trip to one of the islands to see a demonstration of real Murano glass. We intentionally avoided St Marks Square today as there were 6 cruise ships in the port. so it not only would be very hot, but it would be incredibly crowded. So we were given a tour of the lagoon as Anna pointed out the various sights on the way to the glass blowing demonstration.

When we arrived at the glass blowing, we were shown some of the techniques used to blow a vase, or to make a dancing horse. The craftsman was very good, and made it look so easy. But as he explained, everything must be done very quickly and very accurately as there is no opportunity to reheat the glass. Also, the craftsman never really know whether it piece is good or not until it fully cools. As if the demonstration was not impressive enough, when the demonstration ended we were shown into what was described as the largest Murano glass showroom in Venice. It was magnificent! From goblets to sculpture, animal figurines to chandeliers, this was the most beautiful collection of glass Jody and I had ever seen. He continued his lecture with some discussion of design, both traditional and modern, and how the various colors are generated. I was surprised the red color is actually generated from gold which is why the red glass is always more expensive. Every piece of Murano glass in the showroom included a price tag, and they mentioned a few items that were on sale. Prices ranged from 100 euro for a small goblet to many tens of thousands of euros for some really large pieces. We looked at the chandeliers, and a somewhat small, plain, but beautiful chandelier could be as cheap as 3000 to 4000 euro, with the large ornate ones over 50,000 euro. The beautiful waterfall style that Jody & I liked was only 11,000 euro. In the end, we ended up buying Murano glass jewelry for Jody and for a couple of gifts. It was a little expensive but not too bad and it is the real thing. We were warned that most of the low priced Murano glass sold in Venice is just a Chinese counterfeit which still looks nice, but is not real.

Our next stop of the afternoon was the island of Burano which is primarily known for its lace. But our mission in Burano was not lace, but lunch. We boarded the private water taxi again and arrived at Burano at about 1:30. We had a big lunch instead of our typical late evening meal. Of course, there aren't any animals in Venice, so all local food would be fish, and most of the courses in our lunch were based on fish. Risotto with prawns, spaghetti with clams, whitefish for the main course with fried shrimp and fried calamari. All of it was delicious, except for the dessert which was a selection of whole fresh fruits, apples, oranges, pears, - not my favorite. Finishing up with cappuccino , and lunch was fabulous!

After lunch we were given some time to explore the town and Jody found a couple of tops she liked. It was a fun town to walk around, very picturesque with all the houses painted different bright colors. It made for a fun afternoon! As we boarded our water taxi again for the trip to the mainland of Venice, Anna explained the structure of Venice. I had always thought that Venice was just a city that had decided to build using canals instead of roads fro some odd reason, But it is actually a series of 122 closely spaced islands that at one time were a territory separate from Italy. The bridges connected some of the islands when they were close enough together, and that all the buildings were built to the waters edge. Today, there are still no cars in Venice proper, though there are cars allowed in some of the outlying islands. It wouldn't matter as there are no roads either!

Once we reached the mainland of Venice, we had to transfer to smaller water taxis as the lager boat that held all 32 of us was not allowed to dock in St Mark's Square. This was quite the adventure, as the water is rough in the lagoon, and the small boats rock about quite a lot. It probably doesn't help that they are driven by Italians who tend to drive their boats in Venice like they drive their cars in Rome. From the dock at St Marks, to the Hotel Splendid Venice is just a short walk which makes it easy for us to explore. There are lots of shops with all kinds of interesting merchandise. We checked into the hotel at about 5:00 and our room is very nice. A little smaller than our last 2 rooms, but still an excellent accommodation. While, like most of Venice, the outside is a combination of a row of old buildings, the interior of the hotel is very modern. The hallways are a bit bizarre, but Anna explained that most larger hotels are made by using multiple existing building exteriors. The interior hallways may take strange twists and turns as you go from one building to another, but the inside all looks like just one building.

After checking into the hotel, we were left with free time to 7:40, which allowed us to wander around exploring the shops for a couple of hours. We bought some Diet Cokes, for now and for later in the evening, and went on a mission to find some cheap Chinese counterfeit beads. Evidently the ones Jody likes are $50 for a 16" string online back in the states. Jody found 22" strands in Venice for only 15 euros per strand. She was very happy! She also found a good t-shirt. We both wanted to rest a few minutes before our evening adventure, so we just headed back to the room to relax We weren't really hungry, as the late lunch was plenty to keep us going through the evening. By 7:40 it was time to meet downstairs to see what adventure Anna had in mind.

Not everyone came as it was an optional experience, but we were so glad we did. We walked from the hotel to 3 waiting water taxis, each holding 8 people so we could sit outside the cabin to take pictures. We put on our Voxs, and traveled side-by side in 3 boats in a loop through the entire length of the Grand Canal and back through some side canals to return to St Mark's square. Along the ways, as everyone was taking loads of pictures, Anna was pointing out all of the buildings of significance along the way. It was a great narration, and I got lots of pictures. It was also obvious that some of the buildings were in desperate need of repairs. Some of the buildings were perfectly straight and others had visibly crumbling foundations and were very crooked. To make things worse, the rising seal levels cause flooding in the streets that will only get worse. Feeling exhilarated after our Grand Canal adventure, it was time to stop in an outdoor coffee shop in St Mark's Square for a drink. The coffee shop was the second oldest in Venice, and we sat at the table and had our choice of drink or in our case we went for the gelato, of course. Jody & I each had a bowl of gelato containing chocolate, coffee, and pistachio. It really hit the spot! We were sitting with Sean and Vickie who decided to try the local drink called a Venice Spritz, which is a local drink, kind of orange in color and is supposed to be a little bitter like grapefruit juice but refreshing. At the same time, there was a live band playing traditional music, they even had an accordion player! While we were sitting at the table, apparently high tide was coming in, as water began to seep up through the blocks in the courtyard. Evidently, this happens routinely now as no one seemed at all concerned.

As the sun went down, and the lights came on in the square, St Mark's Square looked even more beautiful. But by now Jody & I were getting tired, and so we headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow we get to sleep in a little as breakfast is not until 8:00, when at 9:00 we meet up with a local guide who will take us down the streets of Venice, and into St Mark's Basilica. Our tour ends around noon and we have the rest of the afternoon to spend any money we have left!

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