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Published: August 7th 2007
Venice's famous bell tower. There's one in Las Vegas too.
"Where are you flying to?" asked the bus ticket salesman.
"Venezia", I replied.
"You've missed your bus - it left at 3.50pm".
"Can't I take the next one?"
"Sure, but I guarantee that you will miss your flight - the check in closes at 6.10pm."
Time now: 5.10pm.
If I miss this flight, it'll cost me 300 euros there and back by taxi, another 80 euro for another flight to Venice, plus forfeited accommodation I've booked in Venice, plus whatever I pay for another night in Paris. I have no choice really but to gamble on a taxi getting me to Aeroport Beauvais on time.
"Will a taxi get me there on time?" I ask.
"Maybe, but you'll have to leave immediately."
There's a taxi stand right next to the bus station (probably for idiots like me who miss their bus) and one driver already seems to know my situation as he hurriedly ushers me into his taxi - a Mercedes. Well, if I'm about to blow 150 euro on a taxi, it might as well be a good one. It'll probably be the fastest taxi around too.
"Aeroport Beauvais?" he asks, "you need speed yah?"
"Oui, merci beaucoup," I reply.
The Grand Canal By Night
The Grand Canal is Venice's equivalent of a main street. This is taken from the Rialto bridge.
So as you can imagine, the ride was a nervy one but the driver kept his word and consistently clocked 150 km/h.
Up ahead a sign says "Aeroport Beauvais Diversion". Shit.
I finally make it to the airport - at 6.08pm. Phew. The taxi fare is 131 euro. Ouch. So much for saving money early on - it's more than my Ryanair fare which I bought to save myself 70 euro.
Although extremely angry with myself, I have to be philosophical about it. And it's good to know that I have friends who can bail me out like Visa and Mastercard. One week in, and I'm already into the emergency funds.
My Lonely Planet says that Venice is "haunting by night" and it kind of is, if it wasn't for all the couples taking romantic strolls along the water (more couples!). But the place is very quiet at night among the old buildings of Venice.
After a long stressful day, I enjoy a ciabatta (which isn't quite authentic, as it was made my Asians who I had a brief chat to in Mandarin. Asians are everywhere, we're taking over the world...) before heading to my accommodation.
Which is crusty
A Typical Venetian Canal
Complete with gondolas paddled by men in funny hats and stripy shirts.
as. The foyer is possibly the most uninviting ever, with dirty, cracked, grey concrete walls with pipes and wires to Africa running along them.
A scary, bald Italian man with steely blue eyes glares at me from up the stairs.
"You have a reservation?" he asks sternly.
"Yes", I answer. He ushers me up the stairs.
"Where is your name?" he asks, pointing at a piece of paper.
My name isn't there. I then give him my printed booking confirmation, proving I'm not totally disorganised. It works out and I'm led to my room which I am sharing with two others and of which the door doesn't lock.
The bathroom floor is completely wet and the water doesn't go down the bathtub drain properly leaving a huge buildup of communal filth around the bathtub. Check out is 9am, which is very early, but I don't mind getting outta there ASAP.
The next morning I relocate to the hotel I booked, which is outside Venice itself (the only accommodation available at 2-3 days notice), but luckily is easy to find as it is on the main highway. It is relatively swanky for 35 euros, before I discover I have booked the
One of many tunnels on the streets of Venice.
wrong room type with a private bathroom for 45 euros. I really need to start double-checking these things, as it's costing me money!
Whatever you hear about Venice, you can't quite believe it until you see it. A city almost built completely on water, roads are replaced by canals, and the Venetians all have boats instead of cars. If you have a car, you leave it at the massive Tronchetto car park at the entrance to the city.
The city itself isn't that big - there's only so much water you can build over - but as a result, buildings are built very close together making it a bit claustrophobic in places with narrow alleyways and small tunnels.
Venice is a great city to walk, but don't bother with a map, because inevitably, all tourists will get lost. There are no street names - addresses are simply a district name (of which there are five) and a number. Apparrently, the posties are the only ones who can work out a location from an address. You need very specific directions to find a place, as the endless number of almost identical walkways will have you going round in circles. I
A example of how tightly packed the buildings are here.
guess that's what makes Venice so a-maze-ing! Pun-tastic!
The absence of cars also means that if you walk down a quiet street with little foot traffic, it is peaceful and quiet - almost slient as the walls around you block out all the noise.
This is part of what makes Venice such a unique and cool place - a phenomenon definitely worth at least a visit.
Unfortunately, this is also what makes Venice the epitomy of a tourist trap. More than half the population here seem to be tourists - most locals these days live over the bridge on the mainland where my hotel is.
And because of this, Venice is the most expensive city in Italy - probably the worst place to come to after a budget blowout. Also, trying to find a single bed here was a bit of a mission as most places cater for couples (again) and families.
Fancy one of those famous gondola rides? It'll set you back 73 euros. Why, for double that you could get a taxi ride from Paris to Beauvais Airport!
Internet is 8 euro an hour - you could get 6 hours for that much at my local internet
High Rolling Gondolas
These gondolas are well pimped out - you are paying 73 euros for a ride after all.
cafe in Paris.
I have to say I haven't had the highest opinion of Italians so far - their sterotypical reputation of being a vain, arrogant and hot-tempered bunch seems to only have been reinforced while I've been here so far. They haven't really been the most friendly either, although they aren't as bad as New Yorkers.
There was one incident in the Piazza San Marco, (Venice's showpiece area where the Torre dell'Orologio, Basilica San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale reside) where an Italian guy caught a thief trying to steal his girlfriend's bag. The guy with the help of others held him down while waiting for the cops, but then proceeded to verbally humiliate the teenage thief in front of a gallery of astonished tourists as well as giving the thief a few kicks. This guy was in a rage.
You hear arguing quite a bit, and although the loudness and gesticulating can be entertaining, it can also be a bit much.
Well, tomorrow I finally leave the "romance" behind as I make my way to Pula, Croatia. I have no accomodation in Pula, so it should an interesting day.
You should hear from me next,
Basilica di San Marco
The spectacular church of St. Mark's in the Piazza San Marco.
in about a week.
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