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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: 45.4345, 12.3384DAY THIRTEEN (8/14) — Venice
Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
Venice is delightful.
We took a two-hour train ride in a first-class car from Florence to Venice through Bologna and Padua and the Italian countryside. The train itself was fairly new, very clean and comfortable. There was food and beverage service, an electrical outlet for my computer, and even WiFi, although I didn't have the password but it would be handy for commuters.
When we exited the train station, much to my delight, we were RIGHT on the water. The taxis we boarded for the hotel were water taxis, which wound their way to the front door of our hotel right on the Grand Canal. What a gorgeous ride. What a wonderful city … so different from any we have ever visited.
Our hotel is the Westin Europa-Regina, formerly two hotels which have been combined by Westin as part of their luxury chain. It's in a GREAT location and is quite elegant, with lots of Venetian touches, especially elaborate glasswork. The room is somewhat disappointing … no WiFi … you must go to the lobby to use it, which is why I didn't post last night as usual.
The lights all
operate off one switch … or at least we cannot figure out how to separate them. Thus, when Patrick went to sleep, and I wanted to turn off the overhead very elaborate glass chandelier which gives off noonday light, I couldn't without losing what little light I need to see the keyboard to type. So my blog didn't get written … thus another reason I didn't post.
The room is pretty, albeit much smaller than our others, and the bath is lovely. But the room has no view, no clock, and oh, did I mention no WiFi?
When we arrived at the hotel, we had a lovely luncheon (buffet) in a courtyard overlooking the Grand Canal. It was a garden area with wonderful views of two churches (Santa Maria della Saluto and San Giorgio on an island) and the excitement of all the water taxis, water buses (vaporetto) and gondolas going by. The buffet included fresh salad ingredients, two pastas, meats and cheeses and a fruit tart and unlimited wine to celebrate Harold Refowich and Roger Seckular's birthdays.
Following lunch, Len took us on a brief orientation of the city, assuring us that we all would get lost at some point because of
all the narrow and winding pedestrian thoroughfares. He had us take photos of several intersections so we could find our way home. We wandered past the fashion houses (Gucci, Valentino, etc.), the boarding area for the gondolas, the theatre (La Fenice) and more. It was very sunny and very warm, but it gave us our bearings.
We then met up with our tour guides for the afternoon, who took us by foot from our hotel, past a pretty little church (San Moise) and on to Piazza San Marco and the Basilica of St. Mark. It's a massive square and actually not as crowded as I had anticipated. The Basilica is under renovation (perhaps it always is?), so photo-taking was challenging.
The façade is beautiful – many statues, almost Oriental mosaics and very appealing architecture. It's considered one of the greatest buildings in Europe. St. Mark's symbol is winged lion and it's apparent everywhere … on the church, on the bell tower, on a pillar at the far end of the piazza. St. Mark's body was smuggled from Alexandria and buried here. Two other churches have stood here; this "new" one was consecrated in 1094.
The inside of the church was a little
disappointing. There are many, many mosaics, which are beautiful, but the church itself is dark and dreary and perhaps in need of a facelift. Our tour in there was quick, which was a relief as it was crowded and VERY warm.
On to Palazzo Ducale (the Doges' Palace), Gothic home to Venice's many leaders. We visited the vast hall where Venice's Great Council met, the “jail” where prisoners were kept, and crossed over the Bridge of Sighs (said to have taken its name from prisoners sighing as they were taken to trial.
We had a little time to settle in and at 6 pm we boarded gondolas for an evening ride through the canals. This was QUITE an experience. Len presented those in each gondola with a bottle of chilled champagne, and there was a guitarist and tenor whom he put in the boat with Matt Dawson and Violet Bedelis; the performers provided entertainment for the whole group as we glided along.
- Bad news: The gondolier insisted that Jean Kephart and I sit in the back of the gondola together, with Patrick in the middle and Ken up front. So it wasn't exactly romantic.
· Good news: It was fun, it was a
photo op, and it was a rush-hour traffic experience. The waterways where the gondolas embark and disembark are quite narrow. The water taxis make their way through there too, so there are jam-ups everywhere. But we eventually made our way to the Grand Canal where we caught up with the rest of the crowd and the musicians. The perfect Venice experience!
We had dinner with Mary Jo and Bill Weinheimer at Antico Martini, a restaurant that has been in business near the theatre for almost 300 years. Len had recommended it, saying it was quite tasty (the liver and onions were “bellissimo”😉 but pricey. He was right about both. I actually ordered the liver, which I never do, and Patrick had veal; both dishes were a taste treat.
We tried to find a gelateria afterwards but they had closed at 9:30. I took photos from the hotel's water taxi dock before retiring.
Note about the Westin Europa-Regina:
· 185 rooms overlooking the Grand Canal of Venice, and the Santa Maria della Saluto and San Giorgio churches … by far the best view from the restaurant, but not from the room
· Hotel building is very ancient but elegant; because of the age, the hotel
space is limited. Rooms are small (ours had just a king bed, 2 night stands, a unit with TV and refrigerator, and a side chair); no desk, no clock
· No WiFi in the room, only hard cable; so iPad users had to go to the lobby
· Safe in room
· Lighting system was fairly bizarre; we never could figure out how to get just one table lamp on for me to work and Patrick to sleep; it was an all or nothing at all situation
· Bath had all the elegant amenities, despite the close quarters
· Right in the heart of everything … walking distance to Saint Mark's and to the Rialto bridge
· Good food and gorgeous patio area overlooking the canals
Amusing anecdote: Bill and Nancy Meyer, farmers from Pierce, Nebraska, are the nicest and perhaps cleanest cut of our fellow travelers. So it's interesting that they were singled out by a female “flasher” who jumped out of a teeny car near the hotel entrance, lifted her skirts, displayed her wares and mentioned her place of business. She jumped back in her vehicle and sped away. They were, needless to say, somewhat stunned! And they didn't even notice that was one of
the only cars they saw in Venice!
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