Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Prologue to Venice: Like No Other City on Earth

The weekend of November 10 was [mostly] quiet as Kerry and I spent it in town again.  While the weekend didn't deserve it's own blog post, now that we're more seasoned expats and have gotten bored of silly UK/US comparisons, I do want to share one highlight.  We were invited over for dinner with our wonderful neighbors; a retired couple who know how to have a good time.  We started out at a proper pub, loaded with taxadermied wildife, where we gents had 2 pints each.  We then made our way back to their house where I had another pint with a prawn appetizer, and then the four of us collectively took out 2 bottles of wine with the take-and-bake pizza.  After enjoying our hostess's wonderful homeeade creme brulee, they broke out the amaretto and congac.  Hours of wonderful conversation later (when I noticed Kerry was sipping on straight congac and saying how good it was) I knew it was time to bid our hosts farewell and stumble home across the street.  The next morning I could only hope we didn't say anything too embarrassing.  But I can't wait to return the favor at our bungalow!  

Before I get on to our Venice experience,  first and foremost I must thank my coworker Carol who let us borrow her camera.  She was a lifesaver, as the photos we took in Venice are irreplaceable.  What happened to our camera?  Well, as I was in a rush to get in the car to get out of the cold rain in Swansea to return home, I threw my camera in the armrest cubby, and slammed the top down.  The Audi I'm renting has this horrible design where there's a plastic support rib on the inner wall of the armrest cubby lid which applied sufficient pressure to my camera's LCD screen to cause failure.  I was nauseous with regret!  There's no way we can afford another camera.  It still takes pictures but you can't see what you're taking a photo of, or know what the settings are.  Luckily we found a service that will repair it for roughly half the cost of replacing it, but that still stings.  

Lesson learned - the outcome of haste is always a lot more painful than you bargained for.  Haste clouds judgement and causes stupid mistakes.  This year is about constantly being in unfamiliar situations, and it's all the more important to keep a level head.  Sometimes it's too easy to get worked up over the unknown and I lapse into this weird paniky hyper vigilance mode, especially in other non-English speaking countries.  But, even here in the UK on occasion I've had to stop and take a deep breath (usually related to traffic).  But seriously, it's not THAT different, so just chill out dude.

Well that was a bit too cathartic, but I'm not going to delete it.  I did just change the title to Prologue, so that means this will be a 2-part post.  

So finally let's talk about Venice.  It started like most of our trips with a 3:30 am alarm clock to get to the airport.  Birmingham has some great deals on offsite car parking, but the level of complexity we experienced to park made Rube Goldberg look like Jack Welch.  It's still not clear to me how we got to the airport, but sometimes people tend to pick up the slack for you if you appear to be incompetent.  A similar situation came up after we landed, where the ticket machine which issued us the discount Venice bus passes for the weekend was broken. The bus driver told us to go to the ticket office and the ticket office said just to get on the bus with the voucher I printed out.  Fed up with it, we just got on the bus and the driver gave up his argument (only after giving me the classic Italian hand motion, which reminded me of this scene from Raging Bull).

"I got no choice!"

The ticket machine in Venice did work, so we were had unlimited access to the vaparetto (Venice's boat bus system) for 3 days.  

Enough jibber jabber, pictures please!

On our first vaparetto experience a taxi boat nearly missed ramming into us.  Instead it just glanced off the side.  Hand gestures were made. 

Just after the taxi incident as an elderly Italian woman started talking to me as I nodded and smiled.

This stop could not have come any sooner!

We did not stay on Venice proper, but we found a good deal on a nearby island, Sant Erasmo.  It is a quiet farming island that is sparsely populated with wide open spaces.  It could not be more opposite than Venice, which is literally packed from edge to edge with buildings.

The vaparetto park and ride on Sant Erasmo; we had to walk.

Our bus stop
Beautiful clear weather all weekend!

We were the only guests the first night - the hotel was owned by a woman from Iowa who has lived in Venice for 30 years
Hotel neighbored a vineyard
After a quick nap after the long morning we had, it was back on the vaparetto to get lost in Venice and try to find a place for dinner.

Rialta bridge at night

The grand canal!

Sliver of a moon over the city

We rested on the elevated walkway in a dry San Marco's Square

San Marco's Square 3 days before we arrived

Around 9 pm we randomly went into a fun looking restaurant and had a decent meal.  With Barcelona under our belts, we were ready for the late dinner.  It's well known that everything in Venice is expensive, little did we know this was the best deal we would have found all weekend.

A decent wine that reminds us of our hometown of Valpo, IN

Room keys were attached to skeeballs - they were left hanging in the lobby while you were out, and front door was never locked.  There was no one a.t the desk

So I'm going to pause here for now.  Our first 1/2 day in the city was fun just wandering and getting lost in the winding alleys.  Venice is a magical city, like no other.   (I just realized this is probably because there are no cars, scooters, or bicycles to be found, walking only.)

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