Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pinching Ourselves in Venice--Are We Really Here?

June 11, 2005, 10:47 AM, Venice

We’re sitting here on the train, waiting to leave for Milano. I hope we’re in the right car. Our tickets are for first class, which is where we are, but one of the conductors said something about reservations, after, of course, last night when we went to the information area of the train station to ask about reservations, they told us we didn’t need them. So…we’ll probably have to move which means I’ll be forced to retreat to my “happy place” and I’m not sure that’s going to be easy.

Meanwhile…let me catch you up on all our adventures in Venice. We were very lucky yesterday morning when a beautiful young woman joined us in our compartment. Her name was Chiara. She spoke excellent English, and told us all kinds of good information about Venice. Then she offered to walk us to our hotel. Luckily, it wasn’t very far from the train station—just across the Grand Canal. The trick was getting over the bridge that crossed the Grand Canal. We’re talking steps. Lots and lots of steps. Chiara was sweet enough to help me with my luggage, but poor Kathy was on her own. The Antiqua Figeura Hotel was just gorgeous—and the man who checked us in was….well, he was gorgeous, too. What is in this Italian water that makes the men so beautiful?

We couldn’t check in until noon, so we left our luggage there and started walking around. Venice was everything we expected—just like in the movies and photos. The gondolas, the gondoliers in their striped shirts (some of them wore plain shirts, though), the bridges, the narrow, twisting alleys. Oh, and the shops with all the beautiful Murano glass. I bought Murano necklaces for all the Bunco Babes, and one for Leah and Sharon. We found a great sandwich shop and had sandwiches and real water!!!! Not that awful stuff we had in Vienna—mineral water. Yuk! We checked into our beautiful room with a view of the Grand Canal, and showered. What a blessing that was after that overnight train trip. It felt fantastic! Then we went for a walk.

A long walk. We made our way to the Rialto Bridge in the San Marco sestieri (district,) and had a beer at an outdoor café overlooking the gondoliers on the Grand Canal. Then we decided to make our way to Piazza San Marco--the famous square you see in all the movies where the pigeons congegrate. And we found it without any trouble! What a magnificent sight that was. It was huge, and of course, there were pigeons everywhere. People were feeding them, and they were sitting on shoulders and heads and fluttering about. I made a mini movie, and one of them landed on Kathy’s hat and just sat there. It was hysterical! I sure hope I got it on the camera. (I mean I hope I filmed it right; I’d never done that before.) Note: Turns out, I didn't, darn it!

It was almost six o’clock by that time, so we decided to make our way back to the hotel and rest awhile before dinner. As if! You know how you hear how everyone gets lost in Venice? Well, we were no exception. Finding our way back to the Rialto Bridge was not as easy as it looked on the map. By seven o’clock, I was exhausted, my feet were hurting, and I had a throbbing headache (and I was hungry.) In other words, I was having a very difficult time staying in “my happy place.” We kept following—or trying to follow these signs leading to the Piazza Roma. And miracle of all miracles, by eight o’clock, we found our hotel. No time to rest, of course, because we suddenly realized that we needed to check the schedule for today’s trip to Torino, and…well, it’s a long story, and too complicated to get into it…let’s just say we realized we didn’t have as much time left in Venice as we needed. And I’d yet to do the shopping I wanted to do. (Heaven forbid I not spend money!) But I had to get myself a Murano necklace, didn’t I? Yes, I did. Of course, the store where I’d seen the one I wanted—yes, in the entire city of Venice (that we managed to cover) I found only one necklace that I really, really liked—but the store was closed last night. We decided to have pizza at Gino’s Pizzeria, and it was delicious!

Being the party animals that we are, we headed back to the hotel around ten and went right to bed. Slept like a log all night, disturbed only by a lone mosquito buzzing around my ear in the early hours, until Kathy got me up at 7:40. We had a great buffet breakfast in the hotel where I managed to embarrass myself with the coffee machine, not realizing I had to hit “stop” before my cup overflowed. We raced out to the shop to buy my necklace (yay!) and then went back to the hotel, said our goodbyes to our handsome hotelier, and lugged our bags to the train station. We’re becoming old pros at hefting our suitcases on and off the trains. And here we are.

The good news is…the conductor has checked our Eurail Passes, and didn’t say a thing about reservations, so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to stay in this car all the way to Milan.


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