Friday, November 2, 2012

Making Our Way to Venice

Up at 5:30am, luggage outside of room by 6:15am, down in the lobby for breakfast at 6:30am and on the bus at 7:15am. All this so that we could drive to Florence and catch the train to Venice. We are taking the train instead of driving because it is quicker. So we had a nice quiet drive to Florence and Christopher gave us instructions about getting on the train. We arrived at the train station and bid Mimo (our bus driver) farewell. We only had our carry on luggage – all of our other luggage was being brought to the hotel in Venice by truck. We made good time getting to Florence and we arrived at 8:15am and our train wasn’t until 9:30. So Christopher gave us 30 minutes to get coffee and walk around. Then we all gathered at a decided meeting spot and made our way to the train at 9:15am and Christopher got us all settled in our seats. The train left exactly as scheduled at 9:30am. I did a little blogging and reading and Thomas read. It was a great trip. The train was very comfortable and it was a smooth ride to Venice. We had lots of room in the seats. And before we knew it we had arrived at the Ferrovia (that is the train station) in Venice 

Venice, Italy
We gathered outside in front of the train station by the Grand Canal and Christopher told us what we were doing for the rest of the day. We then walked a little ways away and got on a private water taxi for the group. We couldn’t go down the Grand Canal so we had to go through some back canals and then around the Dorsoduro sestieri and we eventually docked a little ways down from Piazza San Marco. From the water taxi we walked to the piazza. Christopher gave us until 2:30pm to do what we wanted. Thomas and I walked with Frank and Susie and ended up at La Bricola for lunch. Thomas and I split a prosciutto pizza and lasagna (both were good). We had a nice visit with Frank and Susie and then we left do some walking and to look for a letterbox. So we walked back to Piazza San Marco and then over to the Giardinetti Reali. We spent a little time letterboxing here and you can read about that at Letterboxing along the Grand Canal on my other blog – The Lion’s Game.

St. Mark's Lion
Now it was time to meet our tour guide for the day. So we walked back to the piazza and met up with Christopher and the group. Our tour guide was Pietro and we started with a talk in front of the Doge’s Palace. He talked about the history of Venice and he talked about all the buildings around the piazza – the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile, Procuratie Vecchie, the Correr, the National Library and the Museum of Archaeology.. He also talked about the columns near the Grand Canal and the Café Florian. We ended up leaving the piazza near the Correr Museum and walked some of the back streets. We stopped at the opera house – La Fenice. He gave us some more history pointing out lots of little things as we walked. Eventually we made our way back to St. Mark’s. He was going to take us for a walk through of the Basilica but Thomas and I and a few others decided to stay outside. The line was long and it was too crowded so we decided to skip it. When the group returned we walked back to the Doge’s Palace where we ended our tour. After the tour we had about an hour to ourselves before we took the water taxi back to Ferrovia. So Thomas and I just walked along the Grand Canal looking shops and then went to the meeting spot and relaxed until the rest of the group showed up. We took the water taxi back to the train station and here we got a lesson on using the local train to get to and from our hotel on the mainland to the island. Here is how it works. You check the monitors for a train that is regional (marked with an ‘R’ or ‘REG’) and you look at the times and track numbers. When you find a train with a time you can make you get your ticket and validate it (put it into a machine so that the time is marked). Then you make your way to the track and board the train. From the island there could possibly be one stop before the stop we needed for our hotel. Christopher instructed us to look for a small stop with only about four tracks and not to get off at that one. Our stop is a much larger one with lots of tracks. So he took us through the motions and got us on a train and then off at the right stop. He then showed us where to exit the station and the route to walk to our hotel. 

Venice Sunset
 We arrived at our hotel – Hotel LuganoTorretta lo9cated in Mestre in the dark. We got checked in and settled in our room. We had a little time to clean up before dinner and then it was down to the restaurant at 7:30pm for the worst dinner of the trip so far. First of all the service was really slow and second the wait staff were just plain rude. They served us some spiral pasta with olive oil (this was just okay), then we had some cooked, mushy vegetables  and then an assorted fried fish plate (calamari, shrimp and some little guppy looking fish with the heads still on). I tried a few bites (but not the ones with the heads) and pushed the plates away. It was terrible – the calamari was like chewing rubber and the things they called shrimp didn’t taste like shrimp. Thomas and I decided to leave dinner early even before dessert was served.

Back in our room we showered and relaxed. I got some blogging done and Thomas read. I think we are both looking forward to our partial free day in Venice tomorrow.

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