Previously on Our Great Italian Adventure: The next morning we were heading to Venice! We took a fairly early train because we were only going to have one full day in Venice. We went back for more blueberry filled croissants and then headed to the train station early, because we were not going to have a repeat of the Rome to Florence train situation.
We made it on the train and figured it would be smooth sailing (smooth riding?), until after about a half an hour, when they announced that the train would be delayed by 90 minutes. -sigh- It was going TOO well. Fortunately, we didn’t have anything planned for right after we were supposed to arrive. But still. 90 minutes is a long time to be delayed with no explanation or compensation. (Technically, we could be compensated. But we had to wait 24 hours until after our train arrived, and then go in person to a TrenItalia office and we could receive 25% of our ticket price as credit to buy another TrenItalia ticket. So basically if you’re a tourist, they can do whatever they want and you can’t get anything back. Annoying.) Fortunately, we had plenty of time to check in to the hostel and get lunch before the gondola ride that Catey planned for us. It was really beautiful. Although, it did give me sailing class flashbacks that I was not a fan of. I’m not afraid of boats (I was on my uncle’s fishing boat this summer without a problem), but something about how close the gondola is to the water, and the slight heeling that happens when the gondolier turns the boat brought me right back to a year ago, where I was very unsuccessfully piloting Sunfish and ending up in the lake. But other than the slight panic it gave me, I really enjoyed it! (Similar to my Cliffs of Moher experience. Mostly excitement, slight terror.) Venice is really a precious city. It has the painting like quality that Florence has. It was dark by the time we finished our gondola ride, and we wandered around for a while, exploring St Mark’s Plaza before heading to the vigil mass at San Zaccaria’s for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. There was only about 20 people there, half of which were little old Italian ladies who kept smiling at us. The priest was one of the cutest little old priests I have ever seen, and he had a smile that could make the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes. San Zaccaria’s is a beautiful little place. For dinner, we got more pizza. The waiter spoke the funniest English. He had clearly learned it from watching American movies. He kept calling us Charlie’s Angels and using really odd phrases. On our way back to the hostel, we noticed that some parts of Venice turn into a total ghost town at night during the off-season. It was creepily empty. A note about Venice in the cold: the canals smell better than they do in the summer. We did get a few whiffs of what my family used to call “river butt” when we lived by the river in Titusville, but it wasn’t ever-present, as I’ve heard it can be in the summer.
For our whole trip, we had really good luck with weather, except for Friday. Considering we’re traveling in December, I’d say that’s pretty good luck. But this day, it stayed below 44° and never stopped raining. It was a light rain, but it never let up. But since this was our only full day in Venice, we were not going to let that stop us! We started our day with the Galleria della Academia. Not the one in Florence, the one in Venice, obviously. It was large and had some very nice pieces, as well as some really interesting information on art restoration. (I think that is so fascinating.) At this point, I think we were all suffering from what I like to call Acute Museum Fatigue , which is where you’ve seen approximately 700 museums in the span of a week and all the Madonna and Childs and martyrs’ deaths and portraits of rich people and ancient sculptures start to run together in your head and your brain begins to turn to mush. Despite this, we still enjoyed this museum a lot. From here, we continued on to St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco). It is famous for its intricate mosaics and its extensive use of gold. It is extremely impressive to see. Unfortunately, there was no sunlight coming in the windows because of the bad weather, so we couldn’t see the top of the ceiling hardly at all. We were pretty sad about it, but accepted it for what it was. Once you’re in to the museum part of the basilica, you can also go outside a few stories up and you have a nice view of the plaza and the water. Before we left, Shannon noticed they were having an organ concert a little later, so after going through the museum we decided to go get some coffee and come back. We were supposed to go to Duke’s Palace, but the ticket office closed earlier than Catey thought so we couldn’t go. Fortunately, this meant we could go to the organ concert. When we came back, they had all the lights turned on! The entire ceiling was illuminated. It was absolutely heavenly, and everything was shimmering gold. I spent the whole 20 minute concert staring at the ceiling. We were so happy we got to see it!! It really worked out perfectly. We had an early dinner at a what was basically the Italian version of a diner, and headed back to the hostel early. Shannon had lost a contact and had a headache, the weather was still bad, and we had a plane to catch in the morning, so we decided to get home early to pack and shower and get some rest. Well, when we got back, our room was freezing. The heat the first night had worked great, but it had turned off during the night and was off in the morning. We figured it was a fluke or a timed thing. Because they are pretty stingy with heating in Spain, we didn’t think too much of it. But it was very cold in the room, and it quickly became apparent something was not right. There was also no hot water. I went over to reception to find out what was going on. Long story (relatively) short, reception was technically closed, but there was a student working the desk. Apparently they ask the students who live in the adjoined complex to work at the desk one hour a week. I knew none of this was the poor girl’s fault, but she wasn’t terribly helpful. After taking her to our room to show her that the heat in the hallway was off too, and that there was definitely no hot water, she decided it was probably best to call someone. Considering that she didn’t know how to rent Catey a towel, I was not shocked to find out she didn’t know how to fix the heat. She called the owner and kept trying to tell me that she was sorry, and that she didn’t really work here, and how the heat being broken was the city’s problem and not the hostel’s, and how I would just have to be patient. I hung out in reception because it was warm in there. After an hour, I asked if she had any updates, and she said the owner had fixed it. I made sure to take down a phone number I could call just in case it never warmed up in our room. Of course it was still freezing in our room for a while before the heat caught up, but eventually it did warm up and we were able to sleep well before our busy day. So, y’know. It could’ve been worse but it also definitely could have been better. That’s how most of the problems we had on this trip were. Frustrating, but not the end of the world.
The next morning, we had a 10am flight to Barcelona. We left ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport bus and plenty of extra time at the airport too. Everything went off without a hitch, which considering the bad luck we had had with transportation, was nothing short of a miracle. We even had time for a yummy breakfast in the airport, including fresh squeezed orange juice and a last cup of Italian espresso. We flew Ryanair again, which if you read my blog about Dublin, you know my feelings about, but we had some beautiful views of snowy mountains on our flight.
TO BE CONTINUED IN A FINALE