Our journey to Venice went very smoothly. Nick, the owner of our Nice apartment, was kind enough to not only take us to the bus stop but to also carry one of our packs. Just for the record our back packs weigh approximately 21 kg (Pete), 17 kg (KC), 11 kg (Dan), and 7 kg (Amy); and, our carry-on bags are 8 kg, 8.8 kg, 8 kg, and 5.6 kg respectively. Fortunately we got on board the bus near the start of its trip to the airport as after a few more stops everyone was jammed in like sardines in a can.
At the airport there was a mad rush to get us, and all our bags, off the bus with those going to the next terminal gazing on at this mad family that seemed to carry a warehouse of stuff. Our timing for the day was perfect so we could stroll on in, adjust our carry-on luggage distribution, and check in our baggage without having to wait in a queue. With about an hour to spare we headed to the Priority Pass airport lounge. It’s sure a nice treat to relax in the airport lounge, eat cakes and read the latest Financial Times. Yep in the real world there is still a recession and unemployment is rampant.
The hour or so flight to Venice was over before I knew it as I had a full conversation with a delightful American couple whom I sat next to. Next the part I was concerned about – getting to our house from the airport. Well there was no need to be concerned. We departed with a lot of cash and purchased tickets for the Alilaguna boat line which made the trip simple. We were able to take the airport trollies to the wharf where we caught the boat. The trip was just over an hour and enjoyable as we soaked in the sights along the way. In the first photo below, to the right of the bridge, is the entrance to Via Garibaldi where we buy our groceries at inflated prices (KCs comment – wait till you get to Florence – Venice is cheap!).
We got off the boat at the Arsenale stop and once we regrouped with our bags we looked in the direction where our road was supposed to be. We panicked initially because on google maps we had worked out exactly where to go but we really needed the entry road to our cul-de-sac which appeared to be missing. We headed in the direction of where it should have been and with great relief we found a narrow alleyway about 1.5 meters wide, and 100 metres later we were at our door step.
On our first day we woke up too late to start school so we went out and wandered our way to St Mark’s Square. I couldn’t believe the crowds of tourists everywhere, our first time surrounded by people in the trip to date. Evidently 12 million visitors a year come to Venice. The population is about 62,000 and totally outnumbered by visitors. Sadly the population is half the size of what it was 30 years ago. I think all 12 million visitors decided to come to Venice all at once so tomorrow we will start early.
These photos were taken around St Mark’s Square earlier in the morning before the onslaught of tourists.
Our trip to the mini-supermarket didn’t work out because Wednesday ended up being the Fiesta Di San Marco, so most of the shops were closed. That meant no food for lunch, dinner, snacks and little milk for breakfast the next day. The last resort was eating out. First I had a cappuccino while Karen had a couple of cakes from the baker (which were taxed by all of us). Then we found another shop playing Duran Duran music which had, believe it or not, irresistible looking Pananis. Finishing off dinner we had Italian Ice Creams.
The next day, we went to the Correr Museum and the Museum of archaeology both were okay but a bit tiresome. Probably the most exciting painting at the Correr Museum for Karen and I was one by Pieter Brueghel from the 1500’s named Adorazione dei Magi. We discovered Brueghel (the Younger) and his Father in 1994 when we did our OE. Brueghel’s paintings are busy and tell detailed stories. This particular one, Adorazione dei Magi, depicts a snowy scene of a secular working village with a baby Jesus lost in a stable to one corner of the painting. The painting made me ponder how our busy day-to-day living can crowd out any thoughts of Jesus: where Jesus’ birth is demoted to a mascot on Christmas card and the death and resurrection of Jesus is replaced by an Easter bunny.
In the afternoon we had great success and found a supermarket, a rather long walk away, so stocked up on groceries and goodies including ice cream. Unfortunately the ice cream didn’t last very long as when I went back for supper around 11pm I mistakenly returned the ice cream to the fridge rather than the freezer! Worse things have happened in Venice according to the history I have read but it was devastating for me personally.
Another early start for us the next day, Friday, as we wanted to visit one of the must see sights – the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace).The Palazzo Ducale is where the ruling duke or doge lived and home of the Venetian government. It was built to show off the power and wealth of the Venetians. The most amazing part of the palace, next to the incredible golden ornate ceilings above the stairways, was the armoury which had on display an enormous number of weapons from swords, crossbows, arrows, to gun collections.
The highly photographed Bridge of Sighs (above) runs between the palace and the prison on the other side of the canal from the palace. Its name arose from the sighs said to be heard from those deemed guilty as they went from their trials in the palace to the prison. The prison was a dismally depressing place to walk around.
By the way the kids really do do some home schooling most days:
In the afternoon we went for a walk along the waterfront, Riva Dei Sette Martiri, in the sun. On the way home we went to the most known cheese shop in Venice. Karen purchased a cheese and two types of hams. One of the hams was 30 months old which is evidently a great thing …
On Saturday I started the day with a run, first alongside the Venice lagoon then through the streets of Castello back to Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, what I think is the main shopping road around these parts.
Then after breakfast we headed off to the Leonardo da Vinci museum which was in the Dorsoduro district about 10 minutes from the Accademia Gallery. The walk took about 35 to 40 minutes and being a weekend there seemed to be even more crowds than usual all around us. The museum was pretty interesting and consisted of some 50 or so models of Leonardo da Vinci’s machines.
After the da Vinci museum we had a coffee at a nearby café. I had noticed what seemed like two prices for drinks and food. The young lady who took our orders spoke English so we asked her about it. In Italy cafes will often have one price for drinks at the bar and another for drinks consumed at the outside tables. So if you want a quick coffee you will pay half the price if you have it standing up at the bar, or two coffees standing up rather than one sitting down! We had a fun quick walking back to our house after taking a bunch of streets at random directions getting a little lost along the way. The kids and I had fun playing spies and doing crazy things hiding from people and pretending to look for clues. Amy and I then teamed up and raced ahead of Daniel and Karen. Nothing like a good game to get Amy racing …
On Sunday night I thought it would be great to try to run to the Rialto bridge and then on to Piazzale Roma and back through the Cannaregio district where the Jewish Ghetto is. So Monday morning I took off not feeling full of energy because I took a long time getting to sleep and seemed to wake up every hour in the night. I do remember hearing the mid-night bells but after that I must have finally drifted off. Anyway I set off on my run. It was only about 8:30am but there were already crowds of people everywhere. I ran to Plazza San Marco and out the back of it as planned and then up to the Rialto bridge. It was exciting to briefly see the bridge and to run over it. I then headed toward Piazzale Roma and thought I had reached it so headed toward the Cannaregio district. Afterwards, looking back on a map I realised that I had run to the Stazione Ferroviaria Santa Lucia and didn’t reach the Piazzale Roma after all. Next running along Strada Nova I ran past the only McDonalds in Venice. I reach the end of the Rialto Bridge and headed back toward home, so I thought. A while later I noticed signs to the Accademia Gallery which I tried to ignore as that wasn’t where I was wanting to run. Things started to become too familiar and before I knew it I was at the other bridge next to the Accademia! I had to pause for a moment in disbelief. I knew how to get home from here so slightly disappointed I ran to Plazza San Marco and then zigzagged back to the street our house was in. I had run about 1 hour 5 minutes but I figure I must have spent about a total of 5 minutes looking at my map during the run and I wanted to try to do 1 hour 15 minutes so I carried on past our house. It was enjoyable running through the Castello district along streets I hadn’t been on before. I ran to Camp San Giovanni E Paolo where there was a lovely old church building and then turned around back toward home. On the way I turned a few wrong turns and found another Coop supermarket. Retracing my steps it wasn’t long before I was back on course. I had noticed a bakery shop so dashed inside and brought a couple of bagets and then eventually arrived back at home. It was a fantastic run. I was gone for about 1 hour 25 minutes so taking off time for my map checking I easily ran for 1 hour 15 minutes. Now that’s more like it!
Later on Monday we made several trips to the grocery store that we prefer and eventually it was open and we stocked up on ice cream, cakes, buns, tarts, juice, Coke, Fanta and a few other necessities. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you are eating an ice cream! We had an early dinner and then about 7pm we went out on a huge walk. By the way when I say walk I don’t mean stroll – it’s more like a power walk. We basically retraced where I had run earlier in the day but in reverse direction. I knew the return trip would take at least 2 hours so I wasn’t sure if we could handle it. We almost turned back after 15 minutes as I ended up getting lost and the kids were sounding grumpy. In the end though it was a fantastic walk. Along the way we went into McDonalds – they have free toilets, usually you pay 1 euro – I also checked my emails. Then we raced off to the train station so we could figure out where we would be going on Wednesday when we have our luggage. It was getting dark and we were pretty tired so we got going on our return trip. The first goal on the homeward journey was to make it to the Rialto Bridge which we did fairly well only making one or two wrong turns. After a few photos we were on to Plazza San Marco however by this time it started to rain, our first rain in Venice. It wasn’t too heavy so we didn’t getting soaked like in Bordeaux. Once we arrived at Plazza San Marco, Daniel and Amy had a short play with their flying arrow toys and then we continued on for home. By the time we walked in the door it was past 10pm so we had been on the march for about 3 hours with a surprising no complaints from the kids. They should sleep well tonight although Amy seems to get up early no matter how late or how tired she is.
On Karen’s must-do list, besides a cruise on the love boat, is a ride on a gondola. Although I managed to avoid this 18 years ago when we were in Venice, this time I couldn’t convince her that it was unnecessary (and that a coffee would be better) so on Tuesday we set off to find the perfect gondola. I’ll leave it to Karen to tell you more about it.
We squeezed in a few more walks around and then after an early dinner we set off to play The Game – Venice which consisted of Daniel and Karen on one team and Amy and me on the other team racing all over Venice taking photos of various things in the rain.
We had an awesome time in Venice, particularly all the walking around, and on Wednesday we caught a boat to the train station then a fast train to Florence. Everything went smoothly again except I have to admit the 1 ½ hours went to fast and I happened to find the café carriage and had just started drinking a coffee when Amy rushed in to tell me that the next stop was ours! Needless to say we were a little frantic packing up our computers and getting our bags together.
(Week 10B-11A: Tuesday 24th April – Wednesday 2nd May)