Other than short trips to London to take care of personal business, we had always planned a few side trips to take advantage of our close proximity to Europe and the rest of the UK.
Our first of these had been planned since well before we left Australia. A trip to Venice, Italy to celebrate the 60th birthday of Bob’s sister, Jenny. From one set of canals to another!!!!
After making sure our friends Chris and Sue were happily familiar with Celtic Maid, they took us to Reading train station to catch the Reading to Gatwick train, waiting at the airport for 7 hours before flying a short 2 hours from London Gatwick airport to Marco Polo airport near Venice at 6.00am. From Marco Polo airport we fought with the ticket machine and language to purchase tickets for the bus transfer to Venice and then water bus/vaporetto to the stop near the hotel where Bob’s sister and brother in law – Judy and Ted – were staying. So far so good!!!!!
Our first impressions of Venice were very positive – it was even more than Bron had expected and for Bob this was his second visit. The water bus gave us a great chance to get some real perspective of this beautiful and very old city and become a little familiar with all the names of places and proximity.
So we got off at the right station and couldn’t find Judy and Ted. Our phone didn’t work despite setting it up with our service provider in the UK to do so. Therefore we couldn’t make a phone call. We had not exchanged any money so had no Euros to use a public phone and when we did we couldn’t work out how to use it!!!! Fortunately we only had a small carry on suitcase each because we were in for a bit of a walk as we searched for their hotel.
But we found St Mark’s Square and started asking questions – of various hotel staff, restaurant staff and anyone else who would answer our questions. And by some fluke we finally found their hotel only to discover that they had left to find us at the water bus station.! But with the aid of their concierge we were finally united and left our bags at their hotel to walk to a nearby “fast food” restaurant for pizza and beer for lunch. Bron even got a fabulous kebab minus the bread so we all felt better for the sustenance.
We then walked up to and across the Rialto Bridge and around the many canals, bridges and back streets that make up this busy part of Venice. This really gave us a chance to soak up some of the culture of Venice – the architecture, cafes, shopping, waterways, people, tourists – everything!!!!
We made our way later in the afternoon to our rendezvous point with Jenny and Greg, who arrived on a later flight, and the representative from the company where we rented the apartment that was to be our home for the next 4 days. Of course, being a warm day, another beer was required to keep our fluids up!!!!
Finally we arrived at our rather spacious apartment, arranged rooms (we got the penthouse!!), went in search of essential provisions and settled into a relaxing evening of pasta and wine. Given that by then most of us had not achieved restful sleep for the previous 48 hours it comes as no surprise that an early night was in order.
The weather in Venice was sunny and warm for the most part so we were able to get out and about exploring all the little areas on foot. I think we probably walked 10 km every day so we certainly got some exercise. I guess the beer, wine, pizzas, cheese, bread and ice cream counteracted some of those benefits!
Wednesday saw us wandering some more but paying particular attention to Piazza San Marco with a tour of the Doge’s Palace, prison, Bridges of Sighs and several perusals of St Mark’s Campanile (bell tower), with its 24 hour clock, first digital clock, and the men with the giant clappers ringing the hour!!!! Very well worth spending some time in this area even tho it is full of pigeons, people and potential pickpockets!
We found an excellent restaurant very close to our apartment called Trattoria Ai Cugnai where we all indulged in delicious fish and seafood dinners, washed down of course by lovely local wine. We enjoyed this restaurant so much that we returned on the Friday night to enjoy more of their dishes – all very reasonably priced.
We kept our shopping to a minimum given that we are both now officially unemployed/retired/free!!! Bob got a “genuine” striped shirt as worn by all the gondaliers, and Bron a lace fan and Murano glass bead for her Pandora. Bron was also thrilled to get 2 blue Murano glasses from the restaurant (thank you Judy – they are beautiful and match the Celtic Maid so well!!!!).
Thursday saw us catching several vaporettos to jump across the islands especially visiting Murano and its glass works. It seemed to take all day to get there but I think our sense of time was somewhat distorted by how late we all got moving in the morning!!!
We chose to make this Jenny’s “birthday” (given that we would not all be together on the actual date) and spent the early evening celebrating with cards and gifts – oh and more wine and beer and cheese etc!!!! Then off to dinner on the waterfront watching the sunset and the continuous boat traffic. We tried to sit outside to eat but it just came in too cold so inside it had to be.
Our last day had us exploring the area of Salute quite close to our apartment and then another walk to the Rialto Bridge so that Jenny and Greg could experience it. Bron and Bob made a late appearance as we stayed in the apartment trying to get some washing done before returning home. We then avoided the rain by getting home just in time but postponed our planned gondola ride until later in the evening when the weather had cleared a little.
Everyone must take a ride in a gondola in Venice. Always. But choose carefully. Some show a complete indifference to their customers while others are a wealth of information and earn the tips they receive. After a false start we found the perfect one and spent the next 40 minutes gliding along the Grand Canal as well as smaller ones enjoying his descriptions of architecture, lifestyle and highlights of the city he so clearly loves. He was more than happy to answer our many questions and he made us feel welcome and important.
Back to the Trattoria Ai Gugnai for dinner and more celebratory drinks. Our wonderful time together was coming to an end and we were all celebrating how brilliant it was that we had taken the time and made the effort to come from Canada, Australia and UK to share this important occasion in Venice Italy.
The trip home passed in a blur. None of us had succeeded in sleeping well the night before. But we made the waterbus to the airport, caught our plane back to Gatwick, and train back to our lovely Celtic Maid. Meanwhile Jenny and Greg continue their tour with a Mediterranean cruise and trip to her birthplace in Austria, and Judy and Ted returned to their home in Canada.
Thanks to all for an amazing but short sojourn in the wonder that is Venice!!!!!