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  • Day26

    The city of (love, romance, dreams ..)

    October 9, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    We departed the Bologna Inn to catch the fast train to Venice. We had one day too long in Bologna, should have had an extra day in Florence which we loved. We arrived at Bologna Centrale which requires you to go down one level, walk some distance then go down another 3 levels to the departure platform. There are lifts and escalators and as I was approaching the last escalator with the two suitcases, a man who had been following me closely asked if he could help. Not sure wether this person was being nice and helpful or if he had a cunning plan and was going to rob us, I waved him away and successfully struggled to get the suitcases to our departure platform. MDW was pleased I waved him away as she thought he looked suspicious. She is generally a good judge of character, after all she married me. 🤣🤣 We arrived at Venice and from the station we followed the other tourists to the water bus station. Bought two tickets which last 75 minutes and wisely headed for Water Bus 2. It is only 5 stops unlike Bus 1 which goes the other direction and is 12 stops. We join the queue for the bus which departs every 12 minutes. Bus 1 departs every 6. The Bus arrives and fills up with passengers, we are still in the queue. Next bus arrives and we miss getting on this bus as it has filled up also. Next bus we get on and squeeze up against the other passengers with MDW constantly reminding me to protect my wallet. 5 stops and we can get off. My counting must have been off because most people got off at Rialto but not us. Of course Rialto was our stop but too the bus had left the platform. Easy I said, get off at the next stop and get the other bus which goes in the other direction. This is something we did in Amsterdam when I took the tram one station too far. This worked like clockwork and we were soon following Google maps towards our hotel.
    Venice is the city of bridges which makes dragging two suitcases a challenge. Not sure how many waterways we had to cross but everyone has an up and a down and our suitcases were starting to feel as if they were full of lead, even though the scales say they are only about 20 kilos. It was also rather warm, yet many Italians were wearing jackets or coats. We were both perspiring like crazy. Google took us down narrow alleys and twisted streets, we really had no idea where we were heading, just trusting a smart phone to get us to our destination. Eventually it said “destination on our right” but it wasn’t. The phone struggles to get a signal at times because of the narrow laneways and just guesses where we are. Not very helpful for us. We got google to recalculate our path until we found the hotel.
    We drag ourselves up the 3 flights of stairs where we find the hotel manager seated behind a desk on the phone. He continues his conversation on the phone for several minutes whilst multitasking and photocopying our passports. After he finished his phone call he tells us the internet is down, maybe a few hours before it is fixed. We weren’t too concerned as we just wanted to get our bags to our room then buy some milk for our cups of tea.
    The room is a good size but not as nice as shown on their web site. It has a fridge but no kettle, of course we now have our own.
    We turn the air conditioning on as it is very warm then head off to find a supermarket. With the help of Google maps again we are struggling to find our destination. A lovely French lady (MDW says “lovely was she”) asks where we were going and we said a supermarket. She says they are all to expensive around here what do you want to buy. Milk we replied, oh only little bit, ok right then left then right. So we go right then left then right and don’t find the supermarket. A young waiter who’s job it is to get passerby’s to enter the restaurant asks where we are headed, A supermarket, and he pointed us around a corner and we are then at the co-op. After using the online translator the correct milk is purchased and then back to the room. Well that was our intention but lost again. We are starting to see familiar shops but we also find several laneways that are blocked off or bridges that go into private businesses or maybe large houses. The pressure is on, we haven’t had a cup of tea since this morning, must be 5 hours. Eventually MDW notices the green awnings of the restaurant next to our hotel. Relief, we have found our way back. In the room the temperature has not dropped, the air conditioner is just blowing room temperature air, MDW suggests I talk to the hotel manager and let him know the air conditioning is not working. But before I can do that we have to hide the kettle and cups in case he comes to our room, even MDW hid herself away in the bathroom. I tell the hotel manager of our problem and “Oh” he says, “I have it turned off”. He goes to a control panel, presses some buttons and says it will work now. MDW suspected this would be the case because our hotel at Milan had the same situation where the hotel has ultimate control over your rooms comfort. Strange indeed or maybe normal in Italy.
    We spent the evening walking around Venice, not in any particular direction but came across St Marks Basilica and Rialto Bridge. Near the bridge we stopped for refreshments where MDW had her usual Coke Zero and I had a large beer (see photo). We weren’t sure what a large beer would be but it ended up being a litre and in a very heavy glass jug. It require two hands to lift it steadily to my mouth but with great skill I was successful. We sat there for a good hour, talking to a couple of American ladies from a Boston who would love to visit Australia but it’s too far. I said I had no interest in visiting America, not very diplomatic but they still talked to us.
    We headed back to our room with MDWs sense of direction starting to work, lots of shops selling Murano glass and leather hand bags. I think MDW has purchased sufficient handbags (5, yes FIVE although I did buy her one) and also a chance to organise our gondola ride.

    Venice Day 2.

    Today is washing day. We do have an issue with the wifi in our room. The signal strength is poor so we have to hold the iPad or iPhone near the door to get a strong enough signal to send or receive email etc. I brought it up with the hotel manager who told me “it’s an old building, what do you expect?”. I mentioned free wifi in the rooms was advertised, maybe another room? “No you have booked the Classic room”. It was the only room available when we booked and I didn’t realise “Classic” meant room down the stairs away from the wifi signal! End of discussion, not the end of the world, a bit like living in the 90’s except there no English language TV shows.
    We grab our bag of laundry and detergent and head off to the Effe Erre Laundromat . After our usual problem of getting lost or being one street parallel to our intended street we find the laundromat. There are about 8 washing machine and 4 dryers. All the washers are being used or stopped but full of someone’s washed clothes. We take a seat and wait. After a few minutes I ask the gentleman alongside me if I can empty a machine that has stopped and put the clothes in one of the plastic clothes bins. With an Australian accent he says “sure”. So with access to a machine we put our dirty clothes in it and MDW diligently pours liquid washing detergent into the top detergent drawer and for good measure down the front of her clean dress. She’s not happy but isn’t going to rip her dress off and sit around in her undies. We insert the 6 euros and press go, 21 minutes to wait. We offer to watch the machines of our Aussie mate whilst he and his wife (farmers from a Tweed Heads) go for a walk. After 21 minutes I throw the clothes into one of the large dryers. I insert 4 euro and suddenly realise I have put the money in the wrong machine. Damn, so I put more money in the correct machine and off it goes. The lady whose machine I have added an extra 8 minutes of drying time to removes her dry clothes from the machine and we grab it and divide our clothes between the two dryers. Ends up I didn’t waste too much on someone else’s drying time. Clothes dry we head back to the hotel.
    We started another journey around the streets of Venice, walk and walk and walk. We really have no idea where we are heading. We have a drinks break and do more walking. The buildings are 4 or 5 floors high so the lane ways being narrow get no sunlight. We come across a pub/ restaurant which also has a toilet. Must be our lucky day. We order drinks and lunch, the place is packed, must be good. MDW’s schnitzel is a deep fried pre frozen lump of something not nice although the fries are not too bad. I ordered pasta of the day and get shell pasta with little green peas (I hope) creamy sauce and ham. I think 5 minutes in the microwave and it was done.
    We did a bit more walking, over Rialto bridge and back through Piazza San Marco. Tonight is gondola night. A night for romance ❤️❤️. We found out last night you just go to one of the gondola stations and before you know it you are on the vessel with a negotiated price, although there is a supposed set price it ends up cheaper for cash. (straight in his pocket) Getting onto a rocking gondola is a bit of a challenge but we managed to get to our seat ready for our trip. Off we go and I ask the gondolier if he will be serenading us. He says he doesn’t have a singing voice but he managed to talk on his phone much of the trip. Still it was a lovely experience and we got to see parts of Venice we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. After 45 minutes the gondola was rolling and rocking back to the dock and my stomach was starting to churn. MDW said I was looking a bit green. I held my stomach contents down, it would have been embarrassing to through up on a gondola.

    Venice Day 3.

    We had a walk along the promenade this morning, not utilising Google, again walking down many narrow laneways and past a shop MDW was very interested in. It was a closing down sale with everything 50% off the marked price. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately it was closed although there was someone sitting inside ignoring us when we pushed on the door. We decided to have lunch and come back later in the day. We came across a restaurant which advertised Milanese chicken which is chicken schnitzel. I asked the waiter if it was prepared in the kitchen after yesterday’s disaster. Yes he said and in the true Italian Restaurant way, if you don’t like it you don’t pay. I had a pasta dish and we both loved our meals. Best food for me and best for MDW since Ireland. We will return tomorrow for our last lunch in Venice. After lunch we tried to find the 50% off shop. We walked for several hours and did not find it. Poor MDW was frustrated but we still had half a day tomorrow. During our walk we witnessed a disgruntled tourist not happy with the exchange rate given for his English pounds. He was loudly saying “don’t go to this money exchange shop, it’s a rip off” “I don’t care if you call the police”. He was getting louder and louder and the passing tourists were giving him a wide berth. Now he may have had a point about the exchange rate offered but it was advertised in the window so he had no one to blame but himself. If you want to complain about exchange rates, look at the Australian dollar. Although MDW couldn’t find the shop she did buy a furry pom-pom to hang off her handbag, so she was happy.
    We sat for coffee at one of the cafes near the waters edge in San Marco. I asked for the bill and the waiter held it out for me but MDW went to grab it. “No madame” he said “ for Sir” and in my hand was the bill.
    One interesting encounter for me was with a restaurant waiter who asked if we wanted a meal. Said we had eaten then he puts on a great Aussie accent. He said his girl friend is from Australia, Moss Vale. No way I say telling him I went to school in Moss Vale. Just for the record her surname is Thirsk which I hadn’t hear of. Small world isn’t it. He gave me a voucher for a free wine but of course we couldn’t find it again.

    Venice Day 4.

    After repacking a dozen times last night, MDW did one final repack. We left the room for the final time and left our luggage with the hotel until later in the afternoon to avoid dragging them around the streets of Venice.
    St Marks square was partially covered in water due to the high tide. Now we know why there are elevated ramps around the square, we thought it was seating for some upcoming event. We again walked and walked (there is no alternative unless you catch the water bus) and found an interesting shop selling some more unusual Murano glass products MDW had been admiring. We wanted a momento of our time in Venice and managed to bargain the price down a little and got something we both liked. With our purchase wrapped we went for our final drink near the Rialto bridge. We ordered our drinks and the waiter just stared towards MDW. “Dog” he said. No, no it’s just my pom-pom MDW said. “Oh I thought you had a dog in your bag”.
    We had lunch at the same restaurant as yesterday, excellent again. On the board it said no service charge but there was a €6 covero fee. Just pay it MDW forcefully suggested and left me on my own to pay the bill. I did a quick translation to discover covero means inside or covered. There was no outdoor seating so maybe it’s a cover charge. I didn’t say anything and just paid. We started our walk back to the hotel and of course we walked right past the 50% off shop. As we had already purchased our momento we only had a quick glance and continued to the hotel. We picked up the bags and headed to the water bus stop at San Marco. Three stops and we reached the ferry port at San Basilio. We had been a bit nervous about the ferry trip to Croatia but the boat looks reasonably safe and is not overloaded. MDW had visions of an Indonesian style ferry, the ones that are overcrowded and sink.

    Our impressions of Venice.......
    It’s interesting with the canals, beautiful churches, a city of very old buildings in varying states of repair, obviously a different lifestyle, gondolas, no cars or bikes, people have to move everything by boat or on trolleys pushed by men around the streets. Even though it’s not peak season there are a lot of tourists, us included. The gondolier said tourism was a double edged sword, they need tourists to survive but they have pushed up the cost of living in Venice so there are not too many locals. Over 3 million tourists a year. Everything is becoming a hotel or Airbnb. It is frightfully expensive, a coke and a beer costs €20 if you want table service. Often there is a pungent smell along some streets, especially a couple of streets away from our hotel which helped us to locate it towards the end of our stay. One full day would have been enough, again we preferred Florence.
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