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Venice, Italy – Days 1 & 2

Author: PenelopeCorelli
Date of Trip: July 2009

Friday, July 17: Venice, Day 1

Sailed in to Venice in the morning, while the crew passed out cannoli. Everyone’s favorite sail-in! We are here for 3 full days. The ship normally docks in Split, Croatia on this leg, but because of the major holiday in Venice this weekend, Festa Del Redentore, no ships are allowed to enter or leave until Monday. Listened to some of Rick Steve’s audio tour of the Grand Canal, which I had downloaded to my mp3. Amazing views! A thrilling experience!

We left at about 11:30am. Walked to Piazzale Roma (18 minutes, 1.4 km). Searched for and found Venice Connected. We bought transportation passes online: 72-hour ones for Jim & myself (31,35 € each) and a 36-hour one for Cate (21,85 €), who was returning home on Sunday. It entitled us to as many trips as we needed for that time period. Saved a lot of money that way. We also bought museum passes (16,00 € for adults & 10,00 € for students under 29 — & those over 65) through Venice Connected. It includes other services such as Casino admission (which we didn’t use) and Wi-Fi. (We never were able to get online — people at Venice Connected in Venice either knew nothing or couldn’t help us).

Aside: We were spending our 40th anniversary alone — when first booking the cruise our other children encouraged us to go alone, but we wanted to take our youngest, since the rate was supposedly a lot less for the third person, and it would be a lifetime experience for her. I was fortunate enough to have been on a 2-week bus tour of Europe when I was 18, courtesy of my parents (I was an only child, so it was easier for them to do it.). When we actually booked our 13 year-old daughter, HAL said we’d have to pay for the full trip — 24 day back to back — not just the 12-day. And her fare was considerably more than the “starting at $99” promo rate. But she was thrilled and had a wonderful time. She was ready to return when the time came — she missed her dog — and we promised we’d take the Family Doll we made of her — to Athens.

At Venice Connected we gave our PNR number that we received via email when we bought the tickets and then got our passes. The heat seemed okay earlier — tolerable, but later it got hotter. (After all, it was mid-July!) Took a water, but bought another for €2 — 11/2 liters.

We took the Number 1 Vaporetto that starts at Piazzale Roma, so we got good seats outside and up in the very front. Front left is slightly better than front right because of an obstruction on the right side. There is no center view, so you have to decide as you get on where the best chance is of a great seat. There are others with the same plan. But we had the most awesome ride down the Grand Canal! We were oohing and aahing all the way, taking lots of photos and movies. This vaporetto stops at every stop. We got off at the stop past St. Mark’s (less crowded) and walked to the Doge’s Palace.

Aside: We went to few museums on our vacation due to time constraints and not wanted to see things we can see in a book or online — as opposed to the sights and sounds and tastes of actually being in a different place. Museums are great, but pictures from the inside all look similar — because they’re inside. Of course, there is usually a/c!….But naah, we just got gelati and sweat it out!

The Doge’s Palace – golden staircase, beautiful ceilings, Tintoretto art, lovely courtyard, the Bridge of Sighs; it was great. Paid € 5 for one audio guide. Didn’t want to spend a lot of time here stopping by each thing to hear a five minute talk about it, so we listened to a few of the things and walked around. Jim got busted twice for taking photos (it was on museum mode- no flash, no sound), although we saw others taking photos at times & would see a flash now& then. He took a few arbitrarily pointed at the ceiling, but they didn’t come out, anyway. Postcards or the Internet are the best way to get good museum shots.

We then went on a walk through the streets of Venice. Jim had a walking tour planned using the old American Express travel guides. We had used these in London & Paris years before, so I ordered Rome, Florence & Venice books from booksellers online. Paid €4.05 for drinks and 3 postcards.

Got hotter. Saw churches and walked up and down many bridges. Cate found a glass maker’s shop — L’Albero on Calle dell’Ospealetto 6376 & bought 2 pendants – for herself & her friend, € 10 each. The artist, Giuseppe Inzerillo, said he sold his things to other dealers and shops in Venice.

Stopped at Pyramid Pizza. Jim & Cate had a pizza, I had gnocchi, & we bought a bottle of water. The food prices weren’t cheap but were fairly reasonable, we thought, until they charged us 2 € each for eating in! So that’s a 30% tip! Paid 28,50€ total.

They then had gelati (2 € each) & I bought a small painted mask for €1,80. Prices were cheaper than shops in heavy tourist areas.

Went into a church — here they charge you 3 € to go into a church! – Unless there’s a mass, I think. We didn’t go in, but Cate bought a rosary bracelet for 2 €.

As we walked along the narrow streets we came upon a pet store — of all things! Martin Pescatore on Cannaregio 6423 (I kept the receipts so I could see where we went.) So Cate bought a toy and some treats for her/our dog, who was at home with the other family members. He was about the only one we hadn’t bought presents for yet! One large squeaky zebra bone = € 6,50 & 3 stick chew treats of different colors = € 0.35 each.

We got a little lost looking for the Rialto Bridge — but you’re supposed to get lost in Venice — part of the experience! Paid another 2,50 € for water.

Tried to find out how to use the WiFi, but no one could tell us at Venice Connected how exactly to do it: what was our User Name & Password? Tried several things, checked our email confirmation for some sort of code, but never figured it out.

Found the free shuttle to our ship — the Oosterdam — it left Piazzale Roma at about 6pm.

Saturday, July 18: Venice, Day 2

Walked to Piazzale Roma — the shuttles weren’t running yet, as it was early. Stopped at the Post Office by the vaporetto stop to get stamps (€1,70) for my postcards & mail them.

Took the Number 1 vaporetto to St. Mark’s — we wanted to get in the cathedral early & avoid some of the crowds. The line was already long, but it moved fairly well. Walked through the cathedral. The floor was beautifully tiled with many designs. We stood in a line for a while, but got out. I don’t know — see a line, get in it. Why? Don’t want to miss something. Jim later thought that maybe it was to view the partial remains of St. Mark, but looking it up, I think it was to see the jewels at the altar or to go up higher. The line was moving very slowly, so we skipped it — this time. We did walk through the Treasury, at the price of 3€ each, which included an audio tour. There were lots of beautiful things: chalices, intricate gold work, bones (well, not beautiful, but interesting.) No cameras allowed.

In the church gift shop, which had a lot of things and had long lines, also, Cate bought a cross pendant for €2. Great price!

Visited the Correr Civic Museum in Piazza San Marco that details the history of the city from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Many rooms, each with an information card explaining the artifacts or paintings in several languages, including English. After reading the card, we replaced it. There are rooms with armory, ship’s instruments, coins, portraits of city fathers, and different eras from the Greco-Roman through the Middle Ages.

After that, we stopped for…. that’s right, a gelato! Cate had one & Jim had a limone – slushie – €2 each.

We then took the boat to Murano. It was relatively quiet there, not many tourists. Lots of glass shops, of course, about one every 20 feet! Bought a few gifts and souvenir items, mostly for Cate’s gifts to bring home to family. We stayed for lunch at a sidewalk cafe — Ristorante DALLA MORA s.n.c. It was very nice. We paid €54 for 3 entrees, 4 cappuccinos (2,50€), a Coke (2,50€), and a beer (4,50€). – On the bill it lists 5 capp, 1 caffe?(1,60), 1 beer, 1 Coke. (Either we had more, or we didn’t check the bill carefully.) Anyway, it was still great! That’s 3 plates & 8 drinks. A good price for Europe. There was a 1€ cover charge each, and they add a 12% service charge/gratuity. It was right by the canal, and the quiet made it a nice change from the hectic pace of our days. On top of that, the weather was definitely cooler today, with a few low clouds — That right there is good!

Aside: Some of the European websites are poor. I’m talking about the Dubrovnik Restaurant and now the Murano one — lots of buttons but no working links. Well, the Della Mora has one link at the very bottom, a copyright link. I checked it out and found I could access the dinner menu from there, which brought me to the page where the home page should have taken me — this has 3 working links, one that takes me back to the home page and a dead end. They need some American computer geeks to help them!

Back to business: We wanted to go to Burano — next time!! — or Lido Island, but it was quite a distance farther and I had to get back to pack Cate’s suitcase.

Tip: This was mentioned earlier, but bears repeating: The vaporetto must be boarded away from (before) St. Mark’s to avoid the crowds. Get on as close to the beginning of the route as possible. People (locals, also) seem to avoid sitting inside, so there are often seats there, but the best place is in the front sections on the left and right. There are about 10 seats in each, and the left is a little better for a clear view of everything. Awesome photos!

We got some good seats again and headed back toward Ple. Roma. There were now large crowds forming for the evening’s festivities — Festa Del Redentore, Feast of the Redeemer.

Chairs were arranged in the Piazzas with center stages for musicians by the outdoor cafe tables. The canals were filling up with boats, many decorated with flags and balloons. Partygoers were gathered on the boats, ready for the evening.

We rode up the canal and the whole atmosphere was electric. Music and singing could be heard. Bridges were crowded with those establishing their viewing places. And it was only just after 6pm. Fireworks weren’t scheduled to start until 11:30pm.

As we approached our stop, one boat filled with partyers was playing “Mama-Mia” over a loudspeaker, and everyone was singing at the top of their voices. Other boats had music playing — all Italian favorites, of course! We took a lot of photos and a couple of movies of the scene.

Jim wondered why some were swimming in parts of the canals. Though the canals are cleaner than years ago, still they are probably dirty. (One woman we talked to said that on her trip many years ago, the smell was awful. She saw a cat that turned out to be a rat! Then the Dutch came & showed Venetians how to clean the canals.)

We saw a view of the evening’s fireworks from the ship, but it started late, at 11:45. It was large, although a mile away. The final burst that sounded like a nuclear explosion — though I’ve never heard one – came toward 12:30am. We thought it was a little silly that people were saving chairs on the viewing deck as early as 2pm! It’s just fireworks, for goodness sake — far away – imagine spending 9 hours cruise time guarding chairs! Venetian fireworks were a little disappointing in that they were monochromatic. A lot of green, then a lot of red, with no multicolored fireworks. We took some photos, deleting some, & a movie of the finale. Heard that someone took 500 photos — of fireworks!? Hopefully they’ll delete many — or their friends will avoid them!

Packing notes: Cate leaves for home tomorrow and we continue with the second leg of the back-to-back cruise. So I packed our extra books in Cate’s case (places we’d been), the olive oil and Polish foods amongst her clothes — Zip-loc bags. We’ll have a couple of post-cruise days (We’ll have to lug our cases on the train), and there’s no a/c in a lot of places, so I can add some things in her tote that might then be saved (Polish chocolate gingerbread cookies!) She will have help with the suitcase, so we packed it to the max weight, using our portable scale. It was handy having her help get our stuff safely home!

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