Trip Start Aug 01, 2008
1Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
I was fortunate to even get this trip. With 20 years seniority, I am still junior on the trans-Atlantic routes. But I had made myself available on a day off and someone had called in sick, so scheduling called me out of the blue and said, "Larry, we have Venice. Do you want it?" "Hell yes!" I replied, well, maybe not Hell yes, but I did say yes and 20 minutes later I was packing and then on my way to the airport to commute from my home in Cleveland to my base of operations, Philadelphia
Even better, once I had gotten the trip and was on my way to the airport, I text messaged my pal Mark James Wawrzynski (MJ to those in Cleveland, Chet to those in Philly, Em to me ). Em had flown to Spain the previous Friday to begin his summer holiday and I vaguely remembered he had something about going to Italy this year. He text back that he was heading to Venice in the morning and would arrive about 30 minutes before I would. Excellent! He could stay with me, and I would have someone other than crew members to pal around with. We had met last summer on his vacation as well (we've actually known each other 12 or so years) in Madrid and had a great time! So it was going to be an extra special trip as well. Venice, and MJ all rolled into one!
As a crew member, we do not get much time to see the places we visit. We have often flown the entire night before, and when we arrive, it is time for sleep. After hooking up with Em at the Venice Airport, a charmingly small and efficient service provider to the region, we rode with the rest of the crew to the hotel. After a little Night cap (at 10:00 am local, 4 a.m. EST),I hit the sack and Em headed out for a little exploration on his own.
I awoke on time at 2:40, just before Em called saying he was heading back to the hotel. A quick shower, cup of coffee or two and a small sandwich left me raring to get into Venice for the first time. You know the saying about the "best laid plans" and all? Well, if you don't Google it. We did our research on the internet, where to go, what to see, where was the local Rainbow drinking establishment, and had a glass of wine, chatted, went to the bank, Em showered, and so on. We actually did not leave the hotel until almost 5. [SIGH]. The day was waning and I was missing it all, or so I believed.
The NH Laguna Palace Hotel [ www.nh-hotels.com ] is across the viaduct from the actual and historical city of Venice. It is situated in a somewhat industrial area, but is what is provided by the airline, and is all actuality quite nice. It has all the modern conveniences, is clean and the staff curteous, sometimes even polite (you know Italians, there is always an air of superiority about the service people in this great country, kind of like Parisians, but not with the sharp edge). All in all, it is a nice hotel without being in the center of things, which is a blessing at times and a curse at others. But if you go to Venice and want a nice modern hotel, with all the modern conveniences, I would not hesitate to suggest the Laguna Palace Hotel
As we crossed the viaduct, it suddenly seemed familiar to me. At least the train tracks on one side and the view out across the lagoon. Then it dawned on me, Katherine Hepburn leaned out the windows of her train car as she approached Venice in her movie "Summertime", about a Midwestern woman who goes to Venice to find love. It was a great movie ( I am a big Kate Hepburn fan!) and I quickly made a mental note to watch it again when I returned home. Then we were there, the bus pulled up to the station and we were off and searching info about the return times so we would not get stuck in the city sleeping on a bench, providing there were benches to be slept on
My heart leapt at my first glimpse of a canal. I was truly in Venice, with its narrow streets, Venetian glass shops, Carnivale costumers, and pizzerias. We just kind of wandered really, drinking in the atmosphere. We went into a church to see it's marvels, and were amazed by one wall with these large Nubian statues that seemed to be holding up the rest of the façade. They were amazing, and detailed. I do not know what stone they were carved from, but the expressions on their faces, the way their muscles bulged in holding up the church hierarchy above them was amazing. they were clad in white, and there were worn spots in their clothing where you could see their black skin beneath, all done in stone. Amazing. And haunting. One figure, the center one on the right, had an intensity that bore into me. He was especially haunting with his stare and mustache. I will look for a photo of this to post, and as I write this, I realize I need to keep more notes than I do so I can send you there when you visit. It was amazing, and we did not get to stay much longer. It was almost 6 and the guard was ushering everyone out.
As we wandered along the narrow streets, Em said it had been a madhouse earlier in the day, the streets and plaza's crowded with tourists and locals alike. I can imagine it was so, I had seen four cruise ships docked as we had driven across the causeway. The Ms Zuiderdam (www.HollandAmerica.com ) and my favorite cruise line!), Cunard Lines Queen Victoria ( www.Cunard.com ), the Crystal Serenade (www.crystalcruises.com or referred to by a passenger on the way over who was sailing on her, the Crystal Senility! We love ya Roy from Miami!) and another I could not make out
But it was almost peaceful now. And we wandered up and across bridges, thru plaza's and down alleyways. All the time just taking it in, shooting the odd photo and peeking in the odd shop. It truly is a romantic place. Hope and promise around each corner. Wonderful smells of pizza and good food wafting across a plaza, then the stench of the canal as you cross. It is amazing, it is alive, relaxing, and invigorating all at once. I was falling, and falling hard for Venice. Just as long as I didn't fall into a canal, I was ok with it!
We ducked into a shop to check out the tourist trade. Ok, it was full of crap no one needs and everyone buys. Em had bought a pair of cufflinks earlier in the day, and I was determined to get a pair of Venetian glass cufflinks for myself as well, they'll look nice with my kilt! We poked into several shops before I found what I wanted, looking at blown glass animals (including one elephant that had a goldfish in it's tummy, which we could not figure out but had made us laugh none the less). Once I was cuff linked, we were off in search of a snack to tide us over until dinner later in the evening.
Now, c'mon, we're in Italy, so combine snack and Italy, and it is spelled P I Z Z A! We found a little shop that was open to the narrow alley we were on and went in. The young woman behind the counter obviously enjoyed her job, and new all the locals who seemed to be stopping by. It was loud, boisterous, full of laughter and smelled heavenly. And I didn't even take a picture (note to self, take more pictures of the important stuff, and note their names and locations) We ordered two slices, a Peroni each and stood there stuffing our faces
15 minutes later we were once again wandering, refueled and a little buzz on, checking the map periodically and to avoid going in circles. We wandered all over, working our way from the bus depot towards Piazza San Marco. We crossed the Grand Canal at Ponte di Rialto just as the sun was beginning to really set. It was amazing, all the gondola's, and the little restaurants lining the canal, the crowds making their way across the bridge and the evening air, crisp and cool as the breeze picked up. On the other side as I crossed the bridge, I saw a man on a balcony just staring down the canal towards the setting sun, and I liked the scene so much I shot the photo (check it out), imagining myself being the lucky soul on the balcony.
On the other side of the canal we made our way through the warren of streets and by many small cafés and restaurants
The crowds began to become dense again as we made our way to Piazza Ducale and a coffee shop to rest our feet and have a coffee for the caffeine buzz. We plotted our way back, looking for the location of the pressed penny machine Em had located online so he could get his traditional souvenir. We never did find it, but would our way back towards the bus depot, passing a Vivaldi concert with the halls windows and doors wide open to allow the breeze in, which allowed the music out. A bit trite to listen to "The Four Seasons" in Venice, but it was well played and made for a lovely moment.
Finally we were truly getting hungry at a proper Venetian dinner time of 9pm and found a lovely little tourist trap, I mean restaurant in some piazza, and chose it for the mis matched lamps it had on the tables
I thought we would head back to the hotel when we got off the bus, but Em suggested we at least go and look for the only Gay bar in Venice, which was located not too far from where we were, or so we thought. We wandered around, with only a slight inkling of where it might be, half remembered from the computer page we had googled earlier in the day. But it was fun, wandering around some light industrial streets, laughing and talking of the day. We finally gave up and went back to the hotel, where we night capped with a Heinekin and the Summer Olympics in Russian. Off to sleep, and dreams of a wonderful day in Venice
I did get a text message from Em when I returned to the states the next day, saying we had not been too far off from our quest the night before. Had we crossed over the railway tracks as I had suggested, we would have found the street and the bar we had been looking for. And then later a text saying he had found the pizza shop and the pressed penny machine we had looked for the night before. He was then on his way to Zagreb, and I was on my way back to Cleveland for the night. My next trip is to Portland Oregon to visit Anthony who just moved from Cleveland while we were on the cruise, and then to Stockholm over the weekend. Ah, the glamorous life of a stewie you think, but it is not really. I am in the writing mood now, but there will be a time when I just get to some far off exotic locale, and I just slam-click the hotel door not to emerge until call time the next day. But as long as there are adventures to have and share, I have decided to keep up the blog. So, until I write again, keep reading, keep traveling and never let adventure get too far away from you!
P.S. I discovered Jason Mraz on this trip as well while listening to MTV in the hotel room, new CD titled "We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things" is amazing! Check it and him out at www.jasonmraz.com !