. Karla wasn't too excited about going, but I told her if I won, I'd buy her a wallet she was eyeing at Benetton. She agreed with that stipulation and I thought I was so sly not having to pay a cent. But luck be a lady, and lady's like wallets. I won a little and then begrudgingly had to keep my side of the bargain. Karla, now the proud owner of a new wallet, suggested we go to dinner and thus the rest of my winnings evaporated.
Day 39 - The boat pulled in to Venice early and we found ourselves on the pier groggy-eyed, donning our backpacks at 8 am. Venice is known for it's confusing address system but we found our hotel easily enough. Due to the fact that Venice is built on a series of islands, there are virtually no streets that run parallel to each other. Nothing in Venice resembles a grid. Instead, the thin alleys and tall buildings make you feel like you are in a labyrinth. We found ourselves sometimes having to go left and even backwards to get right. And a few times running in to canals and having to back track to find bridges. It was a textbook perfect day. We left our bags at the hotel and began wandering. On our way to St. Mark's Square, we stopped at a cute little story and bought some authentic, handmade Venetian carnival masks. They were surprisingly inexpensive compared to the price the Venetian Las Vegas sells them for. For 55 Euro, we got two matching hand-painted masks. Karla got a ladies face and I got a Casanova mask. It was neat to see the shop where the masks were made and meet the guy who painted them. He explained the method and took the time to show us the differences between our masks and other "cookie cutter" masks. Then we tackled the labyrinth trying to find St. Marks. When we arrived, we ate our picnic lunch (later we found out you can't sit and eat in the square). After lunch, we did something that all tourists do, but we've refrained from up to this point
. We fed the pigeons! We spent one euro each on a little bag of corn kernels and the pigeons were so excited that they would land on your arm and eat right out of your hand. Naturally when we saw a girl with one on her head, Karla had to go back and buy another bag and stand around until a pigeon landed on her head. I did the same thing. For the moment, our opinion of the flying rats improved. We still washed our hands immediately after. All and all, it's probably the most fun we've ever had for two euros. Now my favorite: The Water Bus. Because there are no motor vehicles allowed in Venice, all transport happens by boat. Buses, taxies, curriers, gondolas and personal boats weave through the canals with amazing skill. This little maritime element in this city made me smile constantly. I kept exclaiming at the boats and Karla thought the atmosphere of the city was romantic. It had gotten dark while we enjoyed the pigeons and so we sat out in front of the hotel on the tables and split a bottle of wine: something we've gotten a lot better at recently.
Day 40- The breakfast at the hotel the next morning was awesome. Unfortunately the weather was not! We had plans to go to the beach today but those were cancelled quickly when we saw the overcast skies. So instead we switched our plans and went to St. Mark's Basilica and visited the square again. Not even the pigeons were out today
. We went in to St. Marks and admired all the gold mosaics. It was very stunning but we were frustrated that the only thing that was free was the entry to the main chapel. They were charging a few euros for each place: the treasury, the golden chapel, the walk up to the dome. We would have seen more if it were free. Karla finally found a rosary that fit her criteria for 4 Euro: It had a picture of Pope Benedictus and St. Mark on the reverse. (In the Vatican City we only found rosaries with pictures of Pope John Paul or the Holy Mother.) On the way back from the square we shopped for some Murino glass items. Almost every small vendor in Venice sells some form of Murino glass. We started looking for the perfect wine stopper, the perfect pendant, the perfect whatever. We went back to the hotel and took a short siesta. I mailed a box of gifts and things home and Karla did laundry for us. As it turned out, both of us encountered problems. I went to the wrong post office for the package I wanted to send, then on my way to the other office I caught a water bus that went the wrong direction around the city, this added an extra 20 minutes to my journey. Karla had issues with the dryers in the laundry mat, the machines took her money all right but they forgot to produce any heat so after 8 euro and two hours of tumbling we were still left with wet laundry. She took it in stride and hung our wet laundry all about the room on any surface possible. That evening, we took the water bus to the center of the city where we saw an opera
. La Traviata is a classic Italian tragedy and is possibly the most famous opera in Venice if not all of Italy. The show was in a very small personal setting with a chamber Orchestra sitting just one row in front of us and the stage so close that there were no microphones needed. I didn't particularly like the casting as the main character was a tad too trendy looking and her lover had a mullet (I'm almost positive Giuseppe Verdi didn't have that in mind when he wrote the part for Alfredo) That evening rather than taking the water busses we walked though the streets to get back to our hotel.
Day 41- This morning it appeared to be better weather than the previous day so we donned our beach gear and caught the water bus toward Lido. I heard about Lido from guidebooks and other travelers and I expected it to be a thin barrier island with beach shacks and oceanside cafes and nothing else. As it turned out, there is a large permanent population on Lido. The island is long and thin, but wider than I expected. It took us about 10 minutes to walk across it. The biggest difference between it and Venice is the presence of cars. It was then that I realized that the lack of cars in downtown Venice was what give it part of it's magic.
It was a bit early for beach-goers and the shacks were still preparing for their opening day
. The beach was open so we walked along for a ways and took in the sights. Karla and I were both surprised by the amount of shells left on the beach by the sea. Strewn all over the beach, it was impossible to not step on them. Mountains of shells piled up marked the high-tide zone and made funny crunching sounds under your feet. They were all colors imaginable and if I were a shell collector or an artist making a shell collage I would have hit the jackpot. But I wasn't, I was a backpacker that valued every square inch of pack space, so instead of collecting the shells, I stepped on them. The sky looked threatening so we walked back through the beach community and caught the water bus back to the main city. We got off at a different stop this time and walked through a non-tourist area of east Venice. It was very neat to see all the Venetians in their every day life. Walking their dogs, hanging out their laundry, shopping for groceries. These are the things most tourists would never see if they stayed on the Grand Canal. It was really neat to experience it. After walking through the east side of the city we went back to the hotel and wrote postcards and took a quick siesta. When we awoke it was raining cats and dogs. We decided grudgingly to cancel a gondola ride, Karla was disappointed but we both agreed that 80 Euros for a rainy boat ride was not worth it. Oh well, that leaves us something to do when we return. And I do think that we will return to Venice. It is by far my favorite Italian city and I think probably Karla's too. It was a nice contrast to the rest of the large city experiences we had around Italy.
Day 38 - We were on ferry all day. This ferry was a little older but a little more posh then the one we took to Greece. We got an outdoor cabin so we could watch the ocean go by. A fee very well worth it because we got two nights accommodation out of it. I updated my travel journal a little bit and edited my travel journals. Karla did some window shopping at the United Colors of Benetton that happened to be on the boat. Seriously, there is like a 1,000 of them. That evening we had an indoor picnic using the food we bought at the super market. It was an enjoyable time. We patted ourselves on the back for all the money we saved. When I grew tired, Karla spent hours going through the remainder of the videos. All of our videos are up to date and this gives us a fighting chance of having some product finished when we arrive home. Oh, have I mentioned that we're making a video of our travels. It's really long and boring and we're going to force all of you to watch it--- then there's a slide show ☺. The casino was calling my name and I some how justified it by making the excuse that I had saved so much money on food costs that I could drop a 10 euro in the machine without feeling guilty