Monday, April 16, 2012

Day 83-85: Venice

Hello all! I have been back for a few days but once we touched down in Stansted, I had a few priorities that had to be addressed before I could update my adventures on the blog. The first being catching up on my sleep, a very desperately needed task after traveling for nearly two weeks, and then next came tackling the mountain of school work I had ignored! I'm still working on that one and studying for exams this week. But since I have a little bit of breathing room, I decided it's just as well to do something productive in my procrastination time. Here's the first in a series of posts for what happened on Midterm break!

 The first stop you will remember, if you read my last update before I left, was Venice. I love the city and I forgot how much until I arrived back there. We actually flew in on Thursday night (Mar 29) after classes were finished. Being the one who must always do something different, I dropped back to our campus to finish packing before heading to the airport to meet my traveling companions. Packed three times before finally giving up. Arrival in Venice Treviso airport was "on time" around 10 pm. Upon entering the main portion of the terminal, we realized a couple of things; 1. the airport was really small, 2. there were very few counters open, and no tourist desk, 3. the most fun realization was that our hostel directions were for another hotel of the same name, in Madrid. Great start to the trip! We managed to find a helpful woman who knew English at a local bus desk, who, after informing us the last bus to Venice had already left, called it back so we could get a ride to the city! Crisis averted, and a 45 minute bus ride later we arrived at the main bus station to the city. Since I had been to Venice before, I knew there were no cars so getting there by bus threw me off. The venture to the hostel from there was a fun adventure. We started the walk toward what we thought would be a main square, but quickly got off track. We found some nice Americans who tried to help us find directions. They ended up not being that helpful, through no fault of their own, but by not understanding the internet directions. We were directed toward the main square in Venice, the Piazza San Marco, to go find the hostel. Not right at all. We took a 50 euro water taxi to make it to this area, a pretty way to be introduced to the city on the Grand Canal even though we went in the wrong direction. Looking like lost tourists helped in this case, since we found two very nice Italian guys in the square who used both of their phones and spent about 20 minutes helping us figure out which way to go. One of the guys even called the hostel to get their directions when he couldn't find anything online. They're the only reason we didn't sleep on the streets. Once we rounded the corner and saw the sign, I was so happy to know I had a bed. Hilarious moment. Got checked in by 12 and I think we managed to get to sleep by 2. An interesting start!

Friday morning started off well. We managed to sleep in a little bit since some of the girls take longer to get ready than others. We planned to head to the main square but stopped for lunch around 11. It was nice to be able to sit in the sun, or the warmth at least in my case, and look forward to all the sights we were going to see. Met up with our two other travel companions around 12 in the Piazza San Marco, which we discovered as being about a 20 minute easy walk to our hostel. Lessons learned. Stopped for the first gelato of the trip on our route, my favourite Italian food by far. We all decided to chip in on a group gondola ride. The cost was cheaper for one of the girls to sit out rather than split into 3/4, so she voluntarily stayed on the banks of the Grand Canal looking at the boutiques along the walkways.

crazy happy face for gelato!

The gondola ride was different than the one I had before, probably because we got a guy on the Grand Canal instead in the smaller canals. He pointed out a few of the sights and explained some buildings. Turned out he had been working as a gondolier since he was 18, so for 42 years! Amazing! Here's some sights on the canals of Venice.


Click through for exploring more of Venice!

After the gondola ride, we met up again and headed to find the glass blowing factory from my past. I had remembered to look up the name of it but not the exact location. I knew it was close to Piazza San Marco but couldn't get the specifics since Venice doesn't actually have roads. We stumbled upon it once we found another glass blowing showroom. The guy at the door asked if we were a group, which we were, just a small one. They led us in and showed us a glass blowing demonstration. In turn for the free demonstration, they give you a sales pitch about the glass and products they sell. We all bought stuff, I even found matching earrings for a bracelet I bought there 5 years ago. Pretty cool I think.

We didn't have many other sights to see in Venice besides the St. Mark's and the actual Basilica, so the rest of the afternoon was spent wandering and souvenir shopping. I found my shot glass for the city and everyone else found lots too, around the Rialto bridge. Group pictures ensued. The rest of the afternoon consisted of some shopping and just wandering around. The night was an early one, a few girls went out for a hostel party but myself and another of the girls had headaches so we just hung out in the room and talked. Low key but it was a good way to relax.

tourist bottles of Grappa?
Saturday morning in Venice was a somewhat early one as well. We always make plans to meet at 10, but some of the girls take longer to get ready so we don't arrive til nearing on 11 usually. I had to stop at a pastry shop to get breakfast, even though we were late. Eating in the morning has to happen for me. We didn't end up meeting up until we went into St. Mark's Basilica. My first time in there, and I've actually stopped minding all the churches. Who knew. The tile work in the church was ridiculous, all mosaics with tiny little half inch tiles. Very impressive. The view from the terrace was really nice as well, group pictures there too.

Following the Basilica, we trekked over across the Canal to find a church one of the girls wanted to see. For what reason, I'm not sure, but it ended up being a meandering walk through Venice. We weren't really sure which way to go for a while, but it was cool to just walk around and see more of Venice than I ever had. Stopped by a canal for about an hour just sitting and talking, enjoying the sun. 

After finally finding the church, we went in and looked around then proceeded on to our next stop. San Maria della Salute I later found out was the name. It seemed a lot emptier than many of the churches I've been in. The next destination was the train station. We were leaving midday to go to Pisa from Venice the next day, and not wanting to miss any trains, we decided to go and get tickets that day to make sure we had a way out. More walking and following a somewhat map until we found another square with a Da Vinci exhibit that half went into. Myself and another of the group just sat outside and ate gelato, taking in the sights. Best gelato I've had, hands down. Too sad I didn't get the same kind again. Saw a glassblower hand blowing pieces to sell in his shop, really cool to see it on such a small scale.

After getting our tickets and finding the station, we separated to do some shopping. I found my Ciao Bella shirt and a new scarf, among other things. Met up at our hostel around 8 to go out and find a restaurant. It took a while since no one wanted to decide, but we found a nice place in the end. I got some really good gnocchi with a bolognese sauce, and we all shared wine. An early night since the wine was making me sleepy.

So ended Venice! Next stop, Pisa and Florence! Check back for more updates :)

Til next time!

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