Original plan was as follows:
1 Leave Bologna at 9 am, arriving in Venice at 10:30
2. Store our luggage at the train station and head off to the islands to explore
3. Take the boat bus to Doge's Palace and Basilica St Marc. See San Marco Piazza
4. Feed the pigeons
5. Explore a little bit before going to the Rialto Bridge to see the main canal and to explore the fish market
6. Consider a gondola ride with the kids
7. Take the boat bus to Murano Island to see them blow glass.
1. Our train left Bologna right on time. We are becoming expert packers so it was an easy morning escape.
2. Got about 20 km from Venice when our train stopped. Announcement that the train was being held at the stop and there could be 20 min - 2 hours delay before we were allowed to proceed.
3. One hour later, train conductor comes to tell us there was a death on the tracks at the next station, so the line is closed. She hope we will be moving in another 40 minutes.
4. Moment of sadness. Hard to feel anything but sorrow for those affected.
5. Train finally moves on to Venice but arrives 2 hours late. No worries. We will just see what we can see.
6. Arrive at the mainland station at 12:30.Disembark and take our luggage to baggage storage.
Glad we packed in 3 suitcases instead of 5 since it costs 6 euros per piece for the first 5 hours then and additional 80 cents per hour per piece. Welcome to Venice!
7. Lunch at the train station as everyone is getting squirrelly. Options--McDonalds, or sandwiches at a small cafe. Turns out the cafe is cheaper and offers healthier food than McDonalds. Thank heavens. McDonald's trio a mere 12 euros a person ($18). Ouch. Sandwiches at the cafe 5 euros/person.
8. Board another train to cross the causeway from the mainland to the island.
Arrive at Venice proper around 2 p.m and promptly purchase bus boat passes for the day. (20 euros each for a 24 hour pass or 7.50 euros/person each time you board) Gulp. And that is the budget transportation. Boat taxis and gondolas cost more.
Other option - you walk. Not a good option when you only have a few hours to explore.
10. Take bus boat to St Marcos Square. Board the right boat but going the wrong direction. End up circling the outside of the island complex instead of heading done the main canal. See a lot of cruise ships. Takes 40 minutes instead of the 20 it takes to go through the canal.
More lost time, but at this point, not much to do.
11. Arrive at San Marco Piazza.
Disembark in a mass of people.
Wall to wall tourists in the blaring heat.
Not working for us.
Slip down a side street for some shade and wind our way to St Marks Cathedral through the side streets.
12. Line up to enter the cathedral.
After waiting for 30 minutes, get to the cathedral door to be turned away because we are all carrying knapsacks.
No knapsacks in the cathedral. Don't cross a tired, hot mom! I collect all the knapsacks and send Eric in with the children.
There is no way we are all standing in line again.
Walk with 5 knapsacks to the baggage storage centre to learn a small mercy.
Decide that I will store the bags and try to catch up to the rest of the gang.
13. Second small mercy. With the baggage coupon, I can skip the line and head right into the basilica. I do just that. Rush through the cathedral to find the family and can't see them anywhere. Get worried.
14. Figure they must have gone to the treasury so head up the stairs to see. I am blocked from entering because you have to pay 5 euros. I don't have any money because unfortunately, Eric is carrying all the cash. Try to ask the guard if there are any small children inside. He firmly shakes his head NO. I wonder where they are. I leave and circle the basilica again trying to find the family.
15. Run through the entire cathedral, not stopping to really enjoy it. Text Eric. Call Eric. No response. Start to get worried.
16. Decide to wait outside in case they raced through and are now outside waiting for me.
17. Give up. Wait outside the exit for them.
18. Family finally arrives. They were in the TREASURY. Who would have guessed. I think the guard there obviously didn't understand my english. Sigh.
19 Collect our bags and head for the Piazza 20 Feed pigeons. See previous email. Lots of fun for everyone except Rebecca who loves birds as much as Grandpa Jarvis.
21. Rebecca wants to climb the tower. Get in line again. After about 15 minutes check on the price. 8 euros/person for a elevator ride up a "reconstructed" ancient tower. The ancient tower fell over in 1980 so this is a replica with an elevator. You can't climb the steps. Decide 48 euros isn't in the budget for an elevator ride.
22. Look at gondolas. Thomas really wants to do it. Cost 80 euros ($120) for 40 minutes. Hmmm. Walking around is looking pretty good at this time and is in our budget.
. Take the boat bus in the right direction this time to the Rialto Bridge. Throngs of people now so we are stuck in the centre of the boat. Not the best views of the canal, but pleasant nonetheless. Realize it is better to stand at the prow, at least you can see a bit better.
24. Get off at the Rialto Bridge. It's under reconstruction. You can cross it but you can't actually look off of it and view both sides of the canal. Follow the throngs of people who want to cross the bridge. Do so and get the north view of the canal. Hard to take a photo, but you me know, I'll do just about anything to get a photo. See attached photos of Hebe and Thomas and Rebecca.
. Head into the side streets to find the fish market. The fish market is closed of course. It's only open until 1 p.m. Find some other interesting things to see like long liquorice whips (eric buys a few), calzone which we eat for a snack, and a store selling fish pedicures. See attached photos. Only problem with the 4 cheese calzone that the kids ordered was that the 4th cheese was blue cheese. Not a big hit. I was tempted to try the fish pedicure. You simply put your feet in a tank full of tiny scavenger fish, who promptly go to work "eating" dead skin off your feet.
26. It is now nearly 6:30 p.m and we realize that we need to start heading back to the train station.
We take the boat bus back to the island terminal and decide to do one final walking tour to the Venetian Jewish Ghetto.
Really interesting history.
All were deported during the war. Only 8 known Venetian Jews survived the Holocaust. Beautiful walk and away from the main canal. The streets were nearly empty. It was delightful and refreshing.
27. Bought ice cream for the kids in the Ghetto. Cost 2.50 euros each. A steal of a deal since on the main strip the same size of cone cost 4.50 euros. Why didn't we stick to the smaller streets earlier?
28. Head back to the mainland to retrieve our luggage before the baggage claim centre closes at 8 p.m. Dinner at the train station while we wait for our 9 p.m sleeper train to Vienna.
And so goes an unexpected adventure. Not what we planned but pleasant none-the less.
Notes to self next time I go to Venice.
1. Avoid the tourist hubs during high season.
Get off on the small streets earlier, and if you can, walk Venice.
2. Do the walking tours of the smaller neighbourhoods
3. Take the canal boat the right direction
4. Register for the mask painting class. Learned about that online but didn't have time to register.
5. Arrange a gondola lesson for my teenagers. Learned about that online too. Cost 100 euros for 4 persons for 2 hour. Sounds like a deal after learning the gondola rate of 80 euros for a 40 minute ride.
6. Pack a lunch and bring plenty of water. Few public fountains, like in Rome.
7. Buy all food off the main streets. You will save yourself a lot of money.
7. Don't forget to bring some corn to feed the birds and to share with others.
Honouring Arta's 75th: Third Quarter Quell, Day 64