Travelogue EE 6: Venice

20 August 2010


The bus trip from Split to Venice turned out to be not so bad after all. Would have been better without the waft of the French stinky cheese feet from next to us (worsened by them having the seats after the middle-exit so they had their legs draped over the railing in front of them and their Pieds de Fromage at our nose level), but still not so bad.

Pulled into Trieste around 7am and were delighted to find out trains run to Venice less than an hour apart. Booked seats on the 08h18 one and busied ourselves with polishing off the picnic pack and playing some cards. Would have liked an hour or 2 to explore Trieste as it seems really quaint (and wouldn’t have taken much time to cover the 5 or 6 worthy sites).

Timing worked out perfectly. Alighted at Venice train station just after 10h30, discovered that the bus station was indeed literally across the road (those ‘just around the corner’ descriptions rarely tend to be literal – especially when there’s heavy luggage involved) and were happily reunioning with Faye, Alex and Robbie 20 minutes later.

Being only 11h00 with check-in at 13h00 (which apparently took quite some negotiation to move forward from 14h00 so was not negotiable), we set to finding somewhere to kill the time. Popping heads in here and there, scanning menus and exchanging snippets with the odd host, Faye and I visualised the perfect spot… And it appeared. Well, there was no fountain and the beer wasn’t free, but it was an awesome little spot down a side street, so was shady and away from the madding crowds on the main drag.

We caught (who turned out to be) Julio as he had just opened the door and was turning the first bar stools off their overnight-on-the-table-upside-down positions. His eyes were bright and his smile welcoming. He had no idea what he was getting himself into.

We managed to avoid economy completely and take up most of the pavement section of the cafe/bar (staunchly to be called “Julio’s” by us, despite considerable branding claiming the place to be called Taverna Ciardi – and apparently on facebook so we were told repeatedly) with ourselves, our luggage and our animated conversations and lively hand gestures (no mean feat since the Londoners had been up since 4 and we’d onlysortofslept on the bus).

Before we knew it, it was 13h00 and we were off to our apartment to meet Fabio, our landlord. High 5 to Lixi for her – as always – internet research magic, our place was awesome!!

Double-storey and very modern (like VERY modern with electric shutters and stuff) and light and bright (sky lights, a lovely little terrace) and… Air-conditioned! Even the artwork on the walls was too holiday to take seriously – a series of 3D pieces by Marin Claire with random items (like VERY random things like pepper, paint brushes and flower pots) popping from oil-painted canvases.

After opening and closing the shutters several times (small things amuse tired small minds even more), basking in the air-con, leisurely cool showers and clean clothes, we were ready to hit the streets (and canals) of Venice.

First up, feeding the machines. We found a taverna serving a bargain 2 course plus accompaniment set menu for €11.50. Had a great lasagne (very relieved, Italy was under pressure to deliver me this lifelong favorite) for starter and seafood plate with calamari, shrimps and squidheads with chips for main.

Lix had constructed the world’s best map so we were able to (relatively) easily get our bearings to see where to get to for the touristy stuff. Venice is not an easy city for that. Lots of winding and narrow alleyways, piazzas that look the same, too many churches for them to serve as landmarks anymore, buildings that look like an endless Monte Casino and bridgesbridgesbridges. Still, we managed to find the highlights, get the right pics of the right things (Rialto Bridge, St Mark’s Square, some buildings and monuments and some things that hordes of other people were posing around so must be important surely), including settling in next to Tina Turner’s leather skirt and Madonna’s black sequinned hotpants for sundowners at Hard Rock Cafe.

Had a stab at the local supermarket (Billa) en route home. Very different to home. Even the simplest things take the longest time as their are new and exciting choices to evaluate in almost every category, new procedures to muddle through and all sorts of absolute essentials that ‘these people surely can’t not have?!’

A few nightcaps at our happy home and, all exhausted, we conceded to Friday being an early night.

What a great night’s sleep! The electric rolldown shutters are masterful and the room is dark as night, even when day comes!

Saturday morning brought all new good humour. A beautiful sunny day in Venice and we were ready to enjoy it!

Lix whipped up some French toast with a tomato/bacon/onion/garlic salsa side (mmmm), which we tucked into at a lovely breakfast on our terrace that was all very civilised… until RoRo got the party started with healthy doses of vodka (Chris and I had been delighted to find a bottle store on Trogir Island the day before and had splashed on 2l of vodka and a litre of each of our four favorite Croat draughts) in our morning orange juice. This, combined with our obligation to wait for the ice to set so we could empty and refill the trays to make another batch while we were out, led to things heading decidedly in the direction of messy.

We ended up ‘waiting for ice’ until about 3 o’clock, when we headed for the local Irish pub to watch the rugby (SA vs NZ, so I’m told). Several shooters (enough that I had Jager splashes on the back of my t-shirt), a bleated national anthem (us, ours, on the bar counter) and many spurts of photos later, we’d lost Faye and Lix. Completely.

Never ones to fret, me and the boys went next door to McD’s to have a Mighty Bite bacon and cheese burger meal and discuss strategy.

That was the plan. What ended up happening was Robbie engrossing himself in our neighbouring table, while Christian ate his AND all but 2 bites of Robbie’s burger and then replacing the remnants in Robbie’s container – and Robbie not realising that most of his burger was missing!

Somehow we managed to get separated in our exit and I ended up manning the bridge to the right of us while Chris went to see if Robbie had gone left. No sign of him anywhere!

I’m super-glad it wasn’t me. With my sense of direction and that labyrinth (and no map nor any idea of our address) I’d still be looking for home!

However, Christian navigated with ease – and who should we bump into at Julio’s…? Faye and Alex having very civilised drinkies. The details are a bit blurry (to all) but we were home shortly after, safe and sound… For midnight snacks (chips and verysloppysortof spaghetti pomodoro) and nightcaps.

Robbie came tumbling in an hour or so later – very short on details on where he’s been, but safe, sound, in one piece and very merry.

Luckily there was a tres bizarre tv game show to keep us entertained (Italian terrestrial tv only seems to be infomercials dotted with cartoons and weirdy gameshows) and we had a very low brain-power, high-relaxation end to an eventful day of mishaps and misadventures.

Then it was Sunday…

Bizarrely, our wonder apartment didn’t have a toaster. But we did have the Alex 2011 with us, so were able to regain signs of human life with fried sandwiches of the best cheese, ham, salami and sliced beef Italy (well, Billa and then our fridge) had to offer. Enough butter to clog an artery… Or in this case jumpstart the zombies on the couch (we were now quite into the infomercials and there was quite pacey discussions about the Stanner Stairlift, the Relax and Tone, Water Smile filters).

Fortunately a channel hop during breakfast left us on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (in Italian, which is weirdly fitting with their Italian painter names and penchant for pizza) and was the perfect impetus for discussing plans for the day’s sight-seeing, which centred around a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and a trip to Giorgio Island to get pananoramic views of the Venice coast- and skyline.

The walk to the Guggenheim was enough to require a refuel, so we stopped in at a little bar/cafe for a quick snack. They have a brilliant snack strategy – a glass counter displaying a wide selection of wraps, tramezzinis, sandwiches rolls, all cheesed, meated and garnished and ready for a quick whirl in the flatbed toaster before a delicious steaming hot and fresh baked item is served to you moments later. Genius!

Having gotten all the culture behind them (we left the others to go to Guggenheim while we window-shopped and got hopelesslessly lost on our way back), we bought vaporetto tickets to see the city from the waterways, get over to Giorgio and take the long way home around the only unexplored side of the island. Bloody marvellous to just sit and let the view come to us for a change 🙂

Made our own Spag Bol for dinner and did a worthy job of it too! A very lovely and cultured dinner at the table and everything – even with champagne for an early celebration of Lix’s impending birthday.

Did the right thing and popped in at Julio’s for a last fond farewell. Having been sane, sober and present at our communal meeting place of choice, he was able to provide some interesting insights into our comings and goings the night before that cleared things up a bit. And opened up all new questions too! All good though and he said we were all fun in our muddle, so no real harm done. :o)

The Londoners headed off at an ungodly hour to catch their flight, while we enjoyed our last lie in with the heavenly electric blinds (would make a great name for a band). Scoffed down a real patchwork breakfast with eggs and cheese scrambled with spaghetti and top with a spoonful of bolognaise mince, and half glasses of this and that to finish them off (thankfully not the vodka or beers, which Alex, Faye and I had had the good sense to finish off the night before).

Headed to Marco Polo airport via vaporetto (without incident despite having not bought a ticket – €13!! – and standing next to not one but two conductors most of the way, and an incident where our driver managed to play dodgems with another vaporetto and a private speedboat causing much armwaving and heated Italian from the shore, causing the vaporetto to reverse to assess the damage, but seemingly only for curiosity’s sake as no details were perceptibly exchanged, bar a few middle fingers which I’m relatively sure weren’t insurance-related) and stuck bags in the lockers (after runaround from the Lufthansa call centre who said we could check in at midday, the check-in desk who said we couldn’t and the luggage check-in guy who had to wait for the security guy to return – newspaper under his arm, clearly having gone off to do his official ‘business’ – to xray our bags) and caught the local bus for a few stops to get off and amble through the greater Venice countryside, popping in here and there for a drink and to play some cards to soak in the aircon.

Got back to the airport and checked in uneventfully. Grabbed a slice of sausage pizza (big enough to be a half pizza at home) and a Peroni and we were off again.

Headed for Frankfurt, we’ve been diverted because of a big storm and are currently delayed in a divert to Nurnberg.