Day One: Venice

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I am here, in Venice, an amazing city I have wanted to visit my entire life! Blogging from my phone is painstakingly slow, but I’ll get used to it. It’s three in the morning, and since I am apparently still running 7 hours ahead of myself and can’t sleep, I can at least write about what we saw today.

We landed at Venice Marco Polo Airport yesterday morning at 8:30 am. I was relieved to be reunited with my luggage, the first of many anxious moments! We found an ATM machine, a “Bancomat,” and our bank card successfully withdrew some Euros — second anxious moment painlessly averted.

Marco Polo Airport isn’t very big, at least not nearly as big as Chicago O’Hare or Philadelphia. It was easy enough to buy two tickets for the Alilaguna, a water bus that took us around the city and deposited us at Piazza San Marco. We found the shuttle boat to our hotel on Venice Lido, which is a long, narrow barrier island southwest of the city that separates the Venitian lagoon from the Adriatic.

After a short nap, we took the shuttle back to the city and just wandered around. I thought it would be easy to get lost in the maze of narrow streets and alleyways, but almost every corner has a sign pointing to a major landmark like San Marco or Rialto. And Venice really isn’t all that big. If you had a leisurely day and lots of energy, you could walk the entire city.

We found ourselves walking along the Grand Canal when the sun finally broke through the clouds. I took the picture above, of the canal filled with gondoliers hoping to snag some business for the evening. Lots of tourists! I can’t even say how many different languages I heard as we walked.

We ate what I am going to call our 25th anniversary dinner at a little restaurant tucked under the Rialto bridge, only a few steps from the Grand Canal. Between my pathetic Italian and a very attentive and helpful waiter who loved the Boston Red Sox and also spoke a little English, we were able to order spaghetti with seafood for David and lasagne with meat for me, plus a half jug of wine, which is apparently the Italian equivalent of water. The food was excellent and the ambiance was spectacular, totally worth the 70 euros we spent for a meal I will never forget.

We bought bananas and grapes (uve) from an open air market run by some very pushy Indians, but the fruit was excellent. We found a little shop that sold small appliances and batteries, and since David’s electric shaver had died the day we were packing to leave, we went inside to buy a new one. The shopkeeper was a very nice middle-aged man, and i decided that if i was ever going to try to speak Italian, it was now or never.

“Buona sera, signore,” I said. Italian 101, successfully completed.

He smiled, and I bumbled on. “Parla inglese?” I was really hoping he did.

“No,” he shook his head. “Un pò.” A little.

We worked our way through the purchase of a new travel shaver, with batteries. “Quant’è?” I asked. How much?

“€37.50 euro,” he said.

We paid with our bank card, so handy! “Grazie tanto, signore.” I said. Thank you very much. He smiled, said grazie, and we left. Over time I might forget half of the things we saw today, but I will never forget buying a new shaver from a friendly Italian shopkeeper.

Walked back to the boat through Piazza San Marco in the dark, still bustling with people and young Indian men hawking long stemmed roses and little fiber optic helicopter-like toys that shot into the air like fireworks. Three different orchestral ensembles, the “dueling orchestras,” took turns playing as we walked, dressed to the nines in tuxedoes and long black dresses.

Tomorrow we are planning to see some museums, St. Marks Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace. I’d better try to get back to sleep, try again to get my inner clock running on Italian time. And tomorrow I will not be so shakey and anxious – Venice is busy and ancient and wonderful, very accomodating to foreigners, and totally captivating.

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