Friday, September 18, 2015

Venice - First Impressions

The Grand Canal
We just  got back from dinner, so let’s start there. At the recommendation of our B&B host, we ate at a nearby place that was packed as soon as we arrived. We are still tired from two full days of flying so appetites were not huge, but we started with their daily bruschetta group. The tomatoes were rich and full of flavor, Linda liked the pizza-like topping, and I really enjoyed the anchovy paste mixed with Kalamata olives and tomato sauce. Linda opted for an artichoke penne pasta which she loved. 

I had a lobster spaghetti which was again flavorful and rich once I finished wrestling it out of its shell. A white truffle gelato followed by a couple of glasses of the house white finished off the evening.
The airport is small and easy to navigate. We quickly found our bus for the 13 km ride to the vaporetto which would take us down the Grand Canal to our stop. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to purchase a sim card in the airport so we had to ask a stranger to call our B&B to meet us at the vaporetto stop. We also had the pleasure of following one of the local “helpers” to the stop which was not well marked.  For some reason he led us to the second stop meaning we crossed the canal three times. Still, now we know where the train station is and how to get to our cruise ship tomorrow.

Our B&B is three bridges from our stop, but very easy to find. I think that people (at least the tourists) think of distances in terms of bridges because each means and up and down. After our orientation, we both showered. Linda chose to rest while I went exploring. Since it was 1:00 pm, my first exploration was a local bar for a beer and sandwich. I quickly discovered that it is hard to walk 50 yds without passing multiple shops and bars/restaurants.

The gondolas are beautifully outfitted.
One of the many delivery 'trucks'

This traffic jam included six gondolas, three delivery boats and two private boats.
It took about 15 minutes to clear. 
Fueled up, I took off for St. Marks Square. This took longer than expected, partly because of stops at the Hard Rock Café to buy a pin and Vodaphone to get a sim card so we can communicate online here like normal people. I also hit several blind alleys. Actually they are ‘blind’ only in the sense that you have to backtrack unless you want to swim or try to break the world long jump records.

This 'street' is quite wide.
Many small squares. Venetians used to get their water from collected rain out of wells like this one.

I wandered streets barely wide enough for two people and watched the gondolas fight with the delivery and personal boats for primacy on the canals, even the smallest ones. When I finally reached St. Marks, it took me a while to get oriented. It’s bigger than I expected and the main part of it is further from the water. We will learn more about that in a week as we spend more time in this beautiful city.

St. Mark's
Referring to something as ‘one of a kind’ today has lost its meaning, but this city fits. Because it was built on water, it has missed the programs other cities followed in turning their downtowns over to the car. Cars require much wider roads and straighter streets that actually go somewhere other than having to stop at the water. People dominate here as do small shops. The narrow streets and no cars make it hard to carry lots of purchases home if the home is more than a few blocks away. It is easy to see why people fall in love with Venice. Limiting the core area to boats and people creates and ambiance that is truly human in scope.
This black-headed gull is the only interesting bird so far.

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