As I sit here in the lobby of the Hampton Inn, as Becky sleeps, waiting to go to her college open house in a couple of hours, I realize that I haven’t finished writing about my trip and I want to at least touch on more of the day-to-day stuff before I forget. Still hard for me to believe that a week ago I was in Italy (well, in actuality I guess I was on a flight home, but you get my drift).
Anyway, when last we left off, it was Thursday. Shannon was guiding a whole bunch of us through Venice today, showing us some of her “off the beaten path” favorites. Really, highlights, and that’s what I’m going to give you here.
We weren’t meeting until about 11:30am at a bar near the Rialto market where some of us kicked off the day with a Prosecco and others a caffe.
Let me note two things here though. Since we didn’t have to meet until 11:30, I dicked around the apartment a bit when I probably should have gone to get a SIM card. Oh well. The other, I was in a funk and everyone noticed and I felt bad.
Anyway, back to the Rialto where we gathered, enjoyed our Prosecco and then walked through the market. A few of us decided to try out the traghetto since it wasn’t crowded, and they did us proud, standing up for the crossing (in both directions). I know Anne did it, and I think Kendall did too – I can’t remember if Michelle joined them or not.
After the Rialto, we made our way over to the Frari, such an amazing church. Such beautiful artwork and such a serene setting – I can’t wait to go back and spend even more time. For a Jew, I do enjoy sitting in church. There is something calming about it, I think.
Hmm… from the Frari – where to? Shoot, I think there was a chiccheti stop in there somewhere but I don’t think I partook.
Okay – then we hopped on the vaporetto and I sat in the back while most of the others stood and admired the views – especially going past San Marco. It is beautiful.
We departed at the Giardino stop and now the order of things gets fuzzy again. I know we walked near/along the gardens. I know we walked to Isola San Pietro (very cool), and I know we stopped for another snack and break somewhere along Via Garibaldi but I do not remember in what order we did these things. I do know that it was while using the bathroom at the café on Via Garibaldi that I figured out my funk (I do some of my best thinking in the bathroom), the date – October 14th, it was two years to the day that I found that stupid lump in my breast. I don’t know about the rest of you, but once I figure out what’s causing the funk, that’s like a huge chunk of the battle to get rid of the funk.
Anyway, we wandered about Castello, glimpsed the Arsenale (you can’t enter) and then realized that we needed to book in order to meet Shannon’s friends and then meet Nan in time for our Arzana tour. I know, you think , well, it doesn’t seem like you covered a lot of time, but with 14 or so people, walking through Venice, with many “shiny things” (bit of an inside joke there) to distract them, these things take time. It reminds me of that saying, “I was on my way to conquer the world when I got distracted by something shiny.” Well, we were trying to conquer Venice but there was just so much shiny stuff to look at!
So after what some may now refer to as “the death march” – really just a fast walk from Castello back to Cannaregio, we met up with Shannon’s friends and then headed over to Arzana headquarters (I’m assuming that’s what it was – I can’t remember the Venetian word – maybe Nan will chime in but it’s a building used for building/maintaining boats), where we got to partake in an incredible tour.
I spliced together a bunch of the video from the tour (remember my camera broke so I was forced to resort to my Flip only), and posted it on YouTube.
It was an amazing tour, in that fifteen of us piled in to this old Venetian row boat which Nan and two of her friends used to guide us not only through the back canals of Cannaregio but out on to the Grand Canal where several of our party got to try their hand at rowing. It was very cool. And somewhere on the Grand Canal, tears came to my eyes. It was a beautiful day, and I was being rowed along Venice’s Grand Canal in an old Venetian boat, surrounded by friends. Two years earlier, I wasn’t sure I’d be alive let alone participating in this amazing event and I just felt … light, free, like I could breathe.
Enough of that.
After the tour, we returned to the boat place, watched the makings of a great documentary on the art of rowing in Venice and why it needs to be preserved and partook in some wine or Prosecco, cheese and salami and bread.
Then we were off again, this time over to the Ghetto for a brief look around and brief discussion about the history, then off to another bar for more wine and delicious cicchetti (finally got my baccala!) We hung out there for a while, but eventually decided it was time to move on.
A bunch of us returned to the “Party House” and finished off much of the wine from the previous evening, the pasta and the soup (soup was pretty good for the second day – luckily Jen thought to thin it a bit as she reheated). Then about 10:00, Shannon, Colleen, Jim and I made our way over to San Marco (after Ian met us to bring me my phone that I’d left behind), because I wanted to see the Piazza at night and hear the bands. Then it was more good-byes (I was departing the next day) and back home for some sleep.
I awoke pretty early and organized my gear, cleaned up the apartment (garbage needed to be out by 8:00am and they asked me to make sure I cleared out the refrigerator) then made my way to the Billa market to pick up some Kinder Eggs for Sammi (she still loves those things). While there, I popped into the attached café for a cappuccino and cornetto con crema (my farewell tour), and returned home to a dick around a bit more before Shannon arrived about 10:20 or so. I gave her some wine I had left, as well as some fruit and she brought that back to her place before accompanying me to the train station.
I’d already purchased my tickets for my 11:50 train to Milan and didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes before they posted the track. I boarded early, and stowed my stuff (I’d lightened my roller a bit which really only held a magnum of beer now surrounded by some dirty clothes), and sat and read. The train ride was uneventful other than I got mostly through our book club selection, Sarah’s Key, while riding.
Once at Centrale, I easily got my gear together, found the shuttle bus outside, stored my gear, and waited as the fiasco I mentioned here took place. Once one our way though, it was an easy ride to Malpensa where I got off at the first stop, which is Terminal 2. I called Carlo from I Castagni B&B and he was there in about 10 minutes to pick me up and bring me back to the B&B.
The B&B is really their house (I’ll write a review), that has what we would refer to as a “mother-in-law” apartment attached and that’s what they rent out to guests. It’s one bedroom, with two twin beds (I forgot to ask if they push these together for a couple), a living room area and a very large bathroom. In the morning, Carlo’s wife (name escapes me as I type), sets up breakfast in an adjoining room before your scheduled breakfast time, and they also take you to/from Malpensa all for the price of €50. Definitely worth it. Anyway, Carlo showed me around and then I settled in to do a bit of work for a few hours, munched on the sandwich I had originally planned to eat on the train and otherwise killed time until it was time to head to dinner.
Less than a five minute walk (one turn involved) down a somewhat dark road is another hotel (name escapes me but I have it at home and will write a review) that has a restaurant/brick oven pizza place attached. So about 7:30, I walked over there for dinner. There was one other group and one other solo traveler dining when I arrived but the place quickly filled. I enjoyed a salad, some pasta oglio olivo with aciughe (pasta with oil and anchovies), and profiteroles for dessert. This with a glass of red wine and a ½ litre of water came to €18. During dinner, I finished my book and then returned to the B&B to turn in.
I awoke about 6 and heard Carlo’s wife setting up my breakfast, after a shower and dressing, I went into the kitchen expecting to see her there but no, the coffee (and hot milk – pre-arranged) was set up in carafe’s along with a spread on the table of some pre-packaged cornetto, crackers, jams and butter, plus bread for toast and some sort of homemade spice-type cake. That’s what I went for with my coffee and all was good.
Carlo was waiting outside for me at 7:15 as we had discussed, we loaded my gear into his car and he dropped me at Terminal 1 about 15 minutes later (T1 is a bit further from their home than T2). I went to Elite check-in (sweet), security and was at my gate probably within 30 minutes of arrival. Then it was time to read some Sherlock Homes and type some blog entries until departure.
Finally, we boarded (bulkhead seat with no one next to me – yeah), and then waited. The strikes in France were affecting air-space so we had about an hour delay on the ground which we made up for in the air (I think we landed maybe 15 minutes late).
I watched some TV and read and tried to nap (no such luck), and endured one of the worst landings in recent memories (total wind) after flying over my own home (love when that happens). Through immigration in less than five minutes, waited for my bags for about 15 minutes (it is Newark after all), through Customs with no issues, and reunited with my family and in the car home by 2:30pm.
This was an excellent trip and I am so glad I went!
I’ll have some more of those fill-in posts I hope to get up this week.