|The Ballards - Venice|
OK, let's get this out of the way first...
"Just one Cornetto, Give it to me, Delicious
Ice Cream of Italy"
So now that's all said and done, we can go to Venice: land of canals, serenading gondoliers and 56,000 inhabitants servicing 56 million tourists a year. A recipe for madness? We'll find out...
October 2013. The recession is "Maybe over" (well, we're certainly busy); the summer has been lovely (for once) and the entire American infrastructure is at a standstill over their debt ceiling. Healthcare is a Great Idea, Obama, but Not Today; the American economy is too indebted to China and your public debt is a thousand times what it should be.
A lot of people are very rude about EasyAir and RyanJet,
but I will say this: they do exactly what they say on the tin. No frills,
just an aerial bus to get you from City A to City B.
Venice has a reputation for being expensive, unfriendly
and crowded. So a few recommendations:
So of course we had to start with the church of St Mark with a Viator fast-pass to avoid the queues, and it is very impressive, if a little Russian Orthodox smells-and-bells. The problem is that once you've seen inside one catheral they are all very similar. Being British I tend to prefer to the clean lines and simpler decoration of British cathedrals. Here it looks like they didn't want to leave any square millimetre unadorned.
We started with a guided walk to introduce us to the
basic layout, which explored some of the less-touristy areas as well as
hitting the high points. We then wandered off on our own to explore the
Even the heavily-laden water-buses are violently-driven and are the thugs of the main drag (the Grand Canal). Weaving from North bank to South bank floating bus stops on their way up and down the Grand Canal and elsewhere, they elbow the water-taxis, supply boats and gondoliers out of the way. The buses are fitted with huge diesel engines with bow and stern thrusters and the drivers dance them down the canals with skill and precision (and of course dark glasses).
The docking procedure is worth watching: the bus is driven
alongside the bus stop forwards while the (often female) conductor loops
a heavy hemp rope around the solid iron stanchion on the side of the jetty.
This tightens, stops the boat and holds the bow against the dock. The
driver keeps a little forward power on to keep the loop tight while powering
the side thruster at the stern inwards, which forces the stern of the
boat tight against the dock. The conductor drops the barrier and everyone
is free to leave or enter the boat.
And of course the Gondoliers.
Actually, it looks like bloody hard work poling up to 6 people around in all that backwash without falling in.
Vanice is lovely just to wander around and was not crowded.
Sure, there were plenty of people there, but we were often on our own
and never felt hemmed-in.
What surprised me was how normal people just got on with the absence of cars and trucks: many have their own boats and use them like cars, commuting to the mainland or just around the streets of Venice (which is, of course, massively romantic)
We met this nice Asian couple who were getting married
and for some unfathomable reason on the water-taxi to the small island
of Burano (worth visiting, although Murano isn't).
Burano is pretty and gaily painted, looking in the evenig light a little Scandinavian perhaps.
Meanwhile, life in Venice goes on with births being publicly celebrated by displaying a stork.
We visited the train station, expecting a fabulous Michael Portillo-like Continental Train Journey end but it's small, open to the air and shabby. Why does everything public in Italy look so down at heel?
Anyway, Venice is worth seeing: give it 3 days, see everything and it doesn't need to be expensive (well, apart from the dark glasses).