The beach was much the same as yesterday and the day before. Hot sand, bare bubbies, few English speakers, crummy lunch, and piercing sun. Sounds stinky, but was totally fabulous. We caught the 2:00 boat back to Venice and took the long way home so we could hit our fave pizza spot. Now, previously we’ve had help heading that direction; a book, a map, something. Today, not so much. And we couldn’t remember which way to go. No surprise that Chris, Mr. Directionally challenged, couldn’t remember! I thought I did, and then I second guessed myself, and that got us in trouble.
Finally, after going across the same square like 5 times, Chris suggested we hit a hotel and ask for directions. Why didn’t I think of that? We did, and not only did we get directions, but also a map. We still had to walk across that same darn square two or three more times to figure out where the heck we were and which street to take, but finally we did. That’s part of the beauty of Venice, getting lost and seeing everything around you 14 times. There’s no reason to get worked up about it, that’s just how it is in Venice.
We got the pizza, and on the way back to the hotel, found a lady with paintings she’d made of sights in Venice. We always buy something handmade in the places we travel, and two of her paintings hit us, so we bought them. Can’t wait to hang them up. Although, we still haven’t hung up the ones we got in Scandinavia in the spring of ’07! We hit up the best gelato stand in Venice (Boutique de Gelato, or something like that on Salizada de Lio and came back to the hotel to shower and change.
The trip back took much longer than we expected, and it bit us when we got to Ca’ Rezzonico, our first sight for the day. It closed an hour earlier than Ricky said it did, and we couldn’t get in. No worry, it’s included in the Museum passes we bought at the Correr museum yesterday and they don’t expire for 3 months. So, we skipped ahead to our next intended stop, the Doge’s Palace. We didn’t do this museum last time we were here because, well, it’s a museum, and we’re leery of them. Boy, are we glad we went!
We entered, and went directly into the huge courtyard. It was about 5:00, and the light was just perfect. It was absolutely gorgeous! Took our breath away! We had no idea just how stunning this place would be and were instantly glad we’d come. We followed the marked route through the palace, all the while reading Ricky’s narrative. As I mentioned yesterday, it’s nice to have a story behind what you’re seeing, but we’ve quickly grown tired of Rick’s wheel of cheese inserted with the story, and his occasional veiled political comment. Shut up and tell me what I’m seeing. We saw where the Doge (appointed ruler of Venice) lived, legislated, and doled out justice, along with the Bridge of Sighs. The bridge takes you over the canal into the prison, where we could see carvings in the window ledges of the cells that were hundreds of years old. Blows your mind! I must admit, they had no photography signs all over the place, but I still had to snap a few pics. I just couldn’t keep going without. They can’t keep a Jamie down forever. I had to rebel. And, thankfully, I didn’t get caught!
Tonight, we decided we needed another splurge, as if last night at the cafes on St. Mark’s weren’t enough. So, after coming back to the hotel & getting ready for dinner, we went on a gondola ride. I won’t disclose how much it cost, but it was worth it. It was amazing. Yes, it still could have been better, but it was just what I wanted, a nice, relaxing ride through the real Venice (not just the Grand Canal) with the one I love.
The gondolier was nice, but talked to the other gondoliers more than us. He said this is 20th year as a gondolier and he owns his gondola. When I asked him if he lives in Venice, he laughed and said no, it’s too expensive, he lives outside of Venice. He also told us that he knew when he was 8 yrs old he would be a gondolier. His father was one as was his grandfather, it’s a family tradition. Very cool. Chris said he was hoping the guy would talk to us more, and I understand why, but we were still thrilled with the experience!
After the ride, we were starving, so it was off to dinner. We decided to go back to the same place as the first night. It was amazing then and even better tonight. The guy was working by himself and doing a decent job of keeping up with everyone. We had an appetizer of different Salamis & cheese. Oh my yum! Chris had spaghetti with swordfish, and I had some sort of purse-like pasta filled with smoked cheese and walnuts. Again, yum! There was a local couple sitting next to us, and they brought their dog in. Dogs are just part of the family here, and often go without leashes. Made me realize how much work we need to do with our own dogs.
All was well until the guy brought the check and told Chris he doesn’t take cards. Then it was panic time. For some reason, Chris decided to leave the bank card in the hotel room and ONLY bring his credit card. We were tapped out from the gondola ride, so he left me there to get money. When the ATM wouldn’t give him money off of his credit card, he ran all the way back to the hotel and got his card, rand back and got the money and returned to the restaurant. The guy working felt so bad for me sitting there along that he brought us limoncellos (an alcohol based lemon drink that will quite literally tickle your nose hairs). Finally, Chris came back and we could pay the man (including a hefty tip, he totally earned it) and head back to our hotel, but not without a detour for Gelato.
We loved today! Great, great day! We woke up, had breakfast (Chris relishing every moment of his cappuccino), and headed to the beach again. We loved it so much yesterday, we just had to go back today. We learned a few things yesterday. First of all, we decided to go earlier than yesterday. Yesterday’s location was good, and we wanted to be sure we got a good location again today. Also, we wanted to come back a little earlier. We walked to St. Mark’s square to catch the Vaporetto over to Lido (the island across the lagoon with the beach on it), thinking there was a public fountain there & we could fill up our water bottle. Oops, it’s just a little pigeon/bird bath! No biggie. So, we headed to the stop.
We ended up on the slow boat, but we were so close already that it didn’t really make any difference. Funny thing is, this one put us out at a different stop on Lido and when we walked across the street to hit the main drag, there was a fountain. Don’t think typical American water fountain here. Oh no! this is a fancy looking, two foot-ish tall out of the ground been there for a million years, running constantly fountain. They’re real big on the fact that the water is potable here, so they want everyone to have access to it all the time. Actually, we’ve found that all over Italy. Love it!
Long story short, we booked it the .5 mile to the beach, got the same spot as yesterday, and spent four blissful hours in the sun. Chris napped, I read. It was great. On the way, we stopped into a store and bought me a pen and pad so I could work on getting caught up on the blog while on the beach. If it’s all written up, I can just type it, no big deal. And if it never gets typed? No biggie, it becomes a journal!
I’m not gonna kid ya, there were a lot more bare bubbies today. A LOT more. I’m not sure I really get it. Italian men seem to cherish their arm candy, so why do they want everyone else seeing everything? To be honest, most of those we saw baring it all probably weren’t Italian, but some definitely were. Besides the bubbies, we’ve noticed a few things about the beach here. The fit & cut of a bathing suit isn’t really a factor. Just because it doesn’t exactly flatter you doesn’t exactly mean you shouldn’t wear it. Now in my little world, that’s not how it works. Here, you like it, you wear it, critics be damned.
Also, as we all already know, the Speedo is king, reigning supreme. Wow! Some of these guys want you to be well aware of their virility! Then there’s the guy that we’re still debating whether or not is a guy. Yeah, it’s that bad. If you can’t tell when they’re wearing a bathing suit, it’s *really* bad! He wears Speedo and is really, really overweight and has some pretty good sized man-boobs. If it’s a woman, she’s going topless the entire time she’s there. I don’t think it’s a woman. It’s really bad
Then there was an Italian guy wearing a white Speedo. A thin, very thin white Speedo. And then he got in the water. It was totally a train wreck. You don’t want to look. Really, you don’t, but you can’t help it. And, obviously he wants everyone to look. It really is a teeny tiny suit, the things songs are made of really. Obviously, it was quite a lot to behold. I offered to stop in this one shop with an entire wall of Speedos and find one for Chris. He didn’t take me up on the offer; nor did he find me funny!
We’ve also learned that they aren’t nearly as obsessed with sunscreen as we are. We stopped at a drug store to try to find some for my face since I left it at home, and they don’t have any that’s face specific. And, I totally got yelled at for squeezing some out and trying it. Too bad, so sad lady. I learned the hard way years ago that sunscreen is super-scented over here, and there is no way I’m buying it if it gives me a headache! You hardly see people applying the stuff, everyone who’s not a local is sunburnt somewhere, and the ones who are locals use the application process as a chance to engage in something totally sensual with their significant other in front of God and everybody! And they all, every last one of them, look at me like I’m a freak when I use the spray-on stuff. Zip it! That stuff rocks! And it’s the only way I can keep coming back to the beach every day.
I keep forgetting when the boats head back when we arrive somewhere. Thankfully, we’ve been pretty lucky. We haven’t waited more than 20 minutes and it’s usually 10 or less. Fortunately I remembered when the boat came from yesterday and we were able to get packed up and make it back for the 2:00 boat. That had still given us almost 4 hours at the beach. Wow!
After cleaning up, we headed back out with big plans! First, we went to San Giorgio Maggiore church. Getting there was an adventure in and of itself. Rick says to go to the San Zaccariah stop at St. Mark’s Sq. and take #2 toward Tronchetto. So, we get there and I look at the boards and then the map, and #2 doesn’t go toward Tronchetto, nor does it go to the church. So Chris goes to ask. He’s told it’s at the next pier. At this one, #2 goes somewhere else, but it’s certainly not Tronchetto. Chris asks again. Again the same answer, #2 next pier. Thank goodness Chris asked all those people! Who would have known there were 3 completely different places for the same stop? Not us. Thank goodness he asked. We never would have figured it out!
Finally, we got to the Church. I love this church. We went there last time. I don’t know what it is, but it just speaks to me when we’re inside. The way it’s built, just has this good feeling to me. So far, it’s my favorite church here. It has a very interesting “choir” and the monks still do a chanting worship every week. Last time we were here, the bell tower was closed for daily siesta and we couldn’t go up it. This time, no problem! We had phenomenal views of the entire city and lagoon. Amazing! We had a scary moment where we thought it was going to take forever to get back to St. Mark’s Sq., which is just across the lagoon, but a bus came up just 2 minutes later!
Next, we went to the Correr Museum. Okay, I’m not big on museums. They bore me. I get tired of looking at painting after painting after painting. They all start to look the same after a while. But, when I have explanations of them, I’m fascinated (although I usually get tired of reading the explanations after a while too). This was actually very, very interesting. There were statues and paintings, but there was so much more. There are paintings on the ceilings that have been there since the place was built. There are sculptures and rooms that are still lined with books and lit by chandeliers that were there when they were administrative offices of the richest city on earth and old maps of Venice and coins, and yes paintings. But, many of the paintings tell the story, the history of Venice. Very fascinating. Again, we were quite thankful to have the tour in our Rick Steve’s book. Although he drives us a little insane at times, it sure does come in handy!
After the museum, we wandered out onto St. Mark’s Square (the museum is at the back of it) and decided to sit at one of the ridiculously expensive cafes, listen to music and have a drink. We were going to see what was doing with our fave band, and what to our wondrous eyes should appear? A mariachi band. In Venice of all places! Chris was thrilled. Oh how that man loves a good mariachi. We talked to them for a minute, well I talked to them & Chris smiled and nodded. We settled on a café, sat down, and guess what, the mariachi band came and played there for a while (but not before the cops gave them a hard time). It was a wonderful experience sitting there listening to this great, although untraditional for the setting, band. The singer was amazing. Then the regular band took over, and they were great too. It really is a dueling bands kind of scenario. The band at one plays, then stops and looks over at the band of the café next door as if to say, “Top that.” But really, I think it’s done more out of respect and the two bands don’t want to play over each other. Funny thing, though our band was playing and was in the middle of a song when the bell tower clanged 8:00. They must be unionized or something because the band quit playing mid-song and that was it, they were on a break (Chris wanted to know how the girl on the front row got to wear a short skirt…she was on the front row after all. I said it was because she was Italian).
We didn’t really want to go, but it was already 8 and at some point we should probably have dinner. So we got the check. While we were sitting there our waiter must have left because some other guy was helping the tables around us. He gave us our check and made sure to tell us the tip wasn’t included. Now, this wasn’t a cheap little foray, be we knew that going into it and did it for the experience. On the menus, it says that service charge is included, but this guy literally would not go away without the tip and actually said again, “The tip sir, you haven’t left a tip.” If he’d just walked away, Chris would have left him twice as much as he did! It kind of left a sour taste in our mouths, but it was such a wonderful experience that we just blew it off.
Now we had to figure out something for dinner. This has been one of the hardest parts of our trip. I know it sounds like no big deal. Seriously, find a restaurant, sit, eat. Done. But, we want a great experience, and some nights we’ve been sorely disappointed. Tonight was great. Actually, we asked the front desk guy for a recommendation and he suggested a nearby place that’s in Ricky’s book. We tried twice before, it was closed both times. We thought since the guy at the hotel recommended it too, it was worth a shot. Still closed.
Finally we ended up at a place near our hotel. We didn’t get there until after 10! No matter, this is Italy, after all! We were worried about the place since it was in a high-tourist zone and was a little pricey, but it was wonderful. The service was good, the food was great. Chris got sea bass and the lovely older gentleman waiter prepared it tableside removing all of the bones. Just great, great, great. Can’t say enough good about Ristorante Marco Polo!
I can’t begin to tell you how hot it is here. It’s weird, the temperature is nothing like it is at home, but the sun is this burning, sears through your clothes into your skin hot. It takes about 2.5 minutes for us to start sweating and it’s all downhill from there. And when you’re deep in Venice where there’s no water, only still, hot air, it’s literally stifiling. We couldn’t eat at a couple places tonight because it was so hot in that area, I thought I might throw up. And that was at 10:00 at night! I keep saying what with the super-stll, non-moving air and the close proximity of the houses/buildings it’s a wonder more people didn’t die from things like the Plague.
Now, it’s off to bed and get ready to do more of the same tomorrow! What a great vaca. Wake up, go to the beach, come back & see some stuff. We’re doing it right! I promise to get caught up on the two days I haven't blogged about yet. I've been amazingly exhausted every night plus we had plug-in trouble for a while there and the computer was dead! I didn't want to get any farther behind!