Thursday, February 21, 2013

Venice Trip - (2)

We arrived in Venice after travelling on the RyanAir bus from Treviso airport to Piazzale Roma, the place on the island where the buses terminate and the water transport begins.
The island is easily accessed by the boats called vaporetti or by using a good pair of shoes and crossing many bridges usually fewer than 20 steps up and down; except for the major bridges across the Grand Canal.
As I mentioned earlier, we purchased our 7-day ticket for €50 and that entitled us to the entire network operated by the company, including travel to a few islands.
Some practical advice for vaporetti and Venice - try not to carry more than the airline cabin luggage in case you have to walk as there could be a few bridges to overcome and you also have to get on and off the boat with your bag.
For our 5-day trip, we had 2 cabin-sized bags plus a backpack and we checked one of the cases in by paying extra for 15kg. RyanAir is very strict about cabin luggage-ladies must put their handbag into the hand carry and the total must weigh 10kg or less. Ladies who carry giant handbags beware!
The scene at Piazzale Roma was chaotic as bus passengers scurried for shelter from the heavy rain and strong winds.
It took about 10 minutes in a bus shelter before we got our bearing right and headed to a tobacco shop about 100 meters across the road.
We bought the €50 tickets and then headed to the nearby Grand Canal vaporetti stations. The hotel had indicated ealier the stop where we should get off. It sounds pretty confusing at first but after a few trips it's easy enough for folks like us who cannot speak Italian.
We were able to locate the proper stop after a walk in the pouring rain and even before we reached the stop, we saw evidence of the fury of the wind gods - a few  €7 umbrellas were abandoned, their flimsy frames shattered by the ferocious winds. I had an anorak and my wife had a rain coat so we had some protection; except that our shoes got wet.

The vaporetta is a water bus that can take about 80 passengers and the boat was quite full; so getting in with our luggage caused some problems. About 2 rows in the front were reserved for the handicapped, those with babies and those above 70 - so we did not qualify. The Italians are quite disciplined about this and even though there were no elderly on the ride, the seats remained empty. I even watched a woman educate her kid not to sit on the reserved seats and the kid obeyed her.
I sat there and got a few annoyed looks!  

If you study the vaporetta route map, Piazzale Roma is on the Grand Canal, the old river that winds through the island of Venice. We were headed for Orto on the northern part of the island and facing the Venetian Lagoon, the body of water between the island and the mainland.
The moment the vaporetta entered the lagoon, the waves started rolling the boat. For non-seafarers it was a scary experience and I guess the waves were at least one meter high. 
Even when the boat docked, it was heaving about 400cm at the platform and thus you had to time your landing - a heavy suitcase is not going to help so travel light unless you get a private water taxi.
Even with a private taxi, the boatman will only help you get your bag on the jetty and after that you are on your own as he cannot leave the boat unattended.

We managed to disembark safely at Orto and struggled to get to the hotel. It was not the bags but the howling winds that would have rendered any umbrella useless. The next step was to locate the hotel....I had been informed of "a 2-minute walk" but when you arrive at night and not sure which direction to turn in blinding rain and chilling wind, it's a different story altogether.

So I let my instinct lead me and we managed to find the Boscolo Venezia without any detours.

This is the main entrance - there is a small canal in front but the vaporetti does not service this route as it is too small-maybe 12 meteres wide. The hotel, a former monastery, sits on a large piece of land that stretches from this canal to the Venetian Lagoon. The picture was completely different when we arrived - heavy rain, howling wind and bitterly cold. What a difference a day makes! 

 This is the first bridge of three across three canals that would end at the Grand Canal. You can see the hotel's red marquee in the middle of the photo.

This is a narrow lane between houses just after the first bridge; maybe 1.5meters wide. This district
is known as Canereggio, the largest in Venezia.

When we arrived on Saturday, our original plan was to attend the new Abba band that was performing at the San Marco square but the weather was so bad, we decided to stay indoors and enjoy the hotel's amenities.

However, when it was time for dinner, we wanted to explore the area around the hotel and decided to follow the route to the Grand Canal as we figured there would surely be some shops or retaurants nearby. The hotel receptionist had advised us to cross three bridges, maybe a "10 minute walk" to reach the Grand Canal.

We found a cosy restaurant just before the second bridge - it was patronised mainly by locals so we decided to give it a try. The locals were drinking wine and eating various tid-bits at the counter and we asked for a table - we were the only customers there.

We ordered a small decanter(250ml) of their table wine, one set dinner and a vegetable soup and the food was enough for two of us.
The bill came to about  €32 and that was our most expensive meal during the holidays. One of the dishes was seafood spaghetti that was excellent and the hearty mixed vegetable soup came in a large bowl.
 The spaghetti was cooked "al dente" and the mouth-fill was excellent unless you like your food mushy!
We also met a friendly Bengladeshi waiter who was waiting to get his PR papers as he had been there for quite a few years. Sorry I do not remember the name of the restaurant but I believe it had the name "Seafarers"?

After dinner, we walked across the third bridge and came to the main shopping area in the district.

This was the evidence of the earlier storm-it appears that two people(lovers?) had sheltered from the rain under the narrow doorway and finished their drinks. When the rain eased, they abandoned their brollies and continued on their way. Or maybe they had a fight and destroyed the umbrellas in the process?
One thing about the buildings in Venice - there are very few places to shelter from the rain.

That's me with an umbrella borrowed from the hotel. There is one other incident worthy of note in this area.
There was a hatless man about 40+ kneeling in the rain and bitter cold with an outstretched hand with a plastic cup. He just stared vacantly ahead and really was so unobstrusive that everyone could have avoided him as he was not blocking the way.
What was so compelling was his stoic stance....maybe he was doing some kind of penance? Even when we gave him some coins, he did not look at us but merely uttered "grazie" in a firm voice.

When we finished window-shopping in the rain and headed back to the hotel about 30 minutes later, he was still there- a lone, forlorn man kneeling begging in the rain.

That sums up our first night in Venice. This was my second trip to Venice - my first had been some 40 years ago, when I took a summer coach ride and spent 1 night here. My wife came to Venice maybe 12 years ago.



Pak Zawi said...

Lapping up every words of your narration. Great story. My earlier plan was to do Italy in early March but the coming heart surgery on 25/26th Feb scuttled the plan so reading this is great tonic to me.

H J Angus said...

thanks Zawi.
I hope you can do Venice next year after a successful operation.
Stay well!