Monday, March 6, 2006

Viva Veneto! Karina's Italian Adventure, The Exciting Conclusion

Friday, March 3, Day 4 - Venice again

Friday was our last day…at least for me, Emily, and Tracey. Stephanie's husband was coming down to Pisa, so she was taking the train down there to meet him. Her train was scheduled to leave at 8:20.

So we quickly ate breakfast and at 7:20, I got us checked out of the hotel and asked that a cab be called for us. Typically, it only takes a couple of minutes for the cab to arrive. The first place he contacted couldn't send out any cabs. So he called the second place and the phone was busy. He tried for 20 minutes. After being unable to get through, he advised us to go to the tobacco shop across the street and buy bus tickets. So we did that and waited for the 8:05 bus, which didn't come until 8:15. It was really cold and it started snowing while we were standing there. Finally, the bus came, but by the time we got to the train station, Stephanie had missed her train. She was able to get on another one that got her down to Pisa a half hour later. We got our train tickets to Venice, which ended up being on the EuroStar, the high speed luxury train. They cost a bit more, but it was Emily's birthday, so we figured it was worth the splurge.

Ironically, the high speed train was 20 minutes late. And when it arrived, it came in on a different track. Fortunately, it was the track next to us, so we didn't need to rush to get to it.

We arrived in Venice, checked our luggage at the left luggage counter, and then set out. This time, we stopped in many souvenir shops on the way. I got a Murano glass pendant with my initial on it, and a ceramic handpainted mask, as well as a Murano snowman ornament. We slowly made our way toward Piazza San Marco, since our goal was to actually see the inside of the basilica and the Doge's palace. Instead of lunch, we grabbed some ice cream cake at a gelato stand. When we stopped at McDonald's to use the restroom, Emily and Tracey had decided that some protein might be nice, so they each got a hamburger. When I saw them eating, I caved and got one too. Yes, I understand the irony and the sacrilege of eating McDonald's in Italy. But I had to say, it hit the spot.

Finally, we arrived again at San Marco, which was not nearly as crowded as it had been 3 days before. We went into the basilica, and I immediately got a sense of déjà vu. It reminded me of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Turns out, it was modeled after the Hagia Sophia, so it's no wonder I made the connection (I actually read this in The Historian later that day - a novel that has nothing to do with Italy, really, but it was mentioned. I thought that was pretty cool. And the novel is based on fact, so I assume that the San Marco/Hagia Sophia connection is true). We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, which is a shame, since it's gorgeous. But I managed to take some pictures right outside the entrance. You can take a virtual tour here:

After touring the basilica, we went next door to the Doge's palace, but not before I had a sudden impulse to feed the pigeons. I hate them, so I'm not sure what compelled me to do it, except that Emily videotaped it and she thought it was funny. I asked her for some crackers and she gave me some butter cookies out of her purse. Within a minute or two, I had pigeons all over me. I got smacked in the face with their wings and everything. But I didn't get pooped on. Miraculous.

Okay, so Doge's Palace…we could only take pictures in the courtyard, but the inside was very impressive. The prisons were a bit cramped though, and my slight claustrophobia made me somewhat uncomfortable.

Once we toured the palace, we figured we'd call it a day, since we needed to start moving toward the train station to work on getting home. We wanted to eat first though. Emily found this restaurant that seemed a bit high priced to me, but she really wanted to eat there, so I agreed and we went inside.

It was disappointing. I had minestrone soup. At least, that's what I ordered. What I got was vegetable soup with microscopic bits of chicken in it. There were no beans, which is what I thought made minestrone minestrone. I complained to the waitress and she was really snotty with me. Emily and Tracey ordered shrimp scampi, which was a bit charred. The bill for the 3 of us was 81 euros. My soup alone was 9 euros - an outrageous price. In fact, I'm pretty sure the prices inside were higher than what was posted outside. And the food was terrible. At least mine was. We were angry and we felt we got ripped off.

So unfortunately, that was my last meal in Italy. It left A LOT to be desired.

We got to the train station, got our luggage, and got our train tickets to Treviso. There was some confusion. We looked at the arriving trains schedule instead of the departure schedule, so we were waiting at the wrong place and the wrong time. When we finally realized it, we had been sitting for quite awhile. So Emily asked at the information counter which train we should be on, and we got straightened out.

We had some time to kill, so Emily went to the restroom, and I just happened to glance at the train ticket, realizing that it was only for one person! The entire time, all our fares had been printed on one ticket. So I pointed this out to Emily, and in a huff, she got in line at the ticket counter again and waited for the same person from whom we bought the tickets. She was prepared to yell at him, but when he saw her, he said he was glad that we came back, because he had our two tickets still with him. So he gave them to her, she blew him a kiss and thanked him, and we found our platform.

Got to Treviso and needed to take the bus to the airport. There was some confusion as to where we caught the bus. There were about 10 different bus stops. The very last one we checked was the one we needed. So we waited. And then our bus arrived.

It took us through a different part of Treviso than what we saw the first day - right in the center of town. Treviso looked very nice and seemed to be quite a happening place on a Friday night. It's only about 15 km. outside of Venice, yet it looked like the place to be.

So we got to the airport for our 9:20 flight, which left a bit late since somebody checked on their luggage and never boarded the plane. When we got back to Charleroi, it was 11 pm and Emily had mistakenly told her husband that we were getting in at midnight, so we had to wait almost an hour for him to arrive. It was freezing out, and one of the night workers tried to kick us out. But we refused to leave. Finally, he arrived and we headed home. I walked in my own door shortly before 2 am, exhausted.

Ciao, Italy. It was nice knowing you, if only for a few days.

Last day photos

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