This lead to our own little balcony; looked out onto an alley, but was still nice to have.
We got up at 4:45 this morning, so we could make our train to Rome! When buying the tickets for the train a month or so prior, I had made a point to make sure that we would depart from the S. Lucia station, rather than the Mestre; it was an early enough trip as it was, and I didn't want to deal with going that far to catch the train.
We also knew we had to get to the correct vaporetto station by the Rialto Bridge with all our luggage being dragged with us over all the small bridges and cobblestone, so we wanted to allow enough time; the goal was to be out of the hotel by 5:15 am at the latest, make it to the Rialto as quickly as possible, and then get to the train station and settled for our 6:38 am train.
Our room as we packed up
Sadly, things did not go smoothly. We took the tiny elevator down to the lobby, and gave them our key. That should have been all we needed to do, since we had already pre-paid for the room on Priceline TWO MONTHS ago - but the man behind the counter, who had been asleep as we walked into the room, did not understand this, and wanted us to pay again!!
We explained it to him calmly, showed him all the paperwork and documentation (I had copies of EVERYTHING) but to no avail. He wanted an additional US$427.26 which is what we had paid to begin with! There was no way we were going to double this to almost $860 dollars! So we continued to politely insist that AS HE COULD SEE on the paperwork, it stated that the bill had been paid, and the amount owing was zero.
Still no success.
Then he decides to call his manager, wake him up, and ask him. The manager was confused as well! They wanted us to pay all over again, and promised that if, in the end, they discovered they had been paid twice, they would send us the money back. NO WAY! So finally, I had to call the USA from my own cell phone at my expense for a miserable 40 minute call to Priceline customer service, which in the past I have always been very happy with. This time was no exception. We waited on hold until a rep. was free, and when she got on I explained the situation to her. In a very strong tone she said "PUT HIM ON THE PHONE." I knew the cavalry had arrived!!
Outside the door of our Venice Hotel, EARRRRRLY morning....
It took her quite a while to clear it up with the stubborn man, but finally, we were allowed to depart. The problem was, it was now about 6:05 am and we still had to make it to the Rialto bridge, get a vaporetto (and we didn't know what the schedule was) and get to the train station, find the right track and get on that train!!
We took off running thru a dark, very cold, and VERY EMPTY Venice.
If we thought it had been a ghost town the rest of the trip, now it was downright eerie. Every street and alley we ran down, the only thing we saw were empty corridors filled with still lit Christmas lights across them, and our own cold breath. The only thing we heard was the echo of our own feet and rolling luggage.
The run to Rialto...
FINALLY, we made it to the Rialto and found the vaporetto station. I have to give serious props to my travel mate Michelle for that - the entire time we were in Venice, she seemed to have a downright uncanny sense of direction, and it would have seriously taken me twice as long to find the bridge; she took us right to it, with zero wrong turns. I was extremely grateful and impressed. It was 6:18 am.
Now, there was nothing to do but wait for the vaporetto and PRAY we would catch our train - extremely doubtful at this point we thought.
First one passed without stopping at our station... the second was going the other direction... and then finally, here it came! It seemed to be going so slow to get to us, it was just painful. It pulled up, and we were on. 6:23 am.
We watched the different stops go by, and thank god we stopped at almost none of them. We were told that the train station was approximately 2 stops from the end of the line, and we kept waiting and hoping. It was seriously the longest 12 minutes of my life. Finally, we landed at the St. Lucia pier. 6:35 am. 3 minutes till our train left.
We took off running; Michelle did a straight sprint for the door up the flight of steps, I picked the side route up the long gradual slope option of the left ramp.
We met at the door and continued to run. Thru the train station to the numbered tracks, we found our train and climbed inside.
I can't believe we didn't miss the train to Rome....
We had arrived.
It was a huge relief. We put away our luggage, settled into our comfy seats, and even took a picture of the two of us to mark the occasion that we had not missed the train.
The train ride was wonderful, as it was our first chance to really see the Italian countryside. It was lovely as we passed the small houses and towns, fields and hills. One strange thing was a certain Christmas decoration; a plethora of Santa Clauses, on ladders, hanging from people's windows or balconies. The Santas looked downright evil, as they climbed up into the people's home. There was something sinister about them and we couldn't stop being amazed how many there were! We had never seen "Climbing Santas" before.
I was glad we had made sure to get the tickets that did NOT change trains in Bologna, so we could relax the whole way into Rome.