Gondola Ride - Venice, Italy
Monday (June 22, 2009) after leaving Innsbruck and arriving in Venice the timing had to be perfect for this part of the trip to go off without a hitch. We had very little time to arrive at the train station and get to our 7:30 gondola tour to be followed by a dinner at Hostaria Ai Coristi in San Marco restaurant (package deal). We hopped off the train in Venice and purchased tickets for the water bus (ferry). We hoped it would get us to our hotel in time to check in, leave our packs, and then run to meet the gondola.
Unfortunately, with the many ferry stops it quickly became apparent that this might not be possible, and all of us weren’t going to be able to go on the gondola ride with our packs… at least not the way that I had packed.
We’d have sunk the gondola! Trent and I had to decide how to make the best of the situation. There were a couple of options – one was to skip the serenade/gondola ride and just take advantage of the free dinner, second option was to TAKE THE CHANCE that we all could get to our stop, find our hotel, check-in and then find the gondola pick-up . Neither option was attractive considering the amount of money spent to reserve the event. As it became clearly evident that there was no chance of checking in and leaving our bags at the hotel we had to make a snap decision. The end result was that Trent offered to skip the ride and sit with our packs at an arranged meeting point (ferry dock at San Marcos Square where our hotel was located). From there the plan was that we would meet after the gondola ride and continue on taking advantage of the dinner. The kids and I exited the ferry and left Trent with our backpacks.
Venice Rooftop View - Venice, Italy
Gondola Line - Venice, Italy
I could just see the looks on their faces had we shown up with our packs in hand as there were many people taking the ride. We were grouped into boat loads of 5 or 6, we took our seats, and we waited for the ride to begin.
Our ride began with 5 to 6 other gondoliers paddling the groups down the Grand Canal. Sam was at the head of the vessel facing the gondolier, then Ali and myself on separate seats facing sideways. The other seats were occupied by 3 strangers. The serenade was performed by a man wearing a microphone and the songs were amplified for the entire group of gondolas. We heard a variety of Italian songs and then some Frank Sinatra. We passed restaurants, hotels with patios and residences.
Later we turned onto a side canal where we all became a single file caravan. You could see various bridges and other waterways that lead to other neighborhoods. You might have heard that Venice is sinking but from what I could tell it was the contrary. The water level has certainly varied as indicated at the bottom of the buildings. You could see what appeared to be moist green moss about 6 inches or so higher than the waterline (Trent suggested maybe it was low tide). Earlier in the evening as we rode in on the train it appeared as if the weather might not agree with an evening gondola ride. Fortunately, the clouds broke and although breezy, it was very pleasant as night began to fall. Ali and I took a few pictures and then a little video so we could share with Trent. He was the only thing missing from the ride.
Ferry Docking - Venice, Italy
Venice Canal - Venice, Italy
When we docked I asked one of the tour providers for directions to the dinner restaurant and gave another attempt at asking any of the others if they might be attending the free dinner. No luck with that! We headed off to meet Trent at the San Marcos ferry stop. We passed through San Marcos Square where there were workers setting up a stage for an event and a few different bands playing for patrons at the restaurants lining the square. The music certainly added to the already terrific atmosphere. Thank you Trent!
Trent’s time spent: After I departed company with Christy, Ali, and Sam I continued on the ferry to the next stop with all the bags pilled at my feet.
I gave the ferry attendant a look and gestured/asked if he would help me unload the pile of bags. He obliged. After contemplating it a minute I decided to make an attempt at carrying all 4 packs and one day backpack to our hotel. I was able to wear my pack on my back and the daypack on my chest. I then slung Ali and Sam’s packs over each shoulder. Now for Christy’s pack! Basically I had to carry her pack by hand grabbing onto the straps.
Gondola Madness - Venice, Italy
Okay, now picture Chevy Chase wearing a Cal Bear’s hat loaded down like a pack mule walking down a swanky street in Venice. Well that was me! I thought I could make it to the hotel as it was supposed to be close to the square.
Now keep in mind the streets in Venice are not wider than 8 feet and the width of me and the 5 packs was nearly 6 feet. There really was no grace to this! I was like a bull in a china shop! At one point there was this f’ing rich, old couple that wouldn’t get the f out of the way and just kept strolling along in front of me. Don’t mind me I’m just carrying 4000 pounds on my back. To make things worse I must have been in the richest part of Italy because there were some seriously sharp dressed men and women! I would say I made it 300 meters down the street before I just couldn’t carry Christy’s pack any farther. My hands were on fire. So guess where I had to stop? Right in front of the Louis Vuitton store! Here I am in all my wonder broke down in front of Louis Vuitton.
Gondola Ride - Venice, Italy
My first thought was the store clerk (happened to be standing outside the door in front of the store) was going to have me forcefully removed as I looked like a vagabond. He didn’t, so I thought I’d ask him if he knew where our hotel was located. Well the scene played out something like the scene in the movie “Pretty Woman” when Julia Robert’s was shopping for a dress prior to having Richard Gere’s money. Needless to say I didn’t feel like a superstar! Anyway, I figured I better move before I was forced to move. I made it another 50 yards to San Marcos Square where I realized very quickly that I stood out like a sore thumb. I had no idea of where I was going, and I was too loaded down to try and figure it out, so I retraced my steps bumping and banging back through the pretty people to the ferry stop. Once everyone returned and we started off for the hotel together I couldn’t believe how light my pack felt.
Something in Venice - Venice, Italy
Feeding the Pigeons - Venice, Italy
As for the rest of Venice, well we were able to find the hotel fairly quickly. Actually, Ali spotted it. We checked in, the kids got room 3 and we got room 11. We headed up to our room and looked around. Trent and I were in a top floor room that had a roomy patio with a table and chairs that overlooked Venice to the right and San Marcos Basilica to the left. It was truly spectacular!
See Venice Rooftop Video
Gondola Ride - Venice, Italy
To our chagrin, dinner didn’t go as planned. The directions I received earlier to the restaurant were from the dock and not from the hotel so I was uncertain how to get there. Our hotel attendant didn’t act as if knew either, so we had to go elsewhere. After dinner we headed back to the hotel, Sam and Trent went to bed, while Ali and I went for a walk around.
It was a bit of an adventure since we didn’t always know where we were. As mentioned before, the winding streets that were lined with shops, people and eateries often looked the very similar. We did stand in San Marcos Square for a bit people watching and listening to music. On our way back to the hotel we did stop and ask for directions to ensure we were in the right vicinity. I don’t think either one of us minded wandering around Venice! However, we certainly didn’t need to end up lost across town with an early wake-up call facing us in the morning. We returned to the hotel and crashed for the night.