Monday, 2 April 2012

My weekend in Venice 2012

My 3 night trip to Venice was remarkable for the fact that the splendid weather was exactly the same as that in Dublin. However the Venetians are concerened about the lack of snow in the mountains as it means that the prognosis for a decent vegetable crop is very poor, and this will badly affect the restaurants into the summer. I was amazed at the way the locals were dressed in furs and other heavy clothes in the warm weather, where the Irish are almost dressed for the beach!
I flew over with Aer Lingus to Marco Polo airport, and returned from the more distant Treviso with Ryanair. The timings of the flights suited the annual leave left available to me. I found the bus connections easy to/from both airports, although the trip to Treviso is that little bit longer. On my way into the city I though the bus had broken down as it slowed almost to a halt without obvious good reason. Then I saw a sign for the 30kph speed limit through a village. Everybody obeyed this speed limit, contrary to the reputation of Italian drivers. It was obvious that the Venetians are a very law abiding lot. The local crime rate is extremely low, and on the vaparetto water buses the seats dediacted to the elderly, disabled and pregnant remained empty in spite of the hordes on boarding standing in a crush.
Finding my accommodation at the historic and fairly priced 2 star hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo was some feat, and I failed miserably. I got the vaparetto from Piazzale Roma to the San Stae stop, and followed instructions to get to the premises. I ended up in circles, asking people who helpfully obliged in giving me directions. I kept missing the hotel, there was no sign of it down the myriad alleyways and across the many little bridges. A couple took pity on me as I sat exhausted on some steps with my suitcase and offered to help me. I phoned the hotel, and the manager came out to where I was sitting and brought me down an incredibly narrow alleyway to the hotel. A tiny brass lionhead beside the door had the name embossed, and the lion's nose was the doorbell. My bedroom was in an annex around the corner. It was well sized and a Murano glass chandeleier hung from the old beams in the ceiling, but there was only one tiny window giving me the sense of being in jail. It was a great, safe and quiet location.
Single vaparetto journeys are very expensive, so I bought a better value 72 hour pass, which covered me for all my trip. After settling into my room I took the vaparetto to Lido, the seaside island where Mum stayed when she was in her early 20s. She told me how 2 40 year old sisters from her work place, British Rail, asked could they join her for the holiday. Those sisters seemed ancient to her and they wore thick heavy stockings on the beach at the Lido, which mortified her! I had to make the pilgrimmage to that beach with those stories in my head. I smiled as I walked on Lido beach and waded into the shallow warm water which Mum spoke about. It reminded me of Dollymount, but with some posh hotels in the background.
The cheapest and nicest meal I enjoyed in Venice was the one nearest to my hotel, and had no name. I had to book a table in advance and had it for the night, with one single waiter dancing attention to everyone. My choice was grilled gilthead fish with potatoes and salad, my favourite dish of all time. Everywhere I went the coffee was superb, but varied in price from 80cent to €4! The latter price was in the Doges Palace, and not surprisingly the cafe was empty.
I really enjoyed the water buses, even though at times they could get very crowded, but everyone on board behaved in a very civilised manner. Dogs are popular everywhere, and I met a local pilot bringing the beautiful Pharoah Hound to work with him on a boat to the airport. The follwoing morning after I arrived I caught the vaparetto to San Marco and visited the San Marco Basilica and its Treasury, and then the Doges Palace. In the middle of my visit to the latter my phone calendar reminder rang the alarm that I was due to go on the Venetian Islands tour by boat. I had to cut short my visit and "rush" (vaparettos dont rush!) back to my hotel to retrieve the voucher out of the safe.I had mistaken the day of the excursion. I arrived at the departure point near San Marco just in time to join the beautiful excursion to Murano, Burano and Torcello. On Murano I saw a glass blower at work, on peaceful Torcello I visited the oldest basilica in Venice, and Burano proved to be the most beautiful and colorful settlement in the lagoon.
On my final day I largely took to my feet walking the various regions of the city from Dorsoduro to Canaregio where I visited the Jewish Ghetto area and had a kosher meal. In my ignorance I thought this was merely a historic Jewish area, but I could see how thriving the present Jewish community is, with its cake shops, restaurants, art and craft shops and of course synagogues. There were Jewish people everywhere, enjoying their happy peacfeul lives here. I walked the main throughfare of Venice and crossed the wooden Academia bridge, routing back through many pretty alleyways and piazzas back to my hotel. It was a real challenge finding my way back without getting too lost. Venice is the most fascinating maze in the world and one must come armed with a lot of patience!

The Venice Photo Album

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