Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The morning started early – I packed my bags, trying to fit all the new books into my already full pack – headed for a breakfast of iced tea and three cheeseburgers at McDonald's (bay-bee) – jumped on my train – and started the ride from Florence to Venice.

I'm still not sure why we feel the need to change city names around. Firenze isn't anything like Florence. No amount of terrible Anglicizing can be blamed for this.

Yesterday when I was buying my train ticket I nearly collapsed, twitching on the ground, trying to decide between one train or the other. On the one hand there was the InterCity train for only twenty one euro. On the other, there was the EuroStar for thirty six. This seems a simple decision, especially when the InterCity line would give me a brief stop at the station I hit coming in, which was covered in all the beautiful graffiti. But, the IC train wouldn't put me into Venice until five, which is when the sun starts to set. The EuroStar would let me loose around two.

Three hours can make all the difference, so I paid the extra money, and was done with it.

After my dinner last night of stale bread dipped in pasta sauce (look I thought it was a cheese dip – it said salsa – I have vowed that I will start spending money on food. Maybe not a lot of money on food – but I'll try to double my food budget. I'll need to look at my funds, and figure out if I can make this happen. But the difference between a day with a full and happy tummy, and a day on stale bread and pasta sauce – well there's no comparison.

So there I was on the train, and across from me a man was using his laptop. No big deal. But then I noticed it was plugged in! I've been riding InterCity too long (their first class ticket was cheaper than this second class ticket so it goes to show there will be a difference) for this train had a plug socket for all passengers.

I quickly threw open my lap top, and got to typing things up. The last two posts were done uup on the train. And having the time and being relaxed enough to write up the reflections post really does make me feel fine about the difference in price.

I also wrote up a number of emails that I'd been meaning to get to for a while now.

Just because everything seemed to be coming together so well today, I also got two long emails from friends back home this morning. So i was able to read and respond to them on the train as well.

Two hours of travel all without going through a single page of my novels, thus keeping them around for yet another day!

Well, the train has just stopped at Padova, and we're about thirty minutes from Venice (running about ten minutes behind, but that's alright.) And I notice I'm most alone now. Few people, it seems, are riding all the way to Venice Santa Lucia. Which is fine by me, I'll take the extra space. But man did it get a wee bit chillier when all those bodies just flooded off.

The Italian countryside is delightful – lush hills, quaint farms, suburbs that don't look like sprawl to me, because I'm not used to their design. I wonder if when people from Italy see the burbs here (the same for white roofed villages in Greece, and red roofed ones in Spain) they get the same chill and feeling of disdain that we North Americans tend to feel. Or if these really are picture perfect communities – hard to hate.

I guess they don't have the paved lots every few meters here though – and the whole community is designed differently.

i was noticing that grocery stores in Italy were expensive, but restaurant were relatives inexpensive. Strange how a little change like this can force a community to grow together, going out more often, and interacting with one another rather than hiding being their own four walls.

And because houses are smaller, backyards are limited, and public parks are well maintained and abundant, people seem to be visible rather than hidden. I'm not sure if this is just the ideal fantasy of a tourist, or if it really is how it seems. Urban planning – so much control through such small changes.

I stepped off the train – and there I was. In Venice. And yes, it really was as spectacular as I had imagined. My expectations did nothing to destroy my first sight of the city. The water is everywhere, and the way it caught the afternoon sun? Just spectacular. Of course, I had sixty pounds of stuff on my back, and that wasn't making for the best time to explore – still, I was grinning ear to ear like a little boy whom was just rewarded a whole box of cookies!

The directions to the hostel suggested taking the water taxi, but no thank you sir – I'll walk if it's all the same. I can understand how people get lost here, but there was nothing to it provided you follow the directions, or get yourself a map – ripped from, say, a copy of Let's Go: Europe.

When I arrived at the Museum Hostel (I don't know why it's called that. Perhaps I'll ask – probably not) I threw my bags down and discovered that I had booked a bed in the female dorm. Did this mean I was screwed? Was I doomed? No. They had seen my name and transferred it properly. Fantastic! But it did mean that I had to pay the male dorm price, which was ten euro more a night. I don't know. I don't question. I knew Venice would be expensive and it is – forty euro a night. A night! To stay here. But then again, I'm in Venice, and that really is doing wonders for my caring.

Breakfast and dinner are included here, so my mission to start eating more will be off to a good start. And since I really don't plan to do much more than wander around, for three days, Venice won't really end up costing all that much. Time for a budget check though.

The guy who works at the hostel was a good chap, when I asked where to buy a map, he told me that someone had just stolen the hostels one, and he needed to replace it anyway – so he grabbed his jacket, and we were out the door. I had a guide to the map store. And for two euro, it was one of the wisest investments I have made on this trip.

I don't normally buy maps – actually I have done everything I could to avoid it so far. But, this is Venice. And Venice is huge. It is also shaped like a fish. Sure I had my little map, but if there's one thing that a real map offers, that free ones don't – and believe you me, it's needed in this town – it's a street index.

You see, Venice is a city that you get lost in. Everyone gets lost here. Locals get lost here. They know the vague direction they need to head, and then just set off hoping for the best. I think that's a lovely strategy. And it's one that I've employed.

But at the end of the day, you need to find your way home – and rather than searching the small print of hundreds of streets, you need only go to the index, and discover, ahh, you need to look in grid C4. And it's easy peasy from there.

After dropping my bags, the first this I did was walk in a random direction and start to maneuver through the streets. I tried to stay where the light could reach. Hey, you gotta take a few pictures, right?

I need to pause here to explain that I hate daylight savings. Seriously. I want my extra hour of exploring. Now, sure, I could just go out earlier. And this would be a good plan anywhere else, but this hostel serves breakfast from the reasonable hours of 9-10 and as such, I can't be out much earlier than that. I want my light!

But off I went exploring Venice, and this tactic of choosing a vague direction and walking towards it worked quite well for urban exploration. Sure I dead ended against the canals a few times, and wove my way into twisted back alleys from which there was no escape, but that's all part of the beauty, and the charm. And that's what I plan to do for the next two days. I'm kicking myself for not budgeting more time here – but I say that at every stop don't I? Whoever said Venice was a day trip – I see where they're coming from, but honestly, you need far more than a day if you want to see anything more than one or two canals. If you want to feel the life of this city, you need to spend nearly a week here. It's – just – so – big.

I saw gondolas, and I saw boats, and I saw a near boat collision – and that's when it hit me. There are no cars here. There are no scooters here. There are no bikes here. I can walk around in safety without fear of being run down, and that's great. You have no idea how great it feels to not worry about being run over, until you actually feel that relaxing feeling. Venice is like a massage after a long day of hard work. All the tension just disappears.

But you do need to be prepared to walk. And you do need to be prepared to go up and down steps, because all the bridges include steps. And if you have more than one suitcase, let me tell you, you're in for a treat.

I helped one guy get his bags up and over, and then headed off into my exploratory quest – good deed done for the day.

I don't know when I picked up on the American accent – because I didn't used to hear it. I couldn't tell the difference between Canadians and Americans, unless they had the Boston, New York, Southern, or Eastern Canadian accents. But now – now it's all I hear. Though it seems to only exist within girls, aged 18 to 24. It's that little raspy whiny twang? And the worst thing is, that after having a lot of kiwis tell me how much it annoys them, it has started to annoy me.

That, and it's mostly only Americans who choose to start singing “country roads – take me home – to the place – I have know – WEST VIRGINIA – blah blah blah blah” and then they break into laughter.

This has happened four times.

In twenty minutes.

That's all I'm saying.

The only thing that bothers me about the [oh they're singing again... goody!] American guys is that they're all from New York, or Philadelphia. And they're all so overjoyed about the World Series. Man – hostel to hostel, everyone is pleased as punch about this baseball series [again – again the sining occurs. I can't make this up. Not even a full paragraph written!] except for me. I think I'll have to back the team that makes the most people I'm near miserable about.

Honestly, and I feel dirty just thinking it, I think I have to root for the Yanks.

[... ... ... when will the singing end? How can they keep starting up. Why isn't someone, I don't know, throwing their shoes at them? My shoes are upstairs. I have an excuse.]

Now it's just a wait until dinner. And I'll need to pick up the wifi signal. Which is proving to be quite difficult in this hostel. Maybe if I stand up and do the little wifi dance, to appease the gods, I'll get something going. All I need is to upload this blog and five pictures. Please work, oh mighty guardians of the wifi.

[The singing has ended. Instead someone has decided that we would all like to hear their iPod play. Let me tell you something – and I'm guilty of it too, when I drive around, even if you think you're doing a public service by filling the silence with music that is just so totally rad, you are not. And everyone but you hates it. Ahh, silence once more.

And I'm not grumpy! I just – I just want to relax, and hear the sound of no street traffic. Is that so much to ask? Clearly not – because this is Venice, and Venice? Venice is awesome!]


  1. glad you made it to venice safe and sound! have you checked hostelsclub.com site cause if you'll be doing more traveling in europe especially italy, then i suggest you check it out! be sure to have the spritz aperitivo which is the local venetian happy hour drink with aperol and an olive! it's the red or orange drink you'll see everyone drinking at 7pm everyday!! go to Rialto market area for those bars.


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