Sunday, 5 September 2004 – In flight and Venice

We woke up around 8:30am as the other passengers around us began to stir. Soon, the flight attendants were in the aisle with coffee ("Yes, please!") and, later, a light breakfast featuring a croissant. We both had seconds on coffee and shared a third croissant. By then, we were starting our descent to Venice, where we landed just after 10:00am, only about 30 minutes late.

We followed the other passengers to passport control, which went very quickly. There were no questions from the agents stamping the documents. We then went to luggage claim, where we waited about 20 minutes for our bags to come out. After that, we were quickly out of the secure area and into the throngs in the airport lobby. We quickly scanned the placards held by many of the people waiting, hoping someone would have decided to pick us up. No one had, so we wandered to the nearest bancomat (ATM) and withdrew €200, which were delivered as four €50 bills. Next we found someone to ask about transportation into town. For €2, we could get two bus tickets to a Piazzale Roma, just a short walk from our hotel. That seemed like a good deal, so we tried to purchase 2 tickets. The girl behind the counter slid the tickets across, looked at the €50 bill I gave her and just said "No." She wouldnít change anything that big.

I tried to get change in the store next door, but they wouldnít do it either. The woman there suggested the money exchange desk. While Chris waited with the bags, I went off to find it. After ten minutes and a couple of false starts, I finally found it, just outside the store. Iíll blame jet lag. The woman at that counter gave me two twenties and a ten. I used the ten to get the bus tickets, and we went outside to find the bus. It was about 11:15am. We had been on the ground just over an hour.

We found the bus stop, and the electronic sign said the next bus would leave at 11:40. We waited patiently and the bus showed up on time. We situated ourselves with our luggage as far out of the way as possible. The bus was about three quarters full. Between the airport and Venice, the bus made about six stops, where more and more people got on, and hardly anyone got off. By the time we stopped in Piazzale Roma, the bus was quite full.

When most of the other passengers had de-bussed and new passengers were starting to get on, we fought our way off the bus, oriented ourselves and started out for our hotel. Fortunately, we had to pick up the bags only twice to cross bridges between the Piazzale and the Hotel Antiche Figure. There we checked in and waited about thirty minutes for our room to be ready. While we waited, we each enjoyed a glass of water, for which we paid €2 each. Finally in our room, able to relax a bit, we both showered off the travel grime and put on clean clothes

The Hotel Antiche Figure

Once we were cleaned up we set out to meet Theresa and Christian. The plan was to meet them at Piazza San Marco (Saint Markís Square) at 3:00, near a statue of a lion I remembered from my visit 20 years ago. We were both starving, so we checked out a lot of restaurants as we walked.

We actually sat down at one outdoor café, but we left when we realized it was a Chinese restaurant. We were in the mood for good pizza. While the Chinese place did serve pizza, we figured we could do better.

We finally found a nice-looking place with reasonable prices on pizza and sat down at a table. A waiter who spoke English pretty well took our orders – one Margherita pizza for Chris, a prosciutto pizza for me, and two beers. We asked the waiter how far to Piazza San Marco, and we thought he said "Only about 25 meters."

I jokingly told Chris to keep an eye out for a big German (Christian) as we waited.

Ten minutes later, Chris said, "There they are!" Sure enough, Theresa and Christian had walked into "our" square. We flagged them down, got through the greetings, and they sat down at the table next to us, and then moved it over against ours. About that time, our pizzas arrived, so Theresa and Christian ordered water (with gas) and a beer, respectively.

We talked about our flight and their trip so far. After we had finished our pizzas and drinks, we headed off again to find Piazza San Marco. We discovered we were much more than 25 meters from Pizza San Marco. I think now that the waiter must have said "25 minutes." Anyway, thatís about how long it took to get there.

The signs that lead to the Rialto Bridge and Piazza S. Marco seem to have been placed to take travelers through every possible shopping district. We soon started second-guessing the signs and were able to bypass the crowds by taking smaller alleyways.

Some saintís festival was going on in Venice, and it was celebrated with a regatta and boat parade through the Grand Canal. Any time we got near the Canal, there were huge crowds trying to see the parade. The Rialto Bridge was quite crowded, but we made our way across.

Shortly thereafter, we were at Piazza S. Marco, where we had originally planned to meet Theresa and Christian. Theresa asked me where I thought I would have looked for the lion statues. I pointed vaguely to the right. She laughed and pointed left, where ten meters away, there were two butt-ugly lion statues. We probably would have missed our 3:00 meeting window while looking for the lions if Theresa and Christian hadnít walked by our restaurant.

The square was full of people. At one end there were local teams competing in a flag-throwing contest, but we couldnít really see much over the audience. After looking around just a bit, we decided it would be nice to leave the crowds behind. We set off east to a quiet section of town, Christian reading the map and leading the way.

We walked by and over picturesque canals, through ancient piazzas, and between buildings lining narrow "streets". At one piazza, we passed a gelato stand and each had a cone. We sat at a nearby table, talking and enjoying our cones. Without motion to keep us awake, Chris and I began to fade from jet lag. We finished our cones and moved on, this time deciding to take a "direct" route back to our hotel. There are no direct routes in Venice.

At some point, I made a pun ("Thank you very much-o, Mr. Gelato."), and Christian was reminded that he wanted to ask me something. He asked if I knew the "parrot sketch." Of course I do, itís one of the most inspired bits of lunacy to ever appear on Monty Pythonís Flying Circus. Apparently, Christian had been surprised that Theresa didnít know it, and he had been asking all of his relatives in Germany if they knew of it. None of them did. Of course, once he reminded me of it, I couldnít resist reciting some of the funnier lines – "This is a late parrot", and "This parrot wouldnít Ďvoomí if you put 4,000 volts through it."

Theresa was sorry Christian had brought it up, but it kept me awake, and Christian seemed to find it funny.

Before we got to our hotel, we stopped into a small shop and bought a couple of sandwiches that would be Chrisís and my dinners. Theresa and Christian followed us back to our room, freshened up, and sat down to chat for a little while. Chris reclined on the bed and made the mistake of closing her eyes. She was no fit company after that. I saw Theresa and Christian off about 5:45. Chris said she was going to take a nap, and put on her pajamas. I knew as soon as she fell asleep, it would be for the night.

I downloaded our pictures to the laptop and wrote in this journal for a while. I also ate my sandwich. When I could no longer think, I brushed my teeth and joined Chris in bed. It was about 7:30pm.

I woke up around 11:00 and heard music drifting in from somewhere, but I was able to get back to sleep. The same thing happened around midnight. At 1:15 we both woke up and the music was still going. I checked at the window and determined it was not coming from outside. I went out into the hall, and determined it wasnít coming from the next room. Unsure if we would get back to sleep, we decided to eat the other sandwich.

I went out again to check on the source of the music. It was coming from ceiling speakers in the hotel restaurant downstairs, which was empty. I asked the attendant to turn it down, which he did. I just wished I had done that at 11:00. Back upstairs, we were able to get back to sleep and slept hard.

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