Monday, 20 September 2004 – Venice

My watch chimed at 7:00, and we got up and showered. We needed to be out of the room by 8:00, so that housekeeping could get it ready for its next occupant. From Venice, the ship would spend another week cruising to Istanbul.

We had breakfast – another light one for me. My stomach felt better, but my sinuses were still congested. I took a Sudafed we had brought from home, hoping it would help. Just in case, I stashed the Kleenex box from our room in my camera bag. At 8:00, we made one last check of the room and headed to the Windows lounge to wait for our tour to leave. Shortly after we arrived, an announcement reminded us to claim our passports. We had not done so, so we headed to deck 6 and claimed them. Standing next to the claim desk were Vlad and Elena. We camped out there with them.

On previous days, there had been bottles of water available on a table on deck 6. We were surprised to see none when we got there. Vlad and Elena had two bottles and gave us one. Since I seemed to have a cold coming on, I was glad to take it. At that point, the Sudafed was working well, but I didnít know how long that would last.

At 9:00, the PA system called for salmon tags. We left the ship and boarded a shuttle bus. We thought we were starting our tour, but the bus simply took us to the other side of the Maritime and we got out. We were told to get our bags from a holding area there and take them through customs. We found our bags and wheeled them past Italian customs agents, then put them into a nearly identical holding area. The exercise seemed pretty pointless, but I guess international travel demands it.

We found our tour guide near the second holding area, and she asked us to wait outside the building. About ten minutes later, all participants in the tour were through customs and we all boarded a water bus. On board, our tour guide used the intercom to introduce herself. Her name was Martina and she spoke passable English. Unfortunately, the intercom system was very loud in some places and almost inaudible in others. It was very loud over the seats we had chosen, but the view was worth putting up with Martinaís amplified commentary as we motored from Maritime around San Marcos and to Murano.

Murano is an island northeast of Venice where all of the glass factories are. The factories were moved there in the 17th century to reduce the risk of fire in the main city. Its isolation also allowed the city leaders to practically imprison the glass makers. They were well paid, but they were not allowed to leave Venice and take its glass-making secrets with them.

At 10:00, we arrived at a dock on Murano and Martina led us into a glass factory. After a short wait in a pleasant courtyard, a glass-factory guide took us all into the glass-making area for a demonstration. A middle-aged glass artist quickly made a simple vase, then quickly formed a glass horse from soft glass. While we would not want to buy either piece he made, the skill he showed and the speed with which he worked were both impressive.

From the furnace area, our guide took us to the factory store (where else?). He gave his sales pitch and several people in our group bought pieces from the factory – mostly tumblers and pitchers. Chris and I browsed around the shop. There were some very traditional pieces and some much more modern and artistic works. It was all pretty expensive, though. We did see some very colorful chandeliers that we liked, and they seemed to be reasonably priced.

After an hour on Murano, we went back aboard the water bus for the 30-minute trip to Burano. Burano is another island near Venice, to the east of Murano. It is a quiet fishing village, but it is known for its colorful houses and for the lace that is made there. Legend has it that the houses are brightly painted to help the fishermen find their way home after a long night of fishing. A variation of the legend adds that there was alcohol involved in making it harder for the fishermen to find their homes.

The lace from Burano is produced through needlepoint. The women who sew the lace specialize in different stitches, so a single piece may include the work of many different artists. Venetian and Burano lace were very popular in the 1800ís, but now the technique is more of a tourist draw than a way to produce lace works.

When we got to Burano, we disembarked the bus and Martina told us to meet back there at 12:30. My Sudafed was wearing off and I was glad to have the Kleenex in my camera bag. Since I wasnít feeling well, I decided to split from the group and just take pictures in the back streets. Chris stayed with Martina as they found a group of women demonstrating the Burano lace technique. Chris left the group at that point to get her own pictures. As she wandered, she met a "plaine aire" artist who was set up on a sidewalk. Chris talked to her briefly, learning that she was from Berkeley.

We both ended up with a lot of pictures of the colorful houses and some side streets that exhibited local charm and style. One of the places I discovered raised a lump in my throat. It was called "Corte 11 Settembre 2001", a tribute to the victims of 9/11. Finding a permanent expression of sympathy in this distant place reminded me of the depth of that loss.

I continued to wander the back streets and pretty much circumscribed the island. At 12:15, I realized I didnít know how far I was from the bus pier. I found my way back to a major street (canal) and from there found the main square where I had left the tour. It ended up taking me only about 5 minutes to get back to the "bus stop." I found a shady spot to sit down and waited, blowing my nose every minute or so. Chris found me after just a few minutes, and we walked to the bus together.

The bus took us back to Venice, dropping everyone off at a pier just west of San Marcos. From there we walked as a group to the Hotel Bauer, where our bags were. On the way, we passed persistent sidewalk peddlers offering Louis Vuitton handbags at very low prices. We managed to resist their pitches.

We made arrangements with Vlad and Elena to get together for dinner. I would call Vlad later in the afternoon and we would decide where to meet.

At the hotel, we claimed our bags. I called the Hotel Carlton Capri to ask the best way to get there. The answer was to take a water taxi. It should cost us about €60. The concierge/bellman at the Bauer was helping others find taxis. We managed to share a boat with two other couples. We had the farthest to go, so we made our way to the rear of the boat. The taxi had enclosed seats in the middle, but there was no roof over our aft seats. We had a great view of the canals and buildings as we motored through the city.

The other couples were delivered quickly to their hotels, and we were dropped off on the shore of the Grand Canal at about 2:00. The cabby asked for €55, and I gave him an extra five for the tip. The Capriís estimate had been spot on.

Now to find the Capri. I knew it was not on the Grand Canal, but the cab pilot had assured us it was "just down that street" pointing to an alleyway. Just to make sure, I stepped into the Carlton Hotel, which was right where we were let off. The receptionist behind the counter told me to go out the door turn left and take the first street to the left. We would find the Capri on that street.

We headed out the door, turned left, and found that the first left was a tiny alley with an open gate and barbed wire over the top. It did not look promising, but we tried it. We came out of that alley into a small square, but could not see the Capri. Afer wandering around for a minute, we headed back to the Carlton to confirm the directions. There, a different receptionist gave us the same directions. He assured me the Capri really was there, and that the tiny alley was the right way to go.

Off we went, back to the same small square, where we started exploring some of the other streets that led into it. Just around one corner, I came across a man talking through a window to someone inside a building. I asked "Dovíe Carlton Capri?" He turned around and pointed to the building across the street, where I then noticed window boxes with the words "Carlton Capri Hotel" painted on them. He directed me to the door just around another corner, where we went and entered the lobby.

The Carlton Capri Hotel

One nice feature of the room was its lightproof shutters. While the bellman was getting our bags, we figured out how to open and close them using straps beside each window. When the bellman came back, he offered to show us how to work the shutters, but I told him we had already figured it out. I gave him a generous tip (our bags were heavy), and he left.

By the time we were alone in our rooms, it was 2:15, and we had not eaten since our breakfast aboard the Diamond. My cold was bothering me more, but we figured food would help. We left the Capri and headed off away from the Grand Canal. We found a sandwich shop a couple of streets away. We each ordered a sandwich and a beer. While the sandwiches were being heated, we took the beers outside to a table. It felt good to sit, relax, and sip the beer. The waitress/cook/owner brought the sandwiches out a few minutes later. They were too hot to eat right away, but we were so hungry we nibbled around the edges as they cooled.

After we finished our late lunch, we walked around for a little while. We came across a shop where an artist makes marbled paper. Some of the artistry was on display in the window, but the shop was not open to the public. The display included a card with the name and address of a store where we could buy the paper, so we wrote it down.

I was too tired to enjoy the city sights, so we went back to the Capri. I called Vlad and cancelled our dinner plans. I just did not feel up to walking to meet them and then wandering around to find a restaurant.

I was too crabby to be fit company, so Chris retrieved her book and left again. She found a park not far away where she sat on a bench and read for nearly three hours. While she did that, I closed the roomís nice shutters, rinsed off the days grime in the "shower", and got into the bed. I read for a little while, but my eyelids grew heavy, and I ended up sleeping for well over an hour.

As Chris read in the park, she stopped occasionally to watch the people around her. On a nearby bench, an Italian couple were making out. On another bench a scruffy-looking man was feeding the pigeons. A wandering musician came by and played his guitar for a while. A young family walked by, with their kids teasing the pigeons by pretending to feed them.

At 6:00, Chris returned to the room. She showered and we both dressed and headed out to find a place to eat dinner. We wandered around the local streets for a while, but no restaurants caught our eye. We looked at places on the busy streets near the train station, and still found nothing with a menu and prices we liked. We eventually found a place just across the Ponte degli Scalzi from the train station. The restaurant was named Marcianoís. It was a bit touristy, but the menu looked good and the prices were reasonable.

Chris ordered a pizza and a quarter liter of wine, and I asked for pollo arostico. When I placed my order, the waiter asked where we were from. We told him, and he responded "Did you come all the way from California for roast chicken?" I assured him that I had. When the waiter brought the wine, he also brought the smallest wine glasses we had ever seen. Even in my condition, I was able to drink one of those glasses! Despite the smart-ass waiter, we enjoyed our dinner. The roast chicken was just what I needed, though chicken soup would have been better.

We finished our meal and walked the short distance back to the Capri. I flipped around the TV channels and settled on some Italian game show that looked like it was some sort of beauty contest. It is called Veline, and the contestants were interviewed by a leering host, then they danced to a pop song for about 30 seconds. A the end, a panel of judges selected 3 winners, who, it appeared to us, would advance to another round of competition. At 9:30, we turned off the light and went to sleep.

I woke up a number of times during the night with my sinuses and chest congested. I began to worry about the flying with clogged ears, but the worries werenít enough to keep me awake.

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