Day 39: Venice, Italy - Grampies Ride Again! - CycleBlaze

August 29, 2015

Day 39: Venice, Italy

Overnight, just letting things sink in, plus reading a little of Rick Steves' "Three Walks in Venice", and especially our new guidebook for kids, we felt Venice had come a lot more into focus.

We had a plan, too. "Venice for Kids" details seven walks. We would do just two. It would be an easy day, one any kid could do!

Now walk one, titled From san Marco to Riva degli Schiavoni, has you hitting up 16 spots. Ok, we can do this. The first half dozen are around the Piazza san Marco, and we are already experts on that - or at least we got some experience yesterday. So all went well. We read the descriptions, looked at the stuff, cool.

The first crack appeared at the Church of San Zaccaria, item 12 out of 16. We found it ok, and enjoyed looking inside. Then the kids' guide said to go out and with your back to the church to go to the door at the other side of the square, to find a bas relief of the Madonna and St Zachary. We did that. No bas relief. We reread the instruction, we swarmed all over the square, nothing. Well shoot. All we found was the consulate of Greece.

Ok, so we pushed on. The next thing was the Church of San Giorgio dei Greci. We followed the instructions - turn right, go over two small bridges, turn right again - nothing. Actually, at one point we did spot a likely looking bell tower and snapped its photo. That was about 11:15. For the next two hours we coursed over a very small chunk of Venice looking for the darn thing. We did find the church school, which was hosting some art exhibit - 5 euros - forget it. But the man inside did give up directions about the church - all wrong! Maybe he was sore about the 5 euros.

We took a break and sat down at a small restaurant for lunch. Here I took the opportunity to negotiate access to the GPS. Dodie had a love hate relationship with it, mostly hate, and refused to use it inside Venice. But I was curious about whether it could iron out all the mysteries about where we were and how to reach the various churches and things.

The result was mixed. The GPS certainly knew San Giorgio dei Greci, but it's view of where we were kept changing. That is, the blue zone fo uncertainty widened and contracted, and the centre point moved even if we didn't. I think Venice buildings are so densely packed that the GPS may often feel it is indoors even if it is not. Despite this difficulty, the GPS still rendered the somewhat useful opinion that we were within 37 meters of the church, and that is was .. thataway. After lunch we went sniffing over thataway. At one point, walking by a tall blank wall I looked up and thought there was something churchy that way. Looking through a knothole in a gate, I thought, yes, maybe. But there was no further progress on that front. In a nearby narrow alleyway we encountered a Greek Orthodox priest. Aha! He told us where the church entrance was - around a corner and into a secret courtyard! We tried the door - locked! The place was closed for siesta (or equivalent). I took a photo of the (leaning) bell tower. - Same one I had spied 2-3 hours ago! This tale should give an idea of just how densely packed a place Venice can be!

Our first walk began after leaving St Marks Square, along the Riva degli Schiavoni,
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Along the Riva degli Schiavoni, and everywhere in Venice - trinket sellers.
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The Kids Guide directed our attention to the Bridge of Sighs - at the old prison. The Sighs probably refer to the prisoners walking from the courtroom to the jail/
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The Bridge of Sighs
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Another goal was the Cheuch of San Zaccaria. Here is how it appears in the book
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And here is the real church of San Zaccaria
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Inside San Zaccaria
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A closer look at that main painting
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Back on the streets, there are so many shops with theatrical masks.
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Sabrina, what do you make of all this theatrical stuff?
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In another nearby church (found as we searched for San Georgio dei Greci, modern art -with some sort of theme of decrying cell phone use - is hung in front of existing classical church decoration and art. We didn't like it.
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Finally, the San Georgio church, and its leaning tower. Only took us 2 1/2 hours to locate!
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Back to the restaurant (at least for story telling purposes) two grandparents and their 6 1/2 year old grandson sat down at the other table. The 6 1/2 year old, Sacha, was having a good time being out with his grandparents, though the actual parents are on the trip as well. The family is from Toronto, so communication was easy. I was interested in Sascha's view of the experience, and asked him whether on the trip he preferred something to do, something to see, or something to eat, for entertainment value. Sascha selected "see" first, followed by "eat". I found that interesting. we have somewhat stressed "do" when travelling with our own grandkids. I still think that activities would rule for kids under perhaps twelve, as opposed to general sightseeing, or dining.

Though the grandparents had travelled a lot, we were amused to see them requesting "ordinary water" with their meal. A classic Canadian error, we thought. In Canada (and US) unlimited plain water comes with all meals. In Europe (except maybe France) all water at a restaurant come in a bottle and costs an arm and a leg. We sat back to watch the water action, and were surprised to see that after a lot of palaver, the waiter brought two small glasses of plain water. We stuck with 1 1/2 litres of water from a fountain, that we had in a secret plastic bottle!

Sacha and his grandparents - Allan and Helaine.
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After our quasi victory at San Georgio dei Greci, we moved to walk Two - which focuses on the area around the Rialto Bridge. Rialto is one of two main bridges over the Grand Canal. It was where we first ran into the super dense crowds yesterday. The Kids' guide identifies the Rialto area as the site of a fruit, vegetable, and fish market, and the historical food market location for the city. We easily found the covered stalls, but all that could be seen was the infinite replications of the same souvenir items, in stand after stand. Finding it unusual that the guidebook could be totally wrong about a food market, we widened our search radius, and we did come up with it! We found not infinite, but lots of replications of the same fruit stall, and evidence of where some few fish vendors had been earlier. It was not too impressive, but we bought a nectarine and it was of very good quality.

The guidebook now wanted us to go search up six more churches. But with the heat and crowding, we were beat. We did spot a couple of other things, like the Hunchback of Rialto. This is a figure supporting a platform from which legal announcements were made.

The Rialto Bridge crowd
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See the stall at Rialto- no produce, only trinkets
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In the Rialto arrea, a church hosted yet another display of classical stringed instruments, like this mandolin
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This is a very long, lute like instrument
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At the church of san Giacomo di Rialto, this somewhat goofy 24 hour clock.
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The Gobbo - Hunchback of Rialto
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OK, we did find soe fruit stalls at Rialto
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Another slightly goofy 24 hour clock. So, what time is it?
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After that, we switched gears, put away the guidebook, and got on a Vaporetto that travelled outside the Grand Canal, through the cruise ship port, and headed in the lagoon toward the Lido. The Lido is the beach area of islands, where we intend to continue our cycle tomorrow.

Out on the more open water of the lagoon
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By now, our 24 hour transportation card was expiring, so we got off the boat and caught another one, back to the bus stop area. Soon we were back in the "real" world and at the Rialto Camping.

They had a pizza and drink deal for us here - 7.50 euros each for a pizza and water, beer, or wine. The water cost 1.50 each on its own. Dodie tried to swap out the two waters (value 3.00) for one chocolate milk (2.40). No way! Water, beer, or wine does not mean chocolate milk, you crazy Canuck.

We can not pin the chocolate milk story on a cultural difference, necessarily, because one could easily run into a similarly rigid store employee back home. But as we stood in line for the bus today (once again at the head of the line, because we are good at just missing the previous bus), two women appeared and made to push in front of us when the bus arrived. Before the door opened, we stood side by side in front and each put out an arm to hang onto the door frame. Both women continued to shove up against our arms. Finally I snapped "LADY, PLEASE!". "Sorry", was the insincere Italian accented reply.

So what did we think of Venice? We loved it, of course. It's impossible not to, wen confronted by such a sheer volume of grace and design, history, hype, legend, and of course, water. Rick Steves recommends that one just wander and absorb the place, get lost, and at the end of the day find the Grand Canal and escape. I decided that could be a good idea. But Dodie says she would not like aimless wandering. Targetted finding and looking at things clearly, would require many many days to avoid being frazzled. One could try that. Doing it in the cooler off season would be the real time for such a project, too. Everyone was really hot in those crowds, and on the Vaporettos today.

Here are some overall scenes of Venice from Today

View from the Vaporettom heading toward St Marks
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Condolas near the Grand Canal
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Along the Grand Canal
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Gondolas in a side canal
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Venice and Cycling

Desperate cyclists in front of the bus. We could not see a clear bike path along the causeway, so these cyclists could have been taking the only way.
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Very minimal bicycle parking near the busses at Venice. We determined we could not easily get our bikes onot a Vaporetto headed for Lido, and we did not want to join the cyclists in front of the bus's wheels, either!
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On the Vaporetto

Just to clarify - Dodie has been kicking youth out of seats with this sign. Our continent travelling cyclist is not disabled, but she is walking with a cane - as in panel four!
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Pickpocket warning on the Vaporetto. I saw dozens of expensive cameras on flimsy straps, slung behind backs. Could be a lucrative new profession.
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