Monday, September 12, 2011:
We enjoy a quick buffet breakfast and are on our way to Italy. The tour so far has been an “up and go” kind of travel schedule. There are long hours of sitting on the bus and falling asleep or playing Angry Birds on my iPad. I even managed to read a few books on my iPad as well. But sitting down a lot is hard on the body and I’m not the kind of person who takes naps. Being on moving vehicles (buses, trains and airplanes) puts me to sleep. When we do stop and get out, we see so many things, by nightfall we’re ready to drop.
The morning drive in Austria is beautiful. It’s foggy and misty and I decide that I love the Austrian Alps more than the Swiss Alps 🙂
|Outside the hotel|
|Driving towards the Brenner Pass, along the Italy and Austrian border|
The drive along the border is gorgeous and mystical. The sun breaks through the mist and fog to reveal castles and monasteries and vineyards.
There are many times during the drive I find myself taking a nap. I blame it on being stuck on the bus for long hours and also because we are ten days into our trip, so it’s been hard work getting up early and packing each time. Also it’s been awhile since I’ve talked to anyone from home (I refuse to use my cell phone because of roaming charges and I’m grateful to Facebook and free wifi in England and Netherlands for keeping me in contact with friends and family). I’ll be honest…I liked not being connected to my phone. Such FREEDOM!!
Our first stop in Italy is in Verona at an “Auto Grill” truck stop. They have Auto Grill’s all over the place, it’s their chain truck stop. And yes it’s the Verona of Romeo and Juliet 🙂 How romantic! So some tips from Elzo, our guide: In Italy…they don’t stand in line generally. Meaning everyone crowds around the cash register. Seems chaotic to me! And if you want to order something at the deli or counter or Cassa as they call it, you look at what you want, then go to place your order at the cash register, then you take the ticket they print you and go to hand it over the counter again and wait for them to give you what you ordered. Do as the Italians do, right? Haha…as Josh went to go buy a chocolate muffin, I went down to use the restrooms and yes…I still had to pay some cents to a bathroom attendant to use it.
I used the restroom and on my way out the attendant who is an African man who probably immigrated to Italy stopped me and asked me where I was from. I said Hawaii and his eyes perused me from the top of my head, down my body to the point I felt uncomfortably violated, and down to my feet and back up again. I think I was blushing because a woman from the tour group was listening to him and started laughing. He told me I was very beautiful and I shook my head and said “Grazie” and practically ran up the stairs. I found Josh upstairs and told him the story, he laughed at me and said it’s because I am beautiful. Awww….
We got back on the bus and the landscape had changed drastically from Austria. Everything was brown and the trees reminded me of the movie Gladiator 😛 It wasn’t the desert but it was dry. The trees are Cypress trees, and even that name sounds ancient.
We did another pit stop another two hours later because Elzo warned us we had better eat lunch just before Venice since it was pricey to buy food in Venice. He also said that in Italy, if you want to eat outdoors, they charge you a premium on the bill for sitting outdoors. We stopped at another Auto Grill but this one had a cafeteria, self-service and pizza! Josh heard pizza and that was it, we had pizza. This is the first time I saw the “no line” in action. I thought it was funny to hear a tour member say someone cut in front of them and I said, well, they don’t do lines here so technically they didn’t cut.
I was eager to get to Venice and by 1:30pm we reached the city of Venezia!
|Water and boats!|
There were three cruise ships in port and our guides said it would be crowded but not too bad. Not too bad?! Are they crazy, it was so packed with people it was almost annoying, I can’t imagine it even more filled with people!
|It’s HOT about 90 degrees, Josh said it felt like 100! But we’re ready to experience Venice!|
It was so hot, Josh was happy he brought his umbrella, because we were burning and I was definitely getting a tan. Thank goodness I was wearing a dress!
|Piazza San Marco|
Unfortunately, the line for the Basilica was quite long and slow moving so we didn’t go in. Part of the tour was a visit to a Murano glass company. We watched them blow the glass and then they enticed us in their showroom. Let’s just say Josh didn’t go away empty-handed, we expect a shipment sometime next month..haha, but it’s gorgeous stuff and a fantastic souvenir from Venice.
We also bought some masks as souvenirs. I love the narrow streets of Venice. They are very mysterious. They tend get too tight when it’s filled with tourists but what a way to get lost. And yes you can get lost in Venice, but it’s small enough that eventually you could find your way back to the Piazza San Marco. One day when I have more time and not only four hours, I will get myself lost in Venice just for the hell of it.
|Imagine getting lost in these streets|
At 3:00pm we were scheduled to meet to go on our gondola ride. The whole group had signed up to do it so off we went. Okay…there are so many boats and gondolas, it was entertaining just watching the gondoliers try to steady their gondolas as we stepped inside. The gondola needs to stay balanced to not sink so Thank you cute Italian guy for helping me into the gondola…I was afraid the gondola would drift too wide and I’d miss my step. That wouldn’t be pretty! Josh and I joined the gondola with 2 other people and off we went…
|It was SO hot, I bought a hat…this hat finally ripped in France, boo!|
|Enjoying the beautiful day!|
|Check out our guy!|
The singing came from the gondola in front of us…which was really romantic!
|Like a virgin! Touched for the very first time…oh come on, remember the Madonna video?!|
|Our gondola got stuck in traffic!|
The gondola ride was fun but we witnessed a woman almost get skewered by one because our gondolier dude was impatient that all the gondolas kept taking his “parking” spot. So he rammed our gondola into another gondola while a tourist was stepping on right at that moment…I was like oh no our gondola is headed straight for her! That brought up an exchange in Italian between all the men there that was kind of interesting…okay, good to know you can get run over by a gondola. Don’t piss them off! We met up with our group and proceeded to make the sweaty, hot, walk back to the boat that will take us to our bus.
Elzo said it was so hot that even the locals were complaning of the heat….maybe it was why our gondolier was so short-tempered?
Our hotel was on mainland Venice which I didn’t mind because I saw many tourist staying on the island…mind you, you have to tote your luggage from boat to hotel if you stay on the island…too much hard work for me. I’d do it, if all I had was a duffle bag. Okay, I will admit, due to the crowds and heat, I didn’t appreciate Venice until a few hours later when I was at the hotel. I hate crowds and heat combined into one. It makes me impatient and claustrophobic but Venice is a popular destination, I don’t know when it’s EVER not crowded and our tour guide said we were lucky and that it wasn’t crowded. That’s CRAZY to me.
But I took the time and evaluated what I saw in the short time I was there. The narrow streets, the bridges, the nook and crannies you can spend time making out with your lover or husband 😉 (okay I have an over active imagination and since my trip, I keep thinking I could write a story with the setting in Venice…it’s that mysterious and intriguing to me). Even the way the sun hit the water in Venice, it made it glitter, that was lovely….or I’m just romanticizing the whole thing now! LOL… And can you imagine Venice during Carnival when people wear masks? It’s a city of mystery and romance. If it was just me and josh with just the locals and no tourist, Venice would be an amazing city to explore. And so I shall add Venice on my list of cities to go back to one day, hopefully in the winter when it’s NOT busy? As Elzo said…there is NOTHING like Venice. I agree!
So the hotel room was clean, the bed was hard as I like it, the furniture-dated, but I didn’t care. The shower…was strange (what is it with showers from Austria and on?)…the shower curtain came up to our knees….OKAY…how do we prevent from getting the floor wet this time? I used all the bidet towels and placed them on the floor….and yes they were CLEAN bidet towels. Well the towels got soaking wet but it explains why there was a drain in the middle of the bathroom floor. Ooo…another thing about showers since London, if you are in the shower and someone uses the sink or flushes a toilet, you get SCALDED with hot water OR…you get COLD water…don’t ask…something to do with the pipes I’m sure. I kept yelling at Josh not to use the sink or flush the toilet if I was going to shower 🙂
Anyway…dinner was an event. So we go down to the dining room and it’s a nice place with water bottles already set out for use on the tables. Josh and I sit by ourselves (I noticed that people tended to not sit with us at times because we were newlyweds and they wanted us to have our “alone” time…lol…) and we start eating the bread and the waitress is fast, she starts passing out the salad. Once we’re finished we get pasta, it’s a rigatoni noodle dish with meat sauce, delicious but apparently the men didn’t think it was enough food. See, I thought the place setting was interesting. We had 3 forks, 1 dessert spoon and butter knife. I thought, why 3 forks…LOL…so I watch as someone from the other table asks the waitress if he can have more pasta and then I see other guys say the same thing so the woman says okay. She comes out with a huge casserole dish of the pasta and starts giving the men and women (but it was mostly the men) a second helping of the pasta. One other guy had thirds. Me I was satisfied and didn’t ask for seconds. Everyone eats their seconds and thirds and then we see the waitress come out again with a plate of chicken and vegetables. The chicken was like half a chicken! You should have seen Josh’s face I was laughing so hard. Then I looked around the room and the men looked full, shocked and almost disgusted because THIS was the entree and they couldn’t eat anymore.
The waitress stood there shaking her head and then she laughed. Josh was so full and he was attempting to eat the chicken because he felt bad. I couldn’t stop giggling. I ate it because it was juicy and delicious! Eventually he stopped and didn’t even try to finish. I can’t even remember if we had dessert or not, all I know is after that we went up because we were tired and about to explode.
Too funny! But so far I liked Italy, it’s too hot, but the culture is so different. It’s bold, loud, arrogant and vibrant…their espresso gives you a jolt with just a sip and the people dress to perfection. As Elzo says…it’s the most “entertaining” country to visit 🙂 I can see why! Soon we will be in Rome…the capital of what was one of the greatest empires in western civilization! Talk about “entertaining”!