Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Back from Venice

We're back.

Our house is intact, the car not broken into. (We always grit out teeth when coming to the car after a too many vacation break ins.)

Venice...ah, La Serenissima. Here are words to describe Venice:

Gorgeous, stunning, beautiful, infuriating, crowded, surprising, expensive, colorful, decadent, textural, frustrating, overwhelming, annoying, uplifting, rip-off, friendly, rude, modern, ancient.

All those words apply, and we felt them from minute to minute.

Venice is really something to see. It's just like in the Canaletto paintings. The water is a bluey-green shade. The buildings are all different colors, and like Rich's mom described the town, the ornate windows and shapes resemble lace. They all have stone windows and Gothic elements. Just gorgeous. You can't stop looking at the buildings. The town is ancient, basically unchanged since the 18th century. It was first settled in the 9th. Many many buildings still in everyday use are 14th and 15th century. The upkeep on these buildings is tremendous. It's basically, to be honest, a town that's dead on the water. Like an old ship that's listing, and through monumental effort (and charging tourists outrageous prices for EVERYTHING) they manage to keep it afloat. They say not to go in August, when heat coupled with moisture make it quite smelly. I can see that, as you can see many buildings decaying before your eyes. Gorgeous death.

We did not see ONE car from the minute we left the airport (by boat.) There are NO CARS on Venice. None. No bikes or mopeds either. You can't use wheeled vehicles there, because all the bridges are up and down steps. You either walk, or take a vaporetto (water taxi), but you mostly just walk. And walk. It's a small town, but very convoluted, so you can't get anywhere in a straight line ,and you most certainly cannot navigate the town without a map. We got lost many times and ended up in a completely different part of town than the one we were aiming for. Best way to get around is to get a vaporetto, and then tunnel into town from the drop-off point.

The hotel was pretty nice, well located right by Piazza San Marco. The bed was HUGE. We slept well in it. The room was small, but adequate, though decorated in what can only be called "Ventian Whore", all red drapes and wallpaper and green painted furniture. Four poster bed, lovely, but with sticky-outy bits that I was constantly running into. I am bruised all over. Ouch.

While the hotel and rooms were decent, the evening desk clerk was the most obnoxious person I may well have ever met, and really did his best to ruin the experience of Venice for me, by among other things, giving me the wrong room key one evening, then insisting he was right and I was wrong. (Like, I KNOW my room number, and this AIN'T it, buddy.) He finally looked up our room in his records, saw I was right, and then could NOT FIND our room key. I was worried, like was there someone else in our room? (And he never apologized for the mistake or his assumption I was wrong. Just tossed the key at me.)
This was the same guy who would not give us an extra blanket when we called down for one on a cold night ("There is no one else here"), gave me some serious attitude when I commented on a piece of art in the lobby, and then, at the end, actually made me cry when I was checking out. (Their credit card machine was not working properly, and he blamed me and my card....that I had just used not 10 minutes before. He was AWFUL about it, like I was trying to commit fraud. Made me feel defensive and with my back against the wall. Offered no solutions, didn't even try calling the bank, just told me to find a way to pay. ("There's a cash machine around the corner". Yeah, because I have THAT much cash just sitting around to pay you, asshole!) He was a Class A, Grade One Woman Hating Jerk. Don't stay at Hotel Torino if you don't want to be annoyed by the smarmy night clerk.

I will get pictures from Rich tonight, and I have a few rolls to develop, myself, and will post some of them in the next day or so. As well as more descriptions of things including: good food, bad service; there is no such thing as "free" in Venice; why Norwegians and Italians should not mix; the Venice Biennale and the Trendsters; and why we did not take a gondola ride.

I will also offer advice for travelers that you really should know about....there's some interesting bank scamming going on.

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