Thursday, April 26 - Burlington to Venice

We were packed and at the curb when the taxi came and our trip to the airport was smooth.  However, we were sent to different security lines and lost track of each other at Pearson.  Luckily we were re-connected in the boarding lounge.  Our flight was delayed 40 minutes waiting for luggage removal which made us a bit anxious about our short turn-around time in Frankfurt.  Otherwise an unremarkable flight.

Friday, April 27 - Venice, Italy

Lufthansa agents met us at the gate and whisked us through underground passages by bus, getting us to the correct gate in time to catch the onward flight to Venice.  Once there, we easily located the water taxis and vaporettos.  A price comparison led us to choose the latter and we had an interesting trip across the lagoon to the Giglia stop.  Luckily, we had a good enough map to find our way to the Boscolo Bellini Hotel.  We walked through a produce and fish market, over one of the lovely arched bridges and then along a narrow pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants.  We left our luggage at the hotel and went walking.  The hotel is near the Grand Canal so we enjoyed watching the boat traffic and stood on one of the bridges enjoying the sound of all the church bells ringing at noon [ Says Larry: at that would be 6am in Burlington - no wonder I can't keep my eyes open ] .  We realized we'd been lucky - when we were dragging luggage the only bridge we crossed had ramps.  Most of them only had steps!
We ate a pizza for lunch at an outdoor restaurant at the side of the Grand Canal, then explored the Bus Terminal, the location of the People Mover that will be taking us to the port for embarkation on Monday, and then the train station.
By that time, we were ready to go to our room and nap for a few hours.
When we awoke we decided to go wandering in a different direction.  We fond a store to get bottled water (e1.10 for 1.5 l vs e6 for 1.0 l at the hotel) and beer, then wandered into an obviously popular restaurant for a remarkable meal.  I had very simple spaghetti and Larry risotto with seafood.  Then we stopped at a gelato place for a treat before picking up vaporetto passes and heading for the hotel.
Nice, nice evening.  The views along the canals from the bridges are particularly great at night!

Saturday, April 28 - Venice

Breakfast at the hotel was very pleasant with quite a bit of variety.  We had booked a city tour, so we boarded a vaporetto and rode out past the cruise port and across the lagoon to San Marco.  We had a quick look, were stunned by the crowds, and found our way to the garden to join our tour.
It was a warm, clear day and we realized we'd left the sunscreen at the hotel.  Yikes!  We joined our guide for a walking tour that started in St. Mark's Square, included the Basilica (cutting the mile-long line) and went via a circuitous route to the Rialto Bridge.  We got a good feel for the city and its history.
After getting some (extremely costly) sunscreen at a pharmacy, we crossed the bridge, window-shopped for a while and found a small restaurant down a side street.  Another really good meal - caprese and french fries with local beer.
Finding our way back to San Marco was a challenge and we hit a few dead ends, but finally got there.  We rewarded ourselves with a gelato and rested in the garden 'til our afternoon tour.  That was a water-taxi tour of the city and Grand Canal.  It was a great tour and our guide was most informative.  More history and a sense of the city.
So many tourists!  Turns out that this is a 4-day weekend celebrating the national holiday, so the place is absolutely swarming.
Last night through our open window we heard voices and the sound of suitcases rolling over paving bricks all night.  Didn't keep us awake much though.  Right now it sounds like hundreds of people out there.  I hope most of them have somewhere else to go before bedtime!
We had seen a lot of Murano glass.  Some of it's beautiful, but there's a lot I don't like at all.
Many buildings have glass mosaic tiles.  Inspired! The gold and colours stay bright and don't wear off!  The other thing we see everywhere is masks!  There are traditional Carnival masks, modern ones and the doctor's (long nosed, with filtration) plague masks.  They are available painted and decorated or plain.
Nice dinner at a restaurant next door to the hotel, a walk around the neighbourhood and bed. [Great day...but exhausting]

Photos 28 April

Venice Videos - 28 April
Click this link for Photos from our first day

Sunday, April 29 - Venice

Our first objective this morning was to attend 10am mass at the nearest church. The breakfast room was crowded and the streets even more so. We arrived just as the service started and took our places toward the back. It was a large, old church with great sound, so we really enjoyed the  music -- perhaps it was a choir or maybe just the congregation -- accompanied by a guitar. All in Italian, of course, so hard for us to follow, but parts were recognizable, and when everyone started turning, shaking hands and saying "Pace" we felt right at home! Afterward we looked at the art on the walls and behind the altars. We discovered it is the Church of Sts. Jeremiah and Lucy. Lucy's remains are on view. We didn't look too closely.  We could see that the walls and some of the art have been damaged in floods. Next, we decided that for our one museum/gallery we'd go to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Since so many people are coming and going, the vaporetto line-ups were gruesome. "Let's just walk" we decided. Uh-huh. Turns out that even with 2 maps, navigation is nearly impossible. What do we expect in a city built on many many islands? And obscure street signs? And narrow streets? So, we went in at least one full circle, but finally ended up in a square with vaporetto signs and arrows. That made it pretty simple and at that stop there was no mob. Of course the vaporetto itself was like a low-floating sardine can, but a stop or 2 later we got off and quite easily found our way to the museum. It's a lovely, serene place, with a sculpture garden (one Henry Moore & lots of others) and a few galleries, as well as a cafĂ©. We wandered through all of them and found a few new-to-us artists who were quite interesting, as well as many familiar names. From there we walked to the beautiful Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, which we simply walked around outside and admired. Back onto the floating sardine can, and across to San Marco. We thought it was crowded yesterday, but today was at least 50% worse and I heard someone say it will be even worse tomorrow! From there we started walking, following signs to the Rialto Bridge. Our quest was for a small gallery we'd both noticed the day before, with pictures in a style we enjoy. We'd dashed past it on the walking tour, so knew it was somewhere between St. Mark's Square and the Rialto. We got to the bridge without finding it. So we started back toward San Marco by another route. After about 15 minutes we turned back toward Rialto. At one corner I said "Let's just go to the end of this little side street before we quit. It was the last shop on that street! We found it and it was open and the prints were framed and affordable! Hooray! I got it! Tired and happy we made our way to the nearest vaporetto stop and back to the hotel. After a brief rest, we headed back out. I wanted some Murano glass jewelry and we need dinner. The first store, where they had exactly what I wanted in the window, refused me service and closed the door in my face. Closing time! Luckily, a few doors further along they had something similar, less expensive and were happy to sell it to me. We found a pleasant restaurant, enjoyed dinner and local wine, and wandered back to the hotel. The crowds were thinning out but still lots of action outside our window. It's interesting that in this city of water, there are few insect flying around. A couple of those that are, did bite me, but it's OK to keep the window open, and enjoy the sounds from the square and the view of purple petunias and yellow snapdragons in our balcony flower boxes.

Photos 29 April

Monday, April 30 - Venice Embarcation Day

We spent much of the morning packing up, with a last little tour of the local souvenir market to find one last thing we wanted. We checked out of the Bellini, left our luggage there and walked across the bridge, along the Grand Canal to have lunch in the same outdoor restaurant we had visited the first day. We gathered up our bags, hopped on a vaporetto, travelled to Piazza le Roma and rode the People Mover to Marittima, the passenger port. As we set out toward the ships, we met a couple coming the other way. Pacific Princess? they asked. Yes, we said. Well, it's not at this port, it's at San Basilio. Where's that? We thought this was THE port. Not sure. Luckily, a gentleman nearby pointed out that we could see our ship, just not get there from here. So the 4 of us teamed up, went back on the People Mover to P. le Roma, had no success finding a vaporetto going to S. Basilio and finally hired a water taxi (thanks to Larry's initiative). Nice little trip through canals and out into the Lagoon to the landing. From there, the process was simple and we were soon on board. Very nice ship, but showing some signs of age. Our mini-suite is delightfully large and comfortable. We could host a hall party! A "treasure hunt" helped us explore the ship. Before dinner, we had drinks in one of the lounges, tested the bartender with "Harvey Wallbanger" and he produced a perfect one. For a half hour or so we sat in lonely splendour at our table for 8, but then another couple arrived, then another and right at the end, the 2 ladies to complete the group. They are all Americans from Oregon and Colorado, but there are many Canadians on board. In the evening there was a welcome aboard show, starting with a draw for various goods and services on board, and the introduction of the entertainment staff. Some good singing and dancing and a funny comedian. Then we were leaving port, so we went back to our stateroom and out on the balcony. It had been raining so the streets were shining and glittering under the lights. Just beautiful.

Tuesday, May 1st - Ravenna and Republic of San Marino

Up early and breakfast on the aft deck as we pulled into Ravenna. We joined our tour group for the trip to San Marino and Ravenna under cloudy skies and in a haze. Our first destination was San Marino, about 90 minutes away. During the bus trip we heard both the historical and the legendary version of the founding of the fortress at the top of the mountain. As we got closer we could see the three towers and the walls, and eventually we wound our way up to the parking area. From there we climbed on foot. It reminded me of Mont St. Michel, in France. Many little shops and restaurants and steep cobbled streets. The church is just lovely, though only about 150 years old. We climbed to the first tower and along the "witches' walk" (still climbing) to the second. We chose not to climb either tower. The views were spectacular and the sun came out for awhile. We sat outdoors and had a good lunch and some coffee while watching the ever-increasing number of tourists pouring by. We were glad we got there before it was so crowded. Eventually we made our way back down to the bus and off toward Ravenna. This is an agricultural area and we saw a wide variety of field crops, orchards and vineyards along the way. Horse chestnuts, and something the colour of redbud are in bloom, as well as poppies, wisteria, roses and other spring things. And the mosquitoes are out! I have numerous bites that have turned into large welts. Of course the benedryl is on the ship. Back in Ravenna we visited the Chiesa di San Vitale -- a beautiful 5th century church with the most astonishing mosaics. Worth the whole trip to see it. From there it was a short walk to the Tomb of Galla Placidia, another marvel of mosaic art from from the 4th century. Absolutely awesome. A brief stroll along the main street and it was time to go back to the ship. We had a great time at dinner with the 6 Americans, and then really enjoyed the show in the lounge. A 50s & 60s tribute -- knew all the words to all the songs. Time for bed!

Photos 1 May

Continue Blog to 2 May