Friday, February 3, 2017

Italy for the New Year {Venice-Day 5}

I woke up to a rainy Florence on January 2nd, so it was fortunate that I was booked on a train out of town.  I took this pic from the taxi on the way to the train station.
I arrived in sunny Venice at 11:35.  There were two options to get from the train station to the hotel, both called a Vaporetto, but one is a private taxi (boat) and the other a bus (also a boat).  I had emailed my hotel in advance asking for the best way to get there.  I didn't get a great response and the directions from the bus dock seemed more complicated than from the taxi dock, plus there was a ridiculous line for bus tickets at the train station, so I went with the private taxi.

It's a pretty cool taxi ride though...
Cool, but expensive!  Like €65 for a one way trip!  I knew this going in, but still...
Let me just take this opportunity to tell you that it isn't just the taxis...Venice is EXPENSIVE.

Exhibit One: I prefer to prepay for as much as possible when I vacation, and then I like to travel with cash.  I do not like to get credit card bills in the mail and have to pay for my trip after I get home.  So I was on a 8 day trip, I rolled into Venice on Day 5 and still had over 60% of my cash left.  I thought, "oh no!  I exchanged too much money!".  Nope.  I ended up with €5 left at the end of the trip.
Getting from the taxi dock to the hotel was an adventure.  One that included me being very very lost. I really thought I was never going to find the hotel, but eventually I did.  Basically, Venice is just a place where you are going to be lost 80% of the time, and if you are hauling your luggage around while lost, then it just sucks.

I found my hotel (more on the hotel at the end of the post for those interested), unloaded and headed out for the day.  Just around the corner from the hotel, I found a great watercolor artist.  She was so nice, and I loved her paintings.  I bought a small one for myself, and asked if I could take her picture.  I ran my painting back to the room, and then officially was on my way.
My hotel was located on San Marco and was very close to Piazza San Marco.  It is a beautiful square.
Too many pigeons, but a beautiful place nonetheless. 
I immediately ran into a family from Georgia that I had hung out with on the Siena trip, so we talked for a bit and walked around for a little while.
Harry's Bar was where I wanted to have lunch.
Harry's is famous for a number of reasons:
(1) It opened in 1931, and is part of the Cipriani establishments;
(2) They invented the Bellini here;
(3) Hemingway used to hang out here; and 
(4) Royalty and Celebrities hang here when in Venice.
Full disclosure:  It.  Is.  Expensive.
I knew that going in, but it's still jarring to pay €20 for a bellini!
But it's a dang good bellini!
I was seated upstairs, and they arranged it so I had a great view.  They are very attentive and offer great service (kind of the antithesis of most places in Italy).

I had a very expensive Club Sandwich and salad.  I declined a second bellini, but the waiter brought me another and said "It's on me".  Well okay then!  I ate my lunch, enjoyed the view, and read my guidebook.
I asked for my check, but instead of the check he brought me this incredible piece of cake, which I ate several bites of before I remembered to take a picture.  I don't know what it was, but it is high on my favorite desserts list.  Oh, and dessert was "on him" too!
Despite being expensive, I felt like I got a good deal since the waiter was plying me with freebies!  Oh, and I got their wifi code which I totally sponged off of the entire time I was in Venice.  I would just stop for a few minutes outside Harry's and link up to their wifi a couple of times a day.  So handy!
This is St. Mark's Basilica.  I wanted to take a tour, but the line was long, so I opted for a tour of Doge's Palace instead.

Doge's Palalce is also known as Palazzo Ducale.  I really like the architecture here:  a combination of Gothic, Byzantium, and Islamic influences
Back in the day, Venice was an oligarchy and the elected leader was called The Doge.  So this was the Doge's Palace.  This was the stairway where everyone came to meet the Doge...the grand entrance guarded by Neptune and Mars.

A view of the basilica from the courtyard...


This is called "The Mouth of Truth".  
It is where people could drop complaints or suspicions anonymously...

The Doge's Palace is a real understand kind of place...
Of course, I'm kidding... This golden staircase features 24-carat gilded ceilings!





Hall of the Council of Ten is where Judges and the Doge met to dole out punishments for crimes...

The Prisons...
Many people gather to see the Bridge of Sighs...
But I took these pics from inside the Bridge of Sighs!
It is said that prisoners were condemned to death, walked through the bridge of sighs on their way back to the prison, and from these windows they could get their last look of Venice.  A cheery kind of place...
Back outside the Palace



From the outside now, looking at the Bridge of Sighs...



The street leading from St. Mark's Square to my hotel was lined with Prada, LV, Hermes, Cartier, Gucci, etc.  I did lots of window shopping, and drooled daily over these Prada pumps...
and Gucci bags.

St. Mark's is so pretty at night with all the Christmas lights...



The Basilica was closed, but I was able to take this quick snap through the gates...

A window had some of the carnevale costumes and masks on display...

So about my hotel.  Remember, I was blind booking all of these.  Of my 4 hotels, I was most unhappy with this match.  I honestly didn't think it was how it was described.  I called Hotwire, but they didn't care to do anything about my complaint.  I was just about decided that I didn't want to stay here at all, and was in the process of booking another hotel on Christmas Even when my Mom said "you've already paid for it, so just give it a look in person, if it's that bad then switch hotels".

It was not as bad as I anticipated and I ended up staying there both nights.  It's the Hotel La Fenice.  It is right next door to the La Fenice Opera.  Allegedly Opera people stay there all the time.
I had a single room again.  It wasn't terrible. But it was Red, Red, Red.
Red carpet.  Red fabric walls.
It was making me feel claustrophobic big time, but I stuck it out.  It was actually quite cheap, and I guess I'm glad I saved the money... but I bet the Westin which I was going to book on Christmas Eve would have been better 😉

Stay tuned for my second day in Venice when I venture out into the lagoon to see Burano, Torcello, and Murano!
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