Part Three – Monday 26th August 2013
Today was an exciting day as an early start saw us on the road and heading for Venice at 6.30 in the morning. The roads were clear and 8 am saw us the other side of Monaco and past the busy A8 motorway threading past Cannes and Nice before rush hour. Sometimes when we do these drives I think of F1 racing when the commentators talk of 1 or two stop strategies. Well we adopted a two stop strategy – a fuel stop and a snack stop.
Just inside Italy then around 8.15 we stopped and refuelled and Peanut took over the driving. She carried on pushing hard and did a two and a half hour stint before we stopped again this time for a drink and some delicious apple turnovers. I like Italian motorways, first there are only tolls when you leave the motorway and secondly, the service stations are small so you don’t end up meandering for miles when you exit the motorway for a quick break. I also hear tales about how the Italian drivers are mad etc and yes sometimes we do see them hanging on to the tails of people, but to be honest it is always the fault of the people being tailgated. You can see them thinking “I’m doing 130 kmh why should I move over?” Well you are not a traffic cop so get out of the way and let the speed merchants through, then you are out of harms way and can enjoy your drive again, without a lunatic on your tail!
My turn at the wheel again, and the ETA after the stop had crept to the wrong side of 1pm, so again I pushed hard and made sure we always drove to the maximum speed and never lost time driving slower. I like to find a marker – an Italian who drives fast but not crazy fast and latch on to them. Slowly our time came down and we drove over the bridge to the island of Venice at quarter to 1. The sat nav took us straight to the multi storey car park, close to the end of the bridge where we had pre booked and we quickly dropped the car off.
Peanut had one bag to carry and the rest all attach to a small wheeled case with a slide out handle which I pulled. This made it an easy 100 yard walk across the Piazalle Roma to the waterbus stop on the Grand Canal close to its end where it merges with the lagoon. Another ten minutes and we were on the no2 waterbus heading not along the Grand Canal but out to the lagoon and back around to pass the other end of the Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco.
Our plan then to get to the hotel was working like clockwork and this was a wonderful way to arrive at our hotel. We were the last stop before the bus turned around. We passed Piazza San Marco, the famous Danieli Hotel and then saw our hotel right in front of us as we docked. It was so exciting arriving this way and a twenty yard walk saw us checking in on a beautiful, sunny Venetian Day.
We were on the second floor with no lift but reception told us to head up and they would bring the luggage. We just had time to use the toilet and then our luggage was with us. The room was fine with a simple elegance and a very good 4 piece bathroom with shower (which turned out to be excellent) in lieu of a bath. All was just what we hoped for both with our hotel and the ease of getting here and we were seriously happy bunnies as we then spent a mad ten minutes unpacking.
Just after two we stepped out of the hotel turned right along the waterfront, mooched for a 100 yards amongst the many stalls, street vendors and crowds of sightseers before reaching the famous St Mark’s Square, where elegant 4 piece bands played in the cafes and restaurants that were charging you 16 euros for your espressos! The sun was shining, old Dean Martin tunes wafted past your ears on the wind, a few people caught up in the romance of it swayed and waltzed to the sounds and I was smitten. From stepping on the waterbus to arrive at my hotel, to standing here in the middle of Piazza San Marco was less than an hour and in that time I had fallen for Venice big time. Between then and now a day or so later nothing has taken this feeling away, it is just a wonderful, magical place.
We had last eaten, when we enjoyed an apple turnover on the motorway, so our tummies had a word with us and told us to find something to eat. As my surname was not Rockerfella we wandered away from the most expensive square in the world and found a small cafe in one of the side streets where I had a tagliatelle and Peanut a burger. It wasn’t in truth what you would call our introduction to the delights of Italian food, but it did the job of recharging the batteries, before we began exploring some more. We passed Chanel, Prada, Burberry, Hermes, LV, with their beautiful clothes and noted that the high end fashions on display looked beautiful and wearable! You know how if you ever see fashion on the catwalk on the tele, it looks weird or extreme, but what was in the shop windows looked highly wearable, albeit beyond our modest pockets!
Then Mrs Peanut stumbled across Luisa Spagnoli and really fell in love with absolutely every outfit in all the windows. The prices were not Prada prices either and while this holiday budget did not allow for a new outfit, the name duly went in her diary! Back at the hotel she looked them up and the first thing she found was that our Kate, The Duchess of Cambridge has been seen looking stunning wearing Luisa Spagnoli. I am now to be dragged back to this shop,for a second look , later in our stay here apparently!
We spent the rest of the afternoon aimlessly exploring and left the San Marco area of Venice, crossed the Grand Canal on the Ponte dell’ Accademia and explored the tip of the Dorsoduro area of Venice. We enjoyed an ice cream as we wandered, before finally recrossing the bridge and came back past San Marco Piazzo to our hotel to shower and rest our legs before dinner.
In the evening we wandered over to the Rialto Bridge. I remember a friend from work Steve saying he enjoyed a meal near the bridge, so it gave us a target to head for. In the end we had a meal just under the Rialto bridge, but not I suspect in the exact same restaurant as Steve had described. We shared a lovely seafood Risotto and ended up chatting to an American couple who were sat close to us and enjoying baby squid cooked in their own ink, or something like that. All very Inspector Montalbano, but not for us. The Risotto was good and it was fun chatting to the Americans. He was contemplating what tip to leave, so I had some tongue in cheek fun with him. I explained, that service was included in the bill, so we would not be leaving a tip, as we are British and poor and need to save the money to help bolster our declining welfare state. However, as he was American, he must leave a tip as he was rich and more importantly, needed to make people like him. He found this amusing and left a tip!
Our first day in Venice was done and the love affair was well and truly underway.