Let the tour commence.....
We were up around 7 am feeling quite well refreshed and ready for the day. The view from the window showed that there were 2 cruise ships in town, and by the time we were ready to go down to breakfast a 3rd ship was arriving.
Breakfasts are one of the things we love about hotels, and the spread at the Anthony Hotel was great. Choice of juices, cereals and yoghurts, breads, cheeses and meats, bacon, eggs, sausage and so many sweet pastries. Michael adopted a European appetite and went for cold meats, cheeses and breads. I had scrambled egg on toast and bacon.
At 8.45 we were all gathered in the hotel lobby and went outside into a drizzly, wet day and boarded a convoy of mini buses to head down to the ferry terminus. We were met by a local guide who arranged water taxis for us and we were divided into small groups and climbed aboard the little boats. We were off, across the water from Mestre over to Venice. Then we were cruising past magnificent buildings, other boats of varying sizes and watching the industry on the canal banks. It was fascinating to see water Fire Brigades, Ambulances, furniture / food. supplies and even a DHL delivery boat.
We cruised along the Grand Canal, which was very busy and all too soon reached our destination of St Marks's Square.
We had a short wait until the other boats with the other people arrived and then we were off on our tour of Venice. Our first stop was the Murano Glass Studio.
Here they showed us a short demonstration on glass blowing and then the expert glass maker made an exquisite little horse, amazing.
Then we went into the showroom were our eyes got even bigger, such a vast collection of amazing glass ware. Photography was not allowed so I can't share any of it, but I'm sure the Murano has it's own web site with everything showcased, everything from tiny glass bead bracelets and necklaces to huge display pieces.
We were given a short talk about the glass ware and it's strength, it is very strong and it was the first time that I'd actually seen a glass tumbler, tumble.
The guy dropped/rolled a glass tumbler onto a tray and it 'tumbled' over without a crack. To his delight one woman in our group screamed when he did it, so he took every opportunity to try and break the glass. He really knew how to play to an audience.
Then it was time to head back to St Mark's Square and meet another tour guide for our tour of the Doges' Palace.
All those years of independent travelling and cursing tour groups who jump the queue - well here we are walking straight in, through the 'pre paid' ticket line.
We joined the multitudes and slowly ascended and descended the stairs through the various rooms and then proceded at a snail's pace down through to the prison cells and crossed the Bridge of Sighs.
The bridge is where the prisoners crossed over to the cells, there are no large windows, there is a very restricted view of the city and the tunnels are low and narrow. Lots of reasons to sigh at your isolation from the city.
If we had a 'things we must see and do' list for this trip, the Bridge of Sighs would be on it and now we could cross it off.
It was a long, slow tour but we did see everything and it was amazing.
Ralph and Michael outside the Cathedral
The tour over, it was our free time and as we were all starving - that huge breakfast was 6 hours ago, we joined up with Ralph and Hanny and wandered the back streets looking for food. I was leading and seemed to have lead us into a shopping district but then I spotted a shop window full of sandwiches. The 3 people in front of me also spotted it and stopped right in front of the window, blocking anyone else's view. I couldn't see the food so moved around in front of them to try and see a menu, just then a waiter came out of the doorway and said, "Yes, come in, how many people?" We were wet and hungry so I told him 4, and he took us up stairs to a table. The menu looked great and we all decided on the 'touristica menu' - soup, steak or chicken and coffee for just 18 euro. The waiter persuaded me that I needed a 'grande' beer and I took his advice.
It was warm and dry in the restaurant and we were in Europe so lunch took a nice long time.
Feeling very much better we finally left the restaurant and continued ambling the back streets. We enquired about taking a gondola down the canal for a short way but the gondolier informed us that it's a fixed price and they only do 30 minute round trips - 'start here, finish here'. On a nice sunny day that would be lovely, but it was still raining so we decided not to have a ride in a gondola in Venice. A ride had been on Hanny's list, but she decided to put another visit to Venice on the list. We walked across the Rialto Bridge and then heading towards the bus terminus zig zagged through the narrow back lanes.
We found the bus terminus but were waiting at the wrong stop until one of our fellow tour group, who had been in Venice a few days longer than us, came over and took us to the right one, they also knew when to get off the bus. Without them who knows where we would have ended up. When we got off the bus, I spotted a sign for a Lidl supermarket, let's get some cold
drinks says I. Luckily no one hit me, but the supermarket turned out to be much further away than I thought and we were 4 very tired, wet, tetchy individuals when we finally got back to the hotel. No one could walk another step so dinner was in the hotel dining room again - unfortunately rather disappointing after our splendid lunch.
Michael had been to Venice before (in 1974), but I hadn't - it was just like the postcards.
Beautiful. Even the rain couldn't dampen it's beauty, how lovely it would be without the hordes of tourists! We won't think twice about visiting again, but a small hotel in the centre of Venice itself would be a much nicer option.
Tomorrow we leave Italy and head into Slovenia....