2006-01-04: The DoDo has landed
We have landed in Italy for the beginning of our last holiday. The day started damn early, but then it was travel. Our breakfast consisted of the last bits of food in the flat, some buns bought the day before. Our taxi was on time and we had a jovial English taxi driver (though the taxi itself was just a station wagon). While waiting at the Rail-Air bus terminal Edyta saw many books lying on a table and deciding that they must have been books discarded when the reader was done with them grabbed on for me to read ('It looks like the sort of book you read' she says of a book that has words on the cover). I get a gift of something taken from a bus station, and an extra few grams to carry, but the thought is nice (often travel for me involves sitting and wondering what travel would be like with a PSP or Gameboy). The airport was easy to get through (although I did miss out on a free viewing of Futurama because the TV section is right next to the smoking section, and even with no smokers in there it reeks of smoke so we don't sit near it). Our bags were were stored in left luggage, and I hope I can get them back as the man taking our bags seemed to have little understandable English (tip, when coming to England learn some Indian to help you get by) and I didn't get a receipt or claim number, just a piece of card with the time and date written on it.
The canals of Venice
The flight was via Prague with Czech Airlines. The stop-over and carrier should say a bit about what sort of service to expect. Even Edyta commented that they seemed to have a policy of selecting old unattractive women for the serving staff. We were squeezed into our old reliable Boeing 737 (which is good because I was fearing some Russian flying death trap). We'd been told it was an unusual routing at the airport too. It doesn't matter though because the Prague stop over gave us a chance to fly over a winter wonderland where all the ground was white except for the black stalks of trees across the land. The airport was covered in snow, in fact when we transferred to a small prop driven plane we had to wait while the ice was removed from the wings. The onward flight to Venice then passed over the mountains on the Italian - Austrian border, which rose like white islands from the ocean of clouds below us. By the time we made it to Venice the snow had gone and a warm 5 degrees had returned.
We were hoping the hotel was in the heart of Venice along some canal but found out it was on the mainland on some main road. Getting to the hotel was a bit of an adventure, it involved two buses and no-English. I'd been given directions from the tourist desk at the airport but they were a little bit off. Luckily we were assisted by an old lady and then a lady and child, and on the final bus the bus driver pointed out the stop for us.
The gaudy display of opulence
Once checked in we headed into Venice itself (the islands). This involved a bus trip where we didn't have a ticket, because it was a Wednesday afternoon. Or some other reason that wasn't clearly explained to us. Luckily the Italians are as slack as Polish in ticket checking (you could never ride a bus without a ticket in England, round here, do what you like). We got into the city as the sun was setting and walked some of the Canals. The tourist shops in this area sell glass and carnivale masks, and these were everywhere. The restaurants run pretty much on European time so it is hard to eat before 7pm. We found a cheap place that served pasta (in Italy, who'd think it!). Later we found a place that sold Pizza. The staff were onto us before we could figure out whether to eat there or not (and it was one of the few places open that wasn't a tiny bar and two tables on the opposite wall). I misread (or didn't read) Edytas' signs that we should move on and instead went into the hotel. We had the meal and then discovered the Italian money spinner, the Cognesto, or cover charge. It cost us 6 euro just for them to usher us in and serve us stuff. Needless to say they (nor will any Italian) didn't get a tip. We only ordered one pizza which was good as it was huge (though nothing like a Domino or Pizza Hut pizza). As I hadn't been hungry all day and we'd both eating already by the end of the meal we were stuffed.
We returned to the hotel via the bus. We asked for a ticket on the bus and were told to get one at the office. As the bus was leaving we just sat down instead. No check (the driver even knew we didn't have tickets) and we got off without having to change buses. I was not feeling too well and was exhausted so I pretty much fell straight asleep. All night I dreamt I was a rock. Our night was slightly disturbed by someone knocking on the door till we questioned with a 'Hello?' and then received a 'sorry' and the intruder wandering off.