"" Writer's Wanderings: 18 Days Through Europe in an Audi - Venice, Italy

Thursday, November 04, 2010

18 Days Through Europe in an Audi - Venice, Italy

[Summer, 2004]

When we arrived at the gondola stop, about 60 people waited with us searching the water for the familiar watercraft shape--no gondolas in sight. Just as we were wondering what was going on, a dozen gondolas suddenly appeared and pulled in between the striped poles to let their passengers off.

We boarded our gondola being careful not to move too much. It's almost like getting into a canoe. With amazing skill, the gondoliers used their long tongued poles to manipulate the vessels out of the dock and into the canal. We were part of an armada of gondolas that slowly made its way down the Grand Canal. In the evening, the canal is not as busy so we did not bob around like those who rode earlier.
In the center of the armada, was a gondola with a tenor and an accordion player who serenaded us as we floated between buildings illuminated with the colors of the evening sun. As we entered a narrow canal to navigate the maze of small waterways that lace the island, the sound of Ol Sole Mio resonated from the exteriors of the buildings. Romantic? Yes and no. After all we were with our family and 11 other gondolas filled with people. But the setting could not be matched in the best of romance novels.

It was good we had time to relax for our train ride back was to be very stressful. We arrived in time to catch the last train. The question was--which one went to Mestre where our hotel was located? We finally found someone who assured us we needed to get on the train he pointed to. Once on we realized we were in a sleeper coach. We got off and another person directed us to the same train. This time to a coach full of private compartments. We sat for a while until some others came along with tickets for the seats we were in. Off again.

The signs indicated all along that the train went to a French sounding place. I was panicking. Again an official looking individual directed us onto the train, this time in a different car. This car looked more like the commuter cars we had been in for the ride to Venezia. We relaxed a little and a passenger assured us again that the train would stop in Mestre. Polly and I just kept exchanging glances. Would we sleep in our hotel tonight or in some unknown destination? Thankfully, as the train neared the Mestre station, it slowed and stopped.

On the way out, we asked where the train's final destination was. Sure enough. It was France. Cie la vie!

Oh yes, I can't leave Venice until I tell you about the pay toilets. A must for any self respecting woman. (Our guys said the non-pay toilets were indescribable.) They only cost about .50 Euro and they were very clean and well worth the wait.

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