Tuesday, March 27, 2007

From London to Venice - March 2007

Day 1 - Sunday: Arrival

3:50 alarm clock. Walk through the City of London to St. Paul's to take the number 8 bus to Victoria. Revellers after their night out, bleary eyed. Some Russian-looking girls and a young man sitting awkwardly next to a pool of sick left by a previous passenger. The Gatwick Express was a smooth journey but without a trolley service (I needed tea). It was a scenic journey; still night on the right-hand side of the train, the sky turning morning blue on the other. Four vapour trails of aeroplanes were lit up by the still-invisible sun. Ate a very welcome cheese and marmite heated roll (good idea) at the airport, came out of the loos to find the information board was displaying my gate; walked to there (15 minutes) to find there were no other passengers there. I was afraid I was the last and everyone else had boarded, but in fact I was the very first. Eye-opening relaxation about boarding on a scheduled airline with prebooked seats.

The journey was fine. Being used to Ryanair, I found it exciting to get free food and drink – even the roll accompanying my smoothie was so disgusting-looking I saved it for later and never ate it. Asked for tea, whisky and coke. Only drank a little of the whisky (probably reeked of it though!) but the combination woke me up. The couple next to me were as depressingly stereotypical as last time (that time they had matching his and hers mags: his was full of oiled snogging lesbian pics, hers of celebrities). These were older than me, but he had a handheld electronic toy (something to do with football) and she was engrossed in a magazine comprised of many pages comparing the thighs of 'celebrities' and a Q&A with Hugh Hefner. Very saddening.

I had chosen the correct side of the plane during online check-in – from the right-hand side I had a superb view over the southern lagoon with buildings/farms/shacks stuck out along causeways and marshes in a place where lagoon and land seemed hard to distinguish between. Then over the lagoon between Venice and the mainland with amazing views of the city and snowy mountains. At that point I felt that this trip was already worthwhile.

Marco Polo Airport was modern, and reasonably sign-posted with newsagents and bars. But there were long queues at the ticket desks for public transport. I defeated a dreadful local queue-jumper thanks to my years of experience in the jungle of Rome. I had actually to run over her feet with my suitcase before she gave up her determined attempts to edge in before me. Without a word or glance she then slotted in behind me; the English girl there being too English to stop her (we just exchanged pained English glances).

I took the ATVO bus outside the terminal. I took a photograph for the website as the coach rolled up -'Smile!' the lounging drivers behind me called out to their colleague. It was crowded but I got a seat. No seatbelts. The journey into Venice was very short – 20 minutes on the timetable.

I collected my plastic abbonamento from the ACTV office at Piazzale Roma, from a girl in a secret little office. This is a great thing. You have to pay for the initial photo-card and buy a month's season ticket (which is about the same price as a tourist 3-day ticket). From then on you're entitled to the same discounted rates as residents of the Veneto (10 single journeys for euros, for example).

Then I caught the 82 vaporetto to my rendezvous at San Tomà. I met Enrico who had the agency keys to my holiday flat. He wasn't what I'd expected: young, scruffy student type, very friendly. He showed me to the flat, we sorted out thekeys and so on. I was very pleased with the flat and location. It boasted a kitchen-in-a-cupboard which I found rather appealing.

I was on a high from the tiredness so instead of being sensible and sleeping I walked off to the Zattere, took the 82 past the Giudecca and San Giorgio to see if I could see the mountains with snow. But either it was too hazy or the viewpoint was wrong. Next I took a fast boat back to Piazzale Roma to the supermarket, grabbed a random selection of food and walked back. I made tea, ate a roll and some apple strudel, showered, then it was time to head out for the evening. I enjoyed a nice aperitivo at an outside table in Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio.

> Day 2 - a tour around the islands
> Venice tourist guide

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