Thank you all so much, everybody who came to QParty, and to everybody who’s blogged about it (I’m paying a small fortune for internet access, so I haven’t had time to read everything you’ve all written, but I’ve been quite moved by everything I’ve seen so far: abnib must be full of Q-jokes!), and in particular to Ruth, for blogging about where we’d gone after I texted her.
I’ll write more about QParty at a later juncture. For now, let me fill you in on QMoon, our mystery “honeymoon” (thanks dad!).
It didn’t take us long in my dad’s car on Monday morning to realise that we were headed to Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and then – herded into a “Q” – to discover that we were flying out to Treviso Airport, just outside of Venice, Italy. My dad gave us three numbered packages, and a fourth, containing a letter, InterRail passes, hotel booking details, some spending money, and instructions on when to open the packages. We opened this one as the RyanAir 737-800 pulled away from the ground.
As might be expected from a holiday organised by my dad, great and detailed plans were provided for the various forms of transport that we would take. A plane (well, let’s face it, a flying bus – this is, after all, RyanAir), a bus into Venice, a water-bus to our hotel, and so on. Buses, as you can see, a major part of this segment of the plan.
Passport control initially gave us some trouble, a guard pointing out that our surnames were “unusual,” but nothing really problematic.
As I texted to Ruth and she dutifully blogged, Venice looks EXACTLY LIKE IT DOES IN EVERY MOVIE EVER. There really ARE no roads. This became most apparent to me when I saw a bin lorry (okay, a boat with a trash compacter on the back) pull up at a dock, and a man jumped out with a trolley. He ran down the alleyways, filling his barrow with bin bags collected from the doorsteps of the cramped pathways, eventually meeting up with the boat at the next jetty and depositing his load. Then he’d swap with the driver of the boat who’d do the next “run.”
Everything – really everything – depends on the canals. For a moment, it’s easy to believe that they had a perfectly conventional road network that they flooded one day, just for fun. Police boats and ambulances rush around old-style gondolas, water-taxis pick up and drop off, and lumbering old water-buses – somewhat reminiscient of London tube trains when they’re full of wall-to-wall people – crawling from stop to stop. This provided us with some confusion early on: you need to pay attention not only to what point along the canal you’ll be getting off, but also what side of the canal your stop is on! It’s easy, we discovered, to get off at a stop near to your destination only to realise you’re on the wrong side of the water! Thankfully, traghetti (small two-oar gondolas) provide a crossing opportunity for half a Euro, cutting between the other traffic and rocking alarmingly as they meander across the water.
Our hotel was pleasant enough, although the room was of a typical small Venetian size and the view was in the opposite direction to the Canale Grande, and there was initially some confusion over the bill. However, it was wonderfully central and – being right on the canals – gave us quick access to the city.
We went out for a meal on first night of mushroom soup (delicious) and lasagne for me, tagliateli for Claire, along with a bottle of a delicious local(-ish) wine, then explored the city. Wandering just off the main canals and the main touristy areas we found ourselves lost in a labyrinthine maze of winding alleyways (some barely wide enough for one man to walk down) and dead ends. The buildings loom tall above you, all usable land long since having been occupied, and hundreds of years of expansion (upwards and outwards!) has resulted in a landscape like something from an Escher painting or some Ghibli movie, chimneys and walkways and crumbling buildings being re-built upon and all.
We took an early night, exhausted by a busy day, and today (Tuesday) set out to try to find the statue of Casanova before the 12.38 train to our next destination. We failed miserably at this and at our secondary goal of finding his birthplace, and instead enjoyed a light brunch in a little outdoor cafe and explored some of the local shops. Oh, and found some sweet exactly like Pocky, so that was good.
And now we’re on the high-speed train to Rome, where we’re spending the next couple of nights. We didn’t really get long enough in Venice, but we’ll be returning there after our day in Napoli, and perhaps we’ll have enough time to see the Basilica di San Marco and some of the other architectural attractions of this most amazing city. For now, I think I’ll try to translate as much as I can from the in-train magazine while Claire sleeps off this morning’s walking!
Oh, and for those of you who can see Ruth’s most recent friends-only post: I agree whole-heartedly.
Will post again when I can.