Monday, August 17, 2015

Day 4: First Day in Venice

Wahoo, and we're off to Venice, Italy! Just a 25 minute taxi to the Berlin airport, with a lot LESS luggage than the last time. Phew! Venice was a little nervous about going through security, remembering the last time, but we pretty much sailed through... until they found scissors in her backpack. Ooops. They've been there the whole time, but this is the first time security found them. They had her take them out, saw that they were "kid" scissors (basically blunt tipped) and let her keep them. Another, phew!

They checked ID (passports) at checkin, but then nothing when we arrived in Italy. We got to walk through the Schengen arrival doors, so no customs since we were flying from within the Schengen area. Cool! I think this was a bingo item for Venice.

Side note: Chris was signed a seat in a different row than us. But, just before take-off, he asked to change to an open seat and was able to join us. Just weird. The entire row in front of the kids was empty and the seat next to me was empty. And yet, Chris was signed a seat a few rows up next to a mom with an unhappy baby. He got to sit with his family, and the mom had more room to move with her baby. Win-win!

Ready! Set! Arrived!
Upon arrival in Venice, Chris and Xander figured out what tickets to get for transportation into Venice. The last time we traveled here, we took the train from the Bologna airport, so this was new to us. We took a city bus to Venice and then a water taxi. The water taxi was crazy full. People shoved right up into your personal space. A taxi worker kept telling us we had to take our backpacks off. You had to either stow it or hold it. I guess they figure it makes more room for people to be shoved all in. I think I stepped on a dog's tail, who was sitting so quietly with his owners. Sorry!

We checked into the hotel and left our bags (too early to get into the room), and went out to find lunch. This restaurant was just something to tide us over, so nothing special. We did find out something interesting about the bathrooms here. It is typical to have a door to the bathrooms open into a small sink area. Then, there are two doors, one for women and one for men. Doesn't sound odd. But the sink area is small and it is sometimes awkward to be sharing space with the opposite sex when you are used to having a lot of space alone. The first one had frilly mirrors and girls primping, so if you're a dude, you have to walk by them and into your bathroom stall, just inches away. Not horrible, just different. After a few uses, I got used to the idea and, really, I didn't bump into anyone in all that time... it was mostly just the anticipation that kept me on my toes.

Clock tower (left). Government building (middle-left).
The kids playing in a giant water puddle (middle-right). The left-front of the Basilica (right).
We walked to Piazza San Marco. Oh, my! It was crowded! Again, I don't remember it being this crowded. But the buildings were just as beautiful as I remembered. The kids took a break from the heat by wading through the giant puddle that covered the middle of the Piazza.

We had no real plans for today. Just to walk about and take it all in. We headed to the water's edge at the port. The kids stuck their feet into the water there. The beauty of the place definitely takes a little weight out of the heat.
Gelato. We must find gelato. Ok, not hard to find, as there is a gelateria on every "block". You just have to find a good one (but I still argue that they are all probably good). We hunted for a specific one recommended to us and enjoyed our first-of-many gelatos. Then onto our hotel to find our room and take a rest.
View from our balcony at the "Starhotel Splendid Venice" hotel (left and middle)
Venice, pretending to think the bidet was a water fountain (right)
We stayed at the Starhotel Splendid Venice, thanks to HotelTonight's help with this one. It is located between the Rialto bridge and the Piazza San Marco. Great for walking to all the main spots. But it is a slight trade-off in that you are in the heart of the the hustle and bustle (translate to noise and crowds). We are in a family room which is ginormous. Three big rooms (entry, kids beds, master beds) with a large bathroom (tub and shower, bidet, big counters). And thanks to science, we have air conditioning, the BEST thing about the room, really! We do have a wonderful balcony and a views of a canal and bridges... but did I mention the air conditioning? Love it.

Side note: The electrical plugs are NOT the same as in Germany. What? But don't panic, Chris brought one universal-converter and we were able to share that one to recharge all our devices. Phew! We didn't bring laptops, but boy, we needed our phones (for navigation and communication) and the kids NEEDED their iPods to be charged! We scraped by with the shared converter. It just meant that the kids had to leave their iPods to charge in the room during the day, so they couldn't take them out to take photos of their own. Lesson learned. May need more universal-converters for other travels in the future.

As much as we wanted to rest and not do much (we were all tired from an early start), we decided we must walk to the other side of the island to meet Alessandro, one of HotelTonight's hotel-side correspondents. He grew up in Murano and has now lived in Venice for many, many years. He works with the Hotel Antiche Figure on the Ferrovia side of Venice and LOVES his city. He loves to share his knowledge of its history and ideas of where to visit.

Kids and map (left), Chris and Alessandro (middle), Kids walking (right)
We met Alessandro at his hotel and were greeted with warm welcomes and bellinis. He spent a long time showing us the map and pointing out places to see, eat, and visit. The kids had their iPods this time (this was before we realised the outlets were different) and occupied themselves quietly as we studied the map. Alessandro then walked us to dinner before heading home, and we enjoyed a nice dinner to end our day.

Alessandro had sent other clients to the same restaurant (clients who were staying at his hotel) and they sat right next to us. They were ending their 2 week trip (a New Jersey family with three grown daughters). As we talked about their trip, our trip, and other niceties, Venice and Xander (but Venice in particular) were super tired and ready to go back to the hotel for some good rest.

Side note: I am now remembering how long the Italians like to eat (or enjoy each other's company at the table). You get service and food very fast, but it takes about a year to get the bill. EVERY TIME we have to say, "Il conto per favore". And even that takes a while.

As a result, no kid brushed their teeth tonight. It was straight to bed with those sleepyheads.

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