The trip to Venice was fairly uneventful, at least until we got to Venice proper. Despite the flights being short ones, we were still a day’s travel away – but still, that’s a hell of a lot better than it would have been to fly from California!

Our day of planes, trains, and automobiles started out relatively early, with a tube trip in to uni to print off documents. Of course the printer wasn’t working, but Gabe finally convinced another one to spit out all the information we considered essential to have once we got here: water boat reservations, directions to the apartment, info for the Venice Connected cards we’d bought (which include transport, internet access, museum tickets, etc), and other such sundries.

We then hopped a cab to the airport, and arrived in plenty of time to go through security and even eat a quick lunch before boarding. Of course, I soon discovered that the carefully made salad I’d brought for lunch had leaked dressing all over my bag… what a great start to the trip! But no permanent damage was done, and our flight to Madrid was short and painless.

We got there with a scant half hour to spare before our next flight boarded, and practically ran off the plane, frantic to find our gate. Turned out that it was literally right next to the one we’d just left… whew! I don’t think that has ever happened to me before – it seems like transfers always involve running to the opposite end of the airport.

Not this one, thankfully, and I was even able to have a cup of tea before boarding our next flight to Venice. Speaking and hearing Spanish during our short time in Madrid was such a blessed change from Portuguese, as I realized that the words that came to mind were in fact the right ones. I understand, I kept saying, I understand! It was a revelation.

Unfortunately, during our stop in Madrid, we discovered that we had forgotten one essential piece of information. Our Portuguese phones, which we had been using to communicate with the manager of the apartment we’re renting in Venice, require a PIN number to turn back on again when they are powered off for any reason.

Gabe only remembered this after powering off his phone for the first flight… and of course neither of us had thought to include the PIN numbers in our list of essential information. This left us no way to make final arrangements with the guy as to when and where to meet us. We figured we could play the stupid American card and borrow someone’s mobile in Venice to let him know when we arrived, but in the meantime, we kicked ourselves repeatedly for not remembering to bring the PINs.

Otherwise, the flight to Venice was also largely uneventful, although we had an interesting moment at takeoff when I thought the flight attendant was going to confiscate my Kindle. She didn’t believe that I’d turned it off, and made me show it to her to prove it, but of course it looks exactly the same as when it’s on. I had to reassure her that this was as off as it got, and luckily she believed me. I didn’t quite know what else I could do! As Gabe remarked, this is what happens when technology proceeds faster than the rules.

We also had some rough flying as we headed into the storm that had passed over Lisbon the night before (and was then enshrouding Venice.) Luckily I’d remembered my motion sickness bands this time, after gritting my teeth through the end of the first flight, and I was good to go.

We got into Venice on time, for which we were grateful, since we were on a tight schedule. The flight got in at 6:30 PM, and our apartment had a 20 euro surcharge for arrivals after 8 PM. In order to have a chance at avoiding the fee, we had to get the 6:45 water bus, which put us in to the San Marco Giardinetti stop (where we hoped the guy would be waiting for us) at 8:05 PM. Still cutting it close, but we hoped that if he was feeling nice, he would waive the fee.

Luckily we did manage to borrow someone’s mobile and let the guy know we’d arrived, so things were going according to plan – if we could just make that boat. When we emerged into the terminal at 6:35, the water bus person there told us that the pier was 5 minutes’ walk away. Crap! So we ran and made it in 3, breathless yet exhilarated by the smell of the water and the chill of the rain — such a vast difference after 5 weeks in warm, muggy Lisbon.

We boarded the boat along with what seemed like mostly Americans, of whom we have encountered very few so far in Lisbon. Turns out they’re all in Venice instead – the restaurant we ate dinner in later on was filled with them, including two other groups of Californians! Go figure.

The water bus was by far the slowest river transport option available to us, and we kept getting passed by the far more expensive private water taxis (which cost between 90 and 100 euros!) What’s worse, it was by this time pitch black outside, and the rain and condensation on the windows prevented us from seeing any of the city we were approaching.

An hour later, we were at last getting close to our stop. Practically the whole rest of the boat was also planning to disembark at San Marco, so we weren’t worried about missing it. As we approached what we thought was the second to last stop before ours, we suddenly heard the boat driver call out “San Marco!” Alarmed, we got up, and even double checked with the guy to make sure this was the right stop. He said, “Yes, San Marco,” and pointed at the massive, distinctive bell tower, which we could clearly see off to the left.

So we got dubiously off, and looked around. There was no one waiting for us. It was by this point 7:55 PM and pouring down rain, so I stood in the overhang of the water bus kiosk (which the girl working there also assured us was San Marco) while Gabe tried to use the nearby pay phones. No luck. We eventually had to appeal to the girl to let us use her iPhone to text the guy, which we did, and he called back immediately.

We finally met up with him in between the stop where we’d gotten off and the stop where we were supposed to get off – which was actually called San Marco, as opposed to this one, which had a different name altogether. However apparently it was more convenient for the driver to say this was San Marco, thereby confusing both us and every other heedless tourist on the boat. Good job, buddy.

By this point, it was about 8:20, so any hope of avoiding the surcharge was gone. Nonetheless, we were overjoyed to finally find him, and followed him through the rapidly rising water, across elevated wooden walkways (which they build when they are predicting “high water,” as we got today), down tiny winding alleys and through ornate galleries and shops, until finally we came to our apartment building.

The place was on the third floor, so we didn’t have to worry about it flooding, thankfully. It was actually much larger than our place in Lisbon, and very close to San Marco square – in fact if you lean out of the window and look to the left, you can see the bell tower. It was also one of the cheapest options available to us for accommodation, which goes to tell you a lot about prices in Venice.

That said, it was also very basic inside, clean but slightly shabby, and lacking such niceties as oh say, dish or hand soap. It being 9 PM, there was no way we could go out and get provisions right away, so instead we paid the guy, took our key and the map he gave us, and went around the corner to a very touristy but delicious pizzeria run by Chinese people. Ah, the irony.

After a short stroll around the flooded square and streets around it, we retreated home to rest up for our first full day in Venice.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Venice: Arrival“, posted with vodpod