After a night made exciting by an alarm going off next door just before midnight and all the bells in the city ringing at 7:30 AM, we woke up early, ate a limited breakfast (coffee and tea with no milk; oatmeal made with hot water), and left the apartment by about 9:30 to explore. And explore we did, getting thoroughly lost on the way to the grocery store, and stopping en route for a couple of gorgeous (and very pricey!) coffees to supplement our meager morning’s rations.

A few hours later, with two full bags of provisions in hand, we threaded our way back through the winding streets and over the bridges to our flat. At one point we got sidelined into the walkways going through San Marco square, which as one of the lowest points in the city, is obviously the most prone to flooding.

It was at least 18 inches deep in water that morning (although it drained by the time we got there later in the afternoon), and the raised walkways were crowded with tourists of all types, stopping to take pictures every five feet or so. Not the optimal situation when you’re laden down with heavy bags full of eggs, yogurt, milk, and fruit. So we retraced our steps and found a different, slightly less crowded way back to our flat.

We made lunch at home, which as far as I’m concerned entirely justifies getting a self-catering apartment over a hotel room, especially considering the price of meals here. Much fortified by having proper food, we ventured out again in the afternoon, this time aiming to get properly lost.

Our rewards for such a mission were rich. The highlight of the afternoon was stumbling across a mask shop in a little out of the way square, which unlike all the more touristy mask places, did not have their wares displayed in the window. This place spoke for itself, and the mother and son pair who ran it and created the masks were knowledgeable, friendly, and eager to show us their craft.

At one point, the woman put on a full mask with feathered headdress and a floor-length hooded cape, and it gave me chills to think of coming across such a fantastical, terrifying creature on these tiny streets. We left in wonder at the art behind these creations, which has survived for so many generations, and an irrational urge to return here for Carnivale in February.

Unfortunately our perambulations were somewhat altered by the fact that it was (for me anyway) unexpectedly, outrageously cold. I knew it was going to be much colder than Lisbon, but somehow packing after swimming and taking a hot tub on Sunday wasn’t really conducive to envisioning cold weather. So stupidly, I decided against bringing my thickest jacket, figuring that I’d bring a couple of thinner ones and just layer up when it got really cold.

Bad. Idea.

I’m never really one to deal well with cold weather (I can hear you laughing, Mom!), but after living in Lisbon for almost six weeks, my blood has thinned out even more. Most days a T-shirt or long sleeve shirt is enough, and I think the warmest thing I’ve worn since we got there has been a light jacket or a sweatshirt – one rainy day I even wore both together. But in Venice, it was cold, and it was wet, and we were wandering around outside for hours at a time.

Like I said: bad idea.

Needless to say, a large portion of the afternoon was spent looking at jackets and scarves and leather gloves, although I felt silly spending money on anything when I won’t wear them in Lisbon for months to come. Still, it provided a mission to our meandering, and gave us warm stores to duck into when necessary.

Other than the cold though, it turned out to be a gorgeous day, with the sun coming out in the late afternoon and puffy white clouds sitting overhead. We managed to time our meandering just right, and hit the Accademia bridge (one of the two main bridges across the Grand Canal) just at sunset. It was ridiculously beautiful, as was the rest of the day, and almost overwhelming in the sheer variety of things there were to see around every corner: buildings and stores and canals and plants and masks and restaurants and people and… whew! So much to take in.

Venice truly is an enchanting, magical city, with all the run-down old world charm of Lisbon but something… more. Somehow, the shabby buildings there look picturesque instead of neglected – it could be the canals, or it could be the lack of graffiti. Who knows. Either way, we wandered for hours, and continued to do so again later in the evening when we went back out for dinner.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized when we went out how tired I was, and after walking and searching for a restaurant for another hour, I quickly hit burn out. We ate at a small place up near the Rialto Bridge, after having found and decided against yet another recommendation from the guy who runs the apartment – almost all of which turned out to be very pricey.

The place was packed with people, a lot of whom were actually Italian. Regardless of either gender or nationality though, everyone in the room was riveted on the football (soccer) game playing on a TV behind us. Literally the young couple in back of Gabe both spent our entire meal watching the TV, with the girl turned right around in her seat to see. They take their football seriously in Italy.

Unfortunately they also take their seafood seriously here, which I discovered when I tried to order the fish soup. The menu said fish soup in both Italian and English, so I figured I was safe with my decision. But on arrival, there was not to be a piece of fish to be found, but rather a bowl full of oily, winey broth bristling with shellfish. I’m not a fan of shellfish at the best of times, but with my exhaustion that night and my need for something comforting to eat, this was far more than I could handle.

I attempted to send it back for the vegetable soup, but the waiter was so confused and affronted by this that I just gave up and picked out the shrimp from the bottom of the bowl in silence. As we learned to say in Croatia: these words don’t mean what you think they mean. It reminded me of the time that I ordered a fish salad in Dubrovnik and was proudly presented with an ornate cup full of fruit salad — for my main course. Alas. They were very good shrimp, at least, and Gabe very much enjoyed his arrabiata.

After getting thoroughly lost on the way back (and this time I really hadn’t wanted to do so), we finally got home, and called it a night after a successful and very long day.

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more about “Venice: Day 1“, posted with vodpod
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