NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.  Comments added AFTER real time are in [square brackets].


Trip Log 5.  Day 5.  Moving to Venice

Sunday October 17, 2010.
Water World.

It's about 830 am. We're in the kitchen/dining room watching BBC world news on the satellite. Sharon is out on the balcony, and calls, "It snowed!" We go out, and holy cow, there's snow on the hilltops around us.

It's that delicious feeling of the first snow of the year, if you live in that kind of country, as I did growing up in Missouri.

Sunday morning, and I lay out my pills for the week, each day's worth stuck into their daily, labeled compartment. This is so I can tell which pills I forgot to take.

Today we will close up shop here and drive about four hours to Venice. It is our plan to stop in Verona and locate Juliet's balcony, as in the movie "Letters to Juliet."

But first one last photo trip through the apartment:

1) Looking from the kitchen/dining area to the balcony, 2) a little left of that angle, in the kitchen

1) Dining table, 2) Looking through Shirley and Jerry's bedroom door. Ours is just to the right.

1) View from their bedroom onto the balcony, 2) View looking 90 degrees to the right, out back window.


The four intrepid travelers pack up everything, having paid the balance of our bill yesterday, to Frau Trocker, and head out, Jerry driving. We pass the Bremen Town Musician carving,

then get a sweeping view of sloping meadow and snow above. Pretty fantastic.

Sharon, always on the lookout for birds, and never without her binoculars, spies a Carrion Crow. Shirley says, "Nothing against you, Eric (her son), but (then sings) "CARRY ON, my wayward son." Words from the music group, Kansas.

We stop in Castlerotto so Shirley can mail a postcard.

We continue through town and the snow is getting even more spectacular. {We even see cars coming down from off the mountains with snow on their roofs. A lot like driving in Tahoe and the mountains and villages are more scenic than yesterday with the snow on them.}

Jerry's Garmin Nuvi's expansion module, for Italy and Greece, has a lady's voice calling out the upcoming moves and locations. We have a discussion on what we should call her, and Shirley wins with Lady Ga Ga.

We come upon a wonderful little church with a weathered wooden, woven fence around it.

As we near Verona, we recall that you can't just drive up to the balcony. You must park before you get to the walled old city, and walk the last distance. Rick Steves has given loads and loads of warnings about pickpockets and thieves who break into cars, and since I want to be 100.0% certain of continuing our awesome vacation, I invite the other three to go see the balcony and bring back photos. I will stay with the van. "NOOOOOOO," says Shirley. I give in a little, saying that if it looks COMPLETELY safe and I get ZERO bad feelings about the parking area, and if I know we're CLOSE, I'll go.

At 11:15 am, we pull into a fueling statzione on the side of Autostrade A22. I am looking at a gigunda truck tire, a regular car tire, both with chains, advertising what they're selling here. It's an overcast day, raining lightly. We stopped to buy water, use the facilities and change drivers, all of which we accomplish admirably. There is an attendant in the rest room, and I try to give him half a euro (called fifty cents) here, but I fumble it onto the floor. We both reach to pick it up, but he wins and gives me the "Grazie." To which I return the "Prego."

Heading out again, we discuss the Garmin. It's pretty fantastic. One of the biggest questions a traveler has when on an adventure, and it's time to start thinking about reaching the day's destination is, "Where am I?" Digging a little deeper, the next question is, "How do I get to today's destination." The Garmin always knows where you are by triangulation of three satellites (or four, if your device gives elevation), and the most used feature is to tell it where to go. There are half a dozen or more ways to do this. The way Jerry did it was to input Venice as the destination city, then selecting Parking as the input type, then typing in "Tronchetto" which we know is the parking garage you use upon arrival by car in Venice. You spell Tronchetto out on a touch-screen typewriter keyboard, but when we get T-R-O-N-C, it automatically completes it to the full word. Then you click on the bar containing that word, and it asks you if that is your final destination or a waypoint to go THROUGH, on your way to a different final destination and you click on Final.

Then you click on the Map icon, and BOOM, you are looking at a visual colored drawing of the road network in front of you, with the path immediately in front of you in purple. The voice begins to talk to you, and gives you very specific audio instructions about how soon, and exactly where to turn right, or left, or enter the traffic circle and take the third exit, etc. And at each place your path changes along the way, you get both visual and audio instructions.

I gotta get me one a-these. {Uh-oh, this trip just got a little more expensive. I guess I know what Bob would like for Christmas!}

Wait. What? Suddenly we are off the road, then we are back on (the purple road on the screen, not the real road. Didn't mean to scare ya). We just learned what happens when somebody shortens, straightens or otherwise changes a road from when the Italian Garmin update was created. It seems to go crazy for a minute, then BAM, you're back on course without doing anything.

A little after noon and we're in Verona. We are smack in the middle of the problem that we can't drive to the balcony. We can't load "the old wall" into the Garmin - we have to ask questions, like the world used to. After blowing perhaps an hour, we give up and decide it just wasn't meant to be. Off we go again, for the Tronchetta parking garage in Venice. We drive over a long causeway that links the island that is Venice to the mainland.

At a little past 3 pm, we are unloading all our luggage, carry-ons, computers, bags of souvenirs, binoculars, purses and everything we'll need. {We look like we are going off on safari for three months. Our neighbors, Jan and John who travel all over the world with only carry-on luggage, would be laughing so hard if they saw us now.} We must find the direction to the ticket office for the vaporetto, which might best be thought of as a water bus, because different numbered boats have slightly different stop sequences. {It's like the subway where you have to know where you are going and get on the right train to get you there. Get on the wrong train/boat and you might end up going the wrong direction.} I ask a couple of passersby, and learn where to buy the tickets and we are off, across a sporadically busy road, into another parking garage, to the far end, and we're in line. {Before we leave the parking structure, we encounter another variation of using the "public" toilets. Here there is an attendant who takes your 1E coin, puts a token in a slot and these glass doors open to let you in to the bathroom. Do you all remember when you had to have a dime with you to go into the bathroom as that is what it cost to get the stall door open? Do you think anyone in the US would pay $1.40 to go into the bathroom? On the other hand, the facilities here are sparkling and I bet the money pays for that.} We buy the 72-hour pass, which gets us onto any boat for any purpose, to any destination for no charge for the next 3 days. If we hadn't done that, we'd pay 6.9 euros for every one-way ride - just under $10 per person, and we have plans to ride a lot.

Then it's onto the loading barge, in line, and in no time, a #2 vaporetto docks, a whole slug of people get off, and we all get on. We are instructed to store our big luggage at the front of the inside portion of the boat, which we do. Then it's settle back and enjoy the ride. For me, it's try to recall memories from 1978 of doing this, and nothing seems familiar. Maybe that's the reason it's all so fresh. I'm getting tremendous enjoyment out of watching the other three see all this for the very first time.

Before we got on the vaporetto, we talk with a young father, taking his young son on the boat. He says he's from England and he has been to Venice twice before. "Italy's a dump," he says, to our amazement. "The only reason I came was to show Jack (his son) Venice." Well Jack seems to me to be pretty young to get much out of seeing Venice, and we guess that he's bringing Jack to his ex-wife's house or something like that. He goes on, "France too. Well, northern France. Southern France is nice."

Then we part ways with them.

Also while we were waiting, Sharon got us on two different gulls. One we identified as a Blackheaded Gull (wonderful black head, with a crisp line of demarkation on the neck, between its white body and black head in breeding season. Now, in winter, just a black spot on the side of his face). The other seems to be a Herring Gull, a gull we have seen in most coastal countries we have visited.

Watching the view slide by is great fun.

We pull up to the Rialto stop, passing under the bridge first, then docking on the left side of the canal. We are a sight, with our giant pile of goods, but we make it off, pick a spot and claim it.

I have a piece of paper with a phone number to call to have a greeter come to meet us, and take us to our apartment. But I don't have a SIM card yet, something we hope to remedy tomorrow, Monday, when the phone company goes back to work. I have coins, but can't seem to get the pay phones to work [we later learn that they take only tokens, and you have to buy them at the nearby tobacco shops, but we don't know that yet]. There is a set of three international credit card phones, but I can't get them to take either of my credit cards. We just can't figure out what to do.

Next, a huge series of errors line up against us, creating tremendous uncertainty and frustration. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as they said on a Seinfeld episode.

First, the address I have for the apartment is actually the office of the company managing the rentals. That office is on the other side of the Rialto Bridge. It is a long, long series of steps to the top of the bridge, then the same number to get back down the other side. Second, I forget that we came under the bridge before we landed, and I'm turned around as to which side I think our apartment is. Third, I am adamant, but not adamant enough, that we should stay where we are and NOT expend the huge effort it is going to take us to get all our stuff safely up the bridge and down the other side safely, until we are 100.0% certain that our destination IS on the other side. But I let them talk me into going. {Poor Bob, all of us are looking at the map, the address he has, and haranging him that since the address is in San Palo we should go across the bridge into the San Palo district. Of course, he has other maps that he downloaded before we came to Italy and they clearly show he is right, "Stay on the Rialto side". But here is the kicker, he can't find those maps so the only one we are working with doesn't have his path clearly marked. So he reluctantly gives into us three.}

As we're struggling to get our 50-pound checked luggage pieces over the bridge, I occasionally ask a person if I can use their cell phone to make a call (I asked three or four establishments, but each said no - they all pointed to the useless bank of phones outside), but get a shrug or a I-don't-have-one or something similar.

Well after expending a super-human effort, speaking for myself, and just about collapsing, I ask a pleasant couple who seem kind of in a hurry if I can use their cell phone, and I explain the circumstances. The girl says something to the man like, "Help them!" I tell them the number, and the fellow dials it.

Someone answers (whew!) and I tell them my name and that we have reservations and could someone come to meet us. "This isn't the right number," she says. I ask for the number, and she gives it to me, then I hang up. "Could I trouble you for one more call? That wasn't the right number but they gave me the right one." Well by now, they're slightly invested in us getting what we need, so they say of course. I dial this second number, and get a young Italian this time, who speaks fair English. I tell them my name and ask them if they can send someone to greet us. He sounds dubious, and asks my name again. He asks if I have a reservation, to which I say yes. I tell him, "We're on the San Polo side of the bridge." He says, "OK, I will send someone. Call me back in five minutes." I tell him we're borrowing a phone and can't do it. "OK," he says, "Someone is on the way."

Then we start discussing which side of the canal we're really on. Everybody argues that we are now on the correct side. I can remember a map I studied in great detail, and I think we're NOW on the wrong side, but everybody else thinks we're now on the right side. {Do any of you watch "The Amazing Race" on TV? We are now every couple that we have watched argue about where they should go and who is right. ARGH!} Then we argue about which side is actually the San Polo side, and it's suggested that I go back over the bridge, IN CASE the person coming to meet us is expecting us to be over there.

So, reluctantly, and convinced that we've got it all wrong, I turn the outcome over to a higher power, relax with a deep breath, and go back over the Rialto to begin waiting over there. I look into the eyes of everybody walking towards me to see if they are searching for a face or for someone looking for THEM. I notice several people walking in earnest, one of whom seems to be oriental or in that direction, so I know THAT can't be them.

I settle down, then decide I should check the vaporetto area, in case my directions were totally off, and he's there. I go over, but nobody is scanning faces, looking, so I turn and head back to the foot of the bridge. Then I see Jerry, waving, "We've got him, Bob!" I weave through the throng, and shake hands with Rocky, a Filipino man, and one of the faces I met coming over the bridge, rejecting him because of his heritage.

Then Jerry says, "You were right Bob, we're on THIS side."


So it's lug the entire stack back over the Rialto. Only this time, we've got young, strong Rocky to help us. He makes two trips, and finally we've got everything back over.

It's 7 o'clock and Rocky leads us through small paths and tiny walkways, over and down a bridge. He says, "There is a more direct path, but that way is very crowded, and this is much faster." We are blown away by his knowledge of the walkways. Then, we are there. He has two keys on a cord. The small one is for getting into the building front door, and the larger one is for getting into our particular apartment.

There is a tiny two-person elevator, and Sharon and I ride up, for which I'm grateful. {He's not exaggerating about the elevator. The only way it works is for me to go in first, turn with my back against the wall, creating enough space for Bob to now get on, turn HIS back to the wall so we both now fit and away we go} I'm worn out. Rocky sends some of the luggage up with Jerry and Shirley, puts some on with us, and takes some up himself. I think he calls the elevator back down and puts the last of our suitcases on it, sends it up and comes up with it, or else walks up. At any rate, we, all our luggage and Rocky make it to our wonderful apartment.

It's gorgeous. Centrally located, view of one of the canals right below our window (Jerry and Shirley got first choice in Castlerotto, we get first choice here, and they get first choice when we get to our castle in Tuscany).

So in beautiful, wonderful Venice, for our first meal, a) we don't know where a grocery store is, b) it's late, and c) we're really hungry, we find a Burger King, buy some takeout, and carry it back to the apartment, where we scarf it all down.

Then it's off to bed, to get ready for tomorrow. Good night from Venice.

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