Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 15 – Venice: A gecko stalks at night

We bade farewell to the Ruby Princess this morning, after 12 days on board and over 5,600 km travelled!

Disembarkation from the ship was an early, but impressively smooth process considering the number of passengers all leaving that morning.  Our luggage was collected the night before and put in a storage hold where they were unloaded first thing in the morning.  All we had to take with us were our overnight bags.  We were assigned a disembarkation colour and departure time the night before.   After breakfast we headed to the designated meeting place (my first visit to the on-ship casino!) and waited for our colour to be called. In no time, we were shuttled off the ship and into a building on the docks to identify and clear our luggage through customs. Then our luggage was transferred to our hotel and we boarded a shuttle.

Hotel lobby
It was another beautiful, sunny day as we meandered through the narrow streets to our hotel -- the Hotel Amadeus in the south end of the Cannaregio neighbourhood.   


Hotel courtyard
It was too early to check in to our rooms, so we dropped off our overnight bags and set out to explore.

We started at the nearby Campo S. Geremia and made our way over the Canal di Cannaregio and along the Strada Nova.  

Market near our hotel





Carolina and Sara went ahead to see some sights while
Roisin and I enjoyed getting lost in Venice. 

We wandered through Cannaregio, a bit into
neighbouring Castello, and then down into
San Marco --
browsing in shops, stopping on bridges,
snapping shots of the waterways
and the occasional gondolier,
admiring the architecture, and
just soaking up the atmosphere.  

 









Venice is a wonderful city to just toss
aside your map and go where your
curiousity takes you.

But if you need to find your way somewhere
specific, some helpful souls added a few clues.

  
Hungry for lunch, we had a quick and delicious bite 
at the Laterna di Marco Polo. (I’ve eaten more cured meats on this trip than I’d eat in a year at home – much more flavourful and less greasy here.)

After lunch we headed west through San Marco in attempt to reach a sight I had earmarked – the Scala Contarini del Bovolo – and found our way with surprising ease. This stone spiral staircase in a quaint courtyard is five stories tall and is supposed to offer a great view of Venice. Unfortunately the tower was under restoration so I couldn’t climb it as planned but was still happy to have been able to admire it.



Next, we met up with Carolina and Sara to tour the Basilica di San Marco – a Byzantine extravaganza built in the 11th century.  

I’d already been awed by the outside yesterday, but the inside was something else – more than 3.8 sq km of beautiful glass mosaics line the walls, ceilings and floors.  I’ve never paid so much attention to what was beneath my feet before. 

Multiple chapels, altars and graceful arches break up the large basilica, making it seem warm, quiet and serene despite its size.  

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. But we were allowed on the upper story outer balcony for a great bird’s eye view of the Piazza and a close up view of some more magnificent mosaics on the exterior.





For the next while we strolled the neighbourhood west of Piazza San Marco, seeing colourful buildings and bridges, and squares like the Campo Santa Maria Zobenigo, Campo S. Vidal,  and the Ponti della Accademia before hopping a vaporetti to our hotel.



 

















A very satisfying day was winding down and so were we.  We checked into our hotel and then found a nearby restaurant with a terrace overlooking the Canal for dinner.  Unfortunately the view was better than the food – the only disappointing meal I had on this entire trip. 
Tired from a day full of walking, but not ready to say goodnight to Venice yet, we opted for the quintessential tourist experience – a gondola ride! 

I’d read they were cheesy and expensive, but we loved every moment of it.  What a great way to see Venice as the sun goes down.  As the bustling city quieted down, the soothing sound of the water lapping against the boat became more noticeable (and the occasional “oy!” as gondoliers called out before turning a tight corner in the narrow waterways).   

Our gondolier was very charming and also great guide, telling us about the city he’d lived in all his life, and giving us a glimpse of everyday life in Venice.



Making our way back to our hotel, we stopped in a square for some gelato and to enjoy the balmy evening a little longer. And then to our hotel, where my plans to shower and crash from exhaustion were foiled by a gecko.  
Yes, geckos are almost cute (for a reptile) and harmless, but that doesn’t mean I want to share my room with one.  (I admit: I have an unrealistic apprehension of anything reptile)

This particular fella was camped out on my bathroom ceiling and, despite my best efforts to ignore it, I couldn't use the bathroom, so went straight to bed. But, once in bed, every time I shut my eyes, I snapped them open again to make sure he hadn’t decided to hang out over my bed.  

Sometime near 1am, still wide awake and needing to use the bathroom, I headed downstairs to seek the help of the concierge to evict my guest.  Unfortunately, the concierge’s English was as limited as my Italian and, after a long and comedic exchange of part charades and part pictionary, he finally understood my dilemma. 

To his credit, he only teased me a bit (okay, a lot) about being afraid of a tiny gecko. 

When we got to my room he assured me with a big wink and dimpled grin that the big bad gecko would be shooed outside the open window in a second.  Into the washroom he went and closed the door. And a good five minutes of repeated banging, thumps and cursing in Italian followed. 

Eventually my Venetian hero emerged, red-faced and dishevelled, but triumphant, announcing in his heavily accented English,  “human one, gecko zero”. 

And then I finally got some much needed sleep.

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