Monday, January 2, 2012

Ciao Bella!

Tuesday morning, we woke up, finished packing and were ready for transport to Venice. Steve, one of the army guys who had spent the past two days with us, came over to drive us to the airport. I think he seriously underestimated our packing abilities, when he pulled up in his 2-door European car. His stereo system bass took up half of the trunk, which left us seriously limited in where the bags would all fit. Eventually we were folded into position and, with a large suitcase across our laps, Kam and I were shoved in the back seat. The drive was luckily less than 30 minutes, but still just long enough for my butt to completely fall asleep.
We unloaded the car, stretched a little, and headed inside to find Karla (aka Chardonnay) and her daughter Amanda waiting for us. We got our bus tickets and headed into Venice. Karla's husband had been able to reserve us a Hilton hotel on his reward points, so we were on a mission to find the hotel. The airport bus took us to Piazzale Roma, the main bus station where most tourists enter Venice.
Wandering through the streets of Venice
Instead of walking towards the main sights (Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco), we headed through Dorsoduro towards Carmini and then continued on to Zattere, one of the courtesy Hilton water taxi stops. The walk was tiring, as we all were carrying our week's worth of luggage with us over bridges and through these small alleyways. Despite having a map, we still found it necessary to ask the various passerby for directions.
Finally at Zattere!

Finally, we had found our water taxi stop! Amanda and her mom were feeling the impact of the time change, as neither were able to sleep much on the flight across the Atlantic. We knew it was important to try to keep them awake so they could sleep as normally as possible tonight, so we pointed them in the direction of a cafe for some hot coffee. Our hotel rooms were not quite ready, but we were allowed to go to eat and relax in the executive lounge--thanks, Mr. Joe--where we enjoyed free wifi. About an hour after we arrived, Kam was sent back towards the airport to pick up another friend, Derek. She waited on the dock for about an hour, while we were all upstairs in the room admiring the view.

View looking straight out from our hotel room
The tall tower with gold on top is in Piazza San Marco
Kam waiting on the dock to get Derek
While she was away, Amanda, Karla, mom and I wandered around the Guidecca Island on which our hotel is located. It is across the Guidecca Canal from the main island of Venice. Amanda was enthralled with the hanging laundry down practically every street.
Me, Amanda, Karla
Mom and I in Venice

We ventured in to one of the mask shops, which greatly creeped me out, before continuing on our little adventure. We were able to get an awesome view of Piazza San Marco aka St. Mark's Square from across the canal.
Masks in Venice
Piazza San Marco//St Mark's Square
After wandering what felt like the whole island, we stopped in a grocery store to make some wine purchases for under €2!! This is unbelievably cheap for alcohol compared to that in Sweden!
Karla, Amanda, and I in Venice
Amanda and I
Mom and I on one of the bridges in Venice
We wandered back to the hotel so Amanda and Karla could rest a little, while mom and I checked email and Facebook for updates about the tour groups that would be joining us the next day. Kam and Derek finally arrived and were starved, so they joined me for some snacks in the executive lounge before we all reconvened and headed across the canal to Venice for dinner.

Amanda, Karla, mom, and Derek on the water taxi
Karla, Kam, mom, Derek, Amanda and I in St Mark's Square//Piazza San Marco
Me, Mom, and Kam on the Rialto Bridge
The meal was simple, but delicious, and much needed for the three travelers. We enjoyed sightseeing around Venice at night, and Amanda, Karla, and Derek were eager to see the hustle and bustle of the city during the day. We returned to the hotel for a few glasses of wine, complimentary in the executive lounge. Karla and Amanda were able to Skype with their family at home, while the rest of us were Facebooking and checking emails again to check our last minute schedule changes.
That night, mom's phone went off two different times with news from kids on the tour group informing her about flights being delayed and rescheduled. Luckily I would be leaving in the morning around the same time the first group arrived, so we could all go to the airport together. Unfortunately, the next morning, we missed the 10am free water taxi, so I had to say my tearless goodbyes at the hotel and begin walking to the public water taxi to get across the canal so I could begin my journey back to the airport. Over an hour later, I was finally at the Piazzale Roma and on the bus to Aeroporto Marco Polo ready to begin my journey back to the dark side, aka Sweden.

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