Our 10:30 am plane from Los Angeles to Montreal is 2 rows of 3 seats. A tight squeeze up and down the aisles for sure. It would be great to be a little skinnier but too late for that… can’t dwell on the things I cannot change now. While we were preparing for takeoff, Sydel asks me, “What are you going to watch Care?” In all seriousness I replied,” The ground sinking below me.” She started cracking up and I realized she was asking what I was going to watch on the plane’s in-flight entertainment system. My response was the truth though! I did watch the ground go away from me, losing all remaining control of my situation. There was no turning back now, I was on my way to ITALY!
I am regretting that I drank 4 glasses of wine last night and have quite a hangover. I just feel icky. Like I need a nap. But I can’t really sleep yet because I should acclimate to the 9-hour time change I was facing. I decide then and there that I will not spend my time in Italy hung over. I wanted to remember every moment.
When the plane reaches our cruising altitude, the flight attendants begin to make their rounds and my friends order red wine. She asks my buddies, “Isn’t it a little early for wine?”, a foreshadowing of the first few wine infused days of our trip. When I order a ginger ale, she calls me the designated driver and we all laugh. On our red eye flight from Montreal to Venice, the flight attendant graciously gives us free bottles of wine when she learned that we are 3 women on our way to explore Italy on our own. Not really wanting to drink it I offered it to the girls who instructed me to “save it and we can drink it in the morning.” The morning?! Wine breakfast?! Oh boy… this was going to one crazy trip! I decide to rest for a few hours and gave my wine up to the others.
My companions on this trip are my world traveling single niece, the brunette 2 years younger than I, and her red headed best friend who, like me, left her husband and kids at home for our half month adventure. This was a trip they had planned together, and by God’s grace, had invited me along. I was determined to hang with them and not slow them down in any way. I had the mindset that us three fun loving San Diego women were about to take over Italy. Little did I know that Italy was going to have so much power over me, my disposition, and melancholy outlook on life that it was going to take over ME.
In Venice, you must take water transportation from the airport to your destination since there are no roads or cars. We took the Alilaguna shuttle for €15 to the San Marco district, where our Airbnb is located. In Venice there is something called acqua alta, or high water. It is when the city begins to flood due to high tides, etc. You can actually see the water bubbling up out of the drainage holes along the streets. On our arrival day, we found many streets to be somewhat flooded as the clouds rumbled with thunder.
I stepped into the water with my sketcher sandals, not caring that my feet were going to be wet. Wasn’t this what I had researched before coming to Venice? That the locals weren’t afraid of the high water here and my shoes would eventually dry and I had spares. Smug and proud of my “no fear” approach, I took a moment to look back at my companions who were following behind me, only to find that they had found a path, 2 feet to the right of the narrow street, that allowed their shoes to stay dry. Other locals and tourists I saw kept their shoes dry too because they either took the same path as my friends, or they were wearing waterproof boots. This, the very first day in Italy, was the reason why I had to deal with stinky sandals for my whole trip and why I eventually ditched them in Rome. In my defense, I had been traveling for about almost 24 hours at that point from Los Angeles to Venice and was extremely jet lagged with little sleep.
LESSONS TO SHARE: Avoid the high water if you can and don’t get your shoes wet. Bring water proof shoes to Venice or buy the funny plastic bag boots they sell for €8 on every other corner.
We settled into our lovely Airbnb near the Teatro la Fenice, a 15th century artist’s building with stained glass windows that looked down into gondolier trafficked canals who, from time to time, had accordionist and opera singers singing such melodies as an aria from La Traviata or Bella Notte as entertainment for their passengers. This lovely 2 bedroom apartment was quite the deal and I recommend booking this for yourselves for, not only the amazing atmosphere, but it’s convenient location to everything in San Marco. We walked everywhere, except to the train station, at which point we took a water bus (how do they drive those things so accurately in so much water traffic?) The only modes of transportation in Venice are boats or your feet. There are no cars. At the end of our 2 days visit to Venice, we are sitting at the train station so that we can get to Florence, and my niece makes an observation, “I haven’t seen any fucking cabs here.” We crack up and gently remind her, there are no cars or roads. This is going to be such a fun trip!!
I knew the sites that were close, as I had researched the city for my companions and knew some of the history. However, for the life of me, I could not figure out these “streets” and how which way was which so I would show the map to my niece, let her know where we needed to go, and she would get us there. I still can’t figure how the hell she did it. I would redeem myself later in Florence by becoming the navigator there.
We found our way to the many sites in the San Marco district: Ponte Rialto, Piazza San Marco, Saint Mark’s Basilica, gondolier rides, the Grand Canal and so much more. We drank cappuccinos, wine, and ate pasta at outdoor cafes while people watching and listening to the Italians speaking with their extravagant hand gestures. I left a little part of my heart in Venice those 2 days and can’t wait to come back and show my husband one day.