Venice was one hell of a rollercoaster. Let me just get that off my chest now. It feels good, really good to say that, too.
We boarded the train on Thursday and began fantasizing, planning, and making decisions about where we’d go in Venice and the things we absolutely wanted to experience.
Things on our list included:
– The bridge of sighs
– Palazzo di San Marco
– Riding the Gondole
– Palazzo Ducale
– Searching for Carnevale Masks
– Celebrating at Carnevale!
– Checking out various art exhibits
We took an overnight train to Venice on Thursday night that was supposed to have us in Venice by 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning. The eight of us each had a cabin car to sleep in – six in one and two in the other – but we tried something a little different…
Vivian and Dominc, the two who were supposed to sit in separate cabin cars, crashed in ours for the ride. The train ride was almost seven hours and we had squeezed eight people into a six-person cabin. As one might imagine, there wasn’t a lot of space in there. We slung our bags up on the baggage rack and chose seats – I took a window. By the time the dust settled, we were all tangled like a spider’s web.
We leaned and stretched across one another impatiently trying to find the perfect sleeping position. We used the floor and each other to make uncomfortable positions, comfortable again. Still tangled, none of us moved for hours. I woke up with a headache at 4:00 a.m., because of dehydration and for knocking myself out. My friends told me I fell asleep head first on the desk, just as someone would in a remedial English class.
We arrived in Venice on schedule and after a snack at the café; we left the Ferroviara railway station to get our first taste of Venice. At 6:30 a.m., the city was a dead zone. Ambitious joggers and weary travelers dotted the streets.
We walked around the city for a few hours and I got snap-happy with my camera. Then we stopped for another cappuccino at the rip-off cafe near palazzo San Marco. That cafe charged us 3.50 € for ONE drink. Feeling tired and slightly slow due to our heavy bags, we made our way to Camping Rialto, a campground for RVs and tourists. The cabins were doubles and the bathrooms and showers were communal. The rooms were small, about 7×10, and there was one small heater in a log cabin with more holes in the corners than the Titanic. At night, the rooms got cold. It was as if we were sleeping outside. With our sleeping bags though, we kept relatively warm.
We jumped on a bus back to Venice and walked around Palazzo San Marco for a little bit. We saw the basilica and we watched the ground crew set up for Carnevale festivities. There were workers in galoshes trudging through as much as a foot of water, trying to pump out San Marco before Saturday night’s celebration.
Later that day we stopped at Trattoria da Silvio for lunch and got complimentary limoncello shots after our meal. Not a bad start to the trip at all. After lunch, we walked to a shop that had Carnevale masks and I picked up two – one was a Casanova mask, which is very traditional for a man to wear.
We knew we couldn’t leave Venice without taking a ride in a Gondola, and so we did. At a modest price, we got a 40-minute ride around the canals of Venice. During the ride, we saw Marco Polo’s house, Casanova’s house, the first church of Venice, and the oldest building in the City of Masks. I remember being star struck at first because a gondola ride was always on my life bucket list. I couldn’t believe I was there, in that moment. I spent the ride with great friends, too.
The imagery I saw was straight out of a travel magazine. From shots of the city in the water, to shots of the many bridges and historic buildings scattered throughout the city – I had access to them all. I felt as though the pages of a travel book were coming to life as I walked around. I remember our guide looking like a stone cold killer. He literally looked like he killed people for a living. But in reality, he was just a harmless Gondolier, or so it seemed.
All I kept thinking about during the gondola ride and my walk across the city was how amazing, how special, and how unbelievable it felt to be in Venice for Carnevale. Words cannot explain how happy it felt to be traveling with this group in Venice.
Dreams are meant to be achieved, not just dreamed of. It’s safe to say that my dreams were made this weekend.