Saturday, November 16, 2013

Venice, Verona and Very Broken Luggage

Once again, I'm unsure what country I'm in. The city is definitely still Geneva, but the airport may or may not be back across the French border. Oh well. All I know is that I'm hungry, and I have 25 gosh-darned Swiss Francs that I know I won't be able to get rid of anywhere else. I inspect the long lines of dry-looking baguettes on display in the airport food stores (aha, we are back in France after all), grimance, and eventually settle on something called "tonna"  because it looks like it involves mayonnaise. And it could be tuna. Which it is.

We're in for an unpleasant surprise upon arrival at the boarding gates: boarding starts in 10 minutes, and our flight has been cancelled. They'll try to put us on the next flight, which is only 2 and a half hours from now. Can we get a car and drive to Venice? No, apparently not.

We're airbourn approximately 4 minutes before the 2.5 hour cut-off time after which the airline would have to provide some form of compensation to us. Granted, said compensation would probably have been a 3 buck voucher to cover a quarter of one of those awful baguettes, but still.

And so the Alps give way to the rolling Italian countryside, and before long we land at Venice's Marco Polo airport. I can't say I remember disembarking (it's now November, this was very late May), but I do remember arriving at baggage claim to find a suitcase with no wheels, no handle and a broken zip. Cue carrying said suitcase through airport like some kind of grossly disfigured humanoid child.
We locate the correct bus into Mestre (surprisingly easy, given that everything is in Italian) and  hop aboard - to find that our only fellow passengers are a South African couple headed to Venice to board a cruise! The world is ridiculously small.

The hotel is supposed to be 200m from the bus station, but it feels more like 200 miles, with said suitcase. We take turns dragging the thing, and luckily spot a store packed with cheap suitcases along the way. This is surely a done deal before leaving Venice, we can certainly not continue to travel this way.
Hotel = located, and the Italians at the front desk do speak some English. Obtain wi-fi password and proceed to drag the Suitcase of Death up the stairs to our room. Collapse, and then realise we're hungry. Walk to the nearest restaurant. Find they only open at 7pm. McDonald's it is, then. Sigh. If I never see another Micky D's again, I will be a happy human being.

For some unfathomable reason, sunlight in Italy just seems a lot brighter than sunlight anywhere else I've ever been, and we wake up early the next morning to a beautiful day. Finally, no coats required. Apparently people in Italy eat cake for breakfast, but I'm definitely not complaining. Plus, they have TEA here. English breakfast tea has never tasted so good.

Board bus into central Venice, experience typical Italian driving skills, dropped off in parking lot next to canals - and off we go! Venice looks just like the pictures, books and tv depict it, but rather than float around in a gondola all day, it is perfectly possible to navigate the town without doing too much water travel. We take the waterbus accross the Grand Canal, with no real idea of where we're going. I should mention that whilst this is a pleasant experience on the whole, these waterbuses have absolutely no braking system - they stop when they collide with the dock, and some unfortunate young man is left to tie the ropes to secure the things whilst the passengers disembark.

Despite the internet saying different, there's really only one part of Venice that smells a bit funky - the fish market. Avoid at all costs! We wander through the cute little streets for absolute hours, eating gelato and avoiding the ridiculously-priced designer shops. My main purchase of the day is a sailor hat that is destined to adorn my head for at least the next week. We dine on pasta hilst Avril Lavigne screeches her latest chart topper on the radio. Some things are no different, no matter where you are in the world.
Aroud 4pm we head back to the parking lot to catch the bus back. Aching feet is definitely a small price to pay for a day in such a stunning city.

Verona. It's the creepy hidden track at the end of Hurts' 'Water'. It's the place The Killers headlined that festival called something about Life or Love or Beautiful or Wonderful... (it's called 'A Perfect Day', I had to google it later). But over and above that, it's the city in which Romeo & Juliet was set. Now, whether or not the story was based on any vague form of fact, tourists are 100% happy to trek all the way out here from Venice (an hour on the train) to see what is billed as Juliet's Balcony. Would you judge me if I said I was one of those tourists?

After an hour of walking in the wrong direction in the boiling hot sun  (thanks, mom) we finally walk back to the train station and attempt to catch a bus going in the right direction. What we don't factor in is that today is Sunday, and apparently buses don't run here on Sundays. Cue more walking. We do finally make it into the tourist part of town though, and immdeiately feel the need to feed our stomachs. The internet says that you should never eat meat in Verona, because what is billed as beef is actually horse. Great to know. I settle for a margharita. The pizza that is, not the cocktail. One of those would have bankrupted me.
Streets are wandered, and shops are stared into, but the real point of this excursion is trackign down the famed balcony. And thanks to phenomenal navigational skills (read: following the crowds of people in front of us) we are able to do just that. While we can't deal with the queues (or the 10 Euro) to actually go onto the balcony, we're prefectly content with pretending to be Romeo and starring up at it from the ground.
And so the Venetian leg of our journey must come to an end - tomorrow, the Italian travels continue: on to Florence we go!