Sorry for the lack of updates. Again.
While it seemed like everywhere we went in France – cafes, hostels, etc. – had free wifi, Italy is more intent on squeezing cash out of you by having you pay by the hour for it.
We took the train through the French Alps to Venice (photos in the previous post include Diana sleeping with her head surrounded by my jacket). There was an option for us to fly to Venice instead, but I’m extremely glad we took the train. The views were incredible.
So we arrived at Venice. Now, Venice is a ridiculous rabbit’s warren of tiny alleyways populated entirely by paid actors to give the visitor a really traditional feel. The canals smell mainly of Rotorua and the economy seems to be founded primarily on gondoliers exchanging 10 minutes of gondola riding for people’s first-born children; masquerade masks; feather-quill fountain pens; and glass.
The iPad, with a preloaded map of Venice and GPS, was invaluable in navigating. And someone (Gareth?) said something about food sucking in Venice. Not our experience. Diana decided early on that we would find places to eat by leaving the busier touristy areas and only eat in places where locals seemed to be eating. (You can easily identify French and Italian people from a distance by a slight distinct pattern of freckles down the side of the face â€“ too complex to go into here.)
We saw one piece of graffiti that said, “Tourists go home.” And only one beggar, who just stayed there kneeling forehead-to-cobblestone with a cup out. And only one busker, who played the mandolin and was very good.
Our hotel was the San Cassiano, and our time there was kindly donated by my employers at Shift and Tequila. It’s a fantastic place, and I recommend it to all.
The Doges’ Palace was great to wander through, though we missed out on the Secret Itineraries tour. And next to it, the St Mark’s Cathedral or whatever it was, is stunning. Saw some long-dead fingers and leg bones of saints, etc. General shocking disregard for the signs saying no photos, no talking, and so on.
Before I go, I want to give a massive shout-out to booking.com, which is so good. We’ve given up on the Lonely Planet book for places to stay (though Hotel Touring in Bordeaux was a winner). Booking.com is great. We find our next destination, search for places, sort by price and get some incredible deal on somewhere not too far from the train station.
I’m actually writing this from Florence, and today we’re on to Rome, where we’ve got a great deal on a hotel right next to the Vatican. So more on Florence and Rome later.