Day 1 – Travel (and Venice)

Mary and I began our Mediterranean cruise by getting up in the middle of the night and boarding a bus for the Seattle airport. It took 2.5 hours to get from Bellingham to Seattle, and we were dropped off at 4 a.m. Our flight to New York left at around 6, and that passed without incident. We met up with my dad in JFK, had some lunch, and after two gate changes and a 3-hour delay, we got on our flight to Venice (I don’t remember having a lot of problems at JFK in the past, but after my most recent experience there, I never want to go there again. We experienced long delays both going and coming, and these delays were mostly because of traffic jams on the tarmac). We stumbled off the airplane, dazed and with only 5 or so hours of sleep over the last two nights, at 11 a.m. the next day.

We took a bus from the airport (on the mainland) to Venice, and were dropped off about a 10-minute walk from our B&B. On our way, we saw a typical street sign in Venice:

“San Marco and Rialto: Wherever.”

It takes a while to learn how to navigate Venice’s poorly marked and oddly numbered alleys, but there are lots worse places to get lost. We did find our B&B, dropped off our bags, and even though we felt like taking a 15-hour snooze, we went out on the town.

Our first stop was the Basilica di Santa Maria Dei Frari, a 14th-century brick Franciscan church with lots of tombs inside – some tasteful and some hideously baroque. There is a two-story tomb adorned with statues of skeletons next to an equally large tomb shaped like a pyramid. It also seems that a church just isn’t a church in Venice without some work by Titian or Tintoretto, and sure enough, the Frari has Titian’s “Assumption” above the altar.

After the Frari, we went to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, the most famous guild hall in Venice and the only guild still in existence. Instead of Elks and Masonic lodges, Renaissance Venice had these groups pulling strings behind the scenes. Tintoretto filled this hall with paintings upstairs and downstairs. It was nice to sit down, admire a painting, take a five-second nap, wake up, and admire the painting some more.

In order to avoid passing out in front of paintings, we walked around Dorsoduro, one of Venice’s six districts. We walked into another church, we got gelato, we did whatever it took to keep moving. In the afternoon, we decided that we had stayed awake long enough to ensure that we were now on European time, so we returned to the B&B for a celebratory nap. In the evening, we had pizza and took a vaporetto (water bus) down the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) and back.

Mary on the vaporetto

Quintessential Venice shot: Rialto Bridge with gondola (and water on my camera lens)


3 thoughts on “Day 1 – Travel (and Venice)

  1. It seems as though day 1 lasted several days, were you in some time warp? I have never been to or through JFK, I prefer having my lousy NY area travel experiences at LaGuardia or Newark.

  2. I’m Elliot’s dad, and I’m glad he is blogging about the trip. It will be a nice way to relive it.

    The thing that surprised me is how well we did functioning our first day in Venice after losing 6 hours of sleep during the redeye flight over from New York. The excitement of being in Venice seemed to outweigh the screwed up circadian rhythms.

    It was really neat to wander through the Santa Croce and Dorosduro neighborhoods. You would think you couldn’t swing a dead cat in Venice without hitting a tourist (not that we tried–our supply of dead cats didn’t make it through airport security), but that’s mostly true around St. Mark’s Square and by the Rialto bridge. Much of the rest of Venice is fairly quiet, with the narrow streets free of cars and canals other than the Grand Canal not having much traffic. There are lots of little squares, many with few people in them or only a single outdoor cafe or small shop as a focus of activity.

    Besides just walking through the quieter neighborhoods, the thing that I enjoyed most on the first day was the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Most of the paintings there are works of Tintoretto; he spent 23 years creating the 54 paintings now displayed there. The Great Hall has dozens of Old Testament scenes on the ceiling and scenes of the life of Christ and a couple saints on the walls. The first floor hall contains scenes from the birth of Christ, and the Sala Dell’Albergo (which I found to be most moving) mainly contains scenes from Christ’s passion. The scuola was a wonderful place to sit and meditate on both Testaments to God’s glory. (As Elliot mentioned, it’s also a good place to doze off.)

  3. I was on this cruise with my husband and his family and love your descriptions! I kept a journal of the trip, not anywhere as nice as yours! JFK is a nightmare, I agree. Our four hour lay over turned into 7 hours. We flew directly home to California on Italia airlines. A long nonstop flight (13 hours) but oh so worth it!

    This was the cruise of a lifetime. the history we saw on shore excursions alone was fantastic. We were in the chess shop in Corfu when the rain storm hit. We stayed in Rome at the end of the cruise, and have a fabulous time! Over 700 pictures of the trip. Thanks for blogging! Debbie

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