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)