I left Vermont on a Saturday evening, arrived in London on Sunday morning, then caught a mid-afternoon train to Paris. Explaining my plans to the Heathrow immigration officer was interesting. “Yes, I’m only going to be here for a few hours, then I go to Paris. No, I’m not staying there very long, either. Yes, there really was logic behind flying to London and then immediately travelling to Venice.”

But I was in London long enough to have a very nice fast-food salad and to use the wifi in St Pancras (international train station) to call my parents. And then I was in Paris for long enough to get to the other train station, and then have a nice dinner down the street, before my train to Milan.

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I was in a couchette for that overnight trip. The top bunk had quite a design on the bottom. (The middle bunk on each side of the compartment, which sleeps six, was made from the top half of the seats. I was lucky that there were only five of us in the compartment, because that meant no one complained about my sleeping sitting up, leaning against the window. I had a cold, and that also let me stretch my arm over to the air conditioning vent.) It was…interesting. The other three people who got there earlyish spoke French with the equivalent of a US Southern accent–it was more drawling than I could easily understand. But they all spoke English, so basic communication was not a problem. (This theme continues.)

After an early-morning train change in Milan, I arrived in Venice and then at my hotel around mid-morning on Monday. This was, of course, too early to check into my room, so I changed clothes in the bathroom, left most of my stuff in the storage area, and went out to find food, fix my train tickets for Thursday, and wander around a bit.

Brunch was cappucino, a grilled wrap, and a marmalade croissant (note: croissants in Italy have a more brioche-y texture), just down the street from my hotel.  While I was there, a crowd of schoolkids got gelato from the other window of the cafe.  Then, I walked back to the train station (having taken the vaporetto (water-bus) to the hotel, since my Stuff For Two Weeks was kind of a lot), bought my two supplemental train tickets (for a total of ~€2.50), and hopped on the #1 vaporetto to ride along the Grand Canal (and out to Lido) while waiting for check-in time.  There are a whole lot of photos from that vaporetto ride over on Flickr, but I particularly like this one:

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That’s a barge with a bit of a garden on the back, demonstrating how much they use boats for *everything*.  There were also lots of smaller barge-like boats with various cargoes, from construction materials to sodas and snack foods–anything that’d be transported in trucks in other cities.  One of the other fun things about that afternoon was that it was the first time I wore my brand-new prescription sunglasses (any prescription sunglasses, really).  I’d gotten them the day before I left, because I wanted a backup pair of glasses and thought sunglasses would be useful, and they really, really were.  And, because I got amber lenses, all the sparkles in the water looked coppery.

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And, since smallish motorboats are the Venetian substitutes for cars, I liked the way this boat reminded me of a vintage car.

By the time the vaporetto got back to the stop (Accademia) near my hotel, it was late enough that I could check in.  So I did.  This is the view directly out my window:

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Definitely vacationy.

Having gained access to my room, I took a shower (this being the first opportunity since Saturday afternoon) in what turned out to be a fantastic shower setup.  Then I wandered around Dorsoduro for a little while.

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This is a side street sort of near my hotel.  I found dinner at that same cafe, since it was the only place open earlyish on a Monday evening (lots of places are closed on Mondays, and it was at least an hour before “normal” dinner time)–mushroom risotto.

On Tuesday, I set out bright (it was bright the entire time I was in Venice) and early for Murano, to see the Museo Vetrario (glass museum) and a lot of other glass.  The museum was smaller than I’d anticipated, but it was full of beautiful things, and there was good historical information.  They also had much of the information on leaflets that came in English, French, or German, so I could understand most of what they were presenting.  And the first room was archaeological finds–I’d never really thought about how early millefiore-style glass was made, but they had some examples from the first century CE, much earlier than I might’ve guessed.  As I said, the museum contained many, many beautiful objects, in a variety of different styles of glasswork, but there were a few particular types that struck me.  There was one vase-like object in chalcedony glass (beautiful by itself) that also had silver filigree on it.  And the filigree glass…  So beautiful and delicate and intricate-looking!  Alas, they did not allow photography, and they were pretty strict about enforcing that policy.  Though….if they had, I might’ve filled up all three of my camera memory cards before I got home.

Anyway, no photos in the museum, but I took a few others on Murano, including this one of a residential “street”.  This is pretty close to the neighborhood bread shop where I bought a slice of pizza for part of lunch.

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I wandered in and out of most of the glass shops on the main streets near the vaporetto stop, looking for a couple of souvenirs for myself and for a gift for my mom.  Beautiful stuff in most of them, ranging from glass insects (rhinoceros beetles!) to millefiore platters to the kind of gradient-y glass that seems to be a Murano specialty.  I caught the last third of a glass-working demonstration in one of the factories, during which I was particularly impressed by the seeming ease with which the glassworker made a pulled-glass horse from a blob of molten glass.  I did find the things I’d wanted to buy, though not all of them were in the forms I’d anticipated, and then I had a spinach-and-ricotta-stuffed focaccia for a lunch supplement before taking the vaporetto back to Dorsoduro.

This next photo is from that vaporetto ride–it’s a nice example of Venetian architecture (the fancy kind along the Grand Canal, anyway) and the painted poles in front of many of the buildings.

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Tuesday night, I took myself out for a fancy dinner, which turned out to be excellent.  Soave, white fish (gilthead) and asparagus with pesto, and then pears and light custard and caramel sauce in puff pastry.  The only thing wrong with that meal was the people at the (very close) next table, who were Americans who seemed to like complaining.  (Hey, I’d rather listen to people complain in foreign languages, if I’m going to listen to complaints.  At least that way I’ll miss a lot of the complaininess and enjoy understanding what words I catch.)

On Wednesday, I walked to Piazza San Marco:

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And very impressive it is.  Especially from closer up.

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The carvings are stunning enough, but all the mosaics!

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This closer-up shot is from the terrace.  I wasn’t comfortable taking pictures in the museum, since there were “no photography” signs in every room, but it had lots of beautiful and/or impressive stuff.  (And the same admission price grants access to both the museum and this terrace.)  Oh, and the kinda more impressive bit was the inside of the main cathedral space, which was just stunningly beautiful and ornate.  The floors!  Sure, there are mosaics all over the ceiling, but my favorite bits were the tile/inlay work on the floors.  Several different colors of marble, mostly in geometric patterns (lots of different ones), but also including a set of three eagles in different colors, and griffins, and I think there were peacocks, and and and and…  I wish I could’ve taken pictures of just the floors.

The outside’s pretty impressive, too, though.

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I especially like this quilt-like use of different patterns of marble on the side of the building.  (The statues in this photo are on the corner of the Palazzo Ducale, not San Marco.)

Again, I took lots more photos than I felt it appropriate to cram into this blog post, but they’re all on Flickr.  Anyway, after touring the cathedral, I took the elevator up to the top of the campanile (belltower) and took lots more photos of the views.  And then I wandered back toward the hotel, stopping in several shops (leatherwork, Random Interesting Stuff, and paper goods) and then in a science-and-stuff museum that had what turned out to be a retrospective on a glass artist whose name I can’t recall right now.  Fantastically beautiful work, though, with really interesting combinations of color and texture (including swirling color one way and then carving scale-like bits or divot-y shapes swirling in the opposite direction).

Wednesday’s dinner was decidedly less fancy, though still quite pleasant–pizza at a restaurant overlooking the other canal, with gelato from a side-street gelateria for dessert.

Then, on Thursday, I got up extra-early to catch my train(s) to Florence.

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Funny how much less touristy the vaporettos were at 8am…  (This last photo shows a couple other vaporettos, and you can see the platform at the next stop, over on the right.)

Europe trip: Part 2 will be Florence.  Soonish.

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