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Row Venice

I awoke in time for a hotel continental breakfast and headed out towards the Doge' palace/St Mark square.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I had heard that Venice was hard to navigate, but the hotel gave me good free map that made navigation very easy. I was able to admire the city on the way without getting lost.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Early in the morning, there were people at San Marco, but I wouldn't describe it as "crowds." It was relatively calm and I was able to see the very impressive buildings from the outside. I also had a good view of the grand canal.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Just before 8:30, when the Doge's palace opens, I got in line to enter. I was about 3rd in line, so I was able to pay and get in before even the first tour group. As a result, I generally had most of the areas to myself or myself and a few other tourists the whole time. By the time I exited, I could hear the roar of the crowds across the palace and so I was glad I made the decision to beat them.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The Doge's Palace museum was very interesting and educational. Personally, I found the sheer amount of space they dedicated to law and courts and keeping rule astounding. Plus, I could totally see the court scene from Serpent of Venice happening right there. I love the idea of living the literature!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">In addition to the court rooms, which oh by the way were completely covered in masterpieces, they showed off the prison area and some of the living quarters. The beds in the prison were rather large, but I still wouldn't want to live there. The other areas, I could handle.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Some of the rooms had walls that were "wallpapered" in fancy fabric. One was a library with an incredible amount of old, hand-written books. In general, all of the ceilings were incredible. Each was like its own art gallery.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The Doge's Palace was just so wonderful!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After exiting, I went over to San Marco Basilica, right around the corner. It's free to get in, but the line was very long. I pulled out my (still cold) mozzarella and bread and was able to grab a snack while I waited.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Eventually, it was my turn to go in. The Basilica is big, nice, and as impressive as others. They kept it dark, so it was hard to really see the gold ceiling, which was the good part. Maybe I'm just getting basilica-jaded, but it didn't seem more special than any other basilica, except for the ceiling, which was hard to see.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"> Across the plaza from the basilica is the Correr Museum, which is included in the Doge's Palace ticket. Maybe people publicized this too much, because the line to buy tickets here was out the door and down the hall, whereas the line at the Doge's Palace was almost non-existent, even when I exited. Since I already had my ticket, I just breezed on in.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The displays here were more "modern" than the stuff from the 12-1500s at the Doge's Palace, here was a lot of stuff from the 1700s. Although, I thought that the coolest part was the collection of Doge commemorative coins they had that dated back to the first Doges.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Also, right smack dab in the middle of all of the old art, they had some random stuff on the Iraq war. I didn't really get it, but ok. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">On my way to the south side of town, I passed a church that had been half-converted to a music museum. THIS is how you do a music museum, Milan take a lesson. They acoustics were amazing, which I could tell because they were actually playing music. (What a concept!) If I knew anything about instruments, the museum would probably have been even better. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The next museum I went to was the Guggenheim. It is NOT worth the price. First, it is a very small collection of modern art. Yes, it had the requisite "blank canvas as art" (this one was grid paper) and the requisite "my kindergarten friend made that," but they were missing the toilet, they were missing the "pile 'o stuff," they were missing the comics-style dotted piece and they were missing the political piece. I feel like every modern art museum needs those. Instead, they had an over-crowded, tiny room of stuff that was pretty boring. Keep in mind, I generally love modern art museums and dislike the medieval/Renaissance religious/portrait stuff. But I have to say that I enjoyed the Doge's palace stuff, and even some of the Correr stuff much more than the stuff at the Guggenheim. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Santa Maria della Salute is located right across the way from the Guggenheim, so that was the logical next place to go. I have to say that I liked this much better than San Marco basilica. It was open and airy. It was filled with light. It felt much happier, which I suppose befits a place built to pray for an end to the plague.

It also has a great view of some of the fancy old houses/palaces on the Grand Canal. I just love the idea of somebody rowing up to the house for a visit! Some of the houses are so fancy that I truly can believe the rich merchants of Venice lived there and that alld the stories I read took place there. You really do have to see them to get a feel for the tales. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">As I have now been walking on stone for 3 days straight, I thought it would be a fun idea to get a boat-bus up a few stops to the Rialto. Just as I was thinking that, one showed up to the stop. But, when the guy told me it was 7 euro a ride, I decided that my feet didn't hurt that bad.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Besides, the whole city is basically just a museum. Walking to the Rialto is like walking through a big art gallery. All of the streets are filled with shops selling paintings, gorgeous Murano glass, artistic jewelry, ceramics, and scarfs. Even the glove store window looks like a piece of art. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The whole city also seems to be filled with tourists. I didn't see any offices or business people, just tourists and those catering to them. Anywhere you go, there are groups in matching hats, families walking around with their cameras out, and couples on vacation. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">There is no place that is more true than the Rialto. The bridge is lined with one souvenir shop after another, and both ends of the bridge are an extension of this.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Nearby, I found a little market with fresh fruits, veggies, and fish, but nobody seemed to be buying anything but the prepackaged spice blend souvenirs. I so wish I was staying longer and at a place with a kitchen. The artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes looked amazing!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I should have just bought a bread-cheese-dried tomato lunch there, but I was suckered in by a restaurant with a too-good-to-be-true-in-Venice price for pasta. It was. By the time I had a water (nobody in Italy so far has let me just get tap water, they'll only give bottled), and they tacked on some fee for the bread (expected) and some BS service (that specifically said tip not included, although that's what service means, so I didn't feel obligated to add a normal tip), the 7 euro pasta was twice the price, and neither the pasta nor bread were that great. Also, I thought they might have Amontillado (not a whole cask, just a cup), and they didn't. Oh well. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After the eh food, I decided I just needed the chocolate-covered, bigger-than-your-fist merengue I saw in some window. It cost a fraction of what the meal cost, and was many times better tasting- an excellent choice.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I headed to the north end of town so that I could be sure to make my rowing lesson on time, but also because I hadn't seen that part of town yet.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I saw some more great vegetable stands and another tempting bakery. This time I got a "sicilian" cannolo. Apparently, the Sicilians want to celebrate Christmas year-round, so they ruin their cannoli by filling them with nuts and the rubber-fruit that goes in fruit cake. Lesson: even the world's worst cannoli is still better than plenty of other properly-made desserts.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The old Jewish ghetto is also in this part of town. Honestly, if it weren't for the synagogue and the kosher restaurant, I wouldn't know it from any other part of the city. Most of the city looks old and run-down as if paint was more expensive than gold.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">But of course, there were still the tons of shops selling museum-quality art and glass. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I wandered around to see everything until it was close to time for my rowing lesson. OMG that lesson was awesome!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"> Row Venice runs lessons where they teach you gondola-style rowing and then get you out in a "trainer" gondola to practice. The trainer boats are wider and curved a little different than the gondolas the professionals use, but that gives them better stability and steering for beginners.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I got a 5-minute explanation of the boats, paddles, stances, techniques, and then it was my turn to practice. After adjusting my stance and seeing me paddle a few times while we were tied off, the instructor declared me ready and off we went. We rowed down a side canal and out into the lagoon where we could see Murano and some other islands. My balance was tested every time a motor boat passed by, but I didn't fall over once, much less fall in. We rowed around the lagoon and then back into some of the northern canals. Seeing Venice from the water was cool, but it was even cooler to be doing the rowing. For my first time, I was doing pretty well at pulling in my oar to avoid obstacles and just generally keeping the boat moving.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">There were a couple of tight spots where I pulled in the oar completely and the instructor paddled, like when we'd go under a short bridge or when we had to pass a boat in an area where there wasn't room. But, they have a saying in Venice: if you have 3 boats over a meter wide, the only place they can all pass at the same time in a canal less than 3 meters wide is Venice. (The instructor shared that with me, as well as other stories about living in Venice.)<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The lesson lasted an a hour and a half, but it sure didn't feel that long because I was having so much fun. I'm not quite ready to quit my day job to go to gondolier school full-time, but if I was in Venice another day, I would have asked to schedule another lesson. If you come to Venice and can stand without a cane, you HAVE to do this. Skip the Guggenheim, pass on the fancy tour, do whatever you have to, but absolutely, positively get a rowing lesson from Row Venice. This was the best thing I did in Venice. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The only thing negative I can say is that after 3 days of walking and an hour and a half of standing rowing, my feet were tired. Fortunately, it was about 6pm, which is Venetian happy hour. I saw a bunch of bars that had tons of people sitting outside with drinks and appetizers, so I checked a few to see if they had Amontillado. Nope. By the looks I got, it was like I was asking for a flux capacitor or the key to the pool on the roof. But I wikipediaed it before the trip, so I know it's a real thing. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Eventually, I just needed a seat, so I sat at a bar and got the typical Venetian happy-hour drink- a spritzer. I have no idea what's in it other than an orange slice and olive, but everybody was getting one and the bartender recommended it, so I got one. It wasn't bad tasting and wasn't so strong that I really felt it, which is good, in my opinion. Most importantly, it gave my feet the much-needed break required to continue on.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I walked around some more until it was real dinner time and I found a place that had some eggplant spaghetti. The place was small and apparently they had a lot of reservations, so I was seated outside. It wasn't so bad at first, but by the end, even my sweatshirt wasn't keeping the cold off. I was very thankful to get to my warm bed back at the hotel.

Venice in the morning

Venice in the morning


San Marco Basilica

San Marco Basilica


San Marco Plaza

San Marco Plaza


Doge's Palace courtyard

Doge's Palace courtyard


Doge's Palace justice area

Doge's Palace justice area


Doge's Palace after the crowds hit

Doge's Palace after the crowds hit


Souvenirs = Art

Souvenirs = Art


Venice

Venice


Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute


Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute


Souvenirs = art

Souvenirs = art


Just a pretty bridge

Just a pretty bridge


cannoli

cannoli


I'm rowing!

I'm rowing!


Rowing the back "streets" of Venice

Rowing the back "streets" of Venice

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Italy

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