Do you hear the bells?

“Leann. Your phone is going off.”

“Huh?” She said groggily. “That’s not my phone.”

This morning, our last in Venice before flying to the city of lights, started with the familiar sound of bells faintly chiming. I mistook them for the alarm set on the phone and woke up my regazza. It wasn’t her alarm, but the real bells. It was 7am. Our water taxi out of Venice departed at 6:50.

After a Home Alone moment, we jumped into the clothes we had set out for today, hurriedly ransacked the room (like Venetians and their gold booty), and charged down the stairs and out into the misty morning. I managed to twist my ankle on the last stair.

Taking a boat to a plane seems like the Kanye thing to do. The boat/cabbie was bumping hits like “baby come back.” He was one Adele song away from making me ask if he wanted to talk about the breakup.

The previous day in Venice was lackluster. We wandered around the city, shuffling behind tourist groups and couples. The canal is pretty and the abundance of bridges is a neat feature. The absence of crazed drivers on Vespas was a welcomed respite. If Venice were in Redfin it would easily receive a walker score of 100. There are water taxis and your feet. Those are your transport choices.

The ongoing struggle with Venice, and the other Italian cities, was where to eat. I don’t often eat out so having to choose where to eat twice a day is taxing, especially when Chipotle isn’t an option. Most of our time was spent wandering the streets looking at menus.

Venice has its perks and can serve as a delineator for what type of traveler you are.

Do you like to make lists?
Are you a fast walker?
Do you like going with the flow? (Or “flowing with the go” as my friend Marissa learned from an author of a book by that name)
Do you walk around a new city seeing it through your iPad?

Venice is well suited for those looking to unwind or those ok with not having plans. One of the challenges is finding a particular address or place. The streets wind like a massive rat maze, replete with cheese shops. During our first dinner in Venice, I spotted a mouse scurrying out of the darkness around the corner. In that moment I commiserated with that mouse. For the majority of my time on the island, I was darting around looking for sustenance.

After the Murano incident and our general meandering, we decided to try one last time to find a particular restaurant. It had been rated highly on yelp and was in Cannaregio, an area my boss recommended as being a hot spot for the remaining locals. I asked our concierge, who had a penchant for whispering, if he could call the restaurant to make sure it was open. He gladly assisted us and informed us we had until 9. That gave us 60 minutes to find our way. Pressure cooker.

Uncharacteristically, I successfully navigated our way to the area (the top part of the fish). We eventually spotted the restaurant and sat down outside for our last supper. Leann chose tortellini in a cream sauce with prosciutto. I went Jesus style. Linguine alla pescatoro.

The dinner was good and our most substantial amount of food. Leading up to that dinner we had eaten: yogurt, croissant, mini sandwiches, two nectarines and a creme-filled donut. The food came out Taco Bell drive-thru fast. Maybe I’m just going though taco withdrawal. It’s been 10 days since I’ve had Mexican food.

The evening was the perfect temperature for pants and a tshirt. The food was fresh, good and fairly priced. We lingered finishing our half liter of vino rosso. Then we wandered into the maze one last time. Eventually we found our way to piazza San Marco to shake off the rose and laser pen salesmen, and to take in the orchestral sounds one last night.

Venice was a reminder to relax. You’re on vacation and there’s nowhere you have to be. Enjoy wandering. Enjoy stumbling on a scenic view. Enjoy the charm or reconstructed Byzantine architecture. Just enjoy being alive.

All too soon I’ll have to return to the real world of scheduled conference calls, navigating the streets I know and the suburban sprawl I call home. But for now, I’ll bid Venezia arrivederci and grazie mille for the reminder to enjoy being a tourist. 20140526-172052-62452856.jpg20140526-172053-62453289.jpg20140526-172052-62452533.jpg

20140526-172054-62454067.jpg

20140526-172053-62453657.jpg

20140526-172054-62454413.jpg

20140526-172054-62454818.jpg

20140526-172055-62455684.jpg

20140526-172055-62455362.jpg

Day trippin' to Murano

20140526-011828-4708477.jpg

Venice doesn’t offer a ton of attractions for travelers in their 20s. This is the last year I can identify as being in that age bracket so I should use it while I still can.

Coming after Roma and Firenze, Venezia was a choppy gondola ride of emotions. Rome is epic and has more potential itinerary items than you can list. Florence had a more relaxed pace, but still offered extensive cultural and sightseeing locales.

After half a day in Venice I felt I had seen all I needed to. Venice is aptly described as an old world theme park.

In 24 hours I saw four people crying.

The island comes complete with a Hard Rock Cafe and Disney store, if you should miss the comforts of commercialism. The largest irritant was that nearly no one speaks Italian to you. After day one, I had my fill of Venice.

This morning, in an effort to do something off the guidebook, we ventured out at 5am to see the sunrise. The streets were empty. It was refreshing to not be stuck behind tourist mobs. The emptiness allowed us to appreciate the beauty of the city as the sun rose.

After stopping to see San Marco Basilica, we decided to head to Murano to see glass blowing. We attempted to see a demo near the basilica but the shop only offered tours for groups or if you physically had rick Steve’s book. I tried claiming we left it at the hotel, but the man told us to go get the book and we could see the demo. One problem: that book is back at the library we got it. In the United States. Of America.

Off we went to Murano. The hour plus boat ride took us to another quiet, not über touristy island. I multitasked and fell asleep on the boat. We ran into one problem once at Murano. All the shops close at 4, with none offering demos. It was 4:10. Walking to all the closing shops reminded me of Miss Swan from MadTV.

The only meal consumed today was breakfast; then we grabbed nectarines and had mini sandwiches we made from cold cuts at breakfast. We looked for a place to eat on Murano but all the food appeared to be reheated pizza. We snagged a donut and €3 bottle of water before catching the water taxi back to Venice.
20140526-005515-3315229.jpg
Could we salvage the stint in Venice and end on a high note? Check back tomorrow for the dramatic conclusion of Andrew’s Euro-Venture.

20140526-005514-3314327.jpg

20140526-005514-3314805.jpg

20140526-005516-3316729.jpg

20140526-005515-3315549.jpg

20140526-005517-3317218.jpg

20140526-005516-3316051.jpg

Levata del sole a Venezia

Venice

20140525-064921-24561379.jpg
Play this while reading: I’ll follow the sun

As the day draws to a close in the states a new one is starting in Venice. To my friends back home I offer these pictures to inspire your tomorrow dreams.

I’ve had a goal for a long time to see the sunrise and sunset on an island. Venice offers the perfect opportunity to see both in a day. Thankfully my bladder woke me at 5:04 local time. Daylight was starting to creep through the transparent white draperies as I checked my phone to see when sunrise was. I had 20 minutes to hustle to the sun.

I woke up Leann to ask if she’d like to join. Groggily, she agreed.

“And we can get donuts.” I added.

“Why didn’t you lead with that?!” She replied.

We wandered around and I snagged these shots. The streets were empty, save the runners and dog walkers. A few women opened their window shutters as we walked along the water. One couple was getting gelato.

On our return trip, the garbage men and gondoliers prepared for another day of tourists.

I hope you have a great day ahead.

20140525-064922-24562461.jpg20140525-064920-24560906.jpg

20140525-064923-24563293.jpg

20140525-064920-24560600.jpg

20140525-064921-24561710.jpg

20140525-064923-24563652.jpg

20140525-064922-24562859.jpg

20140525-064924-24564086.jpg

20140525-064924-24564677.jpg

20140525-070557-25557486.jpg

5:38 AM – A Morning Smoke

Smoked Chicken

Some people wake up and fumble for the snooze button. Part gift, part curse, I never set, or need, an alarm. I wake up around the same time every day, regardless of when I went to bed. My circadian rhythm is more steadfast than Edward Snowden looking for his next passport stamp. Continue reading 5:38 AM – A Morning Smoke