Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #3 – Wednesday, April 17: Venice, Italy

A typical Venetian canal

The Venice islands were constructed to be defensible: The shallow canals and low bridges meant that invading naval vessels would run aground or get stuck.

It’s easy to get around Venice by canal. By street, not so much. You can’t navigate by landmarks like the San Marco tower, because the whole city is a maze with four-or-five storey buildings blocking the sightlines. Navigating the city was sort of like those old text adventure games: “left, right, left, cross bridge, straight for fifty paces…”

Police, garbage collection, ambulances are all boats. No horses, no scooters. No cars, of course. No grass. No wild flowers, no fields, few trees. Very little litter. No hills. Only bridges.

The gondolas’ paddles double as poles. There are regulations limiting how ornate a gondola can be. They need something like that in India and Mexico.

At the entrance to San Marco Palazzo, pigeons landed on my head. Fortunately for both of us, I was wearing a hat.

We toured the prison that’s attached to the Doges Palace. Prison cells, torture chambers. Our guide had stories about a legendary prisoner, none other than Casanova. How he dug through his floor to discover some metal obstacle. He asked his keeper for vinegar, which would dissolve the metal, probably aluminum.

One of the prison cells. At least this one had a bed.

Stairs in a torture chamber

The inquisitor would climb these stairs to have a face-to-face chat with the victim, who was undergoing strappado, that is, hanging by his or her hands by a rope tied behind the back.

Another fun fact: The Doges employed immigrants and prisoners to copy their important legal documents. The scribes didn’t understand Italian (or whatever they called their language in those days) so they just copied the letter shapes and therefore never knew what they were copying. I quipped that this is like Facebook: People copying things they don’t understand. I got an appreciative laugh for that.

Different courtrooms had different artwork and décor. One would have stern artwork suggesting a punishing God. Others featured Madonna and Child artwork, suggesting a merciful God.

Our guide to the Doges palace

A graffito near our hotel

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #2 – Tuesday, April 16, 2019: Venice, Italy

It was a long wait, and a long walk, to reach the water taxi. I remember a mom and her daughter or possibly granddaughter interacting in the lineup behind us. The mom was so patient and witty, the daughter so daring in her climbing on things and running about. We couldn’t see much of the outside world through our trip to the hotel without standing up and trying to peer through the windows. This is because these boats have to be very low to negotiate the Venetian bridges.

A view of the Grand Canal from the Accademia bridge.

Barbara was our concierge at the hotel Palazzo Sant’Angelo, which is right on the Grand Canal. I believe Barbara is originally from England, though much Venetian speech sounds English to my ears. I didn’t think to ask her. I don’t ask enough questions on vacation. The hotel is part of the SINA chain of Italian hotels, also part of a network called, I think, “Small Luxury Hotels”, though I don’t know how they qualify to be ‘small’ or ‘luxury’, or even ‘hotel’.

The walls of the dining room were upholstered, not wallpapered. The Muzak was all bebop: Clifford Brown, Modern Jazz Quartet, Sarah Vaughan’s “Lullaby of Birdland”, “Laura”, “Blue Moo”n.

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #1 – Monday, April 15, 2019 – Departure

Ship: MSC Opera

I’m going to blog our recent trip to the Eastern Mediterranean. This first post is pretty boring, but it gets better.

Richard was our driver. Nice guy, but talkative. He runs a limousine service, but lately has abandoned events like weddings and proms in favour of airport runs, which pay the bills but don’t involve drunks, etc. His method on arrival is to wait for us in the Arrivals area on foot, then take us and our luggage to his parking spot in the parking tower. This nicely avoids the chaos at the Arrivals traffic area. Very smart, and all you have to pay for is the 1-hour parking fee. We will use Richard again. I think his service is called Affordable Limousine. Check with Patti.

The guy sitting in front of Betty put his seat back for the whole flight. Almost no-one else put their seat back.

I watched the new “A Star is Born”, “Asterix and the Olympics” (live action) and the first half of “Mary Poppins Returns”.

I left my prescription sunglasses on the plane. ASAP, I should write to Air France to try to recover them. I’ll need the flight information, including flight number, date, and seat number, as I think all information I can supply should help. (I went on their website after I got back.)

Long walk to transfer in Paris. Security was easy.