Friday, June 19, 2015

3rd time is the charm

Please refer to Hubby's blog for current pictures and a more comprehensive review of our travel adventures.

I am working with the Ipad and trying to navigate using the Blogsy app. It isn't as user friendly as one might hope (ok, maybe it is user error as well?). However, it is a good tool for generating general drafts. As Thing 1 grants me access to his laptop, or when Hubby is not using his for work, I will try to update with pictures to go with my journal notes. But for now, anything posted here is more of a work in progress.

Going into the trip, I wanted to mix in structured tours with unstructured tours. I knew we would want the freedom that comes with just wandering in a new area and taking things in but occasionally it would be fun to go with a more structured format. Also, in the more popular destinations, I had read enough to know that we were going during "high season" and tours that gave you "no waiting" access would be priceless in terms of ensuring we saw what we wanted to see with minimal muss and fuss.

In Rome we took two tours with the company called Walks of Italy. Reviews were favorable and they offered the features we wanted so I splurged on two tours. Yes, they were good tours but nothing that left me thinking WOW, I would totally recommend that company. I realize it is also a roll of the dice in terms of who you receive as a tour guide, how he/she connects with your group, and how well regarded the tour company is by the hosting facility. As was the case in the Colosseum tour, a portion of a promised access was rescinded by the Colosseum itself.

 Much as I would like to blame the tour company, they are at the mercy of the facility. With our Vatican tour, I think we were just frustrated by the crowd levels of the facility, again not the fault of the company or guide. But with two OK but not WOW tours under our belt, even I will admit I was a little apprehensive going into Tour #3. Would it be ho hum or hopefully would it be something worth blogging about.

Well, I"m blogging so there you have it...third time was the charm!

Today, we had signed up for a walking tour of Venice with the company called City Wonders (I think another name is Dark Tours, at least that's how it appeared on my cc charge and receipt). Our guide was Eleanora and she is a born and raised Venetian with all the elegance and charm one associates with the city of Venice.

She started the tour promptly at 0900 (much to the frustration of a family that arrived late and then was not successful in meeting up with us until 2/3 of the way through the tour). But fear not, we had done a recon of the meeting point last night so we knew it would take about an hour using public transportation to get from our apartment in Mestre to the starting point and well, if you know know that I will add in extra time just to make sure we aren't "Martha late" (meaning arriving 10 minutes before the start time).

First stop was at the home of Marco Polo where she helped sort out fact from fiction in terms of the legends of his time. No, he did not bring back the noodle from the Orient. Italians figured out pasta all on their own. Yes, he was imprisoned after his return from the Orient, and it was while he was imprisoned that he wrote his famous travel tale, Il Milione or the The Travels of Marco Polo. It still boggles my mind standing in front of some home that dates back to the 1270. Just that gentle reminder that we are such a young country.

We then wandered through the side streets of Venice stopping along the way to tell little stories and she even pointed out the hospital. I wonder if they are hiring? Yeah, not really, Venice is a beautiful city, but not one I would want to have to work in. Nope, if I lived here, it would need to be in one of the Palazzos and I would want my own gondola at my disposal, and of course, we would just lounge around being on Italy time..

OK, but to the recap of today's tour. Next stop on the tour was to visit the Basilica of St. Mark. St Mark, one of the "No waiting" access options.
As the crowds were starting to form, I admit I felt pretty special to just walk right in, head upstairs and receive a history lesson of this famous church. I really appreciated Eleanore explanation of the art we were seeing. You forget that at the time the churches were built, many of the people were illiterate. The art served as the story of the church: from the story of how the remains of St. Mark were stolen and brought back to this church built for the sole purpose of housing the remains of their patron Saint, St. Mark, to the homily if you will....with biblical lessons being told in ornate gold plated mosiac "story boards" if you will.

Next stop was the Doge's Palace. 19+ years ago, Hubby and I visited here, but neither one of us rememebered much from that tour. Today's tour brought to life the role of government in Venetian history. Sure there was some corruption, but it is interesting to hear some of their efforts to maintain a fair democracy. For example, if you were related to the doge, you could not be in office, too much concern for corruption. If you had a crime to report, you placed the information in a special mail box, that could only be opened by two people, again, leaving no one person in control of critical information. I found it fascinating the overlap between the church and the state and the references to the zodiac time.

At the end of the tour, we had the option of hanging out for awhile in the Palace. We decided to head off in search of the location for where we had taken a "selfie" back before we called it such...we wanted to recreate that pose if possible. Hubby is working on the photographic details, will add later.
With the tour being complete, we were now free to head off in search of our next adventure....

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