Friday, October 2
Another day in Venice and a day spent on the water. Well, that’s what Venice is famous for isn’t it? We have to get on the water! We took the train from our neighbourhood on the outskirts of Padova, into Venezia and immediately bought our tickets for the water bus and hopped on. Off we went, chugging up the canal, stopping at all the stops along the way, people squeezing on…people pushing off…on we went, looking at the buildings and the throbbing city pass us by.
Then we were out of the canal and into the open water of the lagoon. The fun began with the rocking and rolling of the waves as the multitude of water traffic created wakes all around us. I love riding the waves and bumping and rolling! Good fun! We chugged across the lagoon and arrived at our first destination for the day – Murano. This is also known as the “Glass Island”, being famous for the production of the colourful, creative and vibrant Murano glass.
Murano was a really nice place to visit. It’s hugely geared towards tourists, but is quieter than Venice, less people so easier to walk around, but still with the waterside streets, houses and shops, with pontes providing the link across the canals.
We strolled around the streets, window gazed and then sat on a bench in a small square and had elevenses. I watched a man come out of his house with his shaggy grey dog, take it off for a walk before returning a short time later. He whistled a few times, while looking up at the shuttered windows of the building he had exited and a face soon appeared from above. A few words were spoken to the lady whose face appeared from the window, before he walked up to the door and let himself and his shaggy companion inside. It was a lovely, sedate, but “real” piece of local life. A stroll with the dog, a window-to-street whistle and chat and then back inside to continue with the day. Lovely.
It was really nice to just walk the streets and I loved the striking glass sculpture that sat at the end of a small square.
We stopped to watch the craftsmanship of the glassblowers, as they created new pieces for sale. They were working in a shed along one of the streets and had the doors open, probably to cool the space they were working in, with the heat of the furnaces creating a steamy environment for them. We stood by the open doors and just watched them at work, moulding and turning the molten glass into new creations. I loved that it wasn’t an organised activity. We weren’t at a factory or on a tour, we just stood on the street and watched the craftsmen in action.
After a few hours of taking in Murano, we returned to the water bus stop, waited for our ride and then hopped on board, heading for Burano, another island and small fishing village. If Murano is famous for its glass, Burano is famous for its lace. This little island was simply delightful. It was, again, very touristy, with the souvenir shops and lace shops aplenty, but walking through the quiet back streets and along the waterfront, it was easy to forget this and just become part of small island life.
We stopped on a bench by the water for lunch and watched the local fishermen going about their business. We also had some company for lunch today. Not pigeons this time, but a local cat who came looking for his share of our food. He’d been sitting up on a stone wall and when he saw us sit down, and particularly when he saw Steve unwrap his bread and honey, he was off that wall like a flash and straight into begging action. He waved his paw in the air, stood up against Steve’s legs and eventually walked onto Steve’s lap, doing his best to endear himself to this big fella sitting in his patch, with possible feline friendly lunch offerings! He wasn’t too keen on anything we had to offer, but he stayed with us and kept us company all the same. He came looking at what I had and didn’t fancy that. Then decided bread and honey wasn’t for him either, so he just hung around our legs. He was a friendly fella and it was nice to have him with us for a while.
As well as lace, Burano is known for its coloured houses. They are beautiful and sit in rows of vibrant colours. Being a fishing village, legend has it that the houses are painted in these bright colours so the fishermen could see their way home in thick fog and the tradition has continued. It is said that the families have maintained the same colour schemes over the centuries, creating a system that both identifies the houses from the sea and identifies the families living there. This was such a charming village and we could see a much more authentic way of life here. There was the tourist strip, but also the fishermen working and the quiet residential streets, with the washing hanging from windows and balconies. It was so wonderfully “real” and being set against the pretty backdrop of the houses and the water, made it a special place to visit.
On Burano, I did see the ultimate in “cashing in on tourists” though! There’s usually some sort of charge to use public toilets in Europe, which I actually like, because it means there’s generally an attendant on duty collecting money, which means the toilets are supervised and cleaned regularly. The going rate in places we’ve been has been €0.50, sometimes €0.20. The price for a pee on Burano? €1.50!! I guess they know they literally have a captive clientele! It’s an island and if you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go, so they might as well charge three times the going rate!
After a lovely time roaming the streets of Burano, we hopped back on our water bus and chugged, rocked and rolled back to Venice. After arriving back in the city, we then took another water bus, back along the canal, to ride a different route, so we could hop on a bus down the Grand Canal. Now… the reason for the title of today’s blog post!…As we chugged up the water, to get onto our next route, guess who was on our ferry? Guess! The title is a clue…Can you guess? It was…Ray Martin! Who’d have thought! We were standing below the stairs and there he was, all famous hair and gap teethed smile, standing in the open door way, chugging along with us! We tried to get a picture but it was too crowded. Then, he got off at our stop, so I leaped up the stairs and tried to catch up with him, because I wanted to say “G’day Mr Martin” but he took off into the street. We tried tailing him for a while, but couldn’t get a picture or say g’day, so we failed our first paparazzi test. I didn’t recognise the fella he was with, it wasn’t George Negus though! So there you go, of all the places to spot an Australian celebrity, it was on a water bus in Venice!
The first bus we tried to catch was way too crowded, so we set off walking some more, through the streets, past the gondola stops, over the pontes and along the rows of high-end fashion stores. It was getting late in the afternoon and the sky was grey, the rain had been threatening and I thought the city looked so much nicer in that light. It seemed to come alive in its satin, grey gown and looked so much more elegant.
We saw a less crowded bus and hopped aboard for the ride down the Grand Canal. That was very speccy and definitely a Venice highlight. The canal itself was grand, but we chugged along looking at the houses lining the waterside, under the Rialto Bridge, that we had walked across the day before and watching the city going about its business as the day departed and gave way to the new evening. As we passed some houses, I saw a lady open the shutters of her window, a few storeys up, rest her leg on the window sill and, one at a time, give each leg a liberal spraying. I’m sure she was mosquito-proofing herself! Those little blighters are still everywhere and I’m sure she was going through her evening routine of spraying repellant to ward off their fangs as the evening approached and the mozzies’ favourite time of day was approaching.
After a special ride down the canal, we hopped off and then walked some busy streets to locate a supermarket to pick up some supplies before catching our train. It was now dark, the streets were busy with tourists, people looking for restaurants, market stalls and hawkers plying their wares. We dodged and weaved our way through, quickly gathered some bits and pieces at the grocery store, then found our way back to the train station. By the time we arrived at our stop, the rain had well and truly arrived, so it was a fast and soggy walk in the wet and dark, from the station back to our hotel. We prepared ourselves and even later supper, by which time it was approaching 10:00, so the blog, unfortunately didn’t happen on time, due to the late hour, wifi the speed of a tortoise swimming in novocaine and our own fatigued bodies and brains!
It was a fun day spent on the water. We chugged along the canals and across the lagoon, saw some charming villages and beautiful scenes, spotted a celebrity and then took a grand ride down the Grand Canal. Delightful. The journey continues, the memories accumulate, the experiences are gathered and the horizons are broadened. Another fantastic edition in this growing series of special episodes in our own, living, breathing adventure series! Tick, tick, tick…those stories and more, tonight on…Run Ride Roam!
Saturday, October 3
We decided to leave Venice for the day and give its near neighbour some of our attention, so we caught the bus into the centre of Padova. I love crawling along at bus pace, looking out the window and seeing the comings and goings of locals. Here, as we’ve seen in all the places we’ve been in Italy, people dress very nicely. Everyone on the streets looks to have taken time and pride in their appearance. There were a few people riding along on their bikes, just using them as their transport and I saw one lovely scene. An older lady was walking her bike, about to hop on. She was round, with perfectly coloured, set and wind-resistant hair, wearing a Wedgewood blue twin set and court shoes. It took a bit of manoeuvring to get her stockinged leg over the low bar of the bike, with the restriction of her hip-hugging skirt, but she swung her leg over, hopped into the saddle and off that genteel lady pedalled, down the street, with her handbag swinging from the handlebars. Beautiful!
The bus dropped us in the centre of town and we began roaming the streets. The Saturday markets were in full swing and I gazed at the rainbow of produce sparkling from all the stalls.
We roamed slowly and just became part of the city. We walked past a pasticceria and I saw some nice wholemeal fruit rolls in the window, so I went inside to practise my Italian and give my pointer finger some exercise, while I bought us some elevenses. We sat on a stone wall in a square beside a grand church and enjoyed our rolls, as we watched the locals carrying their market purchases or pedalling their bikes along the street.
On we roamed, this way and that. We called into the local library and stopped at their cafe for a cup of tea. I was very taken with the tea cosy they used – very stylish and highly practical and effective!
Roaming continued down streets and along lanes until it was time to stop for lunch. We called into a vegan cafe and had ourselves a delicious mushroom burger, before strolling back through the streets to find our bus.
We rode back to our hotel and, since the sun had now come out, I quickly changed and headed out for a run. It was a pleasant plod along the streets, side stepping the Golden Retriever who launched itself at the fence in another snarling frenzy and through some neighbourhoods.
Another fun day, exploring a new place. We took it easy and blended in with the locals. I think we’re getting the hang of the Italian accent, if not the whole language. I always feel good when we greet people with a “buongiorno” or “buona sera” and they begin to speak to us in Italian. At least our first words spoken must sound Italian enough, that we aren’t immediately identifiable as foreigners, so they continue on, speaking to us in Italian! Of course we hit the wall then and can’t understand anything and have to apologise for speaking English, but at least our greeting must have sounded relatively authentic! Tomorrow is another day, another day of learning and just, well, experiencing and absorbing. We are loving being sponges and soaking up every second of every moment we are swimming in. We are sponges that are soaking wet with the moments we have mopped up and I’ve never been so happy to be drenched!