Day 17 - 12/07/2002 - Venice Italy [Day 8 of Contiki Tour]
Breakfast @ the hotel was very average - some strange tasting cereal, watered down cordial (that was meant to be juice?) and stale bread (slight exaggeration).
Went on a motorboat ride to get into Venice city. Venice is quite a unique place because it is built on hundreds of small islands and joined by countless bridges etc - they think it is slowly sinking and are spending millions of dollars to try and save it ... I wouldn't bother ... unfortunately, it sank below my expectations. Maybe I am being over critical or maybe it was just a very hot stinking day and we were all getting very hot and tired, but it simply was not as pretty as I expected it to be. The city has the most complex set of footpaths (there are not streets for cars) and it is very easy to get lost, but there are big signs telling you how to get to the main tourist attractions etc - however, when you are in the middle of a hot Italian summer, you don't want to have to walk around all day (let alone get lost).
We saw a lace making demonstration. Nowadays, this is mostly done on machines, but in Venice it is the only place left doing it manually, because the government subsidises the old art of hand making lace products. Some products take almost a year to make (with seven people involved) - the cost of the final product would be too much to sell, so the government subsidises the continuation of this work.
We went to a glass blowing demonstration where a guy made a pot and a horse (right in front of our eyes and quite quickly). I felt sorry for this guy, because it was already a very hot day and he had to sit in front of a furnace (for who knows how long).
Went walking and shopping in Venice ... and did what everyone tells you to do "get lost in Venice" which is part of enjoying the unique culture of this place.
Fed some pigeons ... tried to get a photo with a pigeon on my head, which basically involved lots of people throwing bird food on my head - unfortunately, we could not get any of the countless pigeons on my head (got a photo with one eating out of my hand). There are so many pigeons in the main square that you basically have to push them away - one guy "accidentally" kicked one. It was not a good experience for the females with us that were scared of birds - their hands were shaking for quite a while afterwards.
MOVIE: Bird Walk [MPG 190KB]
Went inside Saint Marco's Basilica (church) and was amazed by how all the floors are very unlevel - a sign of how the foundations of Venice are not very stable. The walls and ceilings are covered in lots of little tiles that make up pictures (mosaics). We went on a free guided tour, but it started to take way too long and it was hot, so we left.
MOVIE: San Marco's Square [MPG 380KB]
Sat in a coffee lounge and got some pizza and drinks to wait for our Gondola ride. The Gondola ride was great. Wen went through various canals in the city. Our Gondola driver was nice, he even sang a little song - not very well, compared to other gondolas going past, and not very good compared to the rendition of "Like A Virgin" sung by the girls on my gondola [I have a classic video of this that I will try to put on the web site at some stage] (this place that we went to is where Madonna filmed her video clip for "Like A Virgin").
MOVIE: Gondola Ride [MPG 350KB], Like A Virgin [MPG 990KB], A Real Gondola Singer [MPG 970KB]
Dinner in Venice was a lot of fun. We had a big meal with lots of cheap Italian wine. The set menu dinner included (but was not limited to) seafood salad, cold meats, three types of pasta, bread, garden salad, turkey with potatoes, some weird dessert (lemon gelato in liquid form?). We even had music/singing from some weird guys that worked at the restaurant. During the meal, the dreaded flower selling guy came to our table ... some of the girls challenged Greg and I to be chivalrous for once in our lives, so we bought them all flowers ... then one of the girls on the other table said "where is mine?" so I told the guy to take one flower to the one girl on the other table ... I turned my back, and before I could blink, he had given flowers to each of the girls on all the tables - I tried to explain that he had made a mistake, but there is no way that we could have taken the flowers from these wonderful girls, so Greg and I paid for them all. To my enormous delight, one of the girls (Marti) bought me a flower to say thank you ... it was lovely and the first time that anyone has ever bought me a flower. I think everyone had a great night ... especially the flower selling guy.
MOVIE: Dinner [MPG 790KB], Volare And The Thorn [MPG 910KB]
When we got back to the hotel, a few of the guys decided to get there head shaved. They tried to shave my head - including the use of physical force, but fortunately the hair dressed (Andrei) was kind enough to respect my request to not shave my head ... as I went to bed, I head people saying "Where is Joe? He is next" hopefully I will survive another day without getting my head shaved - some of the girls have offered to dye my hair blonde, but some people have suggested otherwise ... hmm, not sure - we will see.
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