A lot of negative things have been said about night train travel so I was expecting the worse. First up, we did struggle to find our coach. There were no clear signs and we had to ask the conductor. We had booked first class tickets so that meant a private cabin with individual beds. First of all the cabin is tinier than a shoebox – definitely not for the claustrophobic. The beds were bunk-style. There was a tiny basin to brush your teeth. We were provided with two complimentary bottles of water and the conductor was quite pleasant enough. He came round to check on us and to ask for our passports (as is customary) and reminded us to lock our door. There was an overhead storage area but it was too much of a struggle to get our heavy bags into it. In the end, we left our bags on the floor, which made the already tiny space seem even more cramped. As it was close to midnight by the time we settled in, we decided to try and get some sleep. Getting into my bed, I noticed that it was adequate enough for me (I’m a tiny asian girl) but I wondered if a tall 6 foot man would fit as comfortably into the same space. Hubby took the top bunk and he said he was comfortable enough but then he could probably fall asleep even if the roof caved in. However, when I went to lay my head down, I realized the motion of the train was in the ‘wrong’ direction and I was starting to feel nauseous. The cabin was starting to feel overwhelmingly stifling so I went to open the windows. The cool night breeze filled the cabin, but with the breeze came the clattering noise of the carriages as the train moved into the night. In the end, I just took a sedative, which is probably what I should have done in the first place.
The night passed without incident and we awoke to find the train crossing over into Saint Lucia station. When I purchased the ticket, it mentioned that breakfast was included but no one came around with any food. I was still suffering from mild travel sickness so I didn’t care much about that. We were almost at our destination anyway. Before long, we had arrived. We gathered our things and got off the train. While I wouldn’t say the entire trip was an enjoyable experience, it did serve its purpose in getting us from A to B. Yes the tickets were pricey (I’d hate to think what economy class would have been like) but we saved on a night’s accommodation and the 3 hours we would have had to spend driving to the nearest airport from Dijon.
Walking out of the train station, we looked for the Venice Connected booth to pick up our pre-bought vaporetto pass. The tourists had started to come in from the mainland and there were queues everywhere. We searched everywhere but there was no sign that said Venice Connected. We even went back into the station but in typical Italian fashion, the information counter was closed. Finally hubby decided to queue at the booth to purchase a vaporetto pass only to be told that he had to go to the other booth across from this first booth to pick up the pass. So he had to get into a second queue and about an hour later, we finally had our passes. So in the end, purchasing it online did not save us any time at all. After that, there was another queue to get on to the dock for the waterbus line 1 that would take us to our hotel. The waterbus was a joke. By then the sun was blazing hot and the humidity was starting to rise. When the waterbus arrived at the dock, it was already packed full with passengers. We had to drag our heavy luggage into the boat, squeeze our way through the crowds to try and find some standing room. Along the route, it got more and more jam-packed. At one time, there was not even any room to move. The people, the heat and the choppy motion of the boat was making me very seasick. To make things worse, a young boy across from me started to chuck. By the time we got to our stop and fought our way to get off the boat, I thought I was going to pass out. We struggled to find our hotel – Locanda Orseolo. Even with the map that we were sent, we could not find our way around the narrow winding alleys. In the end, we had to call the hotel to ask them for directions from where we were.
When we finally got to our hotel, which was behind a private courtyard tucked away from view from the street, I was feeling so sick that all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep. Thankfully, our room was ready. We were given a key but the guy at the reception seemed very reluctant to help us with our bags. There were no lifts so we had to walk up the stairs. Our room was on the second floor. Yes, I could understand his reluctance to lug a heavy bag up the stairs, and hotels are expensive in Venice but we were still paying 190 euro per night. As expected, the room was tiny. It was even smaller than our room in Paris but I didn’t care. I washed my face and fell straight into bed with the vague notion that we were going to have to forfeit our pre-booked tickets for the Basilica San Marco that I had pre-purchased online to bypass the queues. Brandon was starving so he headed out to search for some food while I tried to get some much needed rest.
About an hour later and fully rested, I was feeling like a brand new person and ready to explore Venice. In the meantime, Brandon had returned. He told me that he went to a pizza place recommended by the hotel to grab a slice of pizza but the food was not good and very expensive. This was pretty much going to be the theme as far as food was concerned for our entire time in Italy, Venice especially.
Venice has a certain charm about it. Not sure if I would want to head back for a return trip anytime soon, but it has its allure. The streets are extremely narrow (which is infuriating when you encounter a band of tourists who not only take up the entire space, but decide it would be a good idea to just stop and stand in the middle of the street and block the flow of traffic). In the hot summer days, the canals stink. But even in the stifling heat, there is a buzz and vibe that is uniquely Venice. We had a 3 o’clock appointment with a Murano glass artisan, Mauro Vianello so we quickly made our way to his studio. I had found the contact for Mauro through the Tripadvisor forum and thought a visit to his studio would be a good alternative to the Murano island tours, where we would certainly be pressured into purchasing, and would probably take up half our day. Mauro was very friendly. He spoke reasonably good English and was clearly very passionate about his craft. He includes a little glass bead with his initials on all of his pieces. His specialty is animals and his studio was full of examples of his work. He spent over an hour with us, explaining his work and showing us what he did, and he was happy to answer all our questions and allowed us to take photos and videotape him at work. He made a little glass figurine of Chloe (our dog) from a photo we showed him right before our eyes, which he gave to us. We also purchased a couple of decorative glass plates, which he packed for us with the utmost care. It was a lovely visit and experience which we both really enjoyed.
By the time we took our purchases from Mauro’s back to the hotel, we were feeling the humidity and the heat again. So we had yet another shower before heading out again. This time it was for dinner. We had reservations at A Beccafico. (It is wise to make reservations for dinner in Venice, especially at peak season). A Beccafico came highly recommended on the Tripadvisor forum and by the staff at our hotel so I was keen to see what the food was like.
On our way to the restaurant, we walked past an LV store. Realizing that we had yet to buy a present for our little girl, we went in, hoping to find a Baxter collar in her size. The lady at the counter was rather abrupt and had a bit of an attitude that I did not care for. I was ready to walk out of the store when they told me they had a Baxter collar in stock. We looked at the collar and realized that we needed the next size down. The lady was in the process of checking for me if their store in Milan had the smaller size in stock when a bunch of Chinese tourists walked into the store. Completely ignoring me (who was so obviously in the middle of a transaction with the lady), one of the men asked the lady, rather loudly too I might add, in Chinese, how much a particular bag was. The lady cut him off quickly by telling him she was helping me and that he would have to wait. That comment didn’t even seem to faze him. Now I understood our frosty reception. As I would experience later on in our trip, the Chinese tourist is the worst kind of tourist there is. Sadly, that is my ancestry and I guess I get superficially lumped together in that group on first impression.
Since LV was not to be, we continued on our way until we spotted an Hermès store. I regretted not searching out the Hermès store while we were in Paris, especially when we were around the Faubourg Saint Honoré area. I had my heart set on an Hermès scarf as a memento of our belated honeymoon trip. So we had to check out the Hermès store. I found a beautiful scarf that I loved and happily, my hubby got it for me.
Moving along, we finally got to our destination. We were one of the earlier diners for the night but even so, I noticed lots of ‘reserved’ signs on the other tables. As we were seated, we saw some other diners walk into the restaurant and were turned away because they were booked out for the night. The food here was not bad. It was pleasant enough but there was nothing about it that was memorable. Mind you, our basis of comparison was all those wonderful meals we had in France, as well as the great meal that we would have at Bistrot de Venise the following night. Service was prompt and friendly but lacked personality. Sitting outside, it was lovely to enjoy the meal, while looking out onto the square and the people wandering around. We even had our first Westie sighting. It was a cute little boy. Our meal lasted a little longer than we thought and we had to call up to cancel our booking at the Venice Jazz Club. I was a little disappointed about that.
After dinner, we decided to walk down to Piazza San Marco. The square is a real hive of tourist activity at night. There were lots of restaurants spilling out onto the square, with lots of different performers on stage. There were bands, strings quartets, singers… It was a lovely experience just walking down the square and taking in all the sights and sound. Hubby had his heart set on buying a Venezia captain’s hat. I tried very hard to dissuade him but it was in vain. He found a stand that sold the hat at 1 euro less compared to everywhere else so he was happy. Along the side of the square, there were lots of shops selling beautiful Murano glasswork and jewellery. They were not cheap, but the Venetian craftsmen are amazingly good at their craft. The items on display were beautiful, delicate and wonderfully made. We spent the rest of the night wandering along the different streets. It was so much cooler in the night and the walk was very pleasant. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were ready for bed.