Venice

Anybody who reads all of this, deserves a commendation! 🙂 🥇🏆🥇

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Fully breakfasted, hunger sated, His Podgeness and The Duchess made their way cautiously out of the Hotel Palazzo Friuli, made their way along the Calle del Preti to meet their ‘driver’ on the Rio de S. Lorenzo who was to whisk them quickly across the water, passing Murano Island and across to the Marco Polo Airport. His Podgeness had done his research and knew that by water taxi was the quickest and most efficient way to get from Venice to the Airport. He only hoped the journey would be quick enough: time was short and they had to get to the check-in desk in time. On the way, however, it became obvious that His Podgeness and The Duchess were not alone. They looked out of the back of their speedboat: Was that another boat behind them? Was it following them? It was and it seemed to be gaining on them. Fortunately, the driver had other ideas. he was not going to be beaten; by anybody; he opened the throttle; the boat’s stern dug in, the bow lifted and the boat lurched forward at an ever increasing pace. She seemed to bound across the waves lifting out of the water and smacking down on the tops of waves. The weary couple were being bounced all over the boat and were enjoying every bounce! 🙂 For a short while, they felt Like James Bond and a Bond Girl (let’s allow His Podgeness his dreams shall we? 😉 ) Such was his excitement of the chase (they weren’t caught by the way) that he forget he was struggling to breathe.

Venice is CLOSED

This was, however, the end, nay, the sequel, to what had been a memorable cruise topped off by an extended, memorable stay in Venice.

In the early hours of the morning, as the Oceana sailed towards Venice, Podge stepped out onto the Balcony with his obligatory hot steaming cup of coffee, leaving The Duchess to sleep in for a while (they had elected to enjoy breakfast in the cabin this morning), he took his seat and watched as the sea drifted by at an ever slowing speed and watched as the far off fog bank got nearer and nearer. As the fog got nearer and nearer, the boat got slower and slower until she stopped altogether encased in fog. At this point, the Captain’s announced over the tannoy that Venice was Closed: The port authorities had deemed the visibility too low to allow any boats, it is assumed they meant big boats, through and into the Port of Venice. All anybody could do was sit and wait.

This was an unexpected event and an event which disturbed The Duchess from her slumber for she awoke and arose without waiting of r her early morning cup of Earl Grey. Uh Oh thought Podge, this could be a bad omen. She came out onto the balcony and demanded of Podge an explanation of why we had stopped. Podge explained that it was because of the fog but pointed out that this was a good thing as it meant they would have a little more time to enjoy their breakfast, which fortuitously had just arrived. Tubbs’s attention was diverted to the breakfast tray, while Podge thanked the cabin steward in the traditional manner.

Returning back to the Balcony, breakfast had been set out and a veritable feast it was, considering no ‘fry-up’ was on offer, much to the disappointment of Podge. Anyway, they both sat there watching the fog do nothing as they themselves did nothing except eat pastries, toast, jam, croissants, bread rolls with cheese and meat all washed down with fruit juice and coffee (for Podge) and Earl Grey (for Tubbs).

Hunger sated, they readied themselves for the ‘sail by’ of Venice and into the port after which Podge & Tubbs were booked to go on a trip to Verona, a strange choice since they would be there for a few days just three months later. But, as the boat was in Venice overnight and they didn’t disembark until the next day and they were staying in Venice the following night they thought ‘why not’: They had after all [done] Venice before and they absolutely loved Verona.

The Fog Monster Retreats

Eventually, Podge needs to check the ship’s log for when the fog started to dissipate and the port authorities reopened Venice. The Oceana could a last make her way into Venice.

The run into the port was, as always, one to behold. Sailing past St Mark Square on a cruise ship is something to behold.

Eventually the captain parked the boat tied up all the strings, pushed out the gangplank and told all the passengers they were free to roam at leisure, except of course those that were booked on an excursion: They had to report to the Starlights Theatre / Lounge to check in for the relevant trip, where all are issued with a sticky label with an excursion code on it and stuck on the chest (just in case they forget themselves) and await their call.

The Duchess gets boisterous

And so it came to pass that at the allowed hour, His Podgeness and The Duchess moved on from their cabin and into the Starlights Theatre to ‘check-in’ for their trip to Verona and took their seats and waited to be summoned by the Tour Shepherd, sorry I mean Tour Guide.

No sooner had they arrived, they were checked in with sticky label applied, His Podgeness removed his and applied it to the base of the camera, and they took their seats to await the shepherd to call their tour companions and of course themselves to the move out to the bus. 10 minutes passed and they were up and joining the long queue to walk the gangplank and down to the bus. At that very moment, His Podgeness’s bladder said ‘no, you need a quick diversion’ and so The Duchess had to wait while watching where the rest of the tour went. Quick as a flash His Podgeness was once more comfortable and away they went to join the queue to disembark.

After a while, Podge began to suspect that perhaps the queue the were in might have been the wrong queue but there was no other obvious queue so they continued to queue in the queue they were queuing in 🙂 and eventually, they were off the ship but where next? They could find no sign of any excursion parties, no bus or coach waiting anywhere, in fact, there was no sign of any ship representatives, just local port staff who were unable to offer any assistance as to where they might find any excursions. They searched all around and found nothing and by now Podge was starting to struggle and even worse than that, the Duchess was starting to find the whole affair somewhat irksome: This was not good; The Duchess was starting to boil. At this moment, probably the worse moment, Podge saw what he didn’t want to see, a bus turning out of a distant car park and heading away from the terminal. That bus could only have been their bus as all other trips were by boat: The bus had left without them, even though they had registered their presence: His Podgeness and The Duchess had been abandoned.

His Podgeness, struggling to draw breath looked across whimperingly at The Duchess; She was clearly unhappy, in fact, she was very, very angry (almost green with anger in fact) and somebody was going to pay the price. She looked across and saw how much His Podgeness was struggling and became even angrier; if she could have turned green she would have. She turned, he turned and they both headed back to the ship. Things didn’t get any better.

Clearly, they were not expecting anybody to re-join the ship so early and as such, there was no indication of how to get back on. retracing their steps wasn’t an option, that way was an exit way only. They had to walk all the way down to the other end of the terminal building, come through some doors at the end and walk all the way back to the other end and finally to the stairs next to the exit stairs. The duchess was by now sorely vexed, to say the least.

Back on board, The Duchess, His Podgeness hanging back by about 6-paces, headed direct to the Starlights Theatre where she asked, nay, demanded to see somebody in charge. Such fools were they! Trying to suggest that they alone could help The Duchess. Did they not notice the air of menace in her enquiry? After a flurry of exchanges of words,  a Manager did arrive and listened intently to the Duchess and now also, His Podgeness who had got his breath back (some of it anyway) and was equally demonstrating equal irritation, expressing their amazement that not only had the coach left without them, even though they had checked in, but also that there was absolutely no ship representatives shore side. The manager listened and apologised profusely and assured them that the money for their trip would, of course, be reimbursed and was also given a free 2-day water taxi voucher for exploring Venice. This placated The Duchess and left His Podgeness relieved, for now, they could go back to their cabin and rest a while.

And, Relax…

Back in their cabin, they sat and related and replaced their day. They were going to explore Verona, now they will explore Venice: they’d explored both previously so planning wasn’t difficult but, on the plus side, they did now have time to search out water taxi opportunities for them to use on the morrow when they would disembark the ship and move to the Hotel Palazzo Friuli where they were to stay for another day before returning home. As luck would have it, this was easier than anticipated. They found a man who would arrange it all for them and agreed a meeting time for the next morning after which both His Podgeness and The Duchess continued their journey of discovery around Venice.

They’d been to Venice before and so had done all the normal tourist stuff so they just decide to wander around, try to find their hotel and generally enjoy the ‘back streets’ of Venice and let’s face it, Venice isn’t that big but one of the joys of exploring this beautiful city is the forever opportunities of getting lost. Given Podge’s issue with breathing, however, they decided to take a water taxi from the ship to be dropped off close to Piazza San Marco from where they would seek to find Harry’s Bar. This was a place that both Podge & Tubbs meant to visit on their last trip to Venice but ran out of time. This time, however, they had all day, two days in fact.

Alighting the water taxi, Podge finds somewhere to sit and take the time to review/check out the map of Venice thoughtfully provided by P&O. Podge checked the map, Podge checked the map, north, south, east west: Podge turned the map upside down and checked the map, west, east, south, north: Podge turned the map back the right way: Podge folded the map in half, in half, in half, got bored and put it in his pocket. He then took out his trusty iPhone and checked Google Maps. Google Maps proved its worth and showed Podge that all he had to do was turn left and walk along, keeping the water on their left and they would ultimately end up right outside Harry’s Bar and so they did just that.

Podge & Tubbs reached Harry’s Bar, Podge & Tubbs looked at each other, in despair: the place was shut with no indication of when it would be opening. Podge and Tubbs were not happy. Podge & Tubbs went into a sulk with each other as if it was each other’s fault. But, even in such time of adversity, Podge was quick of thinking. Podge knew, that just 100 metres or so would take them to a place that Podge was rather keen Tubbs never saw. This was the land of Tiffany, Cartier, Prada, Versace, Fendi, Dior, yadda yadda. Podge suggested they turned back and went east in search of their hotel and possible eating/drinking opportunities.Tubbs fell for it and round they turned and back they went. 😉

Retracing their footsteps, they made their way across the eastern end of Piazza San Marco and around Basilica di San Marco. Meandering through the little alleys and ways, they headed in the general direction of what was to be their hotel for the night after, looking more for a suitable bar than anything else. After not too long at all, they came across a small ‘square’ off of Campiello Santi Filippo E  Giacomo with what looked to be a promising little bar and eatery (Aciogheta) with a table half in the sun, for Tubbs and half in the shade for Podge. Well, that was it, today’s exploration of Venice was over. The Aciugheta was to be their home for the rest of the day, and it was.

Eventually, their abstemiousness was overcome and they could eat or drink no more: it was time for Podge & Tubbs to find their way back to the ship in order to pack their suitcases in preparation for the next day’s disembarkation (leave the ship).

Most normal people would have an early night the day before leaving the ship but Podge & Tubbs were made of sturdier stuff and, as always they (read Podge) wanted just a couple more drinks before bedtime and so it was that they were found, once again, in the Magnums Bar where the Laphroaig and Bombay Gin were waiting. Eventually, the excitement of the day caught up with them and comfy bed and fluffy pillows beckoned.

The next day, both Podge & Tubs were unnaturally excited even though they were to disembark the Oceana. Why? Because they weren’t yet going home. Oh no, Podge & Tubbs had arranged to stay on in Venice for the weekend, something they had wanted to for a long time and now, that time had come. Unfortunately, a weekend in Venice and a long Mediterranean cruise have different luggage requirements: A couple of overnight bags would do for the weekend while 4 (at least!) large suitcases are required for the cruise. Well, Podge & Tubbs had catered for both, plus a bit more.

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Moving these around Venice would be a bit of a challenge

Now, as I’me sure many of you will know, there are no ‘roads’ in Venice, only waterways and walking around Venice involves frequent crossings of said waterways which often means going up and down steps.

The first challenge was t get the luggage (6 suitcases, one camera rucksack, 2 shopping bags and Tubbs’s satchel, sorry, handbag) across from the cruise terminal to the taxi pick up point and hope the boat would be gig enough (it was).  It was the next bit that was to be the fun bit. 🙂

The water taxi made its way south from the cruise terminal, passing the site of Harry’s bar before entering the Rio del Greci and north towards the Hotel Palazzo Pireloi and ultimately depositing Podge, Tubbs and their luggage just north of the Trattoria De Giorgio.

With Podge, Tubbs, Bags 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 plus camera bag, shopping bags and satchel, the water taxi slipped away (riding much higher in the water) and they were alone, abandoned, wondering, how do they get to the hotel? where is the hotel? Google to the rescue once more. Aha, says Podge, we just need to go back towards the bridge and turn right and there we will find the hotel. Podge and Tubbs then looked at the cobbled like surface and gazed along the route when their eyes settled on the bridge and the 12 steps upwards they would have to transit: their gaze then turned to their luggage collection, then back to the steps then back to the luggage. Poor Podge, Poor Tubbs: They really hadn’t thought this through had they? Combining a short weekend break in Venice with two back to back cruises around the Mediterranean just don’t go together.

And so it was that Podge, Tubbs, Bags 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 plus camera bag, shopping bags and satchel slowly made their way towards the steps, a few yards at a time; Podge was after all still having trouble breathing, even more so now in fact. As they drew close, Podge went up the steps to ‘check out’ the route and see if he could spot the hotel. This was when he found that they would have to go down 12 steps to the right and lo and behold, there was the hotel after about 30 yards – 30 yards is a lot when its Podge (struggling to breathe), Tubbs) still mithering over the previous days lost excursion), Bags 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 plus camera bag, shopping bags (*2) and satchel (just the one).

Just then, when least expected but most welcomed, an Italian ‘knight in shining armour’ stepped forth, having noted the predicament that both Podge and Tubbs found themselves in.  He checked the paperwork with Podge and confirmed that the hotel was indeed the one he had espied but needed to continue for another 30 yards to the main reception in the next building: And then, without further ado, he dashed down the steps to help bring all the luggage (Bags 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 plus camera bag, shopping bags (*2) and satchel (just the one)) up and down the steps and then helped take them to the hotel reception and then without a by-your-leave, disappeared.

Who was the ‘Knight’? Where did this ‘Knight’ come from? Where did this ‘Knight’ go to? The questions have to remain rhetorical: For they can never be answered – Ho Hum.

Entering the reception area and approaching the desk, Podge pants to the startled receptionist, by now glancing worryingly between the mountain of luggage and the porter, ‘Buon Pomeriggio’ (Podge has been learning Italian!) ‘We have a reservation’ states Podge (obviously not learned too much Italian!) for tonight ‘But’ he add’s, having spotted the worrying glances, ‘Would it be possible to store bags 1,2,3 & 4 (the big ones) somewhere down here until we check out tomorrow?’ – The looks of worry immediately started to wane to be replaced by the traditional welcoming smiles mixed, perceptibly, by a hint of relief. It transpired that their room was round the corner, in a different building, the one Podge had first spotted) through what looked like a secret door, then an inner door into a typically Italian looking inner sanctum and then up to the 2nd floor, with no lift but, up, a [winding marble like] staircase. I guess taking Bags 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 plus camera bag, shopping bags (*2) and satchel (just the one) was not a task to be relished.

Eventually, Bags 1,2,3, &4 were securely stored, behind reception: Bags 5 & 6 plus camera bag, shopping bags (*2) and satchel (just the one), as well as Podge & Tubbs, were established in their Hotel Room in the heart of Vence; Podge & Tubbs were happy: Podge & Tubbs were tired: Podge & Tubbs slept: They slept for 2-hours solid: Podge & Tubbs awoke: Podge & Tubbs took time working out where they were: Podge & Tubbs were hungry: Podge & Tubbs were thirsty: Podge & Tubbs needed to explore.

Podge & Tubbs went out to play

Having freshened themselves up and changed into fresh clothing, Podge & Tubbs made their way around all the bags, grabbing a camera on the way and wended their way down the stairs and outside via the secret door. They then made their way back to the Campiello Santi Filippo E  Giacomo (they were becoming a creature of habit it would seem) for a drink or two in their now favourite bar, the Aciogheta for the first drink(s) of the day. As they drank, they noticed how the crowds were thinning and wondered why. Then it dawned on them. All the cruise passengers were heading back to their cruise ships. Now, they would be able to see Venice in quieter times and so with that, they finished their drinks, Podge paid the nice lady at the till (Podge likes nice ladies) and then planned their next route to their next destination. They weren’t yet sure where their next destination would be but they knew would be near the water 😉.

For their plans and resolutions, visiting as much as Venice as was feasible in one afternoon / evening, the mighty explorers decided they were too tired by now and elected to simply walk down to the edge of the water, close to The Victor Emmanuel II Monument, by the river taxis and market stalls and sit and watch as boats sailed one way then the other, river taxis came and went but all the time waiting wait for the visiting cruise ships to depart. Time went by, the wind got up, Podge & Tubbs were getting cold and tired: Podge & Tubbs stood up and wandered along the Riva Degli Schiavoni: Podge & Tubbs crossed the bridge over the Rio del Vin (it reminded them of wine for some reason): Podge & Tubbs crossed the bridge over the Rio del Palezzo o de Canonica (taking time to view the Bridge of Sighs):

Podge & Tubbs finally reached Harry’s Bar again (still shut) 😒: Podge came out, once more, in a sweat (Podge thinks he now knows the real meaning of the Bridge of Sighs): This was the land of Tiffany; Cartier; Prada; Versace; Fendi; Dior; the list goes on: Podge suggested they turned back and went east in search of possible eating/drinking opportunities.Tubbs fell for it (once again) and round they turned and back they went 😉: Podge & Tubbs returned to where they started and took one of the few seats still bathed in sunshine and sat and watched boats sail one way then the other, river taxis coming and going but all the time waiting wait for the visiting cruise ships to depart: The ships didn’t show. 😦

Eventually, the sun was too low to grant adequate warmth and so Podge & Tubbs decided it must by now be time to seek a place for their evening meal.They checked their map then they checked Google. The elected to make their way through a small alley into Campo San Zaccaria (the Campo bit reminded them of wine) and worked their way towards the Chiesa di San Zaccaria

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And, round back towards, but not to,  their original watering hole, the Aciogheta. Podge & Tubbs felt the need to explore beyond their normal haunts, well, haunt and as luck would have it, they, well, actually, it was Podge who spotted, the Trattoria da Nino. P{odge thought to himself, Tubbs will like this, Podge will get brownie points for finding this little gem. At first glance, it seemed rather innocuous with just, seemingly, a couple of table in an alley.