Saturday, May 23, 2015

Venice log 4 - Waiting

This is the entry that shouldn't be.

We got up this morning at 5:30am, had breakfast, cleaned up then went to the vaporetti stop at Redentore. Because it was raining, I couldn't take two suitcases at the same time whilst holding an umbrella, so I had to make two trips. A number 2 vapo came in time which took us to Zattere, where there was a blue line vapo waiting to take us to the airport. This part of the trip took about an hour. It turns out that the blue line terminus is at least one kilometre from the airport; some of that distance is covered but some is not, so I (and the suitcases) got quite wet. Fortunately, I found a trolley along the way which helped.

Marco Polo airport in Venice was packed this Saturday morning. We got there at 10:00 am which seemed early enough for our 12:10pm departure. After queuing in the correct queue, we were told that there were no tickets for us: our original return flight from Florence was still in the computer. After a hurried phone call to our travel agent in Israel (fortunately she is a freelancer who answers the phone on a Saturday morning, otherwise we would have been in real trouble), it turns out that she made reservations for us to return from Venice today but apparently did not actually order the tickets.

A tense fifteen minutes passed in which she bought new tickets for us; our names now appeared in Alitalia's computer and we were issued tickets for the flight to Rome, and from there to Tel Aviv. After passing though security and finding our gate, we discovered that the flight from Venice to Rome had been delayed from 12:10 to 12:45pm.

Once on the plane, we were then informed that we had missed our take off slot and so we would be leaving at 13:15 or thereabouts. The flight was uneventful but again, there were delays getting off the plane. We landed after boarding to our flight to Tel Aviv had already commenced (about 3pm). From the local arrival lounge, we had to get to gate G10 which so far away and in another building that there is a bus which takes people there. Once in terminal G, we raced to find our gate only to find the gate abandoned; the plane was already taxiing for take-off (this may be over-dramatic; the plane may have already have taken off).

It turns out that we were not the only people in the same position: there were at least three others from our flight who are continuing to Tel Aviv and possibly other people may also have missed their connecting flights. As this is Alitalia's problem, it is also their responsibility to get it sorted; we have tickets for a flight leaving at about 10pm. So even though this time I specifically requested not to return on a night flight, fate thought differently. I can confidently expect a night of restless legs. At least we were given a voucher with which we can buy some food later - a sandwich and a drink.

So, here I am in the restaurant of Rome airport terminal G, drinking tea and typing these notes, waiting for a flight whose check in will begin in another five hours!  We did nothing wrong today: we made an effort and arrived in good time at the airport. But our travel agent and the airline let us down. Unfortunately there is no way to get any form of compensation. Fortunately, tonight and tomorrow is the harvest festival in Israel, so tomorrow will not use another day of holiday.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Venice log 3 - Raining

The programme today was to travel to Burano, isle of lace. We have fond memories of this island where we spent a few hours during our 2001 trip to Italy; we sailed there from St Mark's at 11am precisely, the hour at which (according to our guide) Venice gets overrun by tourists. Then we had good weather, but in keeping with the past few days, today it drizzled all day long.

How to get to Burano from Giudecca? The 4.1 vaporetto leaves Redentore and travels all around the main island to Fondamente Nove; here one changes for the number 12 vaporetto-style boat which runs to the islands Murano, Torcello, Mazzorbo, Burano, Treporti and Punta Sabbioni. Using public transportation to get to these islands is far cheaper than guided tours as basically it is free (we have a 72 hour ticket, so the marginal cost of each trip is zero). 

The 4.1 (and 4.2, 5.1 and 5.2) is a circular line which travels around the outside of Venice without touching the Grand Canal and so is more for residents than locals. Indeed, I couldn't understand why many people boarded at Palanca (the stop after ours) with shopping trolleys; only when they alighted at the final Giudecca stop, Sacca Fisola, did the reason become clear: they used the vaporetto to do their shopping at the co-op near Palanca, and instead of walking back (which may be impossible as there is at least one canal which chops Giudecca in half), they take the vaporetto home.

Whilst we were on the various boats, the rain of course did not bother us, but it did interfere mightily when we touched down at Burano. I hope that I can be excused for saying that this is mainly an island for women; there are two kinds of establishment on the island, restaurants and shops selling handmade ladies' garments in lace and cotton. Had it not been raining, I could have found a quiet corner and read my Kindle whilst my wife browsed, but as it was, I had to move unhappily from shop to shop, trying to keep out of the puddles.

For lunch, I chose a restaurant which was off the main street and seemed deserted (excuse the lame pun). It turned out that the restaurant was full and that we had to wait for a table. In retrospect, I wish we hadn't waited and had gone somewhere else as I didn't enjoy the meal at all. Surprisingly, the menu included grilled sole, which I ordered along with grilled vegetables. We thought that we ordered two portions of sole, but only one arrived - we had to wait for another to be cooked. Although the sole looked large, it wasn't substantial. The grilled vegetables were served cold - I thought that they would be hot. We also ordered tea with cold milk which tasted strange; I think that we were served UHT milk. To make things worse, the bill came to 48.50 euro, which is nearly the same as what we paid for an excellent lunch a few days ago in sunny Monterosso. I suppose that one can't win them all.

After a bit more trudging around in the rain, we made our way back to the boat station. Here, quite a crowd had accumulated so the boat ride back was very crowded. Once back at Fondamente Nove, there came almost immediately a boat which took us home via the rest of the circle so again we saw places that most tourists would not. This boat was extremely small and it was some time before I had a seat. The eponymous Jeff of yesterday's novel would have felt at home on this ride as he was in Venice for the Biennale arts festival which is held at Giardini, one of the stops on this section of the route.

Back to our residence: off with wet shoes, wet socks and wet trousers. After drinking several cups of hot tea (made with the right kind of tea bag and milk), I began to feel much better.

Over the past few days, I've been working on the movie of this trip to Italy. Every day I have been uploading the clips filmed during the day and converting them to WMV. I pasted them roughly into a new film project but yesterday evening I devoted a few hours to grouping and editing them into a final form. Today I completed the Venetian part of the film and it seems complete at a touch under an hour. As opposed to the Sorrento film, I have included a few stills and have learnt how to add subtitles to clips. I was quite ruthless in deleting clips which didn't add value - I used only about half of the footage which I recorded in the Uffizi, in Siena and San Gimignano. I managed to salvage about thirty seconds of usable footage from the Segway trip and included about a minute of my SEMS talk.

I haven't given much thought yet to the music. I know that the Venetian sections should probably have Vivaldi and that Florence should have Renaissance music, but that's about it. There is a little footage of someone in a gondola serenading tourists with 'Volare'; unfortunately his singing was drowned out by bells which started ringing just as he started singing. I'll have to dub in the tune.

Tomorrow morning we return home. I've just checked how to get to the airport from Giudecca. Starting from Redentore, we cross the canal to Zattere then buy tickets for the Blue line Alilaguna boat, which runs to the airport. With some luck, we'll catch the boat leaving at 8:40 which arrives at 10:10, but it's more likely that we'll travel half an hour later. Our plane from Venice to Rome leaves at 12:10pm, then from Rome to Tel Aviv at 3:30pm.