Friday, June 13, 2008

Monopolies and Gondoliers

So we both are back safely in the hotel and my star is not shining real bright. But after a short rest and a cool down, creeping hunger drives us out into the maze again. Good luck trying to find a restaurant based upon their address. And there is no way we are going to the hotel or any other of the three Westin Luxury Collection hotels in Venice. We start walking in the direction we know (it's night and I no longer can use the sun as a navigation tool) which is the Rialto Bridge. We arrive there pretty quickly because (1) the crowds are smaller and (2) we're not shopping. Anyway, we found another restaurant on the Grand Canal and had an enjoyable meal at a reasonable price. We stroll back to the hotel. As we pass through the square there are two dueling string quartets playing on opposite sides. Several people who don't want to pay $20 for a drink for the privilege to sit at a cafe table are sitting on the stones that make up the pavement. A pavement which is covered in pigeon excrement! I is astounded but I guess some people are so enamored by the beauty of Venice that they don't mind sitting in pigeon shit. We return to the hotel and turn in only to find that we both have so many aches from walking all day that we can't sleep and the air conditioning in the room was definitely not designed for 100 degree ambient temperatures.

After a fitfull night my wife states that she wants to go home (meaning London). By now I am an experienced Venice tourist and I head out to find a cafe where I can buy coffee and by-pass the hotel mafia. They only serve take out coffee in thin plastic cups and I turn into a juggler trying to carry two cups of coffee and a cup of warm milk back to room. But I do it. We now decide to try to get an earlier flight out of town. There is no EasyJet telephone number on the travel information card. There is no phone book in the room. No problem. The concierge will help! I call. His "help" is to suggest I call the operator and they will give me the number. I do that. I get a recording in Italian that I figure is telling me that the office is closed and the office hours are.....Second attempt is to bring the damsel to the concierge, look worried and tell him we have a "situation" and need to get back earlier. He finally pulls up the EasyJet web site to scan the schedule and finds that there is only one flight. OK, we're stuck and we have to deal with it.

When in doubt, eat. Meanwhile, my wife has discovered the store in the hotel where at least the girl behind the counter is friendly and helpful. We decide to go back to our cafe at Rialto Bridge where we are welcomed with open arms and complimentary drinks and cookies for desert. OK, Venice may not be all bad. Some of the people are nice. While we are eating, My wife had a slight urge to take a gondola ride. On the walk back to the hotel we stopped to eavesdrop on a couple that were negotiating with one of the gondoliers. 118 euros for 30 minutes! These guys have a hell of a union. Hookers don't get paid as much! That quells the interest in the gondola. We got pictures and that's good enough.

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