Armstrong Adventures travel blog

A gondola cruises for customers late in the day

An apartment window just above the alley fruitstands

Seems the Greek Islands didn't get all of the shipment of blue...

The pizzeria waiter to the right of the shot just yelled, "free...

While strolling the alleyways of Venice

The ACTV is Venice's public "bus" that cruises a bus route along...

Gondolas all in a row

Trinkets n Trash (T&T) Venice style.

A fruitstand for that much needed break from "BLD" pizza (pizza for...

A midday snack

A glassblower practices his craft in his shop.

The gondalier uniform - striped shirt and straw hat

St. Mark's Square with pigeon bonanza


Ready to Ride. The "Harley of Venice".

Delivery dolly. They had tiny front "stair climber" wheels to go over...

lost among the canals

PEZ Shrek soaks in the scenery. He liked the Murano glass, and...


Along the canal

The ACTV "buses" hauling the tourists from spot to spot

Venice, Italy

Ah, Venice.

Like Prague, Venice suffers from tourist overload. The secret's out. Venice is for lovers. And families. And retirees. And backpackers... This means high prices, tourist trap restaurants that would never survive if word-of-mouth mattered, and plenty of opportunities to ruin other's photos by scratching in the wrong place at the wrong time. But like Prague, Venice is charming and unlike anywhere else in the world. There's something magical about a city with endless pedestrian-only alleyways and canals as roads. It's so magical, they should build a casino like it and make it even more magical by putting blinking slot machines everywhere with ding dong buzzers and penny whistles. (Brilliant Snow Travel Business Idea #32)

We ended up in Venice thanks to We were looking to get from Frankfurt, Germany to Slovenia or Croatia and it turned out both of us could fly from Frankfurt to Venice for about $100 U.S. and have totally changed air travel within Western Europe due to their ridiculously cheap flights. They're the Southwest Airlines of Western Europe. No connections, no food, just a cheap flight from an outlying airport sorta near town. Ryanair in particular tends to connect London with everywhere but doesn't connect the destination cities with each other for the most part. But if you're flying in/out of London, you can do it cheap! So we decided to enjoy Venice and then head to Croatia via hydrofoil boat from the Italian coastal city of Pescara.

We arrived in Venice to find it flood free which is unusual given that it floods over 250 times per year and I'm sure some of you have seen St. Mark's Square flooded. We were quite pleased with our accomodation which overlooked one of the many pedestrian streets filled with fruit vendors. The room included breakfast each morning in an elaborate, high-ceiled grand room with a chandelier as tall as I am and a view of the hustle bustle of the street below.

In Venice, we meandered endlessly through the alleys of shops snapping photos and window shopping at the high end T&T shops. At one point, Dana overheard an American ask his wife, "Is it only famous because everyone takes so many photos of it?" Ah, Venice's self-perpetuating fame. I was more than happy to perpetuate Venice's fame by eagerly filling my digital camera card. This is a town that brings out everyone's inner photographer. Here's an example illustrating why so many pictures get taken here: You start by shooting a simple enough shot at sunset of a crystal clear canal and charming old stone home with flower planters in the windows; then a gondola comes into your frame so you take another shot; then a grandmother leans out her window to water her precious flowers so you take another shot; then a girl in a yellow sundress runs out chasing a red ball; then a couple of tourists start kissing on the bridge in the distance; then a kitten and a bunny with a pink ribbon around its neck roll in front playing together with a ball of ribbon; then a rainbow breaks through the clouds overhead... and suddenly your shutter finger cramps from taking so many versions of the same shot. This scenario really happened to me except I might have made up the bunny.

The shopping in Venice is noticibly higher end than many of our other destinations with the highlight being the Murano glass sold throughout the city. There are breathtaking light fixtures, tableware, and tiny glass figurines. The series of miniature glass Santa Claus characters was my favorite. In particular, I liked the miniature glass orchestra of Santas. Runner up was the nativity scene where everyone was Santa. Santa sells, even in July.

As part of our strolling, we tried to capture some jumping photos in the beautiful St. Mark's Square where all tourists converge to feed the pigeons. Street cart vendors sell corn to tourists so they can stand in the square with their arms outstretched until pigeons perch on their arms to eat corn from their hands. While admittedly amusing to watch, I've never fantisized about having flocks of pigeons descend upon me. I always thought pigeons were kinda like carp that fly. And I've never covered my arm with fish food and stuck it in a pond full of carp.

We did not end up taking a gondola ride (pricey) but did take a vaporetto which is the equivalent of the public bus only it's a boat. It's a great way to see the city while getting from place to place.

Overall, we enjoyed our days in Venice and are very glad our route ended up taking us through there. It's a city of romance, beauty, world class shops, and hordes of tourists eager to share the moment with you. Despite everyone being there, it hasn't lost its magic.

So for those curious about what travelers do to fill their days, I offer this ultra glamorous list:

What On Earth Dana and Snow Do With Their Time:

1. Figure out how to get to our next destination, when the transport leaves and where we buy a ticket - train, bus, boat, plane, taxi, subway etc. Plan our longer term routing. Research transit options.

2. Figure out where to eat, what to eat, and how to get the waiter to come wait on us or bring us the bill without being too "American" in our service expectations.

3. Look for a toilet

4. Read about where we are in our guidebook. Study the map, read the history, read the advice on what not to miss, etc.

5. Figure out where to buy a phone card and how to dial the phone so we can reserve tomorrow night's accomodation.

6. Plan how we'll transport our packs to our next lodging with minimal carrying and storing en route

7. Find Snow some coffee. Figure out how to order it so it isn't a tiny tiny espresso shot or served "Turkish" style with grounds and genuine coffee plant dirt at the bottom of the cup.

8. Repeat step #3 repeatedly. Rehydrate. Repeat.

9. Research and compare gelatto variants by region. Compare/contrast flavors. While wearing a gelatto mustache, say things like "it features a bouquet of lemon brightened by a hint of mint"

10. Relax and enjoy the scenery. Soak up life. Practice idle blank staring while waiting for the next great life altering revelation to strike. Wait longer as needed.

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