Hostel Swap. It's kinda like Wife swap, but less entertaining. We packed up all of our things and headed toward the islands of Venice. We were off to find a lady with sardines. What I mean by that, is we had to make it to a meeting point by 10am to find Mrs. Di Cicco, our cooking class instructor. This sounds simple, right? You plan enough time to get from point A (our hostel on the mainland) to point B (an obscure vaporetto stop). And, it would be simple if we had a map that included all of Venice's windy streets, or if all of the windy streets were labeled with names. Honestly, I don't think all of the 'streets' have names. So, what you do is you look at the map, walk in the general direction you think you are supposed to go, then ask someone who looks like a local where this point B is, then turn around because you've been going the wrong way. Eventually we seem to get to all the places we need. If it weren't so darn hot, or if we weren't carrying all of our possessions, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. My strategy with directions, so far, is to take off my sunglasses, place a semi-vapid look upon my face, and walk up to an Italian man while butchering their romantic language, pointing to a dot on a map. Then I smile real big, with a bit of confusion in my eyebrows. This seems to be working relatively well, met with smiles, laughs and very helpful directions.
We made it to our destination with 5 minutes to spare, and met Mrs. Di Cicco. She led us through the labyrinth to her apartment on the top floor of a building. It was a beautiful space with air conditioning and a serene balcony view. Sadly the weather didn't permit lunch on the terrace. With the guidance of Mrs. Di Cicco, and Seth's expertise, we created a delectable meal of Sarde di Saor (marinated sardines in an onion, pine nut, and raisin mix), zucchini and prawn risotto, baked sea bass in tomatoes, olives, and capers, and Zabaglione (a marsala wine custard). It was all so delicious. I really, really liked the sardines. I was impressed that Sloane liked them too. She even had seconds! The risotto was cooked in an amazing broth that we made with the prawn heads and a variation of a mir poux. I could have sipped that from a cup, it was so good. The dessert was surprisingly good. I don't normally like custards, or custard-like consistencies (aka Jell-O [which is the devil so don't even go there]), but this was so good. She said it could be served warm, but due to the heat we popped them into the fridge, so they were cold when we ate them. We dunked thin, little Venetian cookies into the cream and it was oh so good.
After lunch we promptly hauled our junk over towards the hostel. It wasn't far at all, and if my memory serves me correctly, we didn't ask for directions. Well, maybe we did. There definitely wasn't a street name. We had to go to the 'alley' behind the street name. We had a bit of trouble with the guy who checked us in because he didn't want to allow us to only stay one night. And the rules surrounding this situation were quite ridiculous, but we decided to wait until the morning when we could speak with the manager.
After doing some planning and relaxing in the AC, we made our way to Vaporetto 1. Ok, a little info about Venice for those of you who don't know. Before I came to Venice the first time, I was unaware that it was a series of islands. In the city center there are no cars. It's a walking city. I don't even think I saw bikes. This is because to get to places you want to go you usually have to cross several bridges, and many of the streets are barely wide enough for two people to walk side by side. But, there is a lot of water. The canals are the lifeblood of Venice. So, any and all transportation happens upon them. Mail, police, deliveries, you name it, it happens on the water. A vaporetto is public transportation, or Venice's version of a bus or subway. Something to know about the vaporettos, and public transportation in general in Venice (and perhaps Italy), is that they hardly check for tickets. At our bus stop on the mainland there wasn't a place to buy a ticket, and when we asked the driver he waved us along. Silly us, we got on Vaporetto 1 and asked the boat guy where we could buy a ticket. So we paid 7 euro each. As we were on the little boat we watched the hoards of people waltz onto the boat without mention of tickets or the like. Gah! Oh well. Anyhow, Vaporetto 1 makes its way down the Grand Canal and you get to see Venice how it's meant to be seen. I finally was able to see some of the magic of Venice. Getting lost in the stale, humid heat while trekking through the maze of streets is not a pleasurable experience, while losing yourself with the wind blowing through your hair making your way down the Grand Canal with the magnificent architecture of the old masters passing by can leave a lasting impression.
Finding our way back to our stop at the Rialto Fish Market, we set off in search of dinner. We found a spot that looked decent and didn't try to steal too much of our money. We then traipsed back to our hostel, only a few turns away, and settled in for the evening.
This morning we abandoned our hostel on time, as the manager begrudgingly agreed to not charge us for an extra night. It was still cool when we left the hostel. Wait, wait. Cool is the wrong word. Maybe I should say that it was cooler than painfully hot. So, maybe we didn't start sweating until we walked a few yards. That's a more accurate description of the weather. Anyhow, we left in search for the docks to buy tickets to Croatia. We found the docks, left our big bags at the station, and caught a Vaporetto to the island of Murano. Murano is known for it's blown glass. I was hoping to find a hands on class to take while in Venice, but that was not in our cards for the day. We had about three hours until we had to get back to the station.
Remember my schtick about public transportation and not really having to pay the fare? Well, I'm going to have to say that that rule does not apply when taking a vaporetto to a super touristy island. We took a few vaporettos without purchasing tickets, but on this boat they checked. There went another 7 euros each! I bet they never actually fine you for not paying for a ticket (it's 57 euros if they do), that they just make you buy a ticket.
As we exited the boat someone was kindly there to tell us that there was a glass blowing demonstration, free of charge, all the way down the path to the left. We watched the demonstration, which was just a lure to get us to shop, then we shopped. LOL But I think glass blowing is really cool, so I thought the demonstration, no matter how mundane they made it, was interesting to me. One day I will take a course. Anyhow, it was neat to walk through the shops and see all the glass. We wanted to buy a really interesting Christmas ornament, but didn't want to babysit a glass orb through Africa.
After finding a cheap lunch (which included the best pizza we had in Venice) we returned to the docks, bought our ferry tickets to Rovinj and we are on our way. We don't have a place to stay for the night, but Sloane has a friend in Rovinj who is, supposedly, finding us a place to stay. I hope this works. Either way, we are pretty excited for Croatia. We're hoping it includes relaxation, beaches, outdoor activities, good food, and a stronger dollar