Thursday, September 18, 2008

Exploring Venice

Today we are in Venice! Dan was really looking forward to this city, so I'm glad it didn't disappoint. We had a bunch of things to see today, so for a while it was jam-packed. The evening slowed down a bit though. We started with an mp3 tour of St. Mark's Basilica. Here's a tip to avoid the long lines--check a bag. They'll give you a plastic card that lets you skip to the front of the line. And best of all, the bag check is free!

Our Rick Steves tour was very good. It explained what the different mosaics meant and the history behind the basilica. It is just so beautiful it's hard to describe. There are gold mosaics, marble walls, tiled floors--literally every surface is covered in something gorgeous. I was very impressed.

Next, after searching forever for a toilet we could use that wouldn't charge us, we made our way to Doge's palace. We signed up in advance for a "secret itinerary tour."  This tour took us to all of the secret rooms of the palace, including Casanova's jail cells and the place where he escaped. We also saw the clerks' offices where they worked with the secret documents like military plans, etc. It was so cool because from the outside of the palace you can't tell that the rooms even exist. One floor is split into two and people worked on both floors. But from the outside, there was just one window for the two floors making it look like only one floor existed. Same thing for the floor above. They made it look like attic windows, but really it was the archive room that was very large. There's really no surprise that I enjoyed this secrets tour so much considering that is exactly the kind of work I'm hoping to get into!

After the tour, we explored the rest of the palace on our own. The doge was the ruler of the Venetian empire. The empire lasted for around 400 years until the late 1700s. The palace was spectacular. HUGE paintings covered every ceiling and wall. Beautiful art work was just everywhere. We also saw the prisons and the bridge of sighs. I'm so disappointed that from the outside, the bridge of sighs is covered by huge advertisements now. I don't know if they are renovating it or what, but it looks horrible. Either way, doge's palace was great. 

After doge's palace we went back to the ship for lunch. It was just a quick stop and then we went back to the city. We went looking for the Jewish ghetto. It is pretty far away from St. Marks' square and took us about an hour to walk there. Once we found it we saw a kosher meat restaurant, a bunch of judaica shops and a deli. Of course we picked up a couple of slices of deli meat. We also got a couple of little gifts for our friends who are watching Zuzu for us (thanks Dani, Brian, Dan and Tina!!).

After the ghetto, we stumbled upon a gondolier who looked very good. We had been asking a couple of other gondoliers for prices and they are all the same. We received a very nice wedding gift with specific instructions to use the money for a gondola ride. I'm very happy we did. It was so relaxing and informative. Our guide was great and took us on a terrific 40 minute tour of the city.

We worked our way back to St. Mark's Square stopping at the Rialto bridge for pictures and gelato. We stopped at St. Mark's Square to see about getting a glass of wine and listening to the competing orchestras. But it was very expensive, a little chilly, and I was hungry so we headed back to the ship for dinner and bed.

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