As we left
Vienna and headed further south the scenery became more familiar; pretty
little chalets and villages nestling in the foot hills of the Alps - all
"picture postcard" really. Our thoughts were now focused on
getting back to the UK and we both felt a little sad as we neared the
end of our journey - but we still had some fire left! Just as well as
we were heading for Venice, "tourist capital of the world!"
Christine had been to Venice a couple of times previously, so she organized
our battle plan; book a hotel near St. Mark's Square, deposit our large
suitcases at the train station and wade through the throngs with just
our backpacks. One night's stay would be sufficient - arrive early, stay
overnight and leave late! Venice is all about wandering and ticking the
boxes. All the world and his wife were there but our strategy meant that
we could have a leisurely stroll to the hotel, taking in the sights on
the way. The hotel was tucked away in the corner of a small medieval piazza,
and had all the romanticism of Venice - complete with balcony view.
After checking in and dumping the backpacks, more sightseeing. A $50 sundowner in St Mark's Square added to the experience! Yes, Venice was packed but still had magic. We chose piazza dining in the little square next to our hotel. Unfortunately the rain came and we moved inside and ended up sharing a table with Jean from Colorado. One bottle of wine became two; three persons became five as the couple next to us joined in - it was a birthday for one and an anniversary for the others.
continued to fall but we were having fun. Eventually the night came to
a close. We gave one of our umbrellas as a birthday present to Jean -
she had a long walk to her hotel. We sprinted across the square to our
hotel and toasted our fortune with a scotch. It was often not the place,
but the people you met that made the occasion.
at the hotel was heralded by sunshine. We checked out; six hours sightseeing
left so we picked up a tourist ticket for the water buses that ply the
canals. Easy! We took lots of photos, hopped on and off the ferry at various
points, and finally ended up at the train station. Collected our luggage
and picked up a train to Verona.
a lovely city - and very old! We arrived on a Sunday afternoon. The apartment
we were renting had provided detailed directions - the problem was that
we couldn't find his starting point. Advice from a friendly local didn't
help; after wandering around the little byways, we eventually located
the place and knocked on the shabby door - no one at home. We were earlier
than expected so sat on the wall of a roman forum and waited. We were
joined by a Japanese couple. Eventually the owner arrived and let us all
in. The stairs were rickety but the apartment was lovely - modern, spacious
and overlooking the square. Thankfully we were staying here for a couple
of days and hoped to take in an opera - Verona is famous for its Opera
held in the Roman amphitheatre. This was not to be. The day we arrived
was "change-over" day; Aida had just finished - the set was
still in the town square - and Nabucco by Verdi was due to start later
that week. This was typical! So far we had been unable to go to any major
event since the Naadam due to bad timing! However, Verona was a lovely
city to wander around and is on our list for a revisit someday.
We now had
a mad dash to Paris, via Milan then onwards to London. The trip to Milan
skirted the Alps and Lake Garda - very picturesque. Yet again our plan
for some culture was put on the backburner - La Bohème was playing
at the La Scala Opera House. Great! We enquired about tickets and discovered
it was opening night - and the only tickets available were €450 each!
We weren't that much into Opera - we consoled ourselves with a tour of
the Opera House and managed to view one of the sets being tested on stage.
We strolled around the city before shopping for a tie for Emily and Jon's
wedding at the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall - very
chic! And took in an exhibition of Da Vinci's inventions such as helicopters,
submarines, etc. constructed to his plans.