It’s a long way from Nanaimo to Venice, and I wanted to make the journey as fast as possible. Alas, my chauffeurs had a different idea.
I really should be grateful to them for hauling me out of bed at 3:30 for a 6:10 a.m. flight out of Nanaimo, which is only 30 minutes away by car. But I was annoyed. All I wanted was another half hour sleep. If it had been left up to me, for a 6:10 flight I would have slid out of bed at 4:20, left house 4:30, arrived airport by 5:15. Result: an extra FIFTY MINUTES OF SLEEP.
But how can you complain when someone volunteers to drive you to the airport in the middle of the night? I’m not sure I would do that. For anybody. Quite frankly, if asked I would happily pull out $100 from my wallet, hand it to them and say, “Please, take a taxi. You’d be doing me a favor. Take my money and take a taxi.”
My chauffeurs arrived at the bottom of our driveway at 4:10, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. In the car everyone’s speculating about how long the drive will take. Everyone except me, of course. “How long will it take? Do you think it will take an hour? Oh, do you think if we hit all the lights right we might do it in 50 minutes?” I’m sitting there thinking, “No, you fools, it’s going to take 30 minutes tops.”
And yup, I was right.
We get to the airport at 4:40 and there aren’t even staff there yet. We are the very first people at the airport. They don’t come until a much more reasonable hour, considering the first flight out is 6:10.
The good news is, once the staff arrived we were the first people to be checked in and through security. That was a real novelty for me. I have never been first in any lineup, never mind an airport. I liked it and I’m grateful to my chauffeurs for getting us there early, giving me a brand new experience of being first in line at an airport check-in. My first novel experience of the trip.
I had been worried about security because we were carrying on all our luggage. I had packed in accordance with the Transportation Security Administration list of prohibited items, but I’d been hearing horror stories from lots of people that even though they packed according to the rules, they still got things confiscated.
I was worried about my tweezers and my nail clippers and also my little child-sized scissors, which I wanted because I planned to do some collage while I’m away. I really wanted those little scissors. But as my husband very sensibly pointed out to me, those are nickel and dime items. If they got confiscated at security, no big deal. We just go to a drug store in Italy and buy new ones. He’s absolutely right, but as it turned out, no problem.
The security people at Nanaimo Airport were lovely and friendly, incredible if you consider the hour of the morning. They looked at our bags on this really cool x-ray thing. It’s all in color. I would have loved to get a printout of my luggage – a wonderful thing to put in my journal as one of our first visuals of our trip. Of course, I didn’t want to rock the boat so I kept my mouth shut.
We got through security with ease and went into the waiting area. That’s when I started to relax. After a short little 15 minute hop over to Vancouver Airport we only had an hour to wait for the next flight. Just enough time for a Starbucks cappuccino and a newspaper.
The flight from Vancouver from Toronto was fast, four and a half hours. I enjoyed watching a couple of movies on my own little movie screen. I made sure to get up and walk around, do some stretches. We arrived in Toronto in pretty good shape.
Toronto to Frankfurt
About two hours to wait in Toronto, so we had time to get a bite to eat. Then we were on the plane again and off to Frankfurt. That was our long haul – about seven hours. I hoped that I would be able to sleep because I knew that once we got to Venice it would be morning local time.
Alas, no sleeping. I had one little 20-minute dozy off-type nap. It helped a bit, but basically we were up all night. Just really can’t sleep on planes very easily because there’s a lot going on. We had a fair amount of turbulence, so every time the captain would come on with this incredibly loud announcement and tell us there was turbulence, as though we couldn’t figure that out.
Of course, we’re on an Air Canada flight to Germany, so they’re saying it in three languages. First English. So *bing bong*. The announcement then comes on; he says it in English. Then *bing bong*. He says it in French. Then you think it’s over and *bing bong*. They come on and say it in German. Futile to try to sleep through that.
So I did what every kid dreams of, I stayed up all night and three or four movies. One was an Italian psychological thriller that had some great scenery of Venice in it. That was exciting since I was going to Venice, and just listening to the Italian language with subtitles was a real thrill.
Frankfurt to Venice
Finally, we arrive in Frankfurt. By this time, we’ve been up for 18 hours or so. Frankfurt was the only bit of stressful traveling. First of all, it’s a huge airport and apparently they made a mistake and let us off in the neighbouring town because we had to walk a really, really long way.
We need to go through customs because, of course, we’d landed in a new country. Customs was your usual thing, a ton of people all clustered in this cattle-like enclosure and nobody really knowing where they’re supposed to be going because it’s in a different language. The short lineup and the fast lineup and you’re trying to figure out if you can get yourself into a faster moving lineup, etc.
Being a keener, I’m all excited to practise a new language. I knew “danke schön” was “thank you” in German. I heard people saying “good morning” as “guten morgen.” I thought that sounded really cool. So I got myself all primed up to say “guten morgen” and “danke schön” to the customs guy.
When I finally get up to customs, the guy looks at me, I hand him my passport and I say, enthusiastically, “Guten morgen!” He looks up at me with a bland expression and then a tiny crease of a smile touches the edges of his lips. I thought, “I wonder what my accent sounds like or if I even have the right words.” Then he hands it back and I say, “Gesundheit!,” and I realized that was not the right word. Before I could correct myself, the next person was behind me and it was time to move on. Maybe I gave him a bit of a smile that morning.
Once through customs I figured we were away to the races, but no. Now we have to go through security. That was a bit confusing. Signage was not good, you’re not really sure where you’re supposed to be going. You go down these stairs and you get to the bottom of the stairs. The signage shows you for Gates B . . . you go here and B . . . you go there, etc. Then it just had a big A. We were looking for A38. It didn’t seem to have any specifics about where you went, what direction to go for any A’s. I could only see one place that had security, so I made the assumption it was all A’s went to that security place.
We got in line for that. These were mega lineups, probably about six or eight lineups to go through these security places. It was all really crowded. There were barriers and things and there wasn’t enough room for the people and everyone was confused. Then this forbidding-looking woman with a really, really short, manly haircut comes up and shouts something about A’s and B’s going somewhere else. She said it in English but with such a heavy accent that absolutely nobody knew what she was saying.
We didn’t have any idea what she was talking about. That made H a bit stressed because he figured we should go find out from her what she was saying. There was no way I was going to approach that woman. I decided, “No, I’m staying in the lineup I’m in. My intuition tells me we can get to our plane by staying here.”
Sure enough, we finally got up to the security thing. The security people were really friendly and helpful. I had my little red-handled child scissors in my regulation little clear bag. I wondered if there would be any problem and sure enough, she said, “Do you have scissors?” She saw them in the picture thing. I pointed them out.
She took them out, and with an air of hoping they would be OK, she measured them and pronounced them OK. She seemed delighted with the fact that I could keep my scissors. Her attitude gave me such a boost at that point in our long journey.
Through security, over to our waiting area and time to board. We’re now 21 hours into our journey with no sleep. We are leaving Frankfurt Airport onto our hour and 15 minute flight to Venice. So incredibly exciting. I looked out the window the entire way.
First of all, it was rural farmland. I was taken with the fact that there weren’t any trees. I realized that must be why German people, in particular, love seeing all the forest when they come to British Columbia. Then we got over a rugged mountain range, which I’m assuming were the Alps. Then, before I knew it, the Alps went away and H said, “Look.” He pointed and I could see water and see the familiar fish shape of the city of Venice!
I just think it was one of the most exciting moments in my life. My first thought was, “It’s much smaller than I thought it would be.” I took lots of pictures of the island out of the window of the airplane. It’s great to get an aerial view of the place you’re going to because it helps you get oriented.
Venice airport is relatively small and manageable. Although Venice is not a big city, they do get a lot of tourists, so the airport needs to be big enough to handle all the visitors. The population of Venice is actually only 65,000, although at one time, at the height of the Venetian city-state, there were apparently millions of people, but not all living on the little island. They had conquered lots of lands around them. But today there’s 65,000 residents and 15 million visitors a year. That’s incredible.
We saw a good portion of those 15 million in our first hour in Venice. We took a bus from the airport down to the main transportation hub by the train station. There were a couple of cruise ships that were disgorging their — it must have been thousands of people. I wouldn’t call it a stream or even a river of people. I would call it a sea of people was moving across the parking lot, over the bridge and into Venice.
I must make a comment about the bus that we took. Walking through Venice Airport we were thinking we were going to take the water bus that takes you from the airport dock into the city. It’s a scenic route, and takes about an hour. It apparently is very nice to enter or leave the city on this boat.
According to our guidebook, the water bus dock is an eight-minute walk from the entrance to the airport down to the ocean. That seemed OK, but when we exited the airport we walked smack into an almost full bus that was an express bus into the city. It was just too perfect. The driver was there; he spoke English.
We handed him a 20 Euro bill and he stuck it in the machine, gave us change, gave us tickets, told us in English what to do when we got to the station (buy a ticket for the water bus that takes you right to your hotel). We get on and get the last two seats on the bus.
The bus ride took about 15 minutes. It goes through a semi-rural area, farmland interspersed with car dealerships and rental car places. Then there’s a long causeway that connects to the island of Venice.
The bus drops you off at this big parking by the train station. It’s an ultra-touristy area that’s got a large ticket booth for the vaporetto (water bus). It’s called the ACTV and functions as the local bus line. Just like anywhere, except these buses go on water!
There was a big crowd in front of the ACTV ticket booth, but it was easy to figure out what to do. I already knew that I was looking for a 72-hour pass for the local transportation.
First vaporetto ride
So H got in line to get that. Meanwhile, I took a bunch of pictures. Seven minutes later we have our three-day passes and we go down and find out that we’re supposed to be on the #1 vaporetto. Away we go!
One thing I found really surprising about the vaporetto is if you’re standing or you’re making your way to a seat, you have to watch your footing. When it pulls out from the dock, it really rolls from side to side. If somebody had mobility problems or wasn’t very steady on their feet, say an elderly person or somebody with a lot of stuff in their arms, they could fall down. So be aware of that.
I knew we were supposed to be getting off at the Ca’ D’oro stop, and I knew that our guest house was only a couple of blocks from the Ca’ D’oro. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast…finding our guest house in Venice is a story in itself.