Sunday, April 03, 2011

Aloha, Venice!

I'm running way behind in putting my photos up, but they will all appear on Facebook anon.

9:28 am Sunday, April 4, 2011. The train left the station exactly on time, and Venice is another just-passed telephone pole on the train ride of life. An indescribably beautiful city...the only one like it on earth. I'm sorry not to have been more consistent in writing, but it is hard to write and do anything else at the same time.

9:33 and we've crossed the water and are back on more identifiable land, with more or less neat rows of streets with cars and individual buildings separated from their neighbors. In short, back with the other 99.999 percent of the world.

Just as my camera and computer have batteries which run low, I've found as my journey progresses that it seems to have been a notable drain on my energy batteries...yet another skirmish in the battle between "I want!" and "I can"; the mind being the want, the body being the can. You have no idea how deeply I resent it.

A hundred passengers carting huge suitcases in both directions down the narrow center aisle makes for some classic bottlenecks. Far more bulky suitcases than places for them. Luckily, this car is a four-seats-facing arrangement with a small table that can be folded down for laptops (but too high to work on practically), and I managed to fit my case--which mysteriously gets heavier and fuller with each stop on the trip--in the space between the backs of two four-seat sections.

I am down to two pair of socks and on pair of shorts. Have to find a laundromat in Florence. Of course, it's being Sunday...But I'll by new underwear rather than pay $3.00 each to have the hotel send it out!

The train makes announcements in English, but in the fine tradition of train announcers everywhere, it's impossible to understand what they're saying.

10:42 Oh, dear Lord, the fun! This is, what, my fifth train in Europe. The conductor comes down the aisle, I show him my ticket, he stamps it and goes on his way. Not this time. He charged me and at least two other Americans in this car 50 euros for not having had our Europass tickets validated before we took our first train. When I boarded the train for Cannes in Paris, I had specifically asked if I needed to have anything validated before starting to use my tickets. "No." But this conductor would have none of it. He is right. You are wrong. End of discussion. He's the kind of man who takes great pride in not being employed by TrenItalia, but in being TrenItalia.

And I've not had a bit of trouble 'til now. This one refused to accept my ticket, saying it was only a voucher, though it was exactly the same ticket the other four or five conductors have merely only glanced, stamped, and handed back to me without question. Now, suddenly, I have to pay a 50 euros ($75?) as a "surcharge." Dear, sweet Lord! (I should note that the other Americans were equally and loudly pissed, one demanding that the conductor call the police at the next station-- Bologna, into which we have just pulled.) Oh, yes, and in order to look for my original EuroPass information, which thank God I'd kept, I had to haul out my suitcase, open it up, rummage through everything in order to find it, then force it closed it again and put it back in its cubbyhole.

Well, if I didn't want to risk challenges and problems, I'd have stayed home.

Interesting bit of trivia most people may not notice: 99% of the buildings in France and Italy have some sort of pitched roof.

(Passage of time, here.) Train pulled into Florence right on time. When I'd boarded in Venice, I put my jacket in the overhead rack, and reminded myself every 72 seconds: "Now don't forget your jacket when you get off." I forgot my jacket when I got off. Had to haul my 90-pound suitcase back onto the train, fight my way down the blocked aisles (people getting on), utterly convinced the train would pull out before I had a chance to get my jacket and get back out. Luckily I made it.

Caught a cab to the hotel (9 euros plus tip). Room is about on a par with the others I've stayed at. Comfortable and perfectly fine for my needs. Internet service costs 20 euros ($30 plus) for 24 hours. As I say, photos to come.

After I gather my wits together I'll go see about finding a laundromat, and then see what history and culture is available. Priorities, priorities.


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