If you have a day between arriving and commencing a photo workshop what do you do? Go to Venice of course. The side trip was a totally spur of the moment decision cooked up 50 minutes before I had to leave to go to work one Monday just before Val left. We had been thinking of taking the Vatican train to the Pope’s summer house but how unfortunate, it was booked out well in advance. So of course we went to Venice. Four hours on a very fast train, one night on a canal (well hotel with a balcony overlooking a canal behind San Marco Piazza) and another four hour train trip. Done deal, booked. How excited was I about this one? Jumping up and down excited. It was some 25 odd years since I was last there and I always viewed as my favourite place in Europe. Would I still see it in the same way?
If you have never been to Venice, nothing prepares you for the sight that greats you when you leave the train station. Quick aside – if you need to ‘spend a penny’ before leaving the train, use the train. You have to spend a euro to spend a penny once you get to Venezia. And on that note, don’t buy Lindt balls at the station either as you need a bank loan. As soon as you arrive you are introduced to the concept of Venetian prices. Back to the station. As soon as you exit the station, the Grand Canal is there right in front of you. You feel as though you can just reach out across the sea and touch it. That was my first ever memory of Venice and this time it was no different. The light rain was though – and this was not in my plan as I had specific photos I wanted to take.
Rather than get lost (this is Venice remember) and as it was getting late, we took the local bus i.e public ferry down the Grand Canal as the San Marco Piazza is at the other end of the Canal. I quickly learnt another lesson. Do not stand up when up are seated at the front of the boat. It seems you obscure the view of the captain but I did think this was just a trivial point when I had the ‘perfect shot’ insight. I didn’t get that shot. Val was taken by the ‘cute little bridge’ she saw. “Oh look, there’s a gondola.”
Umm, we got lost walking to the hotel. Now getting lost in Vence is not a difficult thing to but we had only just arrived. And we had Val’s Gaia GPS (remember that story from Toledo last year?) We just took the wrong exit point out of San Marco Piazza so did a few little detours turning a 50m walk into one much longer. Oh well, we were in Venice after all. There was still light rain. After walking through a rabbit warren (is everything in Venice a maze?) the view from the balcony conformed we overlooked a very small canal and could almost touch the bell tower in the Piazza .
The day was starting to draw to a close and there were photos I wanted to create, so gear in hand (lucky my two Fuji XT1 bodies fit in a small bag slung over my shoulder) and with Val in tow, back down to San Marco Piazza for sun sets shots looking out to San Gregrorio. Did I mention it was still light rain. Yep, it was going to a ripper sunset for sure. Some where but not here.
While I was plying my craft as the international photographer, Val thought she would have a coffee in the Piazza and wait for my return. Nice cafe, nice place to sit. OMG, €11 – that’s AUD17.50 – for the pleasure. Think about this a little further – coffee has a diuretic effect so €11 for the diuretic and add another for effect of that diuretic ….. But there is another option to make the whole process a little less damaging in the bank balance. You can stand for €3.00 . Guess what she did. Anyway while she was savouring every flavour of her coffee, persistence paid off for and I got what I wanted. Oh so visual cliche but I don’t care. I think one of these is going on the wall.
It really is pretty when the lights come on. Note the rain drops on the lens.
Next morning, I leap out if bed armed with my gear to get sunrise shots. Umm …. It was a nice morning for umbrellas and raincoats. Even the pigeons sought shelter. Let’s just say my trousers were soaked – my only trousers at that – when I got back to my room and I am very grateful my camera body and lens are weather sealed.
Clothes dry again after a long session with a hair drier. Had the weather improved? Nah, but umbrellas do add a touch of colour to another wise grey scene. As an aside, this was only a small tour group but one of many.
No-one sitting at tables today sipping gold infused coffee
Time to play tourist and visit San Marco Basilica. I had to convince Val to join the line (which was about 50 people might I add) but the good news is entry is free. Remember that entry line I mentioned previously. This is the only church I have been in where you join the conga line and conga in the door, around the roped off route and conga right out the door again. You can only seek refuge from the conga line if you pay your way into one of the many sideshow attractions for a fee. €3 for the treasury, €7 for the terrace, € 5 for something else so as you can see the free entry is a bargain. The problem with conga line us you are not even aloud to sing – silence only as this is a place of worship. But I am being a cynical touristo. This is the most stunning church I have ever laid eyes on. The ceiling is all gilt mosaics. I would love to show but oh, photography is banned. You can buy books or pictures outside at the commercial opportunity station. Here’s a teaser – the mosaics outside the main entrance Edit
Now, this is Venice right and barely a mention of canals and gondolas. Plenty of time for that as we had a few hours to fill in walking to get to the train station at the other end of the island. We knew the direction and Val had the GPS so we were set. The area around the Grand Rialto bridge is just awful – wall to wall tourists and we had to find our way out of them to find a less crowded area to get lost in. If that is going to happen you may as well do it in peace rather than with 5063 other friends. Ummm, we promptly got lost after leaving the crowds. And on more than one occasion. Who cares as Venice is the perfect place to get lost. Canals, gondolas and bridges everywhere. Didn’t care about the rain which was now only light.
Alas, we finally found the train station. The rain had stopped for at least an hour. Did Venice live up to my memories? Yeah it did. It is still a magical place once you leave the crowds. There were more people here than I ever remember. No wonder most of the Venetians have moved off the island. The other thing I have vivid memories of are the cats in all the little piazzas sunning themselves. Not a cat to be seen this time. Neither was the sun. Will I come back – possibly.
As we sat on the train crossing the marshes with Venice behind us, eating our Lindt balls (bill shock is short lived), the clouds parted and the sun stated to shine through. The forecast for the following day was ☀️. Not my Venice this time. Mine was more moody but well worth it all the same.