Allow me to set the stage for one of the most beautiful Sunday mornings I've ever experienced. We are sailing into the port of Venice, last stop on our tour. It is about 9 am in the morning; the sky and weather are perfect, there is a light breeze. The sound of church bells can be heard from a distance; just a few at first, then many bells from dozens of different towers. The city is just coming into our view and we are on the top deck taking it all in, spellbound.
Suddenly the air fills with the voice of Andrea Bocelli, singing Time to Say Goodbye; the ship is playing his music over the sound system at full throttle, and coming into sight are the rooftops, houses, and foot bridges over the canals. We're actually here! Our ship is so tall, and the city is so dwarfed by comparison, I am reminded of the Thorne miniature rooms at the Art Institute in Chicago, and feel I am a curious bystander watching a tiny Venice start its day.
As we sailed on, the streets became increasingly more populated near Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Square. The lagoon began to fill with water taxis and other boats going about the business of getting around in a water town. We continued our approach and ultimately docked around 10 am. We were all anxious to leave the ship and get out into the streets with the rest of the tourists, as we had a tour of the Palace and a gondola ride scheduled. Alas, it is Italy, and the schedule has become a suggestion, not an actual timetable.
A half dozen or so passengers had become ill earlier in the voyage (not swine flu), and had been isolated from the rest of the ship, but the Italian health officials were not satisfied. Thus, before anyone could leave the ship, we had to complete a questionnaire and have our temperature taken ... all three thousand of us. This doesn't happen quickly in Italy (or, I suspect, anywhere else.) Several hours after our scheduled departure, we finally disembarked and set off on our tour. We took our gondola ride, saw the Doge's Palace (more about these in the next post), went to a glass blowing demonstration and then finally, finally, it was free time to walk and shop.
Armed with my list of a dozen paper stores which my spouse had carefully mapped out in a plan of attack, we quickly discovered that retail stores close at 6 pm on Sunday in Venice. As we were leaving for the airport at 7 am the next morning, there would be no paper shopping in Venice on this visit. One should always have a reason to return!