Rainy Days in Venice

Italy part 3: Rainy days in Venice

Hey Everyone, sorry for the delay! Writing blogs while simultaneously getting ready for Christmas and New Years wasn’t easy. Anyways, here’s the final section to the Italian chapter of my semi-recent Europe adventure…Enjoy!

After missing our train to Florence, we made sure to get to the station with plenty of time to catch our train to Venice. We got there on time and boarded the the train, but one of us must have pissed off the transportation gods, because the train was delayed and got to Venice 90 minutes late. Thank goodness Catey, who was in charge of organizing Venice, hadn’t made any plans until later that evening. We tried to get some compensation from the train company (TrenItalia) but they only offered us a 25% discount on our next train ticket (so basically tourists are very easily screwed over).

Despite that slight annoyance, our first evening in Venice was very nice. The weather was cold but sunny. After checking into the hostel, we grabbed a quick, fried lunch (very american as a matter of fact), and explored the city for awhile. Venice is quite a cute little place. It reminds me of a maze, but instead of hedges everywhere, there are canals. It would be the perfect place for a city-wide game of tag, which, incidentally has been a childhood dream of mine (any city will do really, I just want it to happen).

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PC: Mary

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Accepting my Dad’s scavenger-hunt challenge and finding the places he visited when he was in Venice

That night Catey had bought us tickets for a gondola ride. It took us awhile to find the place because google maps kept malfunctioning as we walked through the narrow streets. When we finally found the booking office, we joined a group of six for a nice gondola ride along the canals. The ride was pretty fast and our gondolier was very silent, but I throughly enjoyed it. Gliding silently along the canals made me feel like a spy on a mission or something. Mary, on the other hand, who was sitting right next to me, was not happy about being so close to the water (apparently she had had bad experiences with sail boats). However, she made it through the ordeal with her dignity intact for the most part (hey, the dismount was hard for everybody) and we said goodbye to our fellow gondola riders. Night had fallen by the time we finished our ride, but the church mass we were planning on attending hadn’t quite started yet. In order to kill some time, we explored St. Mark’s Plaza. There were a lot of people in the plaza as well as a lot of pigeons even during the night. Several people in the square had handfuls of grain and were offering tourists the chance to feed the pigeons (as long as the tourists paid of course), which I found to be slightly ridiculous as you can feed pigeons with just about anything, not just special ‘pigeon grain’ (they’re not particularly picky eaters).

 

 

(sorry for the poor quality, my phone’s a little challenged at times).

At around 6:00, we headed to mass at a small church called San Zaccaria’s. Now, let me just say this, although I am, technically-speaking, Catholic, I never really made much of an effort to go to mass while traveling. So, when Mary became one of my primary travel buddies, I was a tad apprehensive about the whole hassle of finding different masses and churches and then actually attending. But I am so grateful that we did (thanks Mary!). I saw so many breath-taking churches and cathedrals that I never would have otherwise seen, not to mention the fact that I got to hear sermons in entirely different languages. So, a bit of advice? Don’t rule out attending a mass while traveling around new places. Even if you’re not really religious, you will see and hear some pretty cool things, plus it’s free!

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San Zaccaria’s PC: Mary

After mass, we had some dinner at a restaurant that had successfully lured us in while we were on our way back to the hostel. I had the cheapest thing on the not-cheap menu, which happened to be a margarita pizza, and a glass of very expensive water. The food was good, but not great, which, for the most part, was all the food we experienced in Venice—expensive and ‘meh.’ After dinner, we headed back to the hostel, stopping on the way to pick out some candy at a very hip and yet very overpriced candy shop.

The next morning, the weather was not good. It was raining and cold and it didn’t help that our room’s heat had turned off throughout the night which meant getting out from under the covers took way more will power than it should have.

After grabbing breakfast, we took a quick peak at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco and then headed to the Galleria della Academia. When we were buying the tickets, the nice man behind the counter gave us the E.U. student discount even though we told him we were from the U.S. which brought the tickets down from 12 euros to 7 (Gotta love nice people!). There was a lot of nice artwork and in each room there were little computer screens where you could read the history behind a certain painting.

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Young Mary being presented at the temple

After leaving the museum, we walked around looking for a place to eat lunch. It was raining and cold so when we finally found a place that wasn’t out of our budget, we grabbed the last table and sat down even though there weren’t enough chairs. The waitress brought us an extra chair and we had a decent lunch, although I will say I was getting rather sick of eating pizza (always the cheapest thing not the menu).

Our next stop was St. Mark’s Basilica. It was very beautiful but extremely crowded. Furthermore, because it was so grey and cloudy outside, there was hardly any light coming through the windows which made it very hard to see the beautiful ceiling of the basilica. 39016505152_35f5436eac_o (1).jpg

We spent a good couple of hours exploring the Basilica (I highly recommend going up to the upper balconies! The stairs are near the exit and it costs about 5 euros, but it is definitely worth it). As we were leaving, I noticed a flyer that said there was an organ concert later that evening, so we decided to see the Duke’s Palace and then head back for the concert. It’s actually quite remarkable that I noticed the flyer at all, because by this time, I had somehow managed to lose one of my contact lenses. Now I have absolutely horrible eyesight, like really bad (all my fellow near-sighted buddies know what I’m talking about). So I had to keep one of my contacts in so I could see where I was going. Unfortunately, this led to a very skewed depth perception that made my head hurt quite a bit. Moral of the story? Either keep an extra contact lens or glasses with you at all times or don’t rub your eye vigorously while wearing contacts.

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Catey’s selfie stick comes in clutch at the top of the Basilica

Unfortunately, the Duke’s Palace closed earlier than Catey had originally thought, so we simply spent the time getting an espresso and, in my case, a gelato. At five o’clock we headed to the organ concert. It was a good thing that we went to the concert, because the lights in the basilica had been turned on and we could finally see its beautifully detailed ceiling. I was so tired that I fell asleep during the concert.

Since the weather was pretty bad, and I was falling asleep on my feet, we decided to grab a quick dinner at a self-serve deli that Catey had found which had pretty decent prices and then headed back to the hostel. I went to bed almost immediately, while Mary- bless her heart- talked to the hostel owner about our lack of heat and finally got it fixed.

The next morning we had a flight to Barcelona at 10:00, so we woke up pretty early (quick shoutout to the random guy we were sharing out hostel room with– he very kindly turned on the lights to make it easier for us to pack and didn’t complain that we had woken him up so early). We made our way to the Venice bus station, munching on croissants we had bought the night before. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare and said goodbye to Venice and hello to Barcelona.

Although we were by no means done traveling, this brought us to the end of our Great Italian Adventure and I am so grateful and happy that I got to be a part of it.

Happy New Years Everyone!

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The Weekend from Hell

You know that old saying ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?’ Well in my experience life will sometimes give you lemons, sometimes it even gives you a freshly squeezed lemonade with a little umbrella straw, and then sometimes it gives you rocks instead of lemons and instead of handing them to you, it throws them at you while giggling like an immature child. Unfortunately for me, life has picked me for target practice these last couple of days and has proceeded to bombard me with a shower of lemon-shaped rocks.

It all began yesterday (a Thursday for those who aren’t up to speed with the calendar). It was a Spanish holiday so there wasn’t any school and all of my friends had gone to go traveling over the long weekend (I elected to stay behind so I could hopefully play in my first volleyball game on Saturday). I woke up Thursday morning completely stuffed. I couldn’t breath out of my nose and phlegm wads were ensconcing themselves comfortably in the depths of my throat (wow, who knew something so gross could be described so poetically?). Needless to say I did not feel my best at that moment. Nevertheless, I got up, persevered and went to the gym (I’m really proud of myself for that btw). When I got back I was exhausted so I basically spent the day on the sofa doing absolutely nothing productive, and falling deeper into the rabbit hole that is Youtube. At around 9:00 pm, I finally stopped watching videos and eating cold pasta long enough to call Siubhan, (a.k.a. my number 1 home skillet) back in Illinois. We talked until she had to go to class then I watched a couple more movies and tried to go to bed. Not being able to breathe made falling asleep pretty hard, but the worst part was my hair. For some reason my head itched like the dickens. After a good thirty minutes of restlessness and scratching, it slowly dawned on me that I had felt the exact same itchiness before…in sixth grade…when the school had an outbreak of, wait for it, lice…shit. I tried to remember when exactly my head started itching but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it had been itchy for a while. The only place I thought I could have gotten it was from sharing hairbands during practice on the volleyball team.
Once I had the idea of lice on my head there was no way in hell I was going back to sleep. I knew no pharmacy would be open or else I would have run down there and bought every bottle of lice shampoo they had. Instead, I frantically searched the Internet scouring for any homemade treatments I could use as a substitute. I finally found a simple one involving coconut oil. Fervently thanking past Shannon for packing coconut oil, I began scooping copious amounts onto my head. I was a tad overzealous with it, however, because when I stood up to find a shower cap, a huge glob splattered around my feet. Not really caring, I jump over the gelatinous mess, shoved a make-shift, plastic-bag shower cap on my head, and set the timer for two hours. Waiting was horrible, now that I had the lice image stuck in my head, I could feel the little critters crawling around in my hair. When the two hours were up I took a hot shower, vigorously washing my hair, got out and inspected the bath water. And sure enough I found one. At least I think I did. It wasn’t moving or anything, but I could see the tiny little legs. Throughly freaking out by this point, I run back to my room to start tearing off the bedsheets, trying to resist the urge to scream and/or light my hair on fire. In my panic, I failed to see the giant glob of coconut oil on the floor. I fell. Hard. And let out a stream of impressive curse words in both English and Spanish. Now, my friends, as impossible as this may seem, all of Thursday night was just a light drizzle of lemon-rocks, the real storm came today.

My host mom had heard my fall and subsequent cursing and came into my room at 5:00 in the morning to see numerous garbage bags sitting on a completely naked mattress. She asked me what I was doing and I, almost ready to cry, told her that I had lice (fun fact: lice=piojos in Spanish). I honestly wasn’t sure how she was going to react. There’s an old (and completely untrue I might add) stigma that only dirty people get lice. Would she accuse me of infesting her house and kick me out into the streets (hey, in my sleep-deprived brain that seemed entirely conceivable). But, she took it surprisingly well and basically told me to calm down, that lice aren’t fatal and they’re a lot easier to deal with than bedbugs. After making sure I wasn’t having a complete meltdown, she headed back to her room and I tried to catch a couple hours of sleep while sitting at my desk.

I awoke several hours later and if I thought my cold was bad Thursday, Friday it got  worse. Now added to my stuffed nose and phlegmy tubes was an inability to speak without, wait for it, hacking a phlegm ball (I know, my sexiness surprises even me sometimes). Anyways I had class at 9:00 but I didn’t want to wear a sweatshirt because anything I wore before buying the lice-killing shampoo was going straight into the wash. So I ran to school to keep warm, hocking a loogie every few feet. I forgot the money for the lice shampoo back at the house so after class, I headed back home to get it. Once there, my host mom told me that we needed actual dryers to kill the little buggers, and since she didn’t have one, she gave me directions to the nearest laundromat. So I headed to the the laundromat, 20 euros in my pocket, a giant garbage bag in each hand, snuffling and hacking spitballs, and with only the slightest sense of where to go. I started off pretty confidently, all things considered. It took me a good twenty-five minutes to find the laundromat and by that time my arms were pretty tired. The only person in the laundromat was an older gentleman, closing his eyes and listening to some music. I decided not to disturb him and figured out how to load and pay for the washing machine by myself. Unfortunately, the laundromat was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be. It was 10 euros every load in the big machine, which I had to use twice. Thus, I had no money for the dryers, which were the main reasons I had come in the first place. I was in luck however, right across the street was an ATM, I could simply take out some money, while keeping an eye on my clothes. I was at the ATM for a good twenty minutes trying to figure out why it kept telling me my PIN number was wrong. Finally, frustrated beyond belief, I called my dear old Pops. He told me that the PIN number was actually different but because I had tried so many times, they had locked my card for 24 hours. Perfect. I had no other choice than to drag two large, dripping garbage bags twenty five minutes back to my apartment, then return to actually dry them. This was just a little overwhelming for me (did I mention I was also on my period and thus more emotionally fragile than usual?). Anyways, what all this leads to is the following scene: I’m walking down the street, pissed off, tired, walking with a slight limp, dragging two wet garbage bags behind me and probably looking like I’m about to cry. I suddenly see a grocery store right in front of me and decide to check and see if they have the lice shampoo. They don’t. As I walk out the door to leave the lady at the cash register starts yelling at me. I turn around to see her running towards me, and of course, the first response my tired brain comes up with is ‘let’s run too!’. So I start running. It must’ve looked kind of strange; a cashier chasing down what could have been very tired, skinny Santa Claus hauling ass with trash bags flying out behind her. Well it didn’t take long for the cashier to catch up to me (even though I was carrying bags and had a limp it was still pretty embarrassing). She grabbed one of my trash bags and ripped it open. When she saw a pile of wet clothes and bed covers she looked confused and then turned bright red and apologized to me. I opened my mouth to tell her it was fine, and instead of words, I got a mouthful of phlegm. Unable to spit it out without the crowd around us seeing, I could only nod and kind of hum my lips together. So yeah…that was the beginning of my weekend, how was yours?

Author note: originally I wasn’t going to post this because it seemed kind of gross, but if I talk about the wonders and beauty of traveling and being in Spain, I think it’s only right that I mention some of the not so fun parts.

*Este vez no he escrito un sección en Español! Lo siento mucho! Intentaré hacer uno mañana.

Btw. I have my first volleyball game tomorrow, fingers crossed it goes well!

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Actually this was taken during San Mateo, but I felt like I needed to end the post with a happy bang (get it? no? Don’t worry it was pretty bad).