Rome, Venice… Portugal?

Hello, I’m back!

Missed a couple days here (after I was just bragging about how well I was doing too – go figure), but I’m back!

So we left off in Rome… I jumped on a Eurorail train from Rome to Venice which was a great experience – if I could travel the rest of this trip by a train like that, SIGN ME UP. Before the train I grabbed some lunch at my fav little pizza joint, walked around a bit and did some reading. The train was only about 3 hours, and it was super comfortable – and very well priced! Good experience all around – nice little dining car, pretty decent leg room, nice to walk around in, etc, etc. It was pleasant.

Early on into the trip I realized that I “overbooked”, sort of. There’s two “Venice” stations, Santa Lucia, which is right in Venice, and then Mestre, which is kind of right before and just outside of Venice. I found my hotel in Mestre (mostly because I’m not made of money :p) which is only a quick trip from Venice by bus or train, but drastically cheaper to stay in! So it seemed like a good idea at the time. Anyway I overbooked as I bought my ticket to Santa Lucia, having purchased the train before the accommodation, so I hopped off at Mestre which worked out just fine.

I was told that I needed to catch the “H2” bus, but I couldn’t really see it anywhere… I would later find it on the other side of the street, but let’s just leave that alone. So anyway, I went for a little stroll – it was a tad bit cold, but it actually wasn’t a terrible walk. About 20 minutes up the road and I did manage to find the Club Hotel. It was nice to still have my TIM 3G SIM card for the iPhone, good Italy wide, for directions.

The “Club Hotels” was pleasant – nothing special, but pretty cheap, a single private room. The bus stop was right outside the front door, so quick and easy to get around, lots of stuff nearby should I find it necessary. It was about 9pm at this point, so I got in and didn’t do too much else that night prior to bed.

The following day I got up and out – and hit up Venice!

I was pretty impressed – I could see being extremely impressed in the right weather conditions. It was beautiful – and very cool to see all the water ways. Every few feet you’re walking over a bridge and there’s a gondola passing under you. The city felt like a bit of a mazy, but truthfully after you get used to it, it’s not that difficult to find your way around. Not sure I could find a specific address too easily, but I could get around. Google Maps helps a lot 🙂

Public transit was awesome… the bus there was simple, the public transit BOATS were really cool and totally handy to get around. I wound up doing a lot of walking, familiarizing myself with the areas, and wound up finding a pretty popular tourist area and hitting up a museum nearby, getting a pass to let me into a couple other museums as well. At the museum I learned a bit about the role of the “Doge”… very interesting little role. I kind of compare it to the Governor General, but… not really. Much more extreme version of that. It was interesting to get some deep history on it, and see where they lived, worked, and all the artwork and architecture around them.

By the time I spent a couple hours in the museum things were starting to close up, and it was starting to get dark, so I caught the boat back to the bus, and the bus back to the hotel. I asked for some delivery at which point I was looked at with surprise, reminded that it was Sunday, which… I guess means they don’t deliver? Where I come from, if you want a pizza, they give you a pizza – but *shrug* when in Rome… (or Venice).

So I went out, 10 minute walk or so found me at a truly wonderful restaurant called Corte Sconta. MUWAH! SO GOOD! They gave me the best pizza that I’ve experienced in Italy. And that’s saying something – I experienced a lot of pizza! They opened at 7pm and I got there at 7:05pm, so it was pretty empty (never a good sign), but it filled up and I was sooooooooooooo happy with the food. And the price was pretty reasonable too. Though this whole charging for water thing, along with extreme prices for soft drinks, will wind up bankrupting me.

Anyway, I dined, I returned, I slept.

I woke up and bounded down to the reception desk where the astute receptionist pointed out to me that it was snowing – an observation I had also made from my bedroom. I can’t say I was particularly thrilled, but I figured I could get around easy enough via the boats, I had a couple of museums picked out to go to (indoors), plus my Aunt had given me a few art galleries to look at as well. So some light walking, but no – big – deal. Right? Right? Wrong.

After the astute observation about the snow (thanks) I was quickly told that the next bus was not coming at 20 minutes past the hour, but in fact not at all because the transit workers were on strike. Really Europe? Really?

Why are they on strike? Don’t know. But they pick one day a month to go on strike – apparently, and it was my lucky day that they chose today! How else to get to Venice? Well you could take a 40 euro taxi, or you could walk down to the train station and grab a train.

Neither option particularly appealed to me, however it was my last day in Venice, so I made the 20 minute trek, umbrella in hand, down to the train station and caught the next train towards Venice. No big deal.

Getting into Venice… was easy. Getting around Venice without water busses… not as easy. Not to say it’s terribly difficult really, especially with Google Maps, but on a day where the weather and I are having a disagreement, and it’s just generally unpleasant… it wasn’t great.

Anyway I trekked over to the other museum that I had paid for the prior day – took me a while to find it, but I eventually did. More Venice history, lots of interesting artwork and sculptures, managed to spend about 2 hours going through that as well as another connected museum, so that was very pleasant.

Then I went to one of the art galleries… to discover that it was closed. As was the one next to it – until April. Bah humbug.

It was past mid-day, I grabbed lunch at a nice spot, and decided to call it… rain was still coming down pretty hard, my umbrella (this is the cheap 2 euro one I bought in Vatican City) had since decided to collapse and die, and I was pretty much – no, I was done.

To be honest with you, my mood wasn’t terribly gleeful – it’s too bad that was my last impression of Venice as I understand it’s quite beautiful and pleasant to spend more time in. I could see it being very pretty during the summer when it’s not at the freezing temperature mark, and hope to return someday to change my impression.

After all this I realized the obvious – I’m really not a fan of the cold. Could you tell? I was getting pretty cranky, wasn’t enjoying myself nearly as much as I could have been, and just… yeah I was done. So I looked at my itinerary and decided to change it up a bit.

The next stop on the list was Switzerland. Beautiful country, great place, and I look forward to visiting it. But I was cold. And cranky. So I made a change. Originally I had chosen that as it was pretty close by, a train would be easy to catch, etc. Instead I picked Lisbon, Portugal – as far south as I could get, sunny for the next week, 14 – 17 degrees – DONE. This is the very reason that I did not pre-book my tickets anywhere – I can make changes!!!!

Booked the flight, booked a cool looking hostel, found a place to get a SIM card, and decided to stay for a week.

And so – here I am.

I caught a flight around 12:30pm today – it was delayed by about 15 mins, late getting in. When I left it was foggy, cold, wet – blah. Similar to my mood. After the 3 hour flight it was bright, sunny, warm. My mood improved.

I fell a little more in love with Portugal.

Caught a bus towards the hotel, pretty easy (and cheap all things considering), reached the square – was promptly offered some weed as soon as I stepped off the bus (this happened the last time I was here too lol). A quick walk showed me that I was almost exactly where I was just under a year ago when I visited Lisbon on my European Cruise – so cool! I loved this area.

I reached the hostel, found it easy enough based on the directions that they provided, and was thrilled with what I saw – beautiful building, each room is individually decorated (and really well decorated), they serve a (supposedly – we’ll find out tomorrow) great breakfast in the morning, they have free wine to drink during the day, a beautiful and relaxing sitting area (a few of them actually – something I’ve sorely missed the past couple of weeks), they serve a three course Portuguese dinner at night for 10 euro, free bike rentals and walking tours, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. So impressed! Great hostel, amazing area – I’m thrilled to be here for the week.

I took a walk around the area and felt awesome – the weather is great, the area is just spectacular… I really am pleased that I decided to jump over to here. So I’m here – had a great dinner, lounged around for a bit, looked at a tour to go on for Thursday (all day thing around Portugal…) and now I’m just wrapping up before bed.

So it’s been a long one, but there I am – done. You’re caught up. Duly informed of my activities, and I’ve got a generally good log of the last few days, hopefully. I’m gonna sign off before I run out of battery, and I’ll let you know how tomorrow goes!