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Archive for the ‘Places’ Category

Ciao Ciao Venice

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Thursday morning I awoke to the sound of zippers in our four person room at Venice’s excellent B&B Arabesque as Jimmy and Laura made themselves ready for an early morning departure. The time had arrived for our parties to say goodbye to Venice and each other.

Specifically, Laura and Jimmy are catching a flight to Nice, France followed by trains to Bordeaux before we meet again in Paris. Nick and I are headed to Barcelona for Act II of this adventure.

With just 2.5 hours before our flight departed, Nick and I decided to take a harrowing yet scenic 45-minute ride on a water taxi through the Grand Canal. This was followed by a speedy bus to the Marco Polo airport, and we arrived with much more time than we expected so we were each able to get not one but two delicious prosciutto and buffalo milk mozzarella paninis with sun dried tomatoes at the airport deli. The food here is so good, and I have a feeling that trend will thankfully continue in Barcelona.

London Heathrow to London Gatwick

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Many international flights arrive to London Heathrow Terminal 5, but if London isn’t your final destination, your connecting flight may leave from London Gatwick. This was the case for us Tuesday, and the transfer between the two wasn’t nearly as bad as some websites make it sound.

First up after arrival is the immigration process. TripAdivsor says that this has recently (March and April 2012) taken up to 2-2.5 hours, but for us on a Tuesday morning in May 2012, it took 20 minutes. Some friends on a recent Saturday morning took 30 minutes, so not too bad at all. The key is to walk fast through the terminals to get as far ahead in line as possible. After 15 minutes of standing in the immigration line, the line had grown quite long, with people just arriving probably having to wait upwards of an hour.

After collecting the bags, we proceeded to follow the signs to “Coaches” where we got in line at National Express to purchase one way tickets to Gatwick North Terminal for 25£ each. Note that you can purchase from the machines with a regular (non-chip) credit card, but you need to leave it in long enough for the machine to read it.

The Gatwick National Express bus picked us up 5 minutes later right outside the terminal at stop 16. After showing the tickets to the driver, we loaded our bags on the bus and boarded for the 53 minute, ~40 mile ride to Gatwick – 2 minutes faster than the scheduled arrival time.

The airlines recommend 3 hours minimum for this transfer and we had 3 hours and 50 minutes from touch down at Heathrow to take off at Gatwick. Today it took us 2 hours and 10 minutes from wheels down at Heathrow to the gate area past security at Gatwick. Lady luck has smiled on us once again. 😉

A Day in Venice

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Wednesday was our day in Venice, so it was a little disheartening when we woke up to the sound of rain and Nick telling us that we could expect wet weather through 6pm. We made the most of it at any rate, though, and donned our rain gear and umbrellas and headed out for a walking tour of Piazza San Marco, the main public (and hugely touristy) square in Venice.

Following a walk through of the Great Church of St. Mark, we headed to a small shop near the Rialto district where the owner of our B&B said we could purchase the bath towels she provided for us. I jumped on this opportunity because 1) these are the best towels I’ve ever used and 2) I arrived with half empty backpacks to bring stuff exactly like this home. We found “TSL” after asking no more than five people and I made my towel purchase.

By this time we were a bit wet from the rain so we headed back to the B&B to regroup, get dried off, and ask the owner for a lunch recommendation. This lead us to the pizzeria Corte dell’ Orso at the end of a dark and deserted ally – a very good local choice! To make things even better, the rain had stopped for the day a few hours earlier than Nick’s estimate.

The British Air magazine on the flights over recommended we visit a small art gallery called Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni where we were definitely off the beaten path. With our fill of many depictions of a pointy-eared dragon getting slain, we headed back to the Santa Maria Formosa square where we met a gondolier named Roberto who seemed friendly and spoke excellent English – we had found our captain!

No tour of Venice would be complete without a gondola ride. The industry is regulated by the 425 gondoliers (red and blue banded hats don’t signify anything more than flair) and rides before 6pm cost €80 for a 40 minute tour of the area near where you pick up the boat. We wanted a tour of the small canal ways, and that was delivered in spades. Excellent! The only thing that could’ve made it better was if we had hired a singer/accordion combo that we later saw a couple cruising through the canals with.

Next up was a “Vivaldi el’ Opera” concert, which was actually quite good. Jimmy even caught a glimpse of a tear in the eye of the tenor singer as he looked into the light – the woman soprano didn’t seem quite as into it.

Nick and I wrapped up the day at a small bar down the street from our B&B enjoying the Californian Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on tap. A good end to a great and very picturesque day in Venice.

Buon Giorno from Venice!

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Good morning from Venice! 19 hours after leaving Los Angeles, Nick and I arrived to Venice where we met Jimmy and Laura for the beginning of the 2012 Eurotrip. This is the first time here for all of us, and we agree that this the most unique city on the planet that some have said resembles life on the theatrical stage.

Upon meeting Jimmy at the B&B, he took us to the plaza Campo Santa Maria Formosa where we met Laura. We then wandered a few blocks and ended up at Al Mascaron for a filling and very tasty dinner.

The evening found us enjoying prosecco and limoncello on the patio of our B&B – it’s good to be traveling with good friends and seeing new places once again.

Tom Bradley International Terminal

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Where all great adventures begin!