18 April 2017 – a wet and stormy Venice before the long (slow) train to Paris….. [Italy]
We had had the best of Venice weather wise and today we were going to experience the worst of Venice. The place is still pretty amazing to photograph though! A stormy, wet and freezing day to finish off our time in Italy but some stunning views and magical pictures were taken. Then we had one of the more interesting experiences of our travels, an overnight sleeper train from Venice to Paris.
After a beautiful sunny day in Venice the previous day, we were bracing ourselves for the onslaught of bad weather for our final day in Venice (and Italy). We had to be out of our apartment at 10am which left 9.5 hours without anywhere to go, and storms and 65 km/h winds to contend with. After finally obtaining some supermarket supplies we had a breakfast that wasn’t 100% sugar, a novelty! Our scrambled eggs on bread-rolls went down well while watching the rain fall on the canal through the water door. We had decided not to rush out since it was a long day out in the wet with a couple of kids….
We were storing our bags for the day in a bag storage place near the train station, since sightseeing with luggage is nigh on impossible. So we loaded up, bid farewell to our Venice apartment, and went out into the drizzle. It was hot in the apartment and Anto was debating the need for the coats for the day but once we turned the corner from the narrow streets, out near the lagoon the wind was ferocious and it was hard to walk, let alone with bags.
We were now glad we had the coats and that were not going out to the islands for the day. The water was looking rather rough. We somehow made it to the vaporetto stop without getting blown into the water and the vaporetto appeared and then was pushed backwards the wind was so strong. The vaporetto drivers were showing some extreme skill today in docking, we gather they got a fair bit of practice in terrible conditions but it was obviously an art-form.
With the terrible weather it was much quieter on the boats today and we actually got a seat. You couldn’t see much out the windows and bobbing up and down constantly wasn’t all that pleasant. We took the ride around to the train station, where it was slightly more sheltered but still unpleasant.
Bags deposited at the luggage storage place (there is one conveniently located not far from the train station that does a roaring trade), we decided to check out the food options in the train station for potential dinner options later that night. Already cold and damp we purchased some coffee and hot chocolate and battled to find a seat at the train station cafe. Everyone who had a train out in the next several hours was killing time in the warm.
Not wanting to waste our last bit of time in Venice, we were ready to brave the outside. While our 24 hour transport passes were still valid we decided to take a vaporetto down the Grand Canal as we’d really only walked a section of it and to date had been using vaporettos around the outside of the island.
We caught the vaporetto from the stop in front of the train station and it started out rather quiet. Anto and the kids got a seat inside out of the rain. I decided if I was standing anyway to head outside and take some photos. This proved to be amusing (if cold) as I got a close up look at the police, rubbish and ambulance boats we’d been seeing. In Venice everything operates via the water. It is rather fun watching the rubbish being collected via boat and people heading off in ambulance boats to the water-side hospital!
From the water you get a much closer view of the buildings along the Grand Canal. It’s amusing seeing through the windows into posh hotels and apartments, with their velvet curtains in contrast to the rather ratty, and usually in need of some attention, outsides of the buildings.
It was not a good day to be a gondola driver, most were covered up for the day. The previous day pretty much every gondola in Venice was out, and there were tourists lined up waiting for a ride. Today there were a few tourists braving the conditions but they didn’t all look to be enjoying the weather! We had been considering a gondola ride but were waiting to see if the weather improved before dishing out quite so much money to be wet and cold……
Ponte dell’Accademia is another of the 4 bridges spanning the Grand Canal. It crosses near the Southern end of the canal. A bridge in this location was discussed as early as the 15th century but the current bridge has only been in place since 1985. Despite being a tourist hot-spot it wasn’t too busy on the bridge. Probably because it was so windy that no one could stay up there too long! The lack of crowds did mean we got a chance to check out the views up and down the Grand Canal and take some iconic shots of Venice. Long exposures are rather tricky in such blustery conditions but it was fun watching the boats buzz up and down. We were rather cold though…..
All quite cold and hungry we wandered away from the bridge in search of food. The requirement for the day was a table inside, the exact opposite of the previous day. After locating somewhere that looked decent, warm and not budget breaking, we perused the menu……… it was going to be our last Italian restaurant meal of the holiday.
Anto ordered the menu of the day which had mussels, a whole grilled fish + chips, and a dessert of tiramisu. I settled on a buffalo pizza. I had lost count of how much pizza I’d eaten in the last few weeks but one more never hurts! The kids just ate a bit of everything. Despite the kids being tired and cold we all enjoyed our food………..
Sadly, once lunch as was over it was back out in the cold and we walked towards San Marco for a little more sight-seeing. When walking along the canals you can see how damaged many of the building facades are and how far up some of the doors the water line is………
Back in Piazza San Marco we were relatively surprised how quiet it was. Despite now being 2pm it was significantly quieter than at 10am the previous day, due to the awful weather. The over-tired kids went crazy chasing the pigeons while we did some people (and pigeon) watching.
We had decided not to visit Doge’s Palace as it was not really going to interest the kids, but were keen to go up St Mark’s campanile to get some views of Venice. The campanile is the bell-tower to St Mark’s Basilica and stands alone in Piazza San Marco, in front of the Basilica. The original campanile was constructed in the 9th century but the current tower was reconstructed in 1912 after a collapse in 1902.
The previous day the line to go up the campanile was probably well-over a 2 hour wait as it snaked almost all the way back to the promenade. Today it was barely out the door of the campanile.
It was miserably cold outside, and given the line was so short we figured we’d go up. As we made it up to the counter the ticket sales person was informing people it was very cold up the top and this was dissuading some people, but it resulted in it being a quicker wait for us. It was probably only around 20 minutes before we were on our way up in the lift. We love things with lifts rather than lots of stairs!
They weren’t joking about it being freezing up the top, it was not nice. The views were pretty good though, it’s amazing seeing Venice from up high, you can see how dense it is and out to some of the close islands. The campanile is 98.6m high and gives great 360 degree views for quite a distance.
Despite being a miserable day it was worth braving it for a short time for the views and checking out the 5 bells in the belfry. The kids were freezing and we were all regretting not wearing even warmer clothes given we had all our thermal layers, gloves and hats from Finland and Estonia. It was crazy to think we’d been both sweaty and sunburnt just a few days prior in Sardinia!
The colour shots with the green of the lagoon against the terracotta rooves are pretty stunning, but I also like how the black and white shots from the campanile show the density and craziness of Venice.
After we were thoroughly frozen it was back down in the lift. We had a quick wander back towards the promenade but it was pretty cold so we decided to head for the supermarket for dinner supplies and then decide what to do with our last few hours in Venice.
Freezing cold we wandered out of San Marco to try to find some warm drinks but obviously didn’t wander quite far enough away as the place we picked for coffee and cannoli turned out to be the most expensive of the trip, which would have been OK if it was good. At least it was warm!
Originally we’d planned to spend the money and do a gondola ride. We however, decided it wasn’t really worth the exorbitant cost for us to be freezing. Hardly any gondolas were out this afternoon and most of the people on them were looking a little cold.
Of course it was starting to improve a little, the wind had dropped and we could even see some breaks in the cloud so we were again debating it. In the mean time we found a couple of supermarkets and loaded up with dinner supplies for a fraction of the cost of the train station. We’d heard the food car on the overnight train often runs short on food so we weren’t taking any chances. We almost ended up with several large Italian Easter cakes as they were now on sale but restrained ourselves…….
It had now cleared significantly and the gondolas were starting to get busier and Anto was almost convinced to give it a go until I saw lightning and heard some thunder. We decided to high-tail it to the train station before we got soaked.
Public transport passes expired we weren’t spending more money on vaporetto rides unless it absolutely poured. It started raining while near the Rialto bridge but we opted to walk back the couple of kilometres to the train station. By the time we’d gone half way it was pouring, but luckily we had our coats and waterproof bags….and now 2 bags of groceries.
Eventually back at the Venezia Santa Lucia train station we were cold and damp and it was almost 3 hours until our train departed. We couldn’t find seats anywhere so ended up back at the train station cafe along with half of Venice fighting over the same seas while drinking hot chocolate.
The train station is not tiny but there were virtually no seats, and plenty of cold and wet people camping out in the seats that there were. We ended up spending some time sitting on the ground between laps to look at all the glass stores. The glass is amazing but we feared much of it would get broken in the last 2 weeks of travel so stuck with the few small items we’d bought the previous day in Murano.
We wandered up and down the nearby streets while there were breaks in the rain. The streets were full of souvenir shops including plenty of Venetian masks and more glass objects. Since it was our last couple of hours in Italy we did manage to have our last gelato – a chocolate and, an amaretto macaroon which were pretty tasty, although not as nice eaten in the cold and rain as those ones on warm days in Sardinia after riding all day.
Finally there was only an hour left to kill and it was time to pick up our bags from the bag storage. The last hour was spent sitting on a cold train station floor (there were still no seats) and doing laps of the station with tired and cold kids. This is definitely not the fun part of travel. If the weather had have been nice it would have been a lovely day wandering Venice but you can’t control the weather….
At 7pm our train finally arrived and we were down to find our cabin. We’d booked the whole 6 berth cabin to ourselves for a little extra space and to avoid having to share with strangers. Soren being under 4 meant we didn’t need to pay for a seat/bed for him but I wasn’t keen on sharing, and the cost of a whole cabin was still less than a night in a hotel (if a lot less luxurious).
Our cabin wasn’t huge but we were glad there were only 2 adults and 2 kids in ours, not 6 adults like some of the cabins near us. All settled in for the next 16 odd hours, and we had our dinner of supermarket baguette, cheese, roast chicken and a salad for the vegetarian me. There might have also been wine! As you leave Venice the tracks head out across a bridge across the lagoon, it is certainly a scenic first part of the trip.
The kids were very tired but we eventually got them to sleep on the bottom bunks around 8.30pm. They fell asleep before we’d even had time to figure out how to convert their couches to beds. Since they are so little there wasn’t any shortage of room. Anto and I were relegated to the very top bunks. They are rather high, I could look down on a standing over 1.8m tall Anto from up on mine!
At about 9pm our tickets were inspected and our passports were taken by the ticket inspectors, and we were informed they would be returned by the French police at 5am, which sounded just fabulous. The provided pillows were not wonderful and I ended up sleeping on one of our packing cells of clothes with the pillow over the top which was comfier than it sounded. All in all the beds were actually a lot more comfy than trying to sleep on a plane.
After we were asleep we must have slept through several stops, including Milan. At one point we both woke up to find the train had been stopped for quite a while and there was an engine change. We noticed that the train seemed to stop quite frequently so and for large periods of time, so it wasn’t the speediest method of travel, although sleeping while trundling from Italy to France was quite the novelty.
Daily statistics for Tuesday the 18th of April 2017 in Venice, Italy – the temperature range for the day was 6 to 11 degrees with a mean of 8 degrees Celsius. There were high winds, rain and thunderstorms, not a particularly pleasant day, Venice is more enjoyable in the sunshine but picturesque any day. The total walking for the day was 10.4km.
Up next, the rest of our train journey to Paris and onwards to the Loire Valley. Things definitely didn’t go to plan but we finally made it to France and some wonderful food and a spectacular sunset in Amboise………..