Please forgive the radio silence of late, but it seems that the economy of God's most holy Kingdom and Mission is contingent upon us have Annual General Meetings!
Oh, and we have been away.
So, here goes - the Vernacular Guide to three days in Venice.
1. Arrive in Venice before lunch - eating is a good way of assimilating the cost of things, and an easy way to try out the language and not make too much a Muppet of oneself. If the weather is nice and you have previously resigned yourself to bankruptcy, arrive in style on a river taxi - a speed boat all of your very own. You will feel like the Duke of Earl and you don't have to attain proximity to the armpits of fellow travellers at this early stage. There is no better way to enter Venice the first time!
2. Spend all afternoon walking around every and anywhere. An early ascent up the Campanile is recommended as it will give you a chance to actually come to terms with the fact that you have stepped into a postcard. We didn't queue for long, and again, it is another opportunity to learn that the money you once had is soon to be taken from you like daylight robbery! Time it right and the bells will deafen you! It is also a lot chillier up there, so don't be a fruit-loop like me and cast aside the warmer garments!
3. Explore hither and yon - grab coffee and don't worry about grabbing a seat. Coffee is received on the hoof in Venice and you prop up a bar much like the stubbly geezers at my local. It is, though, good coffee and typically administered short and black. Take in the promenade in front of the Doge's Palace - to be standing before 'that view' is just a little weird at first. The streets that project from St Mark's Square are loaded with the finest boutiques and if, like me, you find masks a little disconcerting, be prepared for a full onslaught of a million of the buggers. Masks everywhere, including those dark ones with beaks. Actually, there are some wonderful things to admire - lots of glass, lots of art, some Dali stuff: browse at leisure. For me, it was no less good time than the paid-for tours - just meandering.
4. Food - I am not made of money and neither is Mrs Acular, so we entered the food-chain lower down. There are lots and lots of places to eat, many selling very good fish dishes (I am told). I wanted to eat Italian food in Italy to plonked for lasagne and the like - it is really is a lot better than home. Expect to pay around £75-£100 per couple before any volume of booze, and don't forget that a meal in Europe is expected to be paced over a whole evening. Oh, and 'service' (12% for us) is not the tip.
5. Day Two - an absolute must is a vaporetto ticket (a 12 hr one will suffice). The Vaporetto is the river-bus-boat-thing and a ticket will allow a hop-on hop-off endeavour. Just explore Venice and the Islands at leisure. Murano is worth a stop as it the island where the famous glass industry is based (oddly enough) - oh, and its church has a stunning brand new huge icon of Christ on the Cross. Needless to say, a schlep up and down the Grand Canal is a must. Again, you will enjoy that odd sense of being on a movie set or within an arty text-book again. Questions like: "am I really here looking at this?" will haunt you. Yes. You are. Lunch is cheap if you grab a bread roll and a coffee (take-away), and two such lunches will leave you change from a twenty. For dinner find a new restaurant, and as a rule of thumb (in any place you may care to visit in this world), if the menu is laminated and bears pictures of the dish, it is likely to be questionable.
5a - Day Two if it is a Sunday - get into as many of the stunning churches as you can, but don't forget that they are mostly active and will have services going on. But they are probably the most beautiful edifices in the world, kept open all the time even with the metal-work on full display. No English fear of robbery there! Sadly, in my visit to many churches, only one church was locked: the Anglican one.
6. Day three - Tours day. There is a plethora of tours and other means by which the tourist industry of Venice will squeeze you dry. Our choice was between two short tours or a full-day one. The former combination set us back a hundred quid. The latter would have doubled that. In the end, we plonked for a visit of San Marco's Basilica and also of the Doge's Palace (the full day would have added a gondola ride, a tour of the Canal and some other bits and bobs). The Basilica is stunning inside and out, if you can overlook the fact that you are wedged cheek-by-jowel with loud teenage students, rude adults and pongy punters. It really is cattle-class, but it is the only way as every lens-wielding wannabe photographer in the whole of the whole world is also in there with you. You will guided towards the Pala D'Oro, a pretty altar frontal made of gold. It is, apparently, the highlight of the tour and those of you of a Christian disposition will notice that no-one bothers with the body of none other than St Mark of Gospel fame. I stood within feet of his relics the days before his feast day. I was the only one who venerated him or paid any attention to him - everyone else seemed more interested in the medieval frontal. Now - if you are reading this and think it is clever to take pictures in a church, over relics or during a service, know that you are a pratt. Enough Said. The second tour was to the Dodge Palace (as we quickly referred to it). Fascinating. You will stand before art that will blow your mind. Soak it up! Oh - if you like Salvador Dali (and I do, a lot), there is an exhibition in town of the genuine stuff. Visit it.
6a - A Restaurant to try: we ambled aimlessly between hundreds of places, until we stumbled over a small and apparently modest affair, a jazz restaurant near Rialto Bridge (a bridge that, in itself, didn't do anything for me and I still find myself wondering what the fuss is all about). I am not a fan of jazz, or at least I wasn't until I went in there. The food was good, the service exemplary, the waiter entertaining and gracious (and he kept giving us free drinks), and it was the best evening we had (or have had for some time). Highly recommended: Bacaro Jazz Restaurant and cocktail bar (the limonicello with vodka was nice too)
7. Day Four: Go home - plan well as leaving Venice is either costly by taxi or time consuming by vaporetto. We opted for the latter in driving rain. To breakfast in Venice and lunch in London is a funny thing - but that is for another post.