We arrived in Venice, the final stop on our cruise, while we were having our final breakfast on board the MS Ryndam. We went out on deck to watch the sun come up over the city as we pulled into the harbor.
|Sunrise in Venice|
We left the ship for the final time and boarded a boat for our final excursion—a visit to two of the Venetian Lagoon's forty islands: Murano and Burano. On the way, our guides pointed out the sites: Piazza San Marco, the Arsenal (Venice's navy shipyard), San Michele (the island that serves as the city's cemetery), and—of greatest interest to the majority of us—Elton John's house on the Grand Canal.
|Piazza San Marco|
On the island of Murano, which is known for its glass factories, we visited... (wait for it) a glass factory. We saw a glassblowing demonstration that was fairly interesting (if you had never seen a glassblowing demonstration, which most of us had), but the real purpose of the visit was, of course, to get us to buy something from the gift shop. Most of the beautiful art glass was outside our budget, but Loretta found a few small trinkets that did not require taking out a second mortgage.
|Beautiful Murano Art Glass We Did Not Buy|
On the island of Burano, which is known for fishing and lacemaking, we were told by our guide that, if we wished to skip the lacemaking demonstration, we could have an hour to explore on our own. I felt sorry for the lacemakers, because I don't think anyone went to the demonstration. We were all far more interested in exploring the streets lined with brightly colored shops and houses. According to our guide, the reason the houses on Burano are painted so colorfully is to keep the fishermen from going home to the wrong house (and wife).
|Colorful Burano Houses|
Kevin and I enjoyed a beer at a quiet cafe while Susan and Loretta did the obligatory shopping. We may have escaped the lacemaking demonstration, but we weren't about to leave Burano without something made of lace.
|Colorful Burano Lace Shop|
Our tour boat returned us to the harbor, where we retrieved our luggage and boarded a bus to take us to our hotel just outside Venice. Remembering what a nightmare the check-in was in Barcelona, Susan and Loretta raced into the lobby to be first in line while Kevin and I stayed outside with the luggage. We were fortunate that our bus was the first to arrive. As bus after bus stopped to unload more guests, the line got longer and longer. It was nearly an hour before Loretta came out to tell us that we had rooms, but to keep quiet about it because no one else did. They were checking people in as rooms became available, and it was a slow process. People were losing patience. Tempers were running high. We quickly and quietly moved our luggage up to our rooms, so as not to be at the center of a riot.
|Cruisers Waiting to Check in at NH Laguna Palace|
By the time we were installed in our rooms, it was after 3:00 and we had not yet had lunch. We sneaked past the angry mob in the lobby and walked up the street in search of a restaurant. We found several, but most of them were closed for the afternoon "riposo." There was only one place that was open: a quiet little wine bar with a limited menu. The waiter didn't speak English, but he was friendly and eager to please. He recommended the chicken and the "boofalo mozzarella," and we ordered both. Showing him our map, Loretta asked him what we should see in Venice. He replied, pointing out the locations on our map: "Piazza San Marco... Ponte di Rialto... Grand Canal vaporetto." (A "vaporetto," we had learned on our morning boat tour, was a water bus—the primary means of transport in Venice.)
It wasn't long before we started to see people from our cruise wander by, looking for a place to eat. As they passed the open door, we waved them in and told them this was the only place that was open. Soon our quiet little wine bar was packed. We gave up our table to a group of our fellow cruisers and adjourned to the hotel for a riposo before dinner.
Dinner was at another nearby restaurant called "BEFeD," which advertised itself as a brew pub, although they only served two kinds of beer: lager and "red." The menu informed us, in fairly good English, that the name came from the initials of the four owners, and that their specialty was grilled chicken: "the ideal food to be eaten in a genuine way according to local tradition and to the Mediterranean diet"—"genuine way," we deduced, meaning with the fingers. The chicken was tasty, and the beer wasn't bad. There were also bowls of peanuts, the shells of which, the menu told us, "must be thrown rigorously against the floor."
It was pleasant sitting outdoors by the canal, drinking red beer, eating chicken in a genuine way, and watching the little girl at the table next to us rigorously throw peanut shells against the floor, then rigorously stomp on them.