21 June 2015

Venice: The City of the Winged Lion

Latte Machiatto at the Train Station

Again, I am sorry for the late posts. WiFi was a nightmare in Venice once again - but I am back and should have many posts forthcoming as soon as they can be transcribed from my notebook to the computer.

So...arrival day in Venice was quite the debacle. Natalie and I, after our experiences in Florence, decided that arriving in a new city during rush hour is not a good thing. So we got up at 6 am and caught a train. 

We arrived in Venice around noon and set out to find our hotel and some very much needed food. Upon leaving the train station I was immediately spell-bound by the magical city of Venice. Gondolas and vaporettos vie for dominance of the Grand Canal while tourists and locals walk leisurely over the bridges. It is beautiful!


After wandering around for awhile we finally found a panini place where I decided to get lunch and a coffee: worst mistake ever! Not because the food was bad (it was actually quite tasty) but because Natalie found a much better place to eat just a few minutes down the road. It was a homemade pasta hole in the wall. She got a to go carton of pasta with bolognese sauce for 5 euros, and it was very, very good! One of the great things about having Natalie for a travel buddy is our shared passion for good food. We have eaten our way across Italy, and we always share food. I have gotten to try double the Italian food that I would have experienced if I had just traveled alone.
After lunch we wandered some more, looking for our hotel. For those of you who have never been to Venice, let me set the scene. There is water everywhere! Not only the Grand Canal, but many other, baby canals block your progress. The streets are very poorly marked and the buildings are built so close together that it is almost impossible to see landmarks (as opposed to Florence where we could see the Duomo from practically anywhere). I had a very good map (thank you, Leah!) but we still could not find our hotel. A nice man finally noticed our plight and walked us to the door of our hotel (for a small fee). The main problem was that we were looking for a building big enough to be a hotel. Our abode can scarcely be called a hostel, let alone a hotel in the Texas sense of the word. A small room with four twin sized beds and a bathroom that we share with the rest of our floor...certainly NOT the Ritz. Natalie and I were a few hours ahead of Hope and Alex so we decided to go to Murano and look for souvenirs. Here is where I enlighten my readers to Travel Tip #7: If you find something that you know you like, buy it, regardless of the expense. I found several things on that island that I knew I wanted for gifts for people back home, but I decided to keep looking...bad idea! All of the shops started closing at 6 and I was left with nothing but a big pile of regrets and beautiful memories of exquisite glass...tragic.

On the Vaporetto to Murano
Glass Sculpture on Murano

When all the shops on Murano started closing, Natalie and I took it as a sign that we should move on. It also started raining, one more clue it was time to head back to Venice. Not sure I have put this in writing before, but just for the record: I do not have an umbrella or a rain poncho, and the raincoat I brought rarely gets put in my bag because of its bulkiness. I have valiantly (or stupidly) resisted buying an umbrella/poncho from the myriad road side vendors who repeatedly hassle me to buy one. With the forecast this weekend it will be a miracle if I do not cave...but that is the goal! I do not want to spend the money on something right before I come home that is not particularly useful to me once I return. Now back from my tangent...once back in Venice we looked up restaurants at the hotel for potential dining options. We had heard from Dr. Redman that food in Venice is often underwhelming and we wanted to be sure we got a good option. I found a place called Travena San Travaso that looked promising according to Yelp and Trip Advisor (also, Travel Tip #8: Yelp seems to be the rich person place to review restaurants. If it says that the restaurant is affordable, this could mean anywhere from 17-30 dollars per meal. Trip Advisor is much more close to the college student's notions of "affordable"). We decided to go to the Traverna and eat...not a good choice. At this point in time I would like to write a brief disclaimer. On Thursday I had woken up at 6 am in the morning for our bus ride after staying up until almost 1 am packing. That means a grand total of 5 hours of sleep - not enough for any human being, I don't even know if superman would be ok with that much sleep...in any case certainly NOT optimal. With that being said, my experience at this restaurant was the worst I have ever had at any restaurant in the history of my restaurant dining life bar none. Here is how it went down:I ordered the pasta with Duck sauce. When it came out, it was a dark black mass of pasta that smelled atrocious, though visually stunning:

 I asked the waiter if it was the Duck sauce pasta, he said it was "dark sauce" pasta, which was not what I ordered, then he stormed off. I did not want to eat the black pasta, both because I wasn't sure how much it costed and because it smelled very unappetizing. So my friend called over one of the waitresses and asked her if the pasta I had was the Duck sauce pasta. She said no and that she would take care of it. I usually do not complain, but I did not want to pay 15+ dollars for something I did not want to eat. The waiter then came up again and said that he had worked here 15 years and that I did NOT say duck sauce and he was NOT stupid! He yelled at me in front of the whole restaurant and called me a liar. It was terrible! I have never been treated that way in a restaurant in my entire life. It was a traumatic experience.

In Honor of Giovanni Bellini

Travel Tip #9: I would highly advise not going to the Traverna unless you do not mind getting yelled at and treated like an idiot. I was not setting out to ruin this waiter's evening. I was calm and collected, and did not call him stupid. I just did not want to eat that unappetizing dish. It is not something I would ever order. What really upset me was that he accused me of lying and yelled at me in front of the entire restaurant which was a humiliating experience.

The food is not cheap either. I paid 16.50 for pasta and a Bellini. On the way out of the restaurant we asked to speak with the supervisor and were asked why we wanted to speak with him. Upon saying we had a question, we were informed that he does not speak English, so we could not communicate with him. It was a shockingly awful experience, and one that made me yearn to be back in the good ole US of A where I (as a consumer) am always right. Working in the food industry I understand that in a capitalistic meritocracy one cannot treat a consumer that way. If any of my friends from Chickfila are reading this, please remember that though customers may try our patience sometimes, no customer should EVER have the type of experience I did at a restaurant of any kind in the US. Common human courtesy (if not marketing intelligence) should be enough to make this interaction obsolete.

After dinner we returned to the hotel and went to bed. It was a long, full day. Seeing Venice for the first time was fascinating! Though I was less than impressed with the people of this magical city. We will see how interactions with the locals improve upon closer acquaintance. Until next time, goodnight from the city of the Winged Lion!

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