A time to sit and reflect on what I've seen and learned after an extremely hectic couple of days seems like a good thing.
First, I'm spending my first night in Venice, Italy. It's 9 pm on Sunday evening here. Really I'm in Spinea, a little suburb 20 minutes from Venice proper in a beautiful AirBnB. But I got here is a long story.
First, I left beautiful Naxos on Thursday, returning to Athens for one night so I could pick up my brand new passport at the Embassy on Friday, (Only between the hours of 12Noon and 1:00PM)
I had the very lovely treat of spending the rest of that afternoon at the home a new Greek friend, Hara G. Hara and I had chatted briefly when I was still in Chicago as we have mutual Greek friends who are members of IWA and wanted us to meet. But both our times were so busy that all we managed was a phone conversation and the exchange of emails and phone numbers. When I first arrived and contacted her, she once again had a packed schedule, but it turned out that my very last day in Athens she had free and she very graciously invited me to lunch at her beautiful condo in the Aghia Paraskevi neighborhood.
How nice it was to spend several hours chatting about a wide range subjects - the International Women's Club in Athens, children, hopes, dreams, travel - while dining on a home-cooked meal and sipping a nice white wine!
All too soon it was time to head back to the hostel to pick up my luggage and get a cab to the bus terminal so I could hop the express bus to Paatra. It was from Patra (2 1/2 hours from Athens) that I would board the very plush and large 'car ferry' that would carry met to Venice, Italy.
The ship departed at 11:59 pm and reminded me of a typical cruise ship - lounges, restaurants (high end and self-serve) bars, cafes, ship stores, very nice cabins and even a disco! You have lots of choices of how to sleep on this boat. You can actually sleep in your car - or in your camper. You can sleep anywhere there is a chair or a couch on any of the decks - which the majority of the backpackers, high school groups and workers did. Or you can get a cabin.
Because it is not yet high season, I lucked out and had a 4-bed cabin (which I would have shared with 3 other women) all to myself! Yeah - I got out my stretchable clothes line and did all my hand washing. I had clothes drying all over the place - it looked like a photo from steerage on a 1900's immigrant crossing
So very nice you say - well yes..and no. I just couldn't sleep - either night. FYI, crossing the Adriatic Sea takes 1 1/2 nights and 1 full day, arriving in Venice the next morning at 7 a.m. It was rather bumpy and THEY LET THE PASSENGERS SMOKE IN THEIR CABINS - ARGH! It drifted into mine and just made my stomach turn. Smoking wasn't allowed any place else inside the ship, but all of the outdoor seating areas (did I mention there also was a pool?!) were smoking areas.
And boy do the Europeans still smoke - in restaurants, in bars, in taxis, on the street. Being a 'recovered smoker' is worse than a non-smoker as I think we can smell smoke a mile away, After years now of non-smoking restaurants and bars and even some non-smoking outdoor areas in the States, it's amazing how stinky cigarette smoke is.
And one last thing that just finished off the on-board portion of the trip - I forgot to change my alarm clock to Italian time. I gained an hour and didn't know it - so my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. I just couldn't figure out why I was the only person up and moving around when were going to be docking in an hour.- not!
But now comes the fun part! I had checked and rechecked the ship's website so I knew where we were docking. Martha, the BnB owner had sent me specific directions on how to get from the port to her place - except they changed ports! And the new port is nowhere near the old port.
With very few English-speakers to ask for help, finally managed to take a shuttle-bus out of the port to the RV camping site where the local buses pick you up and take you to the train station where you can catch another local bus which is suppose to take you to exactly where you are going - because you have written the stop down and shown it to the driver! That didn't work too well.
When he told me to get off the bus - I was no where near any of the landmarks Martha had said I would find. So I'm dragging my suitcase and backpack down the main street, asking every person I meet if they 'parla inglese' and getting no help at all. Finally I walk to a big church where there is a little tent set up in front selling nick-nacks and food-stuff for a mission project. I asked if either of the 2 men in the booth spoke English and I literally cried when the both said - Sure! I showed them the address and out came their smart phones. They conferred and the next thing I knew, one of those gentlemen said follow me....He put my luggage in the back of his car and drove me the 2 miles back to the front door of the BnB, pointing out where I need to catch bus stop into Venice for in the morning!
There are some very good and kind people in this world and I was so very lucky to find several today that made my little trip here just a wee bit less adventuresome. And I didn't even tell you about trying to buy a bus ticket in the train station! Another time.
Suffice to say, I finally arrived at the Chiocciola Venice Bed & Breakfast. My room wasn't quite ready, but I sank down into a chair in kitchen, had my first cup of coffee of the day and spent the next hour using their very strong wi-fi signal to take care of some long, over-due emails and book myself an all-day walking tour and gondola ride for Tuesday. Then I found a really lovely, old, old home that was turned into a lovely Italian restaurant and sat down and ordered - a pizza and a big glass of wine! Spent the afternoon reading and napping and now I ready to call it a night. Tomorrow Venice and lots of photos will be taken and shared in the next post!
Until next time.....