From Bath, I took the train back to London. I was really excited to do a little guided mudlarking along the Thames with LondonWalks. At low tide, you can walk along the shore and discover all kinds of cool things, many of them from the 1700s or earlier. As my guide stressed, however, you do have to be careful. Wear gloves and don’t touch your face until after you wash up, because you can catch a really nasty (and sometimes fatal) virus.
The south shore of London is very modern, and thus not very nice in my opinion, but it did give me a chance to walk across the Millennium Bridge. Didn’t see a single Death Eater, though….
I found several interesting things on the beach.
The red shard is part of an 1700s pottery plate, and the guide said it was unusual because it’s glazed on both sides. The long narrow pieces are also from the 1700s – the pipe stems from disposable clay pipes. Smoke once, throw it in the Thames. The piece in the upper right corner is my favorite thing, though. Since it has a fragment of writing on it, the guide was able to narrowly identify it as part of Victorian marmalade pot!
Then it was back to St. James Park for a look at the pelicans, which, once again, were on the far side of the island. Sigh. I did see lots of young swans.
And this bird, which I saw all over Great Britain. I think it’s a magpie?
And this lovely heron.
I made an early day of it, because the British cold that I started in the Scottish Highlands was really starting to kick in. I felt so bad by the time I was settled into my hotel, that I even considered whether I wanted to catch my flight to Venice at all. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to enjoy it, and I was a little nervous about flying if my head was all congested. I stopped by Boots Drugstore, and threw myself on the mercy of the salesgirl. She set me up some special travel ear plugs, some fizzy Vit. C and zinc tablets, and some decongestants. So I went to bed, and before I’d even properly gotten to sleep, the fire alarm in the hotel went off. I got up, and went out into the hall, but there was absolutely nothing going on, and after a couple of seconds, the alarm cut off. Another girl opened her door, and we discussed the odds of their actually being a fire, and decided to go back to bed.
I had to get up at four am, and fortunately, I was feeling better. And I’m so glad I didn’t miss Venice! My flight was fine, and the airport was simple to navigate. One tip: don’t buy your Aliliguna (water bus) tickets inside the airport. Everyone does that, and there’s a long line. If you wait until you get to the dock itself, there’s no line at all.
To get to the dock, you have to walk for about 11 mins through a parking lot and down the street (it’s well-marked), and then suddenly there’s the water, with a long line of water taxis and buses.
Around 1pm, I arrived at St. Marks.
All it took was one quick glance toward the square itself, and I decided to delay that part of Venice until evening. (Thank you, Rick Steves. Your Venice Guidebook was SO helpful, and never steered me wrong!)
Geez. Even in October, there’s too many people during the midday – I can’t imagine the hell of summer!
I booked at the Casanova Hotel, which was right behind St. Marks Square, and easy to find. I was stymied briefly by the light switches – until a maid showed me how to insert the brass part of my room key into a slot to activate the power.
Also interesting was a bell pull inside the shower. To pull in case you fall, and need emergency assistance!
After I checked in, I went and got myself lost. On purpose, since good old Rick Steves told me I couldn’t get really lost. All ways eventually loop back around to the Grand Canal, and San Marcos.
Once again, the weather was flawless.
The water was so gorgeous. So many different colors. I kept trying to capture its true colors, but I don’t think I ever did. Beside the Grand Canal, it smelled purely of saltwater, but in some of the smaller canals, it smelled of deeper, riper things. Not unpleasantly, though.
I spent almost all time in Venice just wandering around. The shopping wasn’t much – mostly very high-end designer stores, which I find boring – and glass/mask/paper stores, which after awhile, all start to look alike. I did buy a beautiful wire mask, and a handmade black glass cat for myself, as well as a few Christmas gifts for people who might be reading this blog. 😉
I kept passing signs for McDonald’s, but never actually found it.
One thing you should know about me is that I am not a foodie. I really don’t like restaurant food – homemade is so much better! The only real reason to eat out, in my book, is for simple convenience – or because you’re being social with friends. Since I was solo on this trip, I had no reason to be social, so it was all about convenience. I never did eat at any of the sit-down restaurants in Venice; I just walked up to one of the many sandwich places when I got hungry. I would have actually eaten at the McDonald’s if I’d come across it, because one thing I do find really interesting is how different a chain restaurant is when it’s in a foreign country. The menu is different, and and there’s all these odd little cultural details that fascinate me. In York, I ate at KFC – and I swear their chicken is a million times better than here. And you get little pots of gravy to dip your fries in.
The displays of fresh seafood along the street were beautiful, though.
After wandering until I was exhausted (I was still feeling a bit under the weather), I had a little rest in my hotel room until around 7pm. Then I finally went to St. Marks.
Most of the people had left, and the lighting had changed to one of those evenings where the sky is half stormy and half still blue.
Every so often, a flock of pigeons would take flight and fly by me, so close on both sides that sometimes their wings would brush my shoulders.
And then it started to rain, which drove away pretty much everyone but myself. The bells in the clock tower were chiming, and it was the closest thing to pure magic I’ve ever felt.
I walked down by the water, and managed to take the best two photographs of the whole trip:
And I think I’ll end this post here. Next up, Venice, part II.