In the hotel, they had a tiny bar next to reception where you can buy bottles and glasses of wine, which a few of us proceeded to do
! We asked if there were any bars in the area, and the man at reception pointed us in the direction to one. After a 10 walk, we came to a small bar where there were less than 10 people inside. The bartenders seemed very happy to see us. We ordered some beers and shots and had a nice time fooling around in this random local establishment. One of the girls from Japan had her very first beer! Warren (Safra) and I asked the bartender to make us some good shots, and bought everyone a round of this green mysterious liquid. No it was not absinthe, nor was it sour pucker apple schnaps. We called them the green shots of death, and had a laugh when we realized they were extremely weak.
We had a nice drunk walk back to the hotel, where we drank more wine and hung out in one of our hotel rooms. Needless to say this was the drunkest night of the trip. We blamed it on the green shots of death.
What an awful feeling the next morning! It was pretty difficult getting ready that quickly, and Ilena and I both made the awful decision to not bring jackets. In order to get to Venice, we had a short stroll to a train station, a 30 minute ride to Venice and then a boat ride to St Marks Square. It was freezing out and started to rain! The both of us decided to buy "university of Venizia" sweatshirts at a stand right next to the boat docks for about 20 euro
. In the end our fuzzy minds and poor decision left us with some souvenirs!
The day started with a short walking tour around the area, which was nice since it it SO difficult to navigate the canals and alleyways. Afterwards we had a completely free day until we had to meet up to do the Gondola ride around 4pm. It was a good deal since we paid about 20 euro each. If you can navigate your way back in time...
Gondola rides are VERY expensive, as 15-20 minutes will run you about 80 euro. We did not go into St. Mark's basilica, but you have the option of doing so in your free time afterwards.
Ilena and I decided that we wanted to see the old Jewish ghetto, which is all the way north in Cannaregio. We were starving, so we wanted to grab lunch first at a non touristy place of course. On the way to find lunch, we stopped in a coffee shop to get coffee, and I also had a small canolli (it was delicious). After much debate, we ended up at a lunch spot that wasn't good...We had gnocchi and Pizza. A disappointment, but we still had hopes for dinner! Again, plan out your day in Venice so that you can maximize your time. Meals and all! Usually your Tour manager will give you tips on where to go, but like I said this was our TMs last tour and he just wasn't really into it...so we didn't even bother asking him where to go. We followed this 1 road which was supposed to lead us to a particlar bridge to get to the Ghetto....honestly I am not sure what happened but we got lost! They say to just get lost in venice, which is what we wanted to do eventually, but not before seeing the ghetto! Eventually we found our way to the ghetto which was completely empty and far away from all the touristy buzz
. We paid for a tour of a few of the synagogues, which I believe were built in the 16th century. They were very pretty inside, which I was not expecting because the ghetto is really in shambles. Unfortunately we were pressed for time to meet everyone to get back for the gondola ride, so we had to cut the tour short. We decided to take the boat back to St Marks square...but in the end missed the tour group!! We decided to pay for a gondola ride ourselves, which was worth it because Venice is just so beautiful! its nice to see venice from the canals because it is a side of venice you can't see from the alleyways. Honestly I was not excited to come to Venice because the images i had in my head were just of the grand canal and all of the tourists. I ended up loving it and just want to go back!! After our Gondola ride we decided to go over to the castello district to find some dinner and get lost.
We had no problem getting lost, just a problem finding a place to eat. Every corner and canal was prettier then the next. It is such a magical city. It was around 5pm and I think many of the stores and shops are closed and re-open later in the evening. We were starting to think that we wouldn't find a place, when a nice lady asked us if we were lost. We told her that we were looking for a nice place to eat, and she told us that the best restaurant in the neighborhood was around the corner and over a bridge
. Funny thing is we just came from that way a little earlier, but the restaurant was still closed from the "siesta??". I am not sure if she was just being friendly, or if she had set out purposely to find people to go to the restaurant, but it definitely did not look like a touristy place. There was no menu outside of the restaurant, and decor was very simple. The menu was small and did not have items like pizza. The name of the place was Osteria d'Alberto. I read reviews afterwards, and it says that you really need reservations to secure a table, but I guess since we go there very early, they were able to seat us. So I guess it is a well known place, but off the beaten path. I had pasta with cuttlefish in ink, and Ilena had pasta with Pesto (they were out of eggplant, so she couldn't get the dish she wanted). My dish was honestly one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had in my life. I have never had cuttlefish, so i don't have anything to compare it to. It was buttery, salty and had a hint of "squid" flavor. Very good! We shared a small thing of wine and it was the perfect end to our hectic day. Side note, the bathroom here gave us a laugh. The toilets were very low to the ground. In fact, I am pretty sure they were floor level haha.
Afterwards we set off to find out way back to the boat docks by St Marks Square. It isn't that difficult to navigate because there are signs around ever corner that direct you to San Marco
. some are a little misleading, but when we got confused we would just pop into a store and ask someone. It was getting dark and there were not many people hanging out in this particular area, so it was eerie and beautiful. I forgot to mention that there is an optional group dinner on this night. Of course you already know that we opted out of it, but the others in the group said it was nice. I am all for doing group dinners on Contikis, except in a place where I know I only have a small window of time to experience the the countries true cuisine.
That night was a calm one in the hotel lobby bar where we drank wine and then turned in from tourist exhaustion.
We arrived at the Hotel Ambra Quarto D'altino around 5-6pm, however since it is outside of venice, we did not make the trip into the city that night. We had an included dinner next to the hotel, which was actually pretty packed. We didn't really have a choice of what to eat, but they served Lasagna (not that good). Venetian cuisine is different from your typical Tuscan or southern cuisine, so I didn't know what to expect. Since the Lasagna had meat, my friend asked to order the vegetarian dish. We noticed that the vegetarian dish actually had meat in it on the menu...Created some amusement for us. She asked if she could get a plain pizza, and although they gave her trouble for a while, they finally just gave it to her. She said it was VERY good, and we were all pretty jealous. Not sure if the meal included alcohol, but we all had some wine.