What do water taxis, overpriced gondola rides, dead foxes, and penis-shaped cookies all have in common?

IMG_7274Venezia!

After my first trip to Venice about ten years ago, I decided that it can be conquered in a day, more or less. That said, this visit was full of new experiences and surprises, including listening to an opera on the street, getting accosted by criminals in chains, planting a smooch on a gal who had cookies in the shape of penises draped all over herself, and chasing down a fox (the animal kind, not the aforementioned genitalia-adorned lady) with our rental car.

So maybe it’s two days.

We decided to drive up from Florence instead of taking a train just so we could see the sights, stop when and where we want, and get a chance to run over animals. Turns out we had to settle for two out of three.IMG_E7281

The loser of the three ideas mentioned above are the sights. The drive between Bologna (the next closest city… or maybe that’s what we had for lunch) is rather plain. As you approach, it all looks rather industrial, offering little evidence of the incredible beauty and uniqueness of the city that sits –perhaps floats– across the bridge.

Parking isn’t cheap, and you have to find your way to a water taxi from the large parking structure in order to get into town. The train would certainly make things easier, and if we were to do it again, I think we’d take it. So I guess you could say that in the future we’ll be better trained. Bah-dump-buh.

IMG_7593One of the most popular and iconic areas is St. Mark’s Square, which is dominated by “The Great Church of St Mark,” which you can’t see here because I don’t like things or people that call themselves great. If it was humbly called “The Pretty Good church of St. Mark” I could get behind the whole thing.

IMG_7282As you might imagine in Venice, lawnmower sales are in the toilet, which I hope this whole water system isn’t a part of.

IMG_7284Gondolas are everywhere on the water, but serve no purpose other than as a tourist ride.

In the GondolaCarolyn made me promise her to take her on a gondola ride while there, but after I saw the 100 euro price tag, I made some minor adjustments. So, uh, here we are on the gondola ride. I know you might not remember this well honey, but we’ll always have this photographic evidence that we took one! By the way, have you seen my coat with the white fur collar? I can’t find it anywhere!

IMG_7591This is a scene of some water, buildings, and boats. I have a feeling that most pictures taken by tourists in Venice can be described thusly.

IMG_7288This is the aforementioned domineering and really great church of St. Mark, who, for whatever reason, is the patron saint of attorneys. No wonder it goes about bragging all the time. And the cost per hour just to visit! They probably bill in fifteen minute increments. We decided not to go in because of the lines and just in case they really took the patron saint stuff seriously and sued us for smudging the tile.

IMG_7293Even though it was March, a time we thought would be at least a little off-season, the crowds were pervasive. In the foreground you can see a young pickpocket sizing up his prey.

IMG_7608This is a scene of some water, buildings, and boats.

IMG_7610This is a scene of some water, buildings, and boats.

IMG_7613This is a scene of some water, buildings, and boats.

IMG_7297This is a scene of –oh, sorry. Obviously this is a famous bridge because a lot of people are on it. It has one of those names you take very seriously while there, but completely forget as soon as you walk away.

IMG_7654And in case you missed it the first time.

IMG_7616The story behind this unique art is that a set of parents grew exasperated with their young son who kept telling the joke about the Swiss mother who took her daughter Heidel and son Hans on a hike in the alps, and when her brother fell off the cliff, Heidel cried, “Look Ma, no Hans!”

The young boy would laugh uproariously each time he told it, even the one hundred and forty fifth. So his parents built this artwork next to their house in order to prevent him from ever telling that joke again, because now there are always hands.

IMG_7617She sticks with me despite the bad dad jokes, for which I’m eternally grateful.

IMG_7301We thought this street was incredibly interesting only because it had no people on it! We wandered far afield to get away from the crowds, and were rewarded with views of the daily life of Venetians as well as some other cute surprises.

IMG_7622This is a scene of some water, buildings, boats, and a gondola.

IMG_7623Again, no crowds! Woo hoo!

IMG_7320The obligatory this-door-may-be-a-bit-too-short shot. We thought maybe they only had hobbits in Portugal.

IMG_7626

In some of the back alleys we wandered, we saw occasional craftsmen and artisans doing their thing. This man is a toilet seat artisan. Or not.

IMG_7627We were amazed to see that they memorialized Carolyn’s birth year in Venice! And she hadn’t even been there before! As they say in Portuguese, “Inacreditavel!” Still, despite our insistent banging on the gate, no one let us in. Tourist trap, obviously.

IMG_E7324Well, my birthdate door pales in comparison to Carolyn’s. It’s probably a prison or mental hospital.

IMG_7339Just call me De Mezo, which means “Taller than your short-ass tunnels.”

IMG_7341This is a scene of some water, buildings, and boats.

IMG_7638Carolyn sitting back admiring her freshly painted graffiti.

IMG_7633We were shocked to see prisoner transfers were done with very little security. Seriously, it turns out this is a sort of a pre-wedding tradition. The soon-to-be-prisoner/groom is paraded around by his friends who sing lustily and generally have a good time. When they confirmed he was getting married, I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” They got a good laugh out of that.

IMG_7348I’m sorry, but few men can see a woman walking around with penis cookies draped all over her and not be driven to kiss her. It’s kind of like when Spock went all crazy on Kirk after getting doused with lust hormones. It’s just not his fault, man!

Actually, this is the female version of what the men were doing. If you plant a kiss on her cheek (and more importantly donate a euro or two to the cause), you get a penis cookie! It’s a win/win! You can tell she was really getting into it.

IMG_7690Although when we got back to our apartment, Carolyn decided they probably weren’t her thing; her hair’s even shocked.

IMG_7640These guys couldn’t (or wouldn’t) play the theme song from The Flintstones as requested, but I gave them a euro for gamely trying to play Stairway to Heaven.

IMG_7642This is a selfie in front of some water, buildings, and boats.

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 7.20.12 PMA short video of this incredible singer is posted here. Now I’m no fan of opera, but this woman was amazing. As far as we could tell, she was just passing by and encountered this group of men all dressed up in period costumes doing some sort of fundraiser. So she steps up to the mike and goes all Pavarotti on them. What a delightful little treat we encountered just by wandering the back streets of Venice!

IMG_7649Churches everywhere, and they all cost enough to feed the people for decades. But hey, who needs food for the body when you’re getting food for the soul?

IMG_7656The actual reason the Catholic church made their churches so gaudy –or is it goddy?– (sorry), was to make sure church-goers felt humbled and insignificant. I could have saved them a lot of money just by pointing out that I feel exactly that way every time I look up at the stars. Build churches with no ceilings and have the services at night!

IMG_7658This is a scene of some water, buildings, and boats. And you know, the shape of that dome is a lot like the shape of an astronomical dome. If you’re not going to do the no-ceiling thing, at least retrofit a nice telescope in there.

IMG_7659This is an entirely different and amazing scene of… some water, buildings, and boats.

IMG_7665Carolyn goes all artistic with her camera. Three doors of the day in one!

IMG_7666I took this photo to give us some ideas for our own outer home decor.

IMG_7670Another Door of the Day. Actually she was just monkeying around.

IMG_7379The sun began going down and the lights in St. Mark’s square began lighting up. We were hoping it would be real dramatic and awesome, but…

IMG_7382It looked like the same square except with some lights. Oh, well.

IMG_7384Lining the street level of this arcade is a series of high-end shops. The kind where if you have to ask how much something costs, you either can’t afford it, or, you know, just didn’t know what the price was.

IMG_7388When the sun went down and the lights came up, the band started playing, just like in the Titanic movie. I wasn’t sure if that meant the city was now sinking and I should push all the women and children aside during a mad dash to the boats or not.

IMG_7390I opted to play it cool.

IMG_E7378Photobombing our own travel pictures.

IMG_6838And this is the hair of the dog… or fox as it turns out.

About a half hour outside of Venice I spied a blur that ran right into the driver’s side tire. We heard and felt Thunk! followed by a pair of Clunks! as the tires rolled over the hapless animal. It had moved so fast I had no time to react, which was probably a good thing. We stopped at the next available rest stop, and I pulled this lock of fur out of the bumper. Once we got back to our apartment, we did some research and decided it was a fox, which are very common in that area. Fortunately, I’d read that buying the extra car insurance they always try to foist on you is actually a good idea in Italy. So for the first time in my life I bought it, and it paid off. Because boy howdy, she came out an inspected the car with a flashlight like she was a teenage girl looking for a zit on her face right before the prom. She went over every inch of the paint until she spotted a small scratch in the car door, whereupon I mentioned that we’d hit an animal, although I was not even close to being positive that the tiny scratch hadn’t already been there when we rented it.

“So sorry, we will have to charge your credit card 300 euros.”

That’s a pretty blatant rip off (even if my separately purchased insurance will cover it), so I didn’t bother to tell her about the broken mudguard on the front of the car that really was the result of that impact. She got so caught up in the thrill of catching the scratch that she didn’t look over the rest of the car. The 300 euros is plenty for ’em anyway. Scoundrels.

 

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