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Venice [Sep. 13th, 2007|10:36 pm]

We got into Venice about 20 minutes late, just after 2pm. Our hotel had been selected for its proximity to the station, so we were soon ready to head off for another wander around Venice.

It was too late to do anything touristy - the queues everywhere would've been huge. Instead, we jumped on the #1 water taxi towards St Mark's Square and the Lido, and got off at the last stop before the Lido. This left us at almost the south eastern corner of the city, S. Elena.

Our plan was to see much of the east and north of the city, and stay off the tourist routes. We enjoyed a quiet stroll through S. Elena (which felt very unlike the rest of Venice), the crossed over just north of the Giardini Pubblici. Sticking to back streets, it was up to S. Pietro. Here we located a very nice church with garden in front of it, and chilled for a little bit. It's quite Venitian, but quiet, shame it's such a long way to get too... Then it was a wander through the backstreets to Via Garibaldi, a large street in the east of the city from where a canal was filled in. Dodging tourists, we nipped up to the entrance to the Arsenale. This was still a little busy, but worth putting up with for the impressive buildings.

After a quick beer in a bar overlooking the Arsenale entrance, we pushed on. Sticking mostly to the quieter routes, we wandered up towards the north of the island, enjoying the interesting buildings (if you have the time, Venice is a wonderful city to just wander about in). Eventually we re-joined the tourists, and took the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal, onto San Polo. We found a nice cheap pizza place, had a good meal, then wandered back to the hotel and fell asleep....

On Monday, we were up early, and had made it to St Mark's Square before 9am. This allowed us to get up Campanile and take in the views, all before half 9. It was a great time to be up there, while everything was bright, but before it got too hot or cloudy. After decending, we joined the St Mark's Basilica queue just before it opened. In the end, we didn't have to wait too long, and were fairly soon inside. Despite the crowds inside, it is an amazing building to see inside, and worth the queues. Just make sure you take the time to keep looking up, as the ceiling's half of what you're there to see!

Ca RezzonicoWe'd intended to see some art, but hadn't factored on how many galleries were closed / half day on a Monday. By the time we'd had a coffee, it was looking very unlikely that we'd get into any of the big name ones. So, we flipped through our Rough Guide, and discovered Ca Rezzonico. This museum is set in an old Grand Canal palace, and has been around for nearly 70 years. The first floor features fittings, furnishings and frescos from the 18th century, and give a fair idea of what the place would've looked like then. The top two floors are filled with Venitian art, especially 17-19th century. They cover a huge range of art, and we found those paintings of how Venice used to be of particular interest. Given the range of things it has, and how relatively quiet it was, it's certainly one to visit. Oh, and there's a cheap Gondolier that takes you across the Grand Canal just by it, so it's easy to get to from San Marco.

With our fill of art for the day, we grabbed a spot of lunch near the University. Fed and watered, we decided to find a park. Unfortunately, the guide book lied, and almost all of the parks it showed on its map either didn't exist, or were private :( So, we got to walk all the way to the bottom of Dorsoduro, along to the port, through the back streets, and out to the south west corner. Failing to find a nice park, we opted to sit in a cafe for a bit, and chill. After we'd drunk all the lemonade we could handle, we decided to pop round the corner to the oldest church in Venice, S. Nicolo Del Mondicoli. This would've been a massive walk, had we not already been out that end of the island, so it was very quiet. The inside was good, and worth seeing if you're near, but probably not worth a huge walk to. Finally, we headed back to the station, did some shopping, and got our train. Probably our only complaint was that the maps in the Rough Guide get progressively less accurate the further off the beaten track you go (and hence the more you need them...), so we did end up with a few doublings back, and discovering things not where the map claimed them to be :(

On Tuesday morning, we arrived into Paris about on time, at about half 8. As we had over 2 hours until checkin closed on our Eurostar, and Ollie had never seen the Eifel Tower, we decided to head out to see it. A quick metro ride, and a slightly longer RER ride, and we were there. Unfortunately, we only had time to see it for 10 minutes, before heading back, so we couldn't walk Champ De Mars, just see it from near the base.

After a couple of RER rides more, we were at Gare Du Nord. In no time, we were speeding across France and then Kent, and back into Waterloo. Holiday over, but a great time had been had by all. Next stop, Brussels, Berlin and Prague, probably close to Easter :)