Day 31. Our boat left very early in the morning, but thankfully the rain held off for us. The bus station was a ten minute walk from the dock in Split and we bought tickets to Zadar, which is four hours north, about half way to our destination.
We asked at the train station about taking the train, and she said
"You are much better off to take the bus"
The buses in Croatia are very modern, clean, inexpensive and extremely punctual. At exactly 8:30AM we headed north on our four hour journey. They lock the bathrooms on the bus, but the drivers all smoke so I know we will stop every two hours for a cigarette or bathroom break.
Our hotel in Zadar is a short walk from the bus station and although we booked a studio he put us in a one bedroom apartment. It was clean and nice enough was somehow strange. We were not comfortable there and glad to be only staying one night.
We walked into the old town which was about 40 minutes away. Zadar is about the size of Nanaimo, a university town, walled city and has some nice points of interest. We just walked around for a while, had lunch and then back to our room with some food bought at the market.
Day 32. Another early morning to catch our bus to Opatia, which is northern Croatia and very near the Italian border. The bus showed an American movie but the sound was turned off as there were Croatian sub titles. It was a nice distraction once in a while even though we could not really follow the movie.
The bus drivers are careful, not going too fast which is a good thing because the narrow road twists and turns through the mountains with the sea below.
We passed many seaside villages with lots of sailboats, sea walls hugging the coast and they all so very inviting. Most of the homes are white or light colored with red tile roofs and against the dark blue Adriatic it is very dramatic. In almost every small town however there will be one rebel who paints their home bright pink or yellow or something.
" We are in the yellow house, you can't miss it"
The weather changed quite often during our five hour drive from sun peeking from behind the clouds to rain pouring off the bus so that you could not see anything.
We arrived in the small town of Opatia and the skies opened as soon as we got off the bus. It was like standing under a waterfall. There was not a bus station, we didn't know where to go, so we dragged our luggage through a few inches of water to an overhang to collect our thoughts.
Normally I get instructions to our hotel the night before, but we did not have internet in Zadar. No taxis were to be had. After 10 minutes or so the rain subsided and we asked directions to the Hotel Istra. It was about a 15 minute walk so we decided to drag our bags there, as there were not a lot of options.
The hotel is older but nice, waterfront and the clerk upgraded us to an ocean front room with a small balcony which was appreciated. Our suitcases are soaked so we took everything out to dry them. Most of our clothes are in plastic compression bags so they stayed dry thankfully.
The town is very beautiful and later in the early evening we walked back into town to explore. The waves were crashing on the promenade and were about 10 feet high. We were not sure at the time if that was normal or not, but found out that it was not. I was sorry that I did not have my camera with me as it was really spectacular.
During the night there was an amazing storm with booming thunder, sheet lightening, lots of heavy rain and huge waves.
Day 33. Buffet breakfast is included with our room and there is a good variety to choose from. We walked into town to take the promenade to the next town of Lovosko.
Five minutes in to our walk the skies opened. I am really starting to get fed up at this point. I am not a happy camper, enough is enough. We went into a cafe so that I could have an attitude adjustment and a hot chocolate was just the thing to do it. The hot chocolate that we have had in Europe is unlike anything we have had anywhere. It is like chocolate mousse or melted dark chocolate in a cup. Heavenly.
The rain stopped, my attitude was better so we set off again to finish the 4K walk along the water. On tripadviser it says to take your bathing suit as it gets very hot on the walk and there are many platforms to go into the water along the way. It looked very inviting and must be a wonderful place to come in the summer months, or even at this time of year when the weather is normally much better.
The small fishing village is very picturesque and we stopped to have lunch at this very fancy looking restaurant with white tablecloths and elegant furnishings. We enjoyed one of the best meals we have had so far, which was a wonderful surprise and the price was very reasonable. Our walk back seemed much longer for some reason but the weather was better and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery.
Day 34. Rain again. We walked into town to buy our bus tickets to leave tomorrow.
We sat in our hotel room and read until the rain finally stopped at 4PM. We walked the seawall in the other direction to the town of Icici. There was a marina with some of the biggest yachts we have ever seen, and so many of them. There is a lot of money in this town, it appears very prosperous. The homes are very large and some extravagant.
Half way back we stopped at a restaurant and sat on the patio overlooking the water to have our dinner. There was hardly a cloud in the sky, the moon was reflecting on the water and we watch as sailboats search for shelter for the night. What a perfect way to spend our last night in Croatia.
Day 35. Our 5:15AM wake up call seems just too early. There was only one bus to Trieste this morning so we arranged a cab to pick us up at 6AM. Waiting at the bus stop we chatted with another couple around our age from Australia who have also been travelling around Croatia.
Our drive to Italy takes us though many fields of wheat and farmland.
Upon arrival in Trieste we walked next door to the train station and bought our tickets to Venice. We splurged and spent the extra $8 on first class. The train was not a high speed train but travelled quite fast through the countryside.
In two hours we arrived in Venice. Stepping outside the train station we were on the canal with boats, gondolas and the grandeur of Venice in front of us.
A vaparato, boat, took us to the Rialto bridge which is where the instructions for our hotel said to get off. Venice is crowded. I can not imagine what it must be like in the summer because it is wall to wall people now. The alleyways are only for pedestrians, there are not any cars or bicycles allowed here. Others like us are also pulling their luggage behind them,running over toes and feet along the way. It is a maze. We are walking in circles.
We stopped for lunch and checked the map, I went on google maps on my ipad and we were still no further ahead. We asked directions every 30 yards. Two hours later we found it and it was not very far from where we had lunch! Apparently this is very common. You will see so many people with suitcases walking around confused looking at the maps and just fed up.
Doug's sister told us that she had stayed at this monastery/ convent last time she was here so we booked it for four nights. The location is perfect. A five minute walk to St. Marks Square and not much further to the Rialto bridge,so right in heart of everything. We are on a canal and there are gondolas right outside our door. We have never stayed in a convent before so this is another first for us.
Our room is very basic but large and clean and the price is 80 euros per night, which for Venice is fantastic.
After a rest we explored the area for a few hours, and love it here. The weather is warm, sunny, dry and the food is so much better. Being a vegetarian has been extremely limiting in selection for me, but so far the food in Italy is great.
Doug's sister Sydney ended up at another convent about a half hour from here but we met for a fantastic dinner and caught up on all our travel news.
Day 36. Sydney met us at St. Marks Square this morning and we spent a few hours walking Venice. The shops are amazing. I want it all. The fashions, leather handbags, gloves, shoes and merano glass jewelry is fantastic. I will spend one morning shopping for sure.
We arrived at the Academia art gallery which houses many huge incredible Italian paintings. We all enjoyed the gallery a great deal.
We found a small restaurant and had another delicious meal and then I headed back to the room and Doug and Syd went to the Peggy Guggenheim museum which they enjoyed.
During the day the convent has a Catholic school and a daycare and there were many adorable little children in white smocks and pinafores playing in the reception area with the nuns and some of the parents. It is very noisy but with my earplugs in I was still able to get a couple of hours sleep.
The three of us all enjoyed our dinner tonight and then went to a small grocery store to get some fruit to keep in the room.
Venice, although incredibly crowded with many tour groups and cruise ship passengers, is a wonderful city and we are so happy to have four days here.
Day 37 We had pre booked entrance to St. Mark's Basilica for 10:45AM and as we were just around the corner from it we were able to have a leisurely morning and breakfast beforehand.
There was water around the church and platforms with scaffolding were arranged to get into the building. Apparently this happens all winter at high tide. By noon it is dry again and the planks are removed.
It was unfortunate that the audio guides were not working and we did not have a guide and although it was a beautiful church I am sure there was a lot more to it than what we thought. The crowds once again were oppressive and we all shuffle around from room to room.
I spent some time taking pictures outside of the square and we just hung around for an hour or so taking it all in and people watching.
Sticker shock. We were living on a total of $60 per day in Romania. I knew Venice would be more, but we are lucky if we can get through lunch on $60 here. The way to do it would be to do a lot of stand up fast food take out which is more reasonable, relatively speaking.
This morning for example we ordered two plain omelettes , one piece of toast each, one coffee each in a pretty plain cafe and it came to $45.
Yesterday I had a big piece of fantastic vegetarian pizza at a take out place, but you could still sit down and it was only $6.
I convinced Doug to do a Gondola ride with me and our driver pointed out a few sites along the way through some narrow canals and then onto the Grand Canal which has bigger boats as well.
Everything here is delivered by boat. Flowers, fruit, vegetables, beer kegs, lumber. Delivery men need to unload the boat from the canal point nearest to their destination and then use a trolly for the rest of the way, negotiating through the hoards of people. I saw two guys this morning with a huge trolly of liquor bottles working together to go up the stairs to get over the bridge and then down again. Everything is an effort.
While I was resting in the room Doug went exploring for a few hours to other parts of Venice. He arrived back shortly before we we met Sydney to go to an Opera that we had tickets for.
We all really enjoyed the opera which was a medley of different performances done by very skilled musicians and two male and one female singers. Everyone was in Venetian dress from the Baroque period and they involved the audience at certain points. I just loved it and the one and a half hour show was over too soon for me.
Our convent has a 10:30PM curfew which I did not think would be an issue, but we would have liked to gone out after wards for a drink of something. Mother Superior would have us locked out if we were late I think, so we walked back just in time.
Day 38. Every year at this time there is a huge modern art international exhibition in Venice called the Biennale. Sydney and Doug spent the day exploring some of the exhibits that were at various locations around Venice and really enjoyed it.
I am not a big fan of modern art so chose to spend the day on my own shopping and had a fabulous time. I learned pretty quickly that every store has pretty much the same price for the same goods, it was just a matter of choosing which one.
I bought two Italian leather purses, some Merano glass jewelry and a sweater. All for me!! The prices were not that bad, not much more than at home but completely different from anything I could buy at home. As a matter of fact my Italian leather handbag was less than dinner for two. So I have it all figured out, don't eat, just come to shop. There were so many amazing things. The clothes and shoes!!! The jewelry is all bright jewel tones and lots of fantastic glass work.
I got back to the room around 2PM exhausted. Doug and Syd were still out until 6PM so at 4 I went to St. Marks Square and just walked around and enjoyed the sun for a couple of hours.
Sydney is leaving Venice tomorrow as are we. She is heading home in a day and we are off to Cinque Terre. After dinner we packed our suitcase in preparation for our train tomorrow.
We wandered around Venice for a few hours and then left on the Vaporato for the train station. It took a lot longer than we anticipated and we had to go straight to our train and not pick up any food for the ride.
There were a young Australian couple beside us with their two adorable girls around age 6 and 8 who had taken a year off to travel around Europe. The first half of our trip to Milan went by very quickly as we talked the entire way.
A short connection to our next train but Doug took the luggage and I ran off and was able to find some food for the next three hours of the trip. We were joined by four 30 something women who were going to Cinque Terre for the weekend and spoke Swedish the entire way and were having a great time. I put on my headphones and tried to sleep.
We travelled across Italy to the West coast and came into Genoa. What a gorgeous city, large palatial looking villas with palm trees overlooking the Italian Riviera. I think it may warrant a trip back at some point.
At 7PM we arrived into Levanto, our home for the next three nights. We were picked up by the owner of our hotel who does not speak a word of English and our Italian is pathetic. We have a cute little room with a terrace. We walked a short distance to find a place for dinner and find that none of the menus are in English or anyone speaks English. This will be interesting..