Stepped off the train from Zurich (where we spent another restless night with a little old Italian couple, to be awoken by the conductor at 4:30am), walked through the exit doors and there was Venice…just as one imagines. It could have been a painted scene right there in front of us. Liquid roads of gondolas, boats and canals, and row upon row of old buildings that have somehow stood the test of time and water erosion…..another “pinch oneself” moment. Snapping back to reality, we purchased an all-day pass on a vaperetto (water taxi) and flagfalled our way to our hotel, Hotel Riva, about a 2 minute stroll to the famous St. Marco Square, with our fourth floor room overlooking an inviting and serene canal. Donned the wet weather gear and set off, first exploring the square, then the Basilica where St. Mark is buried. Hopped on another vaperetto for a tour of the place, but would you believe it….Mr and Mrs X are in one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the world, and we were falling asleep! We had both hit the wall. BANG! So we headed back and had a 2-hour nanna nap in the middle of the afternoon. But it had it’s desired effect, because we were then revitalised and ready to take on the city. When we re-emerged from our room, as if pre-determined, there was a gondola parked right outside our door, so what the heck, we hopped on board for a romantic half an hour (80 euro) tour as only the movies can provide. It was very romantic and restful, and well worth the money. We even passed the house where Marco Polo lived, as well as Casanova’s. A couple of obligatory snapshots later, and we went in search of ‘tourista’ meal, which we found in the shadows of St Mark’s Basilica. One of the only negatives of the day was that EVERYBODY smokes EVERYWHERE. Even in lanes where there weren’t any people, the constant smell of smoke just lingered and lingered. Restaurants, boats, etc etc. You name it. You can smoke anywhere and they all did.

The next day the weather improved and it brought everybody out into the streets (or should I say the canals) in their thousands. We strolled around the many islands, with Ms X demanding an obligatory kiss on every bridge we went over! Thirsty work indeed, so a beer or two was needed, which we happened to find sitting beside a canal and enjoying a local pizza. Mr X is still however triyng to locate the ideal pizza, claiming that Maribyrnong’s Domino pizzas are as good if not better than the ones he has had over here. A vist to the Guggenhein Prep Classroom (sorry, Museum) beckoned. Mr X tried to make something out of the reason why they charged 10 euros each to get in, but alas, failed. A magnificent house in a superb location, but he reckons the ‘art’ belonged in a primary school fete, rather than here in Venice. Ms X at least made out she enjoyed the experience, even if deep down she wondered what all the fuss was about.

A rest and an ice cream in one of the very rare parks, and it was time to leave the city of water and head for Nice, so a short vaperator ride took us to the station, where we hopped on board a train and headed for our connection to Florence. Arrived at Florence STM station with a good two hours to spare, so we lounged around, bought some maccas, read a book, and with about 40 minutes to go, Mr X thought he would check to see which platform our train left from. It didn’t take long to realise there was no platform for our intended train, as it was leaving from a totally different station altogether….Florence de Campo. In a mad panic we raced around our quickly deserting station, only to be told by the local police that there were no more local trains or buses leaving from this station for the rest of the night. A mad dash outside saw two forlorn taxis waiting, so we climbed aboard the first one, and 15 euros later we were walking on to the correct platform at de Campo station, with about 20 minutes to spare. Climbed aboard, and this time shared our couchette with a Grand Prix loving/Harbijahn Singh loving/ car safety expert Indian couple, and arrived in Nice at 8:45am, after another sleepless night. Mr X figures the cabin is about 4 centimeters too short for a bed, as his head and toes touch both walls on the pull-down bed at full stretch.