Despite the horrendous weather, we loved Iceland and both would like to return another time. Because of the rain, I did not get to see the Northern Lights, so want to go back if for no other reason than that! When we come back, we would like to stay for a week, rent a car, and explore the island on our own.
Flight to Venice:
Apparently to save money, the airport in Iceland is only open for a couple of short time periods daily. Therefore, all flights arriving and departing are all within a narrow time band. In order to get to the airport in time for our flight to Paris, we had to be ready to leave the hotel at 4 am. Neither of us slept well that night, knowing that we had to get up so early in the morning. So, by 2 am, we were both wide awake and ready to get up. We had packed the night before, so had plenty of time to shower and get ready to go. We went downstairs at about 3:45 am, checked out of the hotel, and waiting for the FlyBus to pick us up. Check in at the airport went smoothly. Because we were flying business class, we had access to the Saga Lounge (Icelandair’s lounge). It was quite lovely! They had a nice spread of food (mainly pastries, but also an egg dish and fruit), juice, coffee, and complimentary alcohol. We aren’t drinkers, but did see a few people partake of the booze at 5:30 am!
We were both hoping to catch up on a little sleep on the flight, but something you should know about me is that I have crying child/infant karma in a really bad way. Even in business class, we were seated by a screaming child. I very much feel for the parents in these situations. I remember flying back from Florida when my daughter was 16 months old. People came up to me and asked if she had a medical condition; they had never heard a child scream so loudly! Anyhow, I have always been very sensitive to the sound of a crying child, and inevitably end up seated in front of one.
When we landed in Paris, we were hoping to easily connect to our Venice flight, but that was not to be. They have a screwy setup in that as soon as you deplane, you enter an unsecured area of the airport. In other words, you have to go through security again. We also were in the wrong terminal, and had quite an adventure getting from one terminal to the next. We had to take a train; it was quite a distance (or at least it seemed like it at the time). When we finally got to the next terminal, we had a bit of a time finding where we were supposed to check in. They have an entirely different setup than what we were used to, and of course, the signage is in French, which doesn’t help much either. We found the place where we were to check our luggage, then got into the security line. They only had two people working, and there was a huge line of people waiting to clear security. This was before the terrorist attacks in early November; I can only imagine how long it would take to clear security after. They actually monitored the weight of people’s carryon luggage. There was a scale, and it the carryon was overweight, the person was sent back to check the bag, and then had to wait in line all over again. We finally made it through security, and found our gate. Turns out we had to take a bus to get to the plane. Crazy! We finally made it to the plane, without much time to spare.
The plane was very cramped; hardly any leg room at all, but the flight was only an hour and a half, so manageable. Our “snack” was a two-pack of macarons. They were most delicious. We landed in Venice at about 5:30 pm and picked up our luggage. We found a cash machine to get some Euros, and found a sandwich (panini) place to eat. We had pre-purchased a 3 day Venice transportation pass, and had researched various ways to get to our hotel, so at least did not need to deal with that. We just had to find the correct bus. Almost all of the people on the bus were locals. We drove from the airport through Venice Mestre (the part on land), and got off the bus at Piazzale Roma, which is the last place that cars are allowed. From there, we found Vaporetto #2, which is a water bus that travels the entire length of the Grand Canal. So does Vaporetto #1. The main difference is that #1 stops at every stop, #2 stops at every other stop, and returns to the Piazzale Roma using a different route. We had printed directions to the place we were staying, and knew what the name of our stop was. We did not know, however, how far it was from where we embarked, nor how long it would take to get there.
The vaporetto was quite crowded. We squeezed on with our luggage. On a side note, my husband had the foresight to think about how difficult it would be to carry big suitcases around Venice. To get anywhere requires hauling your stuff up and down stairs (crossing bridges). So, we opted to ship our large suitcase ahead to the cruise ship, and were traveling light with small carryon sized suitcases. Brilliant, and highly recommended if you ever get the chance to go to Venice. By now, it was dark out, and so everything along the Grand Canal was all lit up. It was so beautiful! I tried to take pictures, but none turned out. The first thing that struck me was how cool the water taxis were. They reminded me of the boats from James Bond movies. Long, narrow, and made of highly polished wood. Very expensive to ride, but really cool looking! There were also gondolas gliding through the water. Because everything was lit up, you could look inside the old palaces and see how beautiful they were inside.
We eventually made it to our stop, and disembarked the vaporetto. We tried following the directions we had been given, but it was easier said than done. Street signs are in short supply, so deciding where to turn was a major difficulty. It was pitch black as well, and since we had not seen the area before, we were very disoriented. We stopped in a shop and asked the shopkeeper for help; he was able to steer us in the right direction.
We finally found our guesthouse, and rang the doorbell. We were greeted by the innkeeper, who seemed surprised to see us. We had reserved the room a year in advance, and had confirmed the stay a couple of weeks earlier, so did not understand why he was surprised. He came downstairs and asked us if we had received his email. We had not, and had a horrible sinking feeling at this point. He was very, very hard to understand because of his thick accent, but we did figure out that he was telling us that we could not stay at his guesthouse. There was some issue with codes (like a fire code), and he would be unable to accommodate us. This is NOT what you want to hear at 8:30 pm in a strange city!
He invited us upstairs to wait in the breakfast area while he contacted another hotel to see if they had a room for us. We sat there for about 20 minutes; we still had no idea what was going on. Fortunately, it all worked out in the end. He booked us in hotel that was a nicer hotel with a better location. He paid the difference in costs, and paid for a water taxi to take us there. I was unable to get any good pictures of the water taxi, but here are my attempts:
We ended up staying at the Hotel American, which is near the Accademia Vaporetto stop (very near St. Mark’s). I must say, I was disappointed by the name of the hotel. You go all the way to Venice and end up in a hotel called “American”? Anyhow, we were greeted by the innkeeper, who had less of an accent than the last one. He told us that he had a room available for us, but that tomorrow, he would be moving us to a much nicer room. He led us up stairs, across a hall and up more stairs to our room. I thought it was a charming room, and didn’t really see why we needed to be moved to a nicer one.
We were pretty exhausted by now. It had been a really long day. I took a bath to relax, and we collapsed in bed.