Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Plaza San Bondi

Turin by dayTurin by nightWe didn't really get to see much of Turin due to yesterday’s long diversion around the Mont Blanc tunnel.  I had hoped to find carnival floats laden with goodness as this is the first weekend of the annual Chocolate Festival, but apart from a couple of posters no evidence of the event. The area around the central train station where we stayed seems to be in a state of massive upheaval from rebuilding. I don't know where Turin's civic heart lies, but with the city sprawling in a huge grid, I don't have time or a huge urge to investigate ahead of today’s journey.

5 - Turin to Venicemap

Today we're travelling almost due east to Venice. As I turn a corner in Turin, the satnav suddenly indicates that my next turn is 385km away, an uninterrupted cruise down the AutoStrada that could be interrupted with Milan, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza and Padua.

From the motorway there isn't really much to be seen. Verona-Vienza-Padua-Venezia is one long conurbation - familiar to anyone who has travelled in the north of England in the Liverpool-St Helens-Wigan-Manchester-Bolton-... zone. There are occasional glimpses of hilltop keeps and churches, and the realisation that you're passing over a viaduct, but unlike the French motorways, you do pass through the ugly industrial zones of these cities.

Stopping for petrol near Padua, I hear a guy at the next bowser with a familiar accent. I comment loudly that there are too many Australians in this part of the world. He laughs, and I find I’m talking to a fellow Sydneysider. I hand him a card with my blog details. Another laugh: "Wicked!"

Welcome to VeniceVenice mapThe approach to the Venetian city archipelago is far from auspicious: you come off a roundabout and dart down a side road as if coming to a minor airport. And then...you're on the Ponta della Liberta - like a mosquito's proboscis probing the mainland, this bridge is about as long as Venice's maximum dimension. Traversing it I can see pieces of identifiable buildings rising above the city's very low profile.

Straight around to the big parking station, unload and down to the shoreline to catch water-bus Vaporetto #82. This is where the real fun begins.

Vaporetto views

One of the vaporetto conductors mimes that Bondi should have a muzzle on. I did think to pack the one I'd bought for his one and only (10 minute) ride on the Paris RER. I dig it out and apply it. He figures out within about 30 seconds how to use his paws to remove it, which clearly amuses most of the passengers. As more people get on, he's being fawned over constantly. When the crowd clears, I get the muzzle signal again. Bondi can't understand what he's done wrong and starts licking my hands to gain approval before sinking back down to the floor in a sad state. A woman boards with a dog, unmuzzled, barking and carrying on yet the conductor does nothing and looks away when I signal my confusion over his double standard.

First encounters
I've overshot our destination by a couple of stops, so exit and catch another vaporetto back in the opposite direction. The conductor on this boat is much more enthusiastic than the last and introduces Bondi to the skipper.

At San Marco dock, it's a short walk to our little hotel, up 3 flights of stairs from the street and all the rooms seeming to lead directly off the lobby.

Out and about I genuinely feel I have to pinch myself to convince myself that I'm here. Bondi's making new friends, canine and human, local and visitor. Almost everyone seems to recognise a malamute, which saves me about 3000 syllables per hour of repeated explanation. A favourite moment is when an old lady comes out of her store, absolutely jubilant that Bondi has passed by: she brings out dog biscuits, placing them in his mouth, and wrestling with him, her fingers wrapped around his incisors. She can’t be any bigger than Bondi, in fact he would tower over her if he stood on his hind legs.

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