Would you pay 500,000€ to get a job?
Morning came and we walked with our guide to the docks to catch our transport to Venice. Once on the islands of Venice we walked along the shoreline to St. Mark's Square. There our guide told a few of us about the square and the tower within. We had an appointment in the Doge's Palace but had time to kill, so many of us took the opportunity to leave our bags with the guide and enter the Basillica Di San Marco. Magnificent golden mosaics on the inside were hard to comprehend. Then it was off to the Palace for the "Secret Itineraries Tour". We divided into two groups for this tour. This is the place where Casanova was imprisoned and from where he eventually escaped with the help of an imprisoned priest. The tour was very interesting and then we had time to explore the rest of the museum. The Sun King didn't outshine the Doge for this place was opulent and overwhelming, much like Versailles. Except this was very Italian! Room after huge room had ceilings painted with Justice themed artwork of biblical proportions with ornate guilded frames surrounding them. Walls too were covered in similar artwork. Some boys were not impressed. Then came the weapons rooms, and those boys came to life! It was interesting to see the evolution of weaponry from your standard swords and spears to swords with a built-in gun. Was this the precursor to the WW I bayonet rifle? The wind up crossbow and other implements of death were fascinating.
Our meeting time was fast approaching for our group, so Leslie headed for the exit, just around that corner... No, ok, the next corner. It says exit. Trotting along at a pretty good clip we navigated a labyrinth of hallways and stairs which eventually emptied into an enclosed courtyard. Onward we marched through more tunnels following more exit signs through more hallways and stairs to wind up in a bookstore. Ah, the exit sign up ahead, which led us to the cafeteria. From there we easily navigated to the outside. It was probably a good 7 minute journey of twists and turns. What fun!
We reconvened with our guide and headed back to St Mark's Square to debrief and head out for lunch. We had a whole afternoon to eat, wander, and shop. Don't let anyone fool you, Venice is built for tourists. The Venetians know a good thing when they see it and there are myriad of stores selling high end goods and jewelry to T-shirt shops and everything in between. One of us witnessed a woman trying out 3 different Gucci bags, and taking all three! Luckily it wasn't my wife. There is money to be made here!
But you do not have to sell goods, you can sell services also. Gondoliers and water taxis are offered up everywhere as it is the only form of transport on these islands other than feet. To get a water taxi licence seems like a good idea since the minimum charge is about 60€. That is for the taxi ride, and up to 6 people may board those taxis. But to get a licence you first have to learn the rules of the waterways and get your navigation and boat operator's license. That is expensive, but not as expensive as the water taxi license; 500,000€ for that. It is expected that you recoup that money in about 6 to 8 years. How much money do they make? I don't know, and the competition was fierce. But there are 15 to 16 million visitors a year to the islands whose resident population is 65,000. I certainly didn't see any water taxi guys in the Gucci shop.
With our shopping time over we headed for the restaurant and then back to the shore for our Lido shuttle. We went back to the hotel where we dispensed words of wisdom about going to bed early because of our 3 am wake up call and how staying up late will just leave you a mess. Much like the Giuletta right mammary myth, some students heard us and chose appropriate bedtimes. Lights out at nine, and our room checked showed most had lights out at nine. I'll leave it at that.
3 AM comes early no matter what time you go to bed, but all were up and ready to leave by 3:30. A quick walk to the docks and onto our water taxi for the 30 minute ride to the airport. An hour later we arrived and were extremely pressed for time to check in, go through security, etc. I was the last one through security watching the clock tick by: 10 minutes to flight time. Then 8 minutes. Then 4 minutes. I get checked through. Final boarding announcement as I race to the gate, belt not on and jeans sliding down to find a lineup! What? I board to find we had been delayed due to fog in Amsterdam, and in fact we sat for a good 20 minutes while other stragglers with late connecting flights boarded. Security checks should issue Ativan.
We are enroute over Greenland right now which means you will probably read this after our return, but both Madame Ballam and I, as well as the other three chaperones wanted to let you know what wonderful kids you have. They have been polite, respectful, friendly, and have represented you, their upbringing, our school, and Canada in an exemplary fashion.
And fashion is what many are bringing home, amongst other things. Just so you know, there has been a cold and flu that has dogged this trip. Some have been affected more than others, but everyone has been taking care of everyone else and the ill students never complained or held us up. Troopers are what they are. They have been bone tired, ravenously hungry, bitterly cold and wet, and always have had a smile to offer. They have sung songs, danced, and walked through 3 European countries, shopped like fiends, managed to get food, get goods, talk with locals and visitors alike, and always, always with a laugh and a smile. I hope you will see a little bit of this growth experience stay with them when they return home.
It has been a pleasure keeping you informed of the daily happenings, I hope you had as much fun reading as I did writing. This was a task I lifted from my wife so she could have sone down time. It takes an enormous amount of work and organizational skill to accomplish what we did, and it is all due to her that we have made it with as few hiccups as we had. The only reason she does this is because of the fabulous students we have. I say good bye for the last time (unless something worth writing about occurs between now and home). Thank you for reading