We decided to spend Saturday away from the rest of the orchestra. Their plan for the day involved a three hour bus ride to Cremona and three hours there walking and listening to a tour guide. The highlight was a trip to a stradivarius museum. The string players were very excited. The winds weren't as enthusiastic. From there they had a three hour ride to venice. Six hours on a bus did not sound pleasant. Especially on our anniversary. Instead, we joined Guy Lou and Jae heading to Venice early.
The train station was a short walk from our hotel. There was no ticket agent so we took on an automated ticket machine. In spite of our best efforts, we took several minutes figuring out how to get tickets from the machine. The necessity of a pin number for credit cards threw us for a loop.
The train ride from Montecatini to Florence was about 45 minutes. We sat next to a nice German jazz pianist. He had a good joke about drummers knocking on your door. You know it's a drummer because the knocking slows down.
The Florence train station was crowded. We worked our way from the train over to the ticket purchase area with live ticket salespeople. The line was long and slow so we tried another automated machine, this time with more success. The first two trains to Venice were full the third only had 1st class seats available. It arrived at the time we wanted, so we opted to take the splurge. With an hour before boarding, we left the chaos of the station to find a cafe. Then, at the appointed time we came back and got our train.
We had bought seats on a high speed train. Unfortunately, Kip and I were in car 1 and the others were in car two. And Kip and I weren't officially seated together. When we got into the train there was some sort of drama on board. One passenger was upset because another was sitting in her seat. The other passenger said that she had a ticket for that car but her printed seat number didn't exist. The girl meant to be where she was sitting asked her to move out of her seat, but girl 2 refused saying that since her seat didn't exist she was taking that one. Crazy. A fellow passenger intervened and resolved it by finding another available seat for the cranky girl.
The train was very comfortable, with great leg room. A Canadian family sat in front of us. They explained that the trains were full because of a film festival in Venice and the regatta on Sunday. That, and just because it was Saturday.
The train dropped us right on the edge of Venice. We bought a day pass for the Vaporetto and went into the city. Lou and Jae were meeting Lou's cousin at the Piazza San Marco, so we rode the Vaporetto there. We found a nice place for lunch and got a feel for Lou's family. Andre, the cousin, is a well-known French journalist. He has a large personality. His daughter Aurelie is very bright and cheerful.
Kip and I separated from them after lunch and tried to get to a less-crowded, less-touristy area. And we tried to find a few souvenirs for the kids. We ducked down quiet alleyways and found picturesque spots. Then we took another turn and found ourselves back in San Marco.
At 5:30 we met Lou, Jae, and Guy and took a taxi to the hotel. We gave the front desk our names. They told us we were in the VIP room. Kip had pulled some strings and we had a solid bed, not two singles pushed together. And there was a vase of roses on the desk. It was a nice anniversary surprise.
We made sure that we were in the lobby with drinks when the rest of the orchestra arrived. They all looked a little envious.