Day 4 – The Dolomites

 

I was not a happy traveler when the alarm went off. 6:30 am was really 12:30 am EST and it felt very much like getting up in the middle of the night.

But I was very much looking forward to the group tour to the Dolomites and the directions on how to get to the tour pick place were a little sketchy, so after last nights’ experience, I wasn’t going to take any chances.

Thankfully, I had significantly lightened the load in my backpack and I at least had the benefit of the lessons learned the previous evening for navigation, but I still made the mistake of thinking I would save 15 Euro and walk to the pick up point 34 minutes away. I will skip the details and tell you that an hour and 30 minutes later, I arrived by water taxi having spent 20 Euros. But the important thing was, I arrived.

We were in a smaller van and it didn’t take long to see why. Winding up the narrow roads of the Dolomites was exciting enough without extra axles.

We drove through the ugly town where the people who work in Venice live, through the grape vineyards, and then began winding our way into the mountains.

It’s hard to describe the rest of the day with words. I can’t even do it justice with pictures. The Dolomites are truly beautiful and rival anything I’ve ever seen and maybe more.

Our Italian guide, Francesco, was friendly and didn’t seem to miss a photo op along the way. Even so, I was jealous of the numerous motorcycles, hikers, bikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. They definitely had the right idea.

We briefly stopped in Cortina. This small mountain town of 6,000 was just awarded the hosting of the 2026 Olympic Winter Games. It looks like it’s used to handling tourists, but I am curious how they plan to get a million people up that winding mountain rode. I suspect it will be forever changed.

Perhaps they plan to expand, but they’ll never make it by 2026 if it’s up to these guys we observed.  We had a good laugh watching this guy roll rocks down the hill with a rake one at a time while the guy below barked orders on what to roll next.

Road work

For lunch, we stopped at the beautiful lake town of Misorina. It was truly breathtaking. We all enjoyed our lunch made from locally grown/handmade pizzas, pastas, and more.

The weather was perfect. After lunch, I took the walking path around the lake and ended the stop with chocolate gelato. I definitely found my happy place.

When we got back in the car, the emails and texts started hitting my phone. My people were up. Back to reality. But it was a super fun day.

I must be getting the hang of navigating Venice. When the driver dropped us off at Piazza Romale, Siri said 17 minutes back to the hotel and it only took me an hour. Including the water taxi. Of course, it is a little more complicated to navigate with Siri in one hand and a cup of rapidly melting gelato in the other. So there’s that.

But the good part was that I was the Rialto Bridge, San Marco square, and 1,000 little shops that make Venice the beautiful city that it is. I could see why someone who likes old, charming, dirty, inconvenient, crowded cities might like Venice. At least maybe in April or May.

Venice - Rialto

But I didn’t have the least little bit of regret for spending my day at the Dolomites. If I ever turn up missing…don’t look for me in the Dolomites. Just saying.

Step Count: 20,000
Cumulative total: 72,000

Day 3 – Dublin to Venice

I still haven’t completely adjusted to the time change. Either that, or I’m suffering from a laundry induced hangover. But I made myself get up. Somehow.

An important element to my two week back pack trip was the need to wash clothes every now and again. I picked this “apart/hotel” especially so that I could do laundry and was pleased to find that there was a washer/dryer combo right in the tiny unit.

But things went downhill from there and I was probably up an extra hour of delirium last night trying to get the combo washer/dryer to work. It would act like it was going to before dissolving into incessant beeping. I even got out of bed twice to try it before finally turning the whole thing off—my clothes still locked tightly inside.

Today, I hoped, things would be different.

Things were not different. But I did need my clothes back and preferably clean. One trip down to the receptionist desk was all it took and a happy red headed maintenance man named Ian showed up a few minutes later. I was somewhat relieved to find that it had not been solely operator error and very relieved to find that he was able to fix it. Hallelujah!

Most folks I talked to thought a two day stay in Ireland was ridiculously short, but I believed I had at least gotten a fair taste of this beautiful country. In the afternoon, I would catch a flight to Venice via Cologne, Germany.

The bus stop to the airport was just across the street from the hotel, but I still had a few minutes between check out and the time I really needed to be on my way to the airport, so I thought I’d find something to eat and visit the “Castle of Dublin”—which Siri showed was only a 9 minute walk.

I followed Siri through the busy streets passing by the mix of modern and classic buildings including these churches:

And passed the Queen of Tarts where I bought a scone.

Dublin Queen of Tarts

Then Siri told me I had arrived. And I saw this:

Dublin Castle

Not quite what I had in mind.

I tried to get a Siri to recalibrate and she took me down a different street. Then another. And another. And kept telling me I had arrived. I was getting less and less about the castle and more and more concerned about time but I kept thinking it would be a shame to miss it since by all accounts I was quite close and in all likelihood there would be a bus stop right nearby it.

By the time I saw signs pointing to the castle, it had sunk in to me that the smaller bus stops I was seeing did not have the 747, the line running to the airport. If I really knew what I was doing, I could probably catch any bus and make the transfer. But alas, I did not know what I was doing…in fact, I couldn’t even find the Castle of Dublin in the middle of Dublin.

Besides, my backpack was starting to feel like it weighed 1,000 pounds. (Where are the Bostic boys when you need them? I’m not used to having to carry anything. 🙂

So I hightailed it back to the bus station and waited for the 747 and connived how I would get my stuff on the plane with an 8 kg limit without paying any fees.

When I arrived at DUB, cutting it a little closer than I would have liked, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say there were hundreds, perhaps even a thousand people in line in front of me. But leave it to the Irish to move hordes of people through a long security line efficiently. In fact, as many airports as I’ve been in, I was mesmerized by the system they had for tubs and scanners.

It was a short flight to Cologne. I researched every option I could think of to find a way to see some of the old city during my layover, but alas, three hours was just not enough so I had to content myself with getting a stamp in my passport, eating a Bratwurst, and buying a magnet to prove this trip included Germany. Then I tried to catch up on emails and texts.

The flight to Venice was also only about an hour, but even so, it was 10:00 PM local time when we arrived. Unlike Ireland, Italy was dark, hot, quiet, and much less user friendly or people friendly. Perhaps because English was no longer a thing and I was having to guess at how to get a bus ticket to where I needed to go.

Thankfully, I figured it out and was soon at the main bus depot in Venezia. It took me a minute once I got off to collect my wits and it took Siri even longer to collect hers.

Venice
Piazzale Roma

The city did look pretty in the lamplight, but frankly it smelled terrible and I was a little too tired for sightseeing anyway. I was ready for the hotel and praying the Siri would be in a better mood than she had been in Dublin that morning.

I do think Siri was trying; I’ll give her that. But navigating through Venice by foot is much like being in a 3D maze. What I originally thought were just alleys were, in fact streets, and they started and ended wherever they like in no organized fashion. Siri apparently kept losing signal and I found myself having to retrace my steps from time to time.

Streets of Venice in Daylight

I tried to ask a local where my hotel was but her either had no idea or he pretended he didn’t. That didn’t inspire confidence. Then I noticed that although the streets were getting less and less populated (it was getting close to midnight), a high percentage of folks I saw were also holding a black box in front of them—their faces illuminated by a soft glow. Either a high percentage of tourists were playing Pokémon Go or else I was not the only one on the struggle bus with Siri.

Gradually, I started to get the hang of looking for the street names on the buildings and guessing better what Siri was saying vs what she was actually thinking. The hotel sign finally stuck out in front of me and I stepped into a very, very lovely blast of AC.

Welcome to Venice. 

Total Step Count for the day: 12,000.  Cumulative Step Count: 52,000