Today was our first day/chance to use public transportation!  Oh boy here we go...

Now usually my concern would have been getting robbed, well luckily our group was so large, that while we were on the buses and trains, my teammates and friends were the only ones around. 

The main concern was keeping everyone together and on time. Due to the fact we were such a large group and relying on public transport (since we were running on the cities time schedule and not our own, promptness and swiftness was key to making it through the day). 

The morning did not go smoothly. Some athletes did no set their alarm or did they not hear them at least, and slept in way too late. We were all in a panic because we were told if you were late, you would be left behind. Luckily the bus was late, so those who were tardy made it just in time.

Once we arrived at the train station, we sat there for what felt like a good hour. We finally realized that we had missed our earlier train and had to wait for the next one. Frustrating! So there were shops and food carts and "photo montage" to keep us occupied and entertained!

––   Photo montage – Rapid-fire picture taking, where whoever is holding the camera picks a topic, event, animal or person, and the people in the picture have to quickly act out what was said. Then a picture is taken to capture the entire affair lol... it is very fun if you get into it : )   ––

We eventually boarded the train and sat wherever we wanted. After a few minutes we were deep in the heart of Italy’s backyard! I had front row seats to the beautiful countryside of Italy. I have only seen pictures in history and tours books; I could not believe how beautiful and green the fields and mountains looked. 

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew I was being awoken to the sound of “Mack, Mack, lets go, a lot to do and buy, and very little time... we’re here. We’re in Venice!”  I JUMPED OUT OF MY SEAT and grabbed my camera barely being able to contain my excitement for what I was about to see.

Venice is all I could think about the entire trip. I have heard so many wonderful things about it; the beauty, culture, history, pride and hidden mystery that is it’s entire existence. 

The streets/alleyways were narrow. There was no street 'signs' like physical detached metal signs, rather they were painted on the walls of the corner buildings. There was no way of telling where you were except with those sign and a compass. 

Imagine a huge corn or hedge maze but with buildings... that’s how I felt.  It was very nerve racking but at the same time I was enjoying myself. I just couldn’t keep my bearings straight. 

There it was right in front of me, the Grand Canal!  We were told we had two hours to eat and shop until we met in St. Marcs Square. We were being cut loose to take on Venice by ourselves... ahhh I couldn’t believe it!

We went to all the shops eating gellato and taking pictures of all the sights!  After the two hours were up, we met up with the group and had a group tour of the city well at least a quarter of it. Then we went to the Mirano Glass factory.

Now this was very neat. What they do is take liquid glass and pull it out of this HUGE oven using a long pipe and begin to twirl and spin the pipe, and depending on the object intended, would frequently blow in one end of the pipe. 

There are only 14 “glass masters” in the world and they all reside in Venice. You can only become a glass master after 15-30 years of study! Depending on the extent and exposure to the craft. It’s a family passed on tradition to be a glass master, as they say it's a “father-son trade”. 

Of course after seeing all the miraculous work and art they had created, most people made purchases. How could you not? It was the perfect souvenir and there are only 14 glass masters left. If we don’t support their trade now, maybe one day I will not be able to buy a hand blown glass piece from Italy, and then well... well... I guess you could say my life would not be complete!

Ha, I’m kidding, but their work truly was spectacular and I couldn’t help but buy a vase with the original Venetian crest and my family name engraved on it.

After the glass factory, we went on a Gondola ride!  Now this was the highlight of my day besides seeing St. Marcs Square. The cathedral, holy cow!  I have never seen such an overwhelmingly powerful man-made structure in my entire life. I literally just sat there and stared up at it for a good 20 minutes just soaking in every inch and detail of the building. 

Anyways the gondola rides, there were five passengers allowed per gondola and we were lucky enough to get the most “attractive” (trying to stay PC) man I have ever seen.  His name was Luca and he was telling us how his boat was his life. It cost him $30,000 American dollars!  Good thing he is getting his money’s worth. 

Anyways, Luca chauffeured (for a lack of a better word), us around the inner water streets of Venice to the alleys and areas we had not been to on foot. You see, there are only a few streets that the tourists crowd. Because they do not realize or know that there are other ways to get to the main attractions. These inner streets and alleys are known only by the locals and it was nice to see the peaceful, non-commercial side of Venice. 

Now you know me, and I am not the type of person to be on a gondola and not ask to have turn driving... it took Luca a while to comprehend what I was asking and then looking at me, he hesitated, and then said YES..!

I carefully made my way to the back of the boat (in a mini jean skirt mind you... very tricky my friends!)  Anyways, for the record, I did not wreck the boat and he said I could be his gondola sidekick... now hey, if that's not a proposal, I don’t know what would be!!!    

We said our goodbyes and he kissed me on the check celled me "Bella" and that was that. His heart was broken I just know it ;-) ha ha!

And so that is where my adventures in Venice ended. I had so much fun in Venice; trying on hats and masks, dancing in the square and just being there and observing the people and culture made it probably one of my top-five best days ever!!

Now there was only one more day to our trip.  :(  The next day we were headed to the metropolis and shopping center in Italy, where all the designer shops and many more reside, MILAN.

Mackenzie Angner