Plan: We will arrive in Venice really early in the morning (like 7am). We plan to see the sights of Venice, including the canals, St. Mark's Square and Basilica, the Doge's Palace, and possibly the Accademia.We hope to do a Venice wine bar crawl and maybe go on a gondola ride.
What really happened (per Christine): Buon Giorno from Italy! We didn't arrive early; we got to Venezia (Venice) at about 11am, feeling rather dirty (no showers on the train) and a little sleepy (from arguing Italians). We got out of the train station and immediately got on a vaporetta (a water bus) to our hotel. The canals of Venice are quite picturesque. Rick Steve's says they don't smell, but he must have had a stuffed up nose. The canals smell like any pond does, but it's not bad and you soon get accustomed to it. We got a bit lost trying to find our hotel, but we eventually got it. We were up on the very top floor (4th floor American), with no elevator and a request to make sure not to bump our luggage on their very old stairs. Our room was fairly large and clean (smelled like pinesol), but dark. It was the first room that we had with a bidet and we needed to learn to use it, because there was only one shower for all four floors (granted, it looked like only 4 rooms per floor, but still...). I was quite disappointed in bidets. I thought they would do all sorts of funky spraying, but they are just like low toilet-shaped sinks so you can do a sponge bath. I don't know why you couldn't just use the sink.
Anyway, we got reasonably presentable and set out to first to find the travel agency where we needed to make our next train reservation. Venezia is full of lots of little shops and we had a lot of fun looking around while we searched. We finally found the travel agency, but they said the computer connection was down and we would have to go back to the train station for reservations. Since it would be more than an hour to the train station and back, we decided to get train reservations the next morning and so we looked for food. We ate our first Italian meal at a small trattoria (a family restaurant). I got spaghetti marinara and Mike got pizze funghi (mushroom pizza). I really liked mine (great sauce), but I don't know if Mike was too happy with his pizza (he said not enough sauce, though I thought it tasted good). Michael also ordered a latte because he was sleepy and was rather disconcerted when he got milk instead of coffee! At least now he knows that he needs to order a caffe latte to get coffee with milk.
We then walked to St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco). It was pretty cool; lots of pigeons and lots of people trying to sell the "bling-bling." Apparently, through a combination of Venice sinking and the sea rising, Venice is effectively 23cm lower than the last century, so St. Mark's square, the lowest part of the island, often floods (the sign said there is some water in the the Piazza 205 days out of the year). Luckily, the water was just lapping at the very edges of the shore steps, so we didn't get all wet.
St. Mark's church was very beautiful, all Byzantine gothic, but it closed early in the afternoon, so we decided to visit the Doge's Palace, as palaces had been pretty impressive in previous places. The Doge was sort of like an elected king in early Venezia. He was a figurehead and couldn't do anything without the approval of the Senate, but once he was elected, he was in for life. The Doge's palace was okay, except that it was a LOT of empty rooms. They did have descriptions of the rooms (in English, too), and a pretty good weaponry museum, but for the most part it was pretty boring. After that, we cut out of the Doge's Palace so that we could go to the Correr Museum, across St. Mark's Square, which Mike had read had a collection of traditional Venetian games. We walked quickly through this museum in the half hour before it closed. We found the games near the end and it looks like early Venetians played backgammon, chess and cards :-)
After the museums, we went to find gellato. Plentiful gellato is one of the best things about Italy. I almost always get ciccolata (chocolate) and Mike is always trying something new. We got our first gellato cones and then went on an evening vaporetta ride around the outside of the island. When we got back to Piazza San Marco, we were ready for some more gellato. On the way, we ran into an Internet cafe and popped in. Then, gellato in hand, we walked back to Piazza San Marco where there were bands (more like mini-orchestras) playing in each of the restaurants lining the square. We listened to several for a while, then decided to call it a night.