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Trip Report Venice - canoeing / kayaking

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After we visited Venice about six years ago, I read "Venice" by James Morris. I was taken by a sentence, when he was talking about "Streets Full of Water", viz.:

"One canal goes clean under the Church of Santo Stefano, and you can take a gondola along it if the tide is low..."

I was determined to pass under San Stefano by boat, and today (25th April, Liberation Day, St Marks Day and ANZAC day for Australians) I can announce Mission Accomplished. We've had the best day.

I'm not really a "tour" kind of person, but today we took a kayak tour. I chose today, because I did not much want to be mixing it with the delivery boats, rubbish boats, all the water-born traffic of Venice. 25th April was relatively quiet.

We booked a full day excursion with Venice Kayak (venicekayak.com) and it worked well. The day started at Certosa, reachable by 4.1or 4.2 vaporetto. Certosa was a military base in the 1800's, with a munitions factory and other fortifications. It's being cleaned up now, getting rid of the industrial legacy of pollution, and now is really pleasant. We'll go back there for a picnic another day.

Met up with the kayak people in the bar - there were a couple of running events happening on the island today, 2 km for the kids, 10 km for the adults, so it was pretty busy. We met up with Rene and Loretta, who was to be our guide for the day, were outfitted with life jackets and "skirts" to seal the kayak openings and headed off. We were six in all, Loretta, another couple, Lou and I, and an another guy (who I think was a guide in training, as he had a carbon fibre paddle and his own kayak, serious stuff).

Loretta seemed very business like at first - I can understand that, as it must be a bit tricky taking a group of paddlers out onto the lagoon without knowing what their capabilities are. She explained that canoeists are the lowest form of aquatic life, at the bottom of the marine food chain, so don't mess with vaps, water taxis, gondolas or anything else for that matter. We duly embarked, Lou and I in a double kayak, the others in singles, and headed out.

A completely new Venice unfolded before us.

I've tried to mark on our map where we went, and lost the plot. We went down canals little wider than a ditch, under bridges too low to paddle, just pull yourself through with your hands. Under the Rialto and Accademia bridges, no problems with height there. Down the canal at the back of the Guggenheim, around two sides of the Arsenal, crossed the Grand Canal several times, a bit of a dig in the Giudecca canal, all over the place.

Observing gondolas. Gondolas look small if you are viewing them from the Rialto, but are quite big if you are sitting lower in the water than the gondola passengers. And seeing a fire boat blasting down the Grand Canal, flashing lights, sirens, full noise, is quite exciting. Especially if you start to think that if said fire boat is going to turn from Grand Canal to Giudecca Canal round the Salute, you might be in the way. So back up a bit.

Yes, a completely new Venice.

Magic.

We stopped for lunch at Campo San Barnaba, which we know really well, as we have stayed near there on a couple of occasions, and I must say that it seemed a bit special to arrive in the Campo by water. Down back canals, past a couple of squeros, past the Cantina Schiavoni. Being photographed, as if we were film stars.

And under Santo Stefano! Excellent!

Practicalities. We paddled for about four hours, which was enough for a day. Experienced paddlers would do more, and we're not experienced. Loretta was a great guide, lots of info about places as we passed, very conscious to ensure that we had a happy time, and she took about 200 photos of us (which we've already received by email, which is a great demonstration of good admin). Once she knew that we were competent enough, she was relaxed, charming and funny. Rene answers emails promptly, the directions for finding the kayak base are good, and we felt that we were in good hands.

If you are going in Summer, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a long sleeved shirt are a good idea. And a bottle of water. All in all, highly recommended.

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