Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Two Days in Venice

After the hike was done, the first-finished group piled into a bus for a two-hour journey back to Venice. The firm had put us up in the Venice Hilton - on its own little island - which was very nice, but we were too tired to enjoy it that night. A buffet dinner was put on, where we downed some delicious pasta and vino, and then rocked out to bed almost immediately!
The following two days were a different story. Apart from my increasingly-evident foot injury, none of us were sore and so we utilized every minute to enjoy Venice and hang out with our big group.
The first day we just wandered around the city, taking in everything and enjoying the novelty of getting boats everywhere we went.
First stop was to purchase pretentious fedoras that we would don for protection from the hot sun for the remainder of the two days.
Then a colleague and I trapsed along to see the Palazzo Ducale.
 It was fascinating to learn about the Venecian courts and the Council of Ten. You could really picture men in long red robes meeting between the pillars or looking out over the court yard and plotting to quash unrest or purported treason.

 Like most structures in Europe, its impossible to capture its beauty/magnificence on camera.
Once we'd done our cultural duty, we spent the rest of the day wandering, and eating pasta and drinking all the Spritz Venezianos...

...before meeting back up with the entire group for pre-dinner drinks at the Aman Canal Grande hotel (where George Clooney and his wife were married!)  It was built in the mid-1500s, with only 24 guest rooms and beautiful common areas. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of it, but here is where we were:
Can't be bothered with attribution. Someone else took this photo. Its on the Googles.
After drinks we took a water taxi back to the hotel (taking some pics along the way of course) for the "formal" dinner and after-party.

Shhh, don't tell anyone back at work that we're having fun. And not billing.

The following day saw us attending the buffet breakfast at around 10:00 am then heading to Murano, the island in Venice devoted to glass-blowing. We looked in on a few shops before determining that it had been at least two hours since we last ate, and we should probably do that.

Then we headed back to Venice to wander and get gelato.

When I first got gelato, I was going to sit down to eat it. Because I hate to eat and walk. I like to be truly sedentary while consuming my food. But then I was encouraged to continue wandering.
One of my favorite photo-bombs here. This guy is so happy to be in the picture!

And then I realized I had been doing walking for my entire life ALL WRONG.  Walking should ALWAYS BEEN DONE WITH ICE CREAM. And so I got another ice cream straight away.

Unfortunately, my walking/ice-cream plans were bigger than my tummy, so I could only eat half.  Its an important lesson for life though. Walking --> ice cream. Live and learn.

We finished off the day with another spritz in the main square, listening to music and people watching, before heading back to the airport for another long journey home.

We took a water taxi to the airport, and watched silently as the sun set, the water wooshed beneath the boat, and Venice got smaller and smaller on the horizon.


All in all, simply an amazing trip. I can't quite believe I got to do it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sesto Dolomiti e Venezia

Contemporaneous recaps are clearly not my thing. Lets just be ok with that and move on, shall we?

So this hike. TL;DR version is that it was amazing. Amazing! An experience that I'll remember forever.

After we took off from Sydney we had a shocking layover in Abu Dhabi with a further delayed flight (six hours). It was time to check into an airport lounge for some food, showers...

...and silly shorts.

We arrived in Venice after 30 hours of travel. All looking and feeling a lot like this:

We were staying the first night in a beautiful mountain village called Cortina. 

After checking in (the Aussies were the last to arrive) we were pounced on by a bunch of our American and Euro colleagues, and *forced* to go out for beers and dinner. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we didnt last long, and made our escape for bed at a civilised, if not somewhat geriatric, time of 9 pm. 

We did not escape flack for this. 

My redaction skills are off the chain. 

The next morning we arose veeerrry early and got on buses to head to the starting point of the hike.

I was completely disoriented throughout the entire journey. I think I showed you the map and elevation chart on my last post and thats about all you're gunna get in the way of navigational specifics. Stop complaining. 

Lets just say the hike started up. And kept going upwards for quite an extended period.

The first part of up.

 It wasnt long before the superfit 10ish people of the group had taken off, a "reasonably fit" 20 of us set off at a good pace, and the remaining 130 usually desk-bound lawyers spread out to bring up the rear. We were quite a sight to behold. 

Still liking up, but below the cloud line, so a lot more upping to go yet.

Beautiful, but upping is becoming marginally less appealing at this juncture.

A few hours of hiking and about 1 gazillion switchbacks brought us to our first "summit". It was quite a good place to put our bags down, eat and take some photos... and pretend we werent totally gagging for a break already. 

The next part of the hike involved a lot of loose rock, scree and some near vertical scrambling up hills, that had us sending rock avalanches into each others' faces. 

It was also here that we started mixing up the group a bit and adding people who would hike with us the rest of the way. Its possible we also lost a few people in some of those rock avalanche situations. Thank goodness our firm made us sign some concrete-ass waivers. 

Death-defying over for a brief moment, we were a motley but jovial crew!

This is one of the "happier" scree climbs.

Throughout the hike, we would come upon various huts that served as rest stops. Some were even mini cafes. Nothing like being offered an enormous beer and bowl of spaghetti at 8000 feet.

The rest of the hike was honestly a bit of a blur. It was just stunning sight after stunning sight, that will be wholly inadequately captured by photo.  

For those crazies out there, who might want to do this one day, we followed the 107 trail most of the way... making all the hardest (and stupidly most dangerous) detours possible, and taking the "easier" 104 trail only when it was the sole way forward. Its hard to figure out whether our firm wanted to make us stronger, or genuinely kill us in a really bizarrely drawn out and expensive manner.

I did the remaining quarter of the hike with a new friend from our Paris office, and a colleague I have been working with for 15 months from our DC office... and hadnt yet met! I had heard his voice around the corner of a bunch of rocks, and recognised it immediately from all the late night and early morning conference calls we've had. He, of course, had the pleasure of meeting my sweaty self in person, half limping from a foot injury (more on that later) but somewhat high on endorphins and annoyingly coaxing everyone to keep moving and clambering up them hills. As you might imagine, he was super happy to be subjected to my bossing. 

(While he had a map, preventing us from getting completely lost out there, I maintain that my "encouragement" got us to the finish line and on the first bus back to Venice.)

In any event we were a triumphant trio finishing together. 

So thats it. 150 lawyers, 25km, about 7ish hours of hiking, 8000 feet. And then two gorgeous days in Venice (for another post. A girl can only be on top of her recaps one month at a time).