Home > Stupidity, Time, Travel > Mysteries of Time: Venice

Mysteries of Time: Venice

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

A weird thing happened three weeks ago today, our first morning in Venice. Perhaps I should set this up as a puzzle, so you have a chance to figure out for yourself what happened. Maybe you’ll be able to do so more quickly than I did.

Let’s start at the beginning, with a review of what brought us to Venice. [You’re going to need some patience. It turns out that I don’t get to the puzzle for a while.]

With Joel in Grenoble for the fall, we wanted to visit him there. And since we had, incomprehensibly, never been to Italy before, we figured this was a perfect time to cross the Alps and drop in. For a variety of reasons, including arranging to see my parents in New York and my sister in Paris as well as attending a meeting in Chicago, we set up the trip around JFK-Paris roundtrip flights, with a Seattle-JFK flight at the front and flights from LaGuardia to O’Hare to Seattle at the back. Four weeks ago today, Sunday the 25th of October, we set out on our flight from here to JFK. We arrived in the late afternoon and spent the night there, as described in one of my posts. The next evening, Monday, we took an overnight flight from JFK to Paris Orly. That was described in another post, my last one before a lengthy period of blog darkness. We arrived at 6:00 AM local time on Tuesday morning, were at our Paris hotel before 7:00 AM, saw my sister for lunch and for dinner with some naptime in-between back at the hotel, went to bed, woke up Wednesday morning, had breakfast in the hotel’s beautiful dining room, packed (with my sister over to visit), checked out, took the taxi to Gare de Lyon, and headed off by train to Grenoble. We arrived around 4:30 that Wednesday afternoon, were greeted by Joel, and got on the tram with him (and our luggage, during rush hour, making it quite a battle to get off when we got to our stop). We checked in and began our Joel-Grenoble-Alps visit. More on that another time.

Saturday was our day to cross the Alps into Italy. This proved to be our most complicated journey. Grenoble doesn’t look all that far from Venice on the map. But it’s not on any of the main train routes from Paris into Italy, presumably because of where the mountain tunnels are. We had to take a 45-minute trip on a local train to the smaller Alpine city of Chambéry*, then wait 45 minutes for the big Paris-Milan train. Initially our plan was to take it to Milan then change to a Milan-Venice train, but this would have left us with 15 minutes to change trains, and the agent I worked with to book the trains recommended instead that we get off in Turin and take a later train from Turin to Venice, which we did. Chambéry to Turin took 2 1/2 hours, followed by an hour’s layover** and a 4 1/2 hour ride to Venice in an intercity Italian train that was a step down from the Paris-Milan train. As you can see, it was a long day of travel. Our Grenoble departure was at 9:25 AM, our Venice arrival at 6:45 PM.

[*The approach to Chambéry was beautiful. The town we stopped at just before it had vineyards growing on the lower slopes of the mountains, right up to a small wooded area, above which was solid mountain rock.]

[**And what a layover we had in Turin! A major construction project in and around the station made it impossible to get to the station from the stairway we took up from the platform. We ended up on the street on the wrong side of the tracks from the station, requiring us to go back down to a platform, up another stairway, and then to snake around the construction along a narrow alleyway that made a circle to the other side of the station. When we got in, there was total chaos, with far more people than the tiny available space could handle. We were immediately accosted by an older Romany woman who opened up some sheets of paper with a picture of a baby and some text, put her hand out, and started crying. We got to the other side of the open portion of the station, near a store and food stand, and I left Gail with the bags while I tried to make sense of the food options. The Romany woman’s daughter and baby granddaughter entered just ahead of me, along with a woman of African descent and her child, completely blocking my view of the food. After a minute, I gave up. I came back out and sent Gail in. She was more ambitious than me, emerging a few minutes later with panini sandwiches and water for us. We hightailed it back to the platform, where we had a long wait for our Turin-Venice train, and where the Romany panhandler found us again. Eventually, the train came, we boarded, and we ate.]

We arrived in Venice tired, confused, and without the crutch of modest skill in the local language. What a scene, coming out of the station, seeing the Grand Canal right in front, buildings rising right from the water, just like in all those photos and movies, but needing to focus on how the heck to get tickets for the vaporetto so we could get to our hotel. We got on a line, bought a 3-day vaporetto pass, went to the adjacent vaporetto station, only to realize that the #1 didn’t stop there. We rolled our bags around to the other side, eventually found the correct stop, but couldn’t figure out how to get the electronic reader to read our 3-day passes. I figured I’d wait a minute and see what the locals do, but there were no locals doing it. Just other, equally confused tourists. Then I got one pass to work, but didn’t know what I did, so I couldn’t reproduce it. But Gail figured out what the trick might be and she was right. It worked. The #1 came, we got on, and we had a 25-minute ride — an odd mix of magic and constant jostling — to the Santa Maria del Giglio stop just before San Marco.

We didn’t walk into our hotel until around 7:45. There was then some confusion about our room choice, which took 45 minutes to sort out (a story for another day), so we didn’t head off to see the neighborhood and find dinner until 8:30. We ate at 9:00, our latest dinner of the trip, took a walk around San Marco after dinner, got back to the room at 10:30, and were ready for a good sleep.

I’m now, at last, getting to the story that this post is supposed to be about. Somehow, with our stop in New York and our nap our first day in Paris, we seemed to be adjusting to the time difference effortlessly. One contributing factor was that we faced not the usual 9-hour time zone change but just an 8-hour one. Why? Well, you’ll recall that for many years we went off Daylight Saving Time here in the US on the last Sunday of October. This made for dark Halloweens, but for those of us living in regions with late winter sunrises, the end of Daylight Saving by late October was most welcome. And then Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Suddenly, the duration of Daylight Saving Time was elongated, with the end set at the first Sunday of November. It turns out our Energy Policy Act didn’t apply to France and Italy. They went off Daylight Saving Time the last Sunday of October, the very day that we began our trip by flying from Seattle to New York.

As a consequence, the time difference when we flew from New York to Paris was 5 hours, not 6 hours. Pretty good break for us. The usual time difference would return on Sunday, November 1, while we slept that first night in Venice.

We were of course eager to see Venice in the daylight, so I set the alarm on my iPhone for 8:00 AM. We got up slowly, took our time getting dressed, and eventually were ready to go down for buffet breakfast in the hotel’s dining room. I glanced at the hotel room’s clock as we headed to the door and was stunned to see that it said 10:30 AM. Did we really take so long? When we got back to the room, it said 11:15 AM. Then I opened my laptop to check some things, still wondering where the time went. I happened to glance at the time in the corner of the screen. 10:20 AM. Huh?

So, what happened? Care to guess? If so, don’t read further until you’re ready for the answer.


Are you ready?


Are you sure?


Well, it’s simple, but it sure confused me for a moment. You see, when we flew from Seattle to New York, I changed the time on my iPhone and computer by 3 hours. When we flew from New York to Paris, I changed their times by another 5 hours. I could have asked both to get the local time off the network, in which case they would have changed automatically. But when I do this, my calendar gets all screwed up, shifting times of events to make them fit the local time zone, and I hate that. So I just change the times manually. The iPhone and computer put up with this. On the other hand, they have US Daylight Saving Time programmed in. Whatever time I tell them it is, they will dutifully change the time by an hour at the appropriate moment.

And that moment came at 2:00 AM local time in Venice while we were sleeping. At that moment, the iPhone re-set its clock from 2:00 AM to 1:00 AM. Its alarm, dutifully again, woke me up at 8:00 AM, but the new 8:00 AM. The time hadn’t changed in Venice. It did that a week earlier. It did change though in Seattle, and the iPhone and computer assumed I was still there. So they dropped an hour back and when the iPhone woke me up at 8:00 AM, the Venice time was actually 9:00 AM. We were so tired that for the first time in our trip, we overslept. Normally, I would have awakened close to the time the alarm was set for. Not that day.

Just like that, we had lost an hour to see Venice. Of course, the hour wasn’t really lost. We simply slept it away, and we probably needed the sleep. But we didn’t want the sleep. We wanted to explore. What made our lost hour all the worse was that this was the last non-rainy day of the entire trip.

I’m such an idiot.

Categories: Stupidity, Time, Travel
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