November 17, 2017

The captivating allure of Venice

Nothing captures the romantic imagination quite like Venice, which was the fourth stop on our recent European adventure. I guess with several kids in tow, the romance would have to wait, but we savored every moment of our time, regardless.


After a few wonderful days in Florence, it was a quick two hour train ride to Venice. As an important port city located on the Adriatic Sea, Venice quickly became the wealthiest city in all of Europe during the Middle Ages.

It was dark when we arrived, but full of charm nonetheless.


Just a quick ride on the water bus, and a walk through some long, narrow alleys (thank you GPS!),  we were at our hotel.

Hotel rooms in Europe can be a bit....odd. Usually, you are dealing with a building that has been in existence for hundreds of years and probably did not start out as a hotel. Our hotel in Venice was no exception. 

Just as in Asia, sleeping a family of four can be an incredibly difficult task. (Paying for two rooms for a family of four adds up!) The hotels and the rooms are just tiny.

This particular hotel, was very .....ornate, as well, in a perfectly Venetian sort of way. 

European hotels will always have a bidet, alongside the toilet. (Once again, I miss the Japanese efficiency of having one fancy toilet that incorporates all of these functions into one.)


You may or may not get a shower in the room, sometimes there is only a wand in the bathtub. This particular shower was so small that I had to wash my hair with my arms glued to my sides. Try it!


When leaving the hotel, you often leave your room key with the front desk, to be picked up when you return.


And when your key looks like this- you are kind of okay with them holding on to it!


But the best thing about our hotel? It was less than five minutes from St. Mark's Square, so we took a stroll in the moonlight to check things out.


A selfie-stick seller even provided mood lighting for my picture! But overall, we were not badgered to buy things as incessantly as in Rome.

There was live music in the square and they just happened to be playing Dean Martin's (American) hit, That's Amore. Cheesy? Yes. Touristy? Yes. Did I love every moment? Absolutely!! Exactly the song to speak to my tourist heart. We stood and listened to the song in its entirety, and yes, I sang!

Upon arrival at our hotel earlier, we learned there was a mix-up in reservations, so my sister Pam had no room for the night. After some deliberation, Matt suggested trying Priceline. Luckily she found a room, totally last minute, and we walked her to the hotel. The room was normally $600 per night, and she got it for only $150! Score! The next morning, she texted me a picture of her breakfast view overlooking the Grand Canal, while dining on a fabulous caprese salad.

No worries, we were thoroughly enjoying our breakfast view too, I assured her. Some people have all the luck!

Who needs caprese salad when you have a bread basket,

and olive oil packets?

(***After meeting up again, Clara was having a ball crawling under the hotel beds. Ewww!)

Joking aside, we were overall happy with our stay at Hotel Noemi, especially it's proximity to the square. Now, time to explore.

St. Mark's Basilica was first on our agenda, with the hopes of beating the crowds.


St. Mark's was completed around 1063 and is also known as the Church of Gold, due to it's ornate interior, which was absolutely breathtaking and my favorite church of the trip. It was covered floor to ceiling in gold mosaic. I can't even fathom the painstaking labor of such a task!

Photos were not allowed inside the cathedral, but check out the pictures online. There are no words to describe the beauty!

Adjacent to St. Mark's Basilica is Doge's Palace. We did not tour the palace, but I've heard it is incredible as well. The palace was home to the early rulers of Venice, and a display of the vast Venetian wealth during the Middle Ages.


Poor Benny did not always want to have his picture taken.


Forget pictures, churches and palaces, the kids only wanted to chase pigeons.

Hands down the best activity of the day!




However, chasing pigeons soon turned into holding pigeons. Sorry, but pigeons gross me out.




Ewwww. And surprisingly, nobody got pooped on!

Okay, moving on, it was time to explore the charming, narrow alleyways that are Venice.

Venice is a maze of canals and walkways, and is completely car-free.


We enjoyed getting lost in the abundant charm.


Gondola's are available for hire, but we passed for this trip because it's fairly pricey. Some gondoliers will even serenade you. That's Amore, please!


(I don't think I'd hire the guy in the white shirt though, black and white stripes would be a must!)


Matt had already informed me that he wasn't interested in this expensive, albeit romantic custom. Sigh. Practicality wins again.


But with all of these kids in tow, I suppose it was just as well!





Just behind this sister-selfie is the Bridge of Sighs. Connected to the Doge's Palace, the view from this bridge was the last glimpse prisoners would get of beautiful Venice, before imprisonment.

I really loved wandering this picturesque city. We passed fresh pasta shops,

carts of fresh and colorful peppers,

lots of mask stores (Carnivale is a huge Venetian festival held every February),

and gelato, of course.

Since becoming quite the gelato connoisseurs, we decided that this shop was good, but did not even come close to the gelato shop in Florence.

We decided every shop must be tried to name the true winner. Tough job, I know.

And Benny chased the pigeons away, whew!

Onward and upward to the famed Rialto Bridge,

with a great view of the Grand Canal from the top!



The Grand Canal was a jumbled mess of boats, of all shapes and sizes. I don't know how they all maneuvered as well as they did without a collision!

But, alas, the time had come to head back to the hotel to collect our bags, then on to the train station. So, it was back through the small alleys to Hotel Noemi.

We decided to take the water bus back to the train station, to see Venice from a different vantage point.


Totally charming in every way!



There really is no other place like it....except maybe the Venetian in Vegas. (A joke!)


We saw some very interesting sculptures along the way, as well.


Just to let you in on a secret, the water bus was not exactly the most romantic or enjoyable way to travel, but the price was right.

And Clara was none the wiser!

Venice was exactly what I had always pictured, and then some! Romantic, picturesque and completely captivating. At this point in the trip, we said goodbye to Matt, and he made the trek back to Alaska the following day.

But the girls and I planned to stay an additional week with Pam in the small Italian village she calls home. The adventure continues...

Up next, we visit the delightfully colorful island of Burano, a short ferry ride from Venice.