TRAVEL WEEK: Venturing Venice
Venice: the city where you'll want to frame every single photograph you take. Down every street, around every corner, any footbridge, canal, or building, I'm convinced there's beauty in every single inch of this city. Though Derek and I only had two days in this storybook-like city, we managed to take over 600 photos. And if I could, I'd print each one.
The first thing to know about Venice is that you've never experienced a place like this before. No cars, no bikes, not even rollerblades are allowed in the city. Instead, you travel by boat, water taxi, or water bus though the many canals that wind their way around and through the city.
This meant that Derek and I could do what we do best: walk everywhere. After two train rides from Florence, we navigated the water bus, hauled our bags through cobblestone streets and footbridges, left everything at the hotel, and went straight to San Marco's Square for dinner and some very much needed beers. We explored the Square a bit, walked down along the Grand Canal, and peeked into some of the shops with Venetian masks, designer clothing, and one that had miniatures.
For our first day, we made our way back through San Marco's Square and ventured to the Arsenale to explore the Venice Biennial--one of the world's largest and oldest contemporary art exhibitions. With over 120 artists from 51 countries and 86 National participants, it's no wonder this is referred to as the "Olympics of the contemporary art world." We saw giant hanging moths, stacks of beautiful striped mineral despots, art from a music box, some really strange videos, an incredible horse sculpture that was enormous, and so many other compelling and confusing works. It was a nice to see art that was so completely the opposite of what we'd seen so far.
After our fill of art, we meandered the streets of Venice and headed to the Ponte di Rialto. Everywhere you walk in Venice feels like an adventure, and we thought that at anytime we might end up in the middle of a murder mystery there. Alas, no such excitement. We did however have a wonderful time exploring and ended the evening with one of our best dinners of the trip.
On our second day, it was back again to San Marco's Square to check out the San Marco Campanile and Basilica. One thing to keep in mind when touring some of these incredible basilicas is that most have some degree of a dress code because they are houses of worship, so they prefer guests to dress as such rather than simply vacationers. What we saw most commonly was that there were no sleeveless tops allowed and shorts, skirts, or dresses must be at least knee length. You can easily bring a light cardigan or scarf to cover your shoulders, so it's really not too much of a hassle.
Next to San Marco's is Doge's Palace. Whoa. Everything from the painted ceilings to the fireplaces was remarkably beautiful and it was so fun to imagine someone actually living there. I mean, twist my arm and I guess I could make it work. There was splendor everywhere. Once we toured the palace, we passed through the Bridge of Sighs and saw what many a prisoner's last glimpse of was before going down to the prison. If you're going to have one last look at a city, Venice would be one of the toughest to leave behind.
Our afternoon was spent along the Grand Canal and taking the traditional Venice vacation gondola ride. I knew we would do it because 1. We were in Venice 2. We were on our honeymoon and 3. We were in Venice. I did not expect it to be such an experience. It was simply incredible having the gondolier maneuver the gondola easily through small, winding canals, point out historic buildings along our ride, and occasionally whistle a little tune as we rode along. If Venice wasn't wondrous enough before, experiencing it from a gondola in the canals made it simply magical.
We wrapped up the day with drinks and the longest dot game ever in the courtyard of our hotel before heading to the opera. I know, NBD, just going to an opera in Venice. We saw Gioachino Rossini's The Barber of Seville in the incredibly lavish La Fenice Opera House (only around a few corners from our hotel). Admittedly, we had pretty terrible seats, but that only made our experience richer in my opinion. We had lean over the rail to see and we loved every second of it.
Our final day in Venice was spent adventuring around the parts of Venice that we hadn't quite reached yet before a whole new kind of adventure: trying to take a boat to the airport for our flight to Paris. As we were flying to the one place I have dreamed about visiting since I watched Madeline as a little girl, I couldn't help but to already miss Venice. Our photos don't do this dream of a city justice. I don't know if anyone's could. But to have been there, even only for a brief, brief time, is something I will never forget.
MUST-DO'S IN VENICE
Get a Little Lost
Many people travel to Venice to vacation and the fashion seemed to reflect that. In a way, the trends we saw here reflected the city itself: effortless, easy beauty. Flowing dresses, either midi or long, were everywhere and enabled women to stay cool despite the warm and humid atmosphere. As popular as the light blue and striped clothing was in Rome, Florence, and back in MPLS, Venice tended to prefer bold red and white stripes. But you definitely wanted to stay with a thin strip, because too broad and you'd match the gondoliers. Straw hats were very popular, either floppy or fedora. A really fun trend that I'm going to give a whirl are sunglasses in nearly any shape or size with colored reflective lenses - think reflective pinks, oranges, and blues.
Here are a few more items that I never would have made it without.
1. Peakeep Ultra Small Travel Alarm Clock. This ultra small, ultra light, and ultra cute alarm clock can really be a lifesaver on a vacation. I typically rely on my phone for an alarm, but if you plan on using your phone for navigation and photos all day, the battery can go pretty quickly. And because we were in Europe and had to use outlet adapters, every once and a while we would have trouble charging a phone overnight. Hence, the good ol' travel alarm clock. Turns out your old one from your dad is still a handy necessity.
2. Sunscreen. This was not only a must to pack, but a must to have on us all the time. Thanks to my lovely porceline skin, I had to battle to not get a burn. Getting tan is nice, but you don't want to waste anytime on your trip being sore, tired, or beet red because you forgot your UV defence. We used Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreen for our faces and it absorbed quickly and kept our skin safe and looking good.
3. Great Games! Classic Pen and Pencil Games for Two Players: Even though I'm 30, I still appreciate a good activity book. Okay, even though I'm 30 I still need a good activity book. This one was so small and simple, I would store it in my pencil case and break it out in the airport, on planes and trains, and even in the courtyard of our Venice hotel along with a couple minibar beers. This simple book offers rules and pages for seven different pen and pencil games. It doesn't get much simpler or better than that.
4. Great Gatsby Canvas Pouch: This is the perfect pencil case for the literary fan that's always on the go. It's quite durable, and not only could I store a few pens and pencils, but I also kept my headphones, some gum, a pencil sharpener, the game book mentioned above, and several other odds and ends. It was perfect for the flights because I could just store it in the pouch of the seat in front of me. I ended up toting it around with us most days of the trip just to help organize my purse. And the fact that it one of my favorite books and one of my favorite covers doesn't hurt either.