Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Venice: Canals dreams are made of

Venice is an amazing city, there is no doubt about it. There is no wonder it is one of the top ten most visited cities in the world. Its reputation precedes it, and it does not disappoint. In a mere five minutes you can cross no less than half a dozen canals all picturesque and right out of your dreams.

My memories of Venice were all good ones. I traveled here with my best friend after college back in the late 90's, and we fell in love with Venice. We were young and broke, and quite honestly exhausted of the tourist travel by the time we reached Venice. So when we arrived by train, we road the vapporetti (the public boat "bus") for easily two hours and enjoyed all the views provided from the main canal. We were interested in doing anything that wasn't tourist related, so we traversed the streets and found ourselves sitting on the edge of the canal talking to local Italian men for hours before finding a local restaurant for dinner and hopping the night train to Munich. It was a great day in Venice.

The trip we took last week was both different and the same. Having little r in tow for this trip made things interesting. He was just downright tired of traveling. Despite getting good sleep at night, he wasn't napping, and frankly, we were all pretty exhausted, so how could we blame him?

But it was Venice! How could we go wrong in Venice, I mean, really? The weather was nice with a pending storm looming, but it was a bit overrun with tourists the day we were there. I didn't really expect anything less, so we just took it all in and tried not to lose little r in the crowds.

We visited San Marcos Square and saw St. Mark's Bascilla (well, Big R did, little r and I waited outside and enjoyed people watching)...

Big R captured a bird in flight crossing in front of the Bascilla.
The detail on this ancient church was breathtaking.
The ceilings were lined with gold, of course.
And the floors were made up of mosaic tiles.
we went to the top of the Campanile bell tower to get amazing views of Venice (unfortunately this was one tower we didn't get to walk up - the elevator is the only way up this tower)...

Campanile bell tower
St. Marcos Square

we chased the birds in St. Marcos Square (easily little r's favorite part of the day)...

and we attempted lunch and enjoyed some gelato (we were in Italy afterall!). Little r had other ideas in mind when it came to lunch, and it's the first time in I can't tell you how long we had to take turns leaving the cafe because he was putting on a theatrical performance. The Italians love children though, so before we knew it, we had men entertaining little r with talking lobsters and singing fish. Never a dull moment in our travels...

We wandered through the streets of Venice and got terribly lost with all the other tourists. I'm thinking that tourists holding maps and pointing at buildings is a common occurrence, and the locals undoubtedly get a little tired of giving directions. But my goodness is that island confusing! Even Big R with his navigational skills couldn't figure out where we were. At least we weren't in a hurry, and getting lost doesn't mean much when you aren't looking for something in particular, so we just enjoyed our excursions down the local streets and Big R took a lot of pictures.

Beautiful balconies
Elegant canals
Big R's skillful photography puts this setting in the early 1900's
Only in Venice can a photograph in front of someone's underware be considered glamorous
More canals...
The main canal in Venice
A gondola ride was initially in our plans, but at 80 EUR for an hour and eminent rain (and a screaming toddler) deterred us this time around. Instead we took a gondola ride on one of the canal crossings. It was actually pretty fun. For 0.50 EUR you could get a trip from one side to the other (there are only a few bridges that cross the main canal). So, technically we got our gondola ride. Isn't it romantic?

The navigational signs finally started leading us in the right direction (I have a feeling we weren't the first tourists to get horribly lost in Venice), and before we knew it we were looking at the train station. Our plan was to check the train schedule and then find a canal-side restaurant to enjoy an early dinner before heading back to Vicenza. Unfortunately, little r again had other ideas. While Big R was in the station, little r had a meltdown of colossal proportions. I seriously have never experienced a tantrum with him that was this awesome. We were surrounded by hundreds of people, which translates into thousands of eyes staring us down. It was pretty incredible. I was waiting to get arrested because clearly I was torturing him, obviously since he was screaming like I was trying to kill him. Yeah, not one of his shining moments. Oh well, we all have them...

Many tears later (from both of us), and Big R returned. It didn't take long for us to decide that heading home would be the best option. So, that's exactly what we did. You'd be surprised to know that he was awake the entire ride back to Vicenza and was even CRAZY. We were glad to be home, and I think little r was, too.

Overall Venice is an amazing place. I think it's a place that is best visited in a romantic way though, either with a loved one or a best friend. You should go and stay for a couple days so you can enjoy Venice away from the daily tourists that flock the town. It's pretty manic and the heavily touristed areas definitely rub the locals the wrong way. You could feel it in the mood. I'm sure this disappears in the wee hours of the morning or late into the night. Man, Venice would be a fabulous place to see after dark. Yes, I highly recommend Venice, just don't bring a toddler. It's doable, but it's not the best way to see this amazing city.

We capped off the night with yet another bottle of wine purchased at the PX - it was Italian, but again probably flown in from California. This time Big R joined me on the bathroom floor as we ate fritos and drank our wine. Not exactly glamorous, nor was it the canal-side dinner we were hoping for, but at least we were sharing it together. Somehow that made everything seem just that much better...

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