holy cow, two posts in one month... basically a world record in my books.
as promised (months ago now), today's post is going to be part one of my vacation series. it's going to be a bit of an image & word dump, but i hope you'll enjoy it nonetheless. so, without further ado, i give you "earls in italy part one: venice"...
Venice Part 1: Travel and Arrival
our flight was due to depart july 12th at 10:30pm, so naturally we left the house at 4:30pm and were through security and waiting at the gate by 6pm (hence the empty waiting area in the first photo over there <--). we got dinner from the sandwich bar that was just around the corner from our gate and settled in to wait the 4 hours until boarding began. as the sun started setting, i wandered a few gates over from ours and noticed that the angle was perfect to catch the actual sun setting. i ran (walked at an increased pace) back to our gate and got my sister to come over with me so that i could snap a photo of her looking out pensively (haha). as far as sunsets go, it was preeetty nice!
not long after the sun went down, we began to board the plane. we flew with air transat and had gotten their "options plus" package so that we could pick out our seats. perks of the package also included free alcohol (if you know me at all, you know that i obviously did not consume any) and comfort pack as well as priority boarding etc. we had originally picked seats that had a lot of leg room because i have longish legs and bad knees, but what we didn't realize is that the seats were extremely narrow and the armrests went all the way down to the floor (solid plastic). now for a short flight to say, new brunswick or nova scotia I wouldn't have minded being a bit squished but, as most of you know my mother and I are larger people and a 9 hour flight squished into a tiny seat was not going to work for us. luckily, the flight was not overly full, so we moved one section in front of where our assigned seats were, right beside the plane's entrance (big isle), so i could sit sideways and have plenty of leg room. the flight was long and uneventful. i listened to an audiobook and a toddler screamed the entire nine hours but pretty much nothing else interesting happened. i was just happy that we arrived alive, as i am a very nervous flyer.
once we got off the plane we were bussed to the terminal and went through customs - which was ridiculously easy - and wandered around trying to figure out which vaporetto we should take to get to the rialto bridge. eventually, we hopped on line 2 and hoped for the best.
Venice Part 2: Finding the Hotel & the First Evening
luckily i had done my research and came well prepared with an exact route we needed to get to our hotel, or else we never would have found it. in case you didn't know, venice is extremely easy to get lost in, which can be both a blessing and a curse. thankfully, i knew that we had to get of at the rialto bridge stop and walk straight down the first street until we found our hotel. for some reason i wasn't expecting it to be quite so far down the actual street. It probably would have been smarter for us to get off at the Piazza San Marco stop instead. Oh well - lesson learned!
Our hotel was called Hotel Noemi. I personally thought it was great. There was air conditioning (thank goodness, it get HOT in Italy in July) and a complimentary breakfast and wifi. my mother thought our room was small but i personally thought it was a nice size and the window/view was out of this world amazing. this hotel didn't have an elevator though, which we all thought was a bit of a downside, though i wasn't really expecting there to be one.
the fun thing you notice straight away about venice is that there are literally no straight lines. everything is just a little teeny bit crooked. i thought it added to the charm of the place.
even though we were extremely tired from the plane ride, it was only early evening in Venice and we had earlier decided that we would try and outsmart our jet lag by going to bed at a normal bed time in venice rather than crash as soon as we got to the hotel. this ended up working really well for me. not quite as well for my sister and mom. so, we dropped off our luggage at the hotel and set out to find a place to eat dinner. we didn't have to walk far at all, as there was a restaurant right around the corner from the hotel. Keep in mind that it was about 6pm at this point, which is normal dinner time here in Canada, but definitely early in Italy. Nonetheless, we sat down (got a few strange looks) and ordered our food. I (obviously) got pasta, and it was delicious. My sister got salad and I think my mom also got pasta.
After we ate, we wandered around for a little bit, just to get a feel of where out hotel was in relation to the big landmarks that we wanted to take in. We didn't have to wander far from the hotel at all (less than 5 minutes) before we literally stumbled into Piazza San Marco. We had no idea we were that close to it! A note that my mother had about the Piazza in the evening (and we later found out all the time) is the number of pigeons. There are so many of them and they are NOT afraid to lad on you. Crazy!
We also happened upon a church that was kind of hidden in a small piazza. The doors were open and people seemed to be coming and going as they pleased, so we went in as well and had a bit of a sit down moment. It was absolutely stunning inside the church. Everything in Italy is very opulent compared to here. there is a lot of gold. It's actually pretty amazing
At this point the sun was beginning to set and we were all getting a little bit cranky from tiredness so we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel.
Venice Part 3: The First Day
Not surprisingly, we all slept 12 hours the first night in Italy but woke up refreshed and ready to hit the ground running. (Not literally running. if any of you know me personally you will have heard me ask on numerous occasions if "this body looks like it was made for running" HINT: It's not.) I digress. Once we got ready for the day, ate a traditional (or what italians think american continental breakfast is) breakfast of pastries (yum) and tea, we headed out to our appointment with Saint Mark's Basilica. I had booked skip the line tickets (only like €3/person) which I have to say were one of the smartest thing I bought for the trip because we were in and out of the basilica before 99% of the people in the line. I know that you can get into the basilica for free if you wait in the line, but we were only in Venice for two days and we didn't want to spend most of that waiting in lines. So we bought a lot of skip the line tickets.
The basilica was amazing. there are literally no other words to describe it. There technically isn't supposed to be any photographs taken inside the building, but I literally could not help myself. Also, I figured that the rule was likely there so that people didn't use their flash (because flash will fade a painting/art faster than regular light). My D3s doesn't even have a flash, so I figured It would be okay if I snapped a few pics. (Also, no one appeared to be following the rules so I joined in but I didn't want to make myself sound like a follower, hahaha).
I really wanted to go up to the roof area of the building, but you had to pay to have access and the stairs were extremely steep and my mom and sister didn't really want to climb them in the sweltering heat. So it didn't happen. Which mean I have to go back.
One thing I would note about Italy is that I would not go back in July. I would probably go at the end of May or beginning of June so that the temperatures were more moderate and bearable or longer periods of time because it just hot hotter as the trip went one (our trip to Rome was not as enjoyable as it should have been, due to 43+ temperatures and lets not talk about how my camera briefly broke in the Vatican Museum..). Again, I'm off topic.
After we finished in the basilica, we took a nice long meander around Venice. We allowed ourselves to get "lost" in order to see the most of the city. I think we explored the majority of the west of the city (if you're looking at it from above). It was nice to just stroll around at a nice slow pace and really take in the atmosphere. Once we got past the major landmarks (Doge's Palace, Bridge of Sighs, Piazza San Marco etc.) the number of people thinned out considerable and we were able to enjoy a relatively private walk around the city.
Though there were a lot of people there at the time, there were not nearly as many as I was anticipating form reading things online. Definitely not too many so that it was unenjoyable to be at the major tourist spots, but just enough for it to look very busy.
In the pictures above, you can see that it was an extremely nice day and that my sister decided she was in a good enough mood to let me take photos of her (yay!). The water was a beautiful bluey-turquoise and the sky was this amazing blue that the photos just do not do justice. (Read: Thank you Photoshop)
Of course by then the sun had sucked all of our energy and we were THIRSTY. I do not use capitals there lightly. I think we all drank 2L of water a day (in hindsight, I should probably be doing that every day?). So we stopped for lunch at a little pizzaria/trattoria for pizza! So yummy!
After our lunch we decided to go back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before we went on our next adventure.
(This is where the number of words I am writing becomes less than the number of photos I want to share so sorry if the text/photos done exactly line up properly!)
After our siesta (or is it fiesta?) We headed back out, determined to take a ride on a gondola. Now, a lot of people had been saying "it's so expensive for the amount of time you get" but I personally thought it was a really great experience and I mean you should do it at least once if you're going to go to Venice. you probably are not going to regret the money spent for the really cool experience you get (unless you fall in, which I did not do, thank you very much).
Our gondoleer (I don think that is the right term, but "gondola driver guy" is a little long-winded and informal) was very kind and very knowledgable. He spent the entire time giving us tidbits of information about the families that live/lived in the estates we were passing and where the style of architecture came from (which I now cannot remember to save my life). We even spent part of our trip in a literal boat traffic jam. It was fun to see how they dealt with traffic in a with no traffic lights. There seemed to be some sort of system they had, that I definitely could not figure out. The gondoleer also had extremely good english, but I imagine that is probably a pre-requisite if you're going to be driving one of those boats for primarily english tourists. I definitely spent a little more time being nervous about tipping over (the Grand Canal was quite choppy when we were in the boat) than I really wanted to, but it was definitely a unique once in a lifetime kind of experience. It was also nice to be able to sit and see the sights because at that point we had walked around all day and I had foolishly worn my Toms and my feet were a little achy.
After the gondola ride, my mom decided she would like to do a little shopping and head back to the hotel for the evening. I really wanted to take photos of the sunset, so my sister and I headed back to Piazza San Marco again to walk around, take in the atmosphere and (obviously) take some photos. We loved the live music in the Piazza.
While were wandering about, a lovely british couple came up to us asked us to take their picture. The woman was crying and clearly very excited as she told us this huge story about how her boyfriend had just proposed to her. Mulsa and I thought it was literally the cutest thing ever and of course took the photo of them. Too cute!
Another thing that we noticed about Venice as we were wandering around is that the people walking a round & selling things are very aggressive. We had a young man come up to us and give us each a single rose, which we thought was weird but sweet. When we thanked him he demanded we give him euros. Unfortunately we actually didn't have euros and when we told him, he refused to believe us. When we said we were serious and tried to give him back the roses, he pushed them back to us and kept demanding euros. This went on for a few minutes before we finally forced the roses back into his hands and decided to head back to the hotel. What were we going to do with roses anyway?
Venice Part 4: Burano, Rialto & The Story About the Waiter Named Eddie
Though we didn't want to admit it, we were still jet-lagged and ended up sleeping in late again. Mulsa woke up in a bad mood & decided that she wanted to stay at the hotel and try and sleep a bit more. So, my mom and I got ready and headed out to the Rialto Bridge for some sightseeing and to take a few photos (What a surprise?!).
So we set off (around 10:30am) and found the Rialto Bridge with no difficulty, having briefly seen it when we arrived. It was quite crowded with people at this point in the morning - I think a cruise ship had just arrived, so people were everywhere. I waited patiently to get to the front of the bridge to take photos, snapped them and we continued on our way.
We had not had breakfast yet at this point since we had slept in and missed the one the hotel was offering, so we decided to stop at one of the little cafe's long the Grand Canal. Now, there are a lot of little cafe's along the Grand Canal and they're all fighting to get business. We were a little overwhelmed with the number of waiters who were trying to convince us to sit at their restaurant, so we decided to walk down the street a bit more to see if there was a place that was a little less aggressive. Luckily, we found the perfect place just a little bit further down. It was almost empty and there were no waiters trying to force us to sit there (and also there was an impressive display of pastries so... let's be honest here; pastries win).
We sat down under the canopy for shade (it was getting mucho hot) and ordered a light breakfast. I had strawberries with whipped cream (I know, I didn't even get a pastry. A regret I will never get over) and I think my mom got the strawberries as well. Yummy! We were mesmerized by the people and the atmosphere surrounding the Grand Canal. Because we were so far down the street, we could see everything but were not engulfed with the noise from the tourists. It was great. We actually spent the majority of the day sitting at this restaurant, just watching the world go by. We stayed actually stayed long enough to order lunch, which we did (I know, such a tough life). I had fettuccine and my mom had past of some sort that was not fettuccine...
This is probably the best time to insert the story about Eddie, our waiter at this restaurant. About an hour after we sat down at the table, I began to notice that our waiter kept staring at us and was always coming over to make sure everything was good and if we needed more water/food. At first I thought it was just really excellent service. But then at one point he asked my mother if I was her daughter. Obviously she said yes, I was her daughter and he (I literally am not kidding here) thanked her for bringing me to the restaurant because I was so gorgeous (still laughing as I type this). Let's have a little conversation about how NOT gorgeous I was looking that day. I had on like the ugliest shirt known to man, no makeup whatsoever and I had showered that morning and my hair was a giant afro of frizz from the humidity. Oh, and I was sweaty. Like, I feel the need to apologize to the rest of the human race for how disgusting I looked. But apparently some people are into that (or he was just playing with me, which I think is probably more likely).
So anyway he kept coming over and trying to strike up conversation with me and as we paid the bill for our food he gave me a business card with his number on it and then made me give him mine. My mom was like "sure why not" .. so that happened (yes I still ask my mom permission to do things. yes i am 20 years old. let me live my life the way I want :P). He said he would text me that night so that he could show me around Venice. My literal response was "LOL no. I'm leaving tomorrow morning" and in my head I was like "sorry man, I do not know you well enough to go anywhere with you at night ever." And also, my phone didn't work the entire time we were there (Thanks a lot Telus. I even paid for the international plan). Side note: I got home and turned on my phone & had like 4 texts from him so thats weird. He still occasionally texts me too. But like, I don't have the money to pay for international texting. What do you think I am, rich?
Um ya.. So I feel like now would be a nice time to segue into some pictures...
After that experience, we headed back to the hotel to see if Mulsa was ready to go to Burano, which we had planned to do in the evening so that it was a) not as hot and b) not as busy. It actually worked out really well for us because we got there around 6 (it take about an hour to get there from Venice, which I did not anticipate, but whatever) and the sun was getting really golden and beautiful.
We spent about an hour and a half on the Island, walking around, taking in the sights and sounds. There were a lot more local people out and about in Burano then there was in Venice. I imagine because there are significantly less people and it's not as hard for them to go about their daily business and get caught up in the crowds.
My mom of course did a little bit of shopping . She found a stunning lace tablecloth that she bought for only like 70 euro. Which apparently is really cheap? Who knew.
Burano is a stunning little island and so bright and colourful. It is so photogenic and I literally took hundreds of photos. I would very much like to go back there and spend some more time exploring since we only stayed a short while because we wanted to catch the sunset at the Rialto bridge.
We didn't quite catch the sunset at the bridge, but watching the sunset in the boat on the way back to the city was almost as amazing, if more more amazing.
We then headed to another little restaurant along the Grand Canal for dinner. I had pesto, my sister and mom had seafood, if I recall. It was my first time trying fresh pesto (not the stuff out of the jar) and it was delicious!
After dinner, my mom and sister wanted to do some souvenir shopping, which I was not into, so I went by myself to take some night time photos of the canal and the bridge. Long exposure photography is not my strong point, I have since learned, as most of the photos I took ended up being way to blurry to keep (boo).
We then walked back to the hotel - Venice is SO quiet at night - and packed up our stuff up to get ready for our train ride to Florence the next day. It take a surprisingly short amount of time for hotel rooms to get messy, I've noticed.
We thoroughly loved Venice and I would come back here a million times over if I had the chance. There is so much of it that we never got to see.
Well..... I think that's about the end of the post (finally). Stay tuned in 700 years for part two, Florence. (THAT WAS SARCASM).