In October I had the opportunity to travel to Venice and then go on a 10 night cruise with 59 other travel agents to Venice, Croatia, and the Greek isles. I have always dreamed of walking the streets and maze of alleys of Venice and being among the history and beautiful scenery of Greece, as I was a fan of Greek Mythology, the gods of Greece and the rich history of those far away places. So, on Tuesday morning, October 8, I took a cab to the airport and embarked on my journey to New York, to meet my travel companion, Robin, and then take an air France flight over night to Venice! The flight from St. Louis was uneventful and when I got to La Guardia air port, retrieved my bags and met my cousin in law, Robin who joined me in New York from Houston. We took a taxi from La Guardia to JFK and then went through security at the air France terminal, again very smoothly. The Air France flight to Venice was huge, about the size of a football field. I always sit at the back of the plane when going to Europe so if in the middle of the night, I need the restroom, I will not wake anyone up. I cannot really sleep on a long flight to Europe so I always bring plenty of audio books to listen to and watch at least 2 movies. This time, I finally got to watch Now You See It with Morgan Freeman, it was very entertaining.
The food on Air prance was quite good and the service quite prompt and wonderful. We did not get breakfast in coach so with a 3 hour lay over at Charles De Gaulle Air Port, we were looking forward to having a cup of French coffee and croissant before we boarded our short flight to Venice. Wrong! Getting from one terminal to another was a nightmare. We almost did not make our connecting flight. So, a word to the wise. Either schedule at least a 3 hour layover when going through this airport or go non stop. We needed to go from terminal E to Terminal F. That does not sound like too much of a production. Well, first we had to go through security, practically take off all of our of clothes and then have our purses searched before we were given the privilege of climbing on a crowded bus to take an hour to get to the next building. When we finally reached this terminal and got off, we had to go through security twice more before finally getting to our gate as it was boarding. We never did get that croissant! After a short flight from Paris, we finally touched down at the Venice air port. We walked the mile to get off the airplane, picked up or luggage and caught a water taxi to take us to San Marco square to begin our fantastic journey. Venice and Venice Island are surrounded by lots of water. We had our luggage put on the water taxi and then proceeded to our 5* hotel, the Hotel Denalli, part of the Luxury collection at one end of San Marco Square. It was so cool! The water taxi pulls up to a dock at the back of the hotel and then you walk in and go to the front desk.
Venice is an old city and the buildings are hundreds of years old with the insides modernized. The hotel Denalli is comprised of a main building and then 2 adjoining buildings that you access through an elevator and steppes and bridges. Everywhere you look, you see beautiful marble and other wonderful elements of luxury. After reaching our room, very beautiful and large, we dropped off our luggage and started maximizing our day and a half in Venice. Everyone we knew who had been to Venice said if you only visit one museum, go to the Dolges Palace. It was down a bridge from our hotel. The Dolges Palace is a huge edifice, hundreds of years old and was the seat of the legislature as well as the home of the royalty family in years gone by. You cannot see all the maze of rooms in one day. We spend 3 hours walking around a maze of rooms and up and down many, many marble steps. Each room was so huge, I could have fit my house inside the room and still had room to spare. We saw the part of the palace where the legislature met, and also viewed a jail cell which you had to walk down steps to get into. I called it a dungeon; very cool! There were beautiful paintings and statues in each room and you were allowed to take pictures without a flash. After walking around for 3 hours, we left and walked down to walk across some more bridges and find an inexpensive place to eat some great food for supper. A word to the wise, be sure to find out if they charge to sit down to eat. Many restaurants charge a 5 euro sur charge to actually sit down and order from the tables in the restaurant. If the weather is fine, you can always find an outdoor table or bench to sit on to eat a wonderful pizza or drink a cup of Venetian coffee. In Venice if you want cream in your coffee, you ask for a white coffee and they do also have what they call Americanized coffee. You are not allowed to make coffee in your room because with such old buildings, fire is a problem so there is a sign in your room telling you why you cannot make your own coffee. Coffee in Venice typically costs from 3 to 5 euros, no free refills and small cups, not a bargain like the states.
After eating a small supper of great seafood, we walked around, window shopping and people watching and people listening to wonderful Italian as their accents wafted around us. As I said, Venice is a walking city, with lots of bridges and steps going up and down in all directions leading you to small alleys with wonderful shops to walk in and window shop from. We returned to our hotel room around ten pm and started winding down. I was unable to get the great travel agent rates that allowed us to stay in a luxury hotel for the price of a 3 * hotel for both nights so did not unpack as we needed to move our luggage the next day to the other part of San Marco square, 15 miles away. I finally got to see what a bidet is all about, too low to sit on and no seat. The beds were very comfortable and we were asleep in no time. Thursday morning came bright and early. We went down to the front desk and checked out, leaving our luggage to be picked up when we got back from exploring the small islands around Venice. The water bus system is the best bargain in Venice. You buy an inexpensive bus pass for a certain amount of hours or days and have unlimited access to the water bus. You go down to a station and wait for the big water bus to come to the dock and you walk straight on and sit down. The water bus makes stops along the way at small islands just like a regular bus. This is how the locals get from one small island to another to shop and work. We got off in a small island and then boarded another water bus to Burono, the island next to Murono where the beautiful glass factory is located. We spent several hours walking around Burono, purchasing beautiful murono glass jewelry for half the price you would find in the States, eating lunch at a small café and then walking behind the streets of the shops to see how the local Venecians really live.
The alleyways of Venice and the surrounding Italian islands are a maze, one alley and street leading into another with dead ends. You need a street gps to navigate them successfully. While we were there, we saw a little three year old trying to catch a pigeon with a net while his mother called to him in Italian and his father watched near by In Venice and the surrounding islands, you see pigeons everywhere, being fed by the tourists. Peoplewilleven go so far as to put bread crumbs all over their shoulders and arms to get the pigeons to fly on their bodies, very weird!. People in Burono and in other islands of Italy and Greece do not use dryers. It is typical to see clothes hanging out on balconies or back yards on lines or pulleys blowing and drying in the wind! The houses and apartments have beautiful pastel colors and has inside and outside shutters to protect them from the water elements but no screens. There is beautiful grill work and carvings and materials every where you look. Also, it is typical to see pots outside the building to catch rain water. It is also typical to see doorways set in from the alley and courtyards because of all the water elements that face Venice and the small islands around Venice. We then eventually found our way out of the maze of alleyways and walked back to the bus station to go on to Muromo . There was no official tour of the glass factory to be done in Murono since it was off season so we just got off the water bus and walked around. This island had more stores closed and the alleyways were more of a maze. So of course we could not leave without getting more glass jewelery and again walking around the courtyards and back alleyways. Exhausted and hungry and having spent lots of Euros, we finally found our way back to the bus station and back to the bus to go back to Venice, pick up our luggage, take a water taxi to our second luxury hotel and then on to supper. The waterbus left us off at the other end of Venice from where our first hotel was so we had to transfer to another bus to get back to the right side of Venice. We picked up our luggage, and took a water taxi to the Westin Europa Regina, another hotel in the Starwood Luxury collection of hotels.
The second hotel was huge and the front floor and lobby was a maze of rooms and lobbies and marble steps and floors all over the place. The lady who checked us in informed us that the hotel building was 4 hundred years old but the marble floors were only 15 years old. They said the marble had to be taken care of continuously since the water that came in from the front and back doors by the dock caused the marble to stain unless you took care of it immediately. We followed our porter up to our suite and left off our luggage. Then we went out for another great meal and to explore. This side of San Marco Square is what I call the high rent district. As you are walking down the alleyway you see in a row, Gucci, Prada, and other well known shops of Italian designers. If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it. But it is always fun to window shop and feel rich walking around these fabled streets. We had a great pizza for supper, white sauce, shrimp and artichokes. It was a real bargain, only 7 and ½ Euros for a 14 inch pizza and we found a little table outside the café to eat it on. We picked up some coffee and then did some more exploring of streets listening to music wafting out of restaurants and hotels and hearing wonderful Italian all around us. We spent the time walking, and talking to people from all over Europe, quite exciting and left us feeling very cosmopolitan We got back to our room late, but were not tired so sat on our couch and watched a movie on my portable dvd player I had brought with me. After the movie, we again fell asleep on wonderful beds with high end linens and prepared for our last morning in Venice before taking the water taxi to the cruise pier to meet up with our fellow travel agents to start our odyssey to Croatia and many Greek Islands for the next ten days.
In the morning, we got up early, checked out, left our luggage to be picked up by the water taxi and went exploring to maximize our last morning in Venice. We stopped for a quick breakfast of Venetian coffee and eggs and then went walking and into some small Italian Boutique hotels to get an idea of what was around us. We found that there were a couple of small 20 room hotels around our luxury hotel and a best western. So, if you are on a budget, you can still stay in the heart of the luxury district and if you stay at a 3* hotel or an Italian boutique hotel, you will even get free coffee and breakfast in the morning a reel savings so you have more Euros to spend on jewelry and other essentials! We walked around the alleys and bridges of Venice, drinking in the flavor of the Island, seeing people in costumes to advertise a concert at the opera house that evening and getting to hear a gondolier sing to the people around him. We did not get to do a gondola ride because it was too cold the last morning we were there. A word to the wise, a gondola ride is very expensive in Venice and even more so if you want a one on one ride with a singing gondolier. But just getting the experience of listening to the gondoleer standing up and singing was wonderful and something I had always dreamed of experiencing!
Then it was time to wind our way back to our hotel pick up our luggage and take the water taxi the forty minute ride to the cruise pier. I was fascinated at how great the water system works in Venice and the surrounding small islands. There is a lane for the water taxis, the water buses and the gondoliers, they really have it down Pat. As we waved good bye to Venice and Venice Island we prepared to start our journey to the Greek isles and lots of beautiful scenery, olive groves and history! We were not in Venice long enough and so I must come back again to experience things I did not have time to visit this time around! Things not to be missed when visiting Venice and the surrounding islands
- The Dolges Palace
- A gondola ride with a singing gondoleer
- The leaning tower of Buromo
- Great sales on beautiful glass jewelry
- A tour of the glass factory
- Touring the museum of lace and seeing how the beautiful Vnecian table cloths and clothes are made.
More to come tomorrow!