Friday, March 27, 2015

Top of the boot- Italy trip Days 5 & 6

It was our earliest wake up call yet. Mike and I got up at 5am to make sure everything was packed and ready for our overnight stay in Venice. We left for the train station at 6 but it only took our taxi about 10 minutes to get us there. Since we had pre-booked our tickets we really didn't have anything to do before our train arrived so we grabbed a cappuccino and donut at a coffee stand at Termini Station and waited. About 10 minutes before departure, she arrived! One of my very favorite things about Europe is their ability to travel by train. It's so much cheaper and easier than flying (I might be biased because I loath flying). We were really excited to take the kids on their first high speed train ride. Rome to Venice in under 4 hours! Our ears, they were a popping!

 Other than a few business men, the train was pretty empty until we got to Florence. Then quite a few more people got on the train. But we had picked out our seats months ago, getting facing seats with a table in between. We played UNO, read books, listened to music & even worked on our journals!

Bella's favorite part...the food car!
 Going 250km/hr gets you where you want to go faster but it doesn't necessarily get you there smoother! Here is Mike trying to carry two hot cappuccinos back to our seats.

 The view wasn't too bad either!
 We lucked out and finally had absolutely perfect weather! Blue skies and in the mid 60s. This is the view as soon as you walk out of the train station!
 We bought 2 day Vaporetto (their form of a taxi boat) passes for everyone then boarded one and headed to the hotel to drop our bags off.

Now in order to explain our choice in hotels is simple. Mike travels...a lot. The one benefit to this is that he accumulates a lot of Hilton Honors points. There is one Hilton in Venice and it isn't exactly close to anything. It's a 5 minute boat ride to St. Mark's Square...and that's the only way to get there. But it does have one thing going for it...well actually two... 1) It was free (points) but 2) It is amazing!
 It goes on and on. The roof? A pool & bar. Mike won serious cool points with the kids. Especially since when he checked in, they upgraded us to the Palace Suite!!! This place was bigger than our first two apartments...combined!
This is a picture of the kids in their room:
 And a view out their window!
Not too shabby I tell you. In fact, we had to convince them that as awesome as this suite was, actually going to see Venice is cooler. So back to the boat to head to St. Mark's Square.

We didn't have much luck with an empty Venice like we had with Siena but it wasn't too bad at all. We had been telling Bella for weeks about the pigeons that would be in the square. The kids had fun in Paris with the pigeons so she was really excited to see if they would eat out of her hand. Problem was, we didn't have any food. And there are signs everywhere saying not to feed the pigeons.

Bella thought maybe she could trick the pigeons into thinking she had food in her hand but not actually feed them. The pigeons were not fooled. Someone had either tossed them an apple core or they had gotten it out of the trash can so she figured that if she got close enough to it, maybe they would be interested in her. These aren't dumb pigeons.

Preston has decided that he's much too old and mature to play with pigeons. I was photographing Bella and the pigeons and I looked over and saw the boys. My chest filled with pride as I thought they were discussing and admiring the insanely cool architecture. I snap a pic to capture the moment.

I walk over and make a comment about the building. They tell me that they are admiring the pigeons that have been impaled with spikes on the top of the buildings. So much for my budding architect & mature husband.
 Now here comes a lot of photos of beautiful Venice (and my beautiful family)...

 Of course, there's gelato in Venice too. And remember what I said about not going a day without it! I have to admit, this was my favorite flavor of any I've tried...white chocolate coconut.

At 2:30 we had a tour planned with Row Venice. It's a 90 minute rowing lesson in one of 5 batellina (woden rowing boats) left in Venice. It's a little different than the fancy gondola boats, more sturdy. Or so they brought back bad memories of summer camp canoes for me. We decided on this in place of the traditional gondola rides because those are a little romantic and I would love for each of the kids to bring back their spouse and take one. I figured that they would enjoy a more hands-on experience.

This is one tour that I was nervous about but we had a great guide/teacher, Felix. He met us at the dock and took us to our boat.

My, my competitive side came out a little and after Felix gave us the run down he asked who wanted to go first. I could see the kids were a little hesitant so I volunteered. This looked so easy. Those gondoliers do while singing opera. I could certainly twist my wrists how he showed me and get us away from the dock. Any guesses how that brilliant idea went down???

Not well. In fact, I'm pretty darn surprised that Mike stopped laughing enough to take this unflattering picture of my backside. It's a good thing because my face was full of fear. I only lasted a few strokes until it was obvious to everyone that it was someone else turn. Felix was nice but we all knew what it meant when he said, "anyone else ready for a turn?" The boys took turns gliding us through the back canals, out into open waters.

Then, when we were in open water Felix asks if I want to try steering...this happens at the back of the boat instead of the middle. Not wanting to be the complete loser that I am feeling like I offer to give it another go. Any guesses how that went???
 A little closer look, shall we (ignore all the chins in this picture...I was worried more about falling out of the boat then giving good face).
Needless to say, I wasn't very good at steering either. I was a good sport and played along a little while longer but the look on Bella's face says it all. They all felt much better with me taking the pictures then rowing the boat.
The rest of the Updegraffs...complete pros. They rowed & steered us all around the lagoon (which it turns out is only 2 feet deep) and back through the maze of canals.

 Even though I was horrible at rowing, I still really enjoyed the experience. And the kids??? They loved it! They both surprised me at how good they were at it. We had a fabulous time and it was such a neat way to see Venice.

We actually ran into a family from Florida after our tour, one I had been emailing back and forth about which tours we were doing on our trip. A mutual friend had given her my information. It was crazy to meet someone from back home all the way in Venice!! They were going to take the rowing tour next so we left them to it and headed back into the shops of Venice. The mask shops were around every corner, some better than others.

I found the most amazing mask shop called Kartaruga. By far, the most unique Venetian masks around.
 Bella and I both picked one out as our souvenirs. I can't wait for the next Halloween party!

We wound our way back to St. Mark's Square to catch our boat back to the hotel.

We ended up eating a light dinner at the hotel before an early bedtime brought on from exhaustion.  Yummy appitizers called Cichetti.

Day 6!

I woke up earlier than everyone this morning to watch the sun rise out the bedroom window. Sheer beauty.

Our train was leaving Venice at 2:30 today so we only had a few hours after fueling up on the breakfast buffet. I had two requests while we were in Venice, 1) a visit to Burano 2) a visit to Libreria Acqua Alta. Both places I had found on lists of Must See Before You Die. Since we were short on time we took an early boat to Burano first.

It took about 1 1/2 hours to get there. Mike & the kids had no idea what Burano was or why I wanted to go there. When we got close, I asked them each to pick a color. Mike chose orange, Preston chose green, Bella chose blue and I said pink. The kids asked why and I told them that I wanted to get a picture of each one of them in front of a house painted that color. They all moaned, saying that it would take forever to find those...little did they know, it took about 30 seconds.

The town itself it super small. You can walk the entire island in 15 minutes. I kept thinking that this place reminded me of something...then it hit me:

Isn't is just beautiful!!!!We only had 30 minutes here until our boat was coming back to take us back to Venice so we got right to the task at hand.

I wish I could have stayed there all. day. long. But alas, it was time to go. So we snapped a few more then back on the boat.
 Mike found a set of Gator houses!

We made it back to Venice by noon and Mike navigated us into the deep back roads to find the elusive Libreria Acqua Alta. If you didn't know exactly where you were going, you would never find this place. And if you saw it on the outside, you might not even go inside. But those lucky to stumble in find a book lovers dream! Floor to ceiling books. But they are all off the ground because of the floods that hit Venice every year. They are stacking into bathtubs, a gondola and barrels. Everything that will float!
Notice the fire exit, lol.
 The staircase made of books!

After another gelato stop on the way to the hotel then it was time for check

Back on the train for the long trip back. The tracks near Rome had some issues so they made us take another route which stretched our trip out another hour.

We got back to Rome & our apartment around 8pm. We decided to take one last walk around our neighborhood, saying bye to the Trevi Fountain and picking up souvenirs for loved ones back home. I didn't take my camera with me because we wanted to just soak it in. We took our mental pictures (you know the kind where you act like you are taking a picture with your air camera) and talked about all of our favorite parts of the trip. Then we packed and went to bed.

The trip home hit a few snags due to weather but we made it home safe and sound. Happy to be in our own beds but excited to tell all the stories of our trip. We've already started planning the next one!