“Travel has a way of stretching the mind.” ~ Ralph Crawshaw
One of the things that helped me in my grieving process was that I vowed to live for my son. I would do things that he wanted to do. So, my first trip was going to be to Venice, Italy. However, we didn’t exactly have a budget for this kind of trip. My only hope was to research and find something that would be budget friendly. Then it occurred to me, if only there was a way that I could place a trip on lay-a-way. Just for the fun of it I googled, “Vacations on lay-a-way.” Jackpot! There it was, Gate 1 Travel, a travel agency that allowed a deposit and a 10-month payment plan for the vacation of your dream. I was ecstatic and immediately researched the agency, read the reviews and began to explore the website. I was ready to book the trip of my life. We chose an 8-day enchanting Italy trip including Venice, Florence and Rome . So, on October 20, 2013, my husband and I embarked on our first trip to Italy.
It was a long tedious trip which began at 5:05 p.m. from Orlando and arrived at 11:20 a.m. in Venice, Italy. We had a layover in New York with a connecting flight to Spain and then Venice. The airline to Spain was Iberia, though decent, had the most uncomfortable seats ever. We didn’t think of choosing our seats ahead of time or upgrading so we were stuck with what was given. They were the last seats right next to the bathrooms at the very back of the plane. There was no overhead compartment for those seats and leg room was very limited. Mind you, we are both tall – 5’8″ and 6′. The only thing that kept me sane throughout the trip was the Puerto Rican baseball team who were traveling to Spain. They walked back and forth through the aisles which amused me. They were relentless. I don’t think they slept during the entire flight. My husband jokingly said, that they literally “walked” to Spain. Between the layover in New York and in Spain it took us roughly 24 hours to travel from Florida to Italy. But I was so happy to have arrived at magical Venice. Yes, for me it was magical. The weather was in the mid 50’s, the sun was shining, the water shimmered, the breeze carried the scent of the ocean… indeed it was magical. I was in awe and kept whispering to myself, “this is for you my son,” whilst keeping him in my mind and heart.
We walked to the hotel but were not able to check in until 2:00 p.m., however, they were nice enough to keep our luggage so that we could explore around the vicinity. We stopped at Ristorante Roma on the corner of Per San Marco and Cannaregio for lunch and chose a table on their outdoor terrace. The view was breath-taking. We ordered our first pizza in Italy. However, I would not recommend this location though. The pizza’s appearance was not appetizing and tasted like a frozen Totino’s pizza; the service was bad and it was too expensive for what it was. It didn’t faze me at that moment though. I was so happy to be there and really didn’t care much about it. After lunch, we walked around a bit and snapped a few photos until we were able to check-in to our rooms.
The Amadeus Hotel was small and old with a charming decoration appropriate for its time period. The hallway was narrow and was decorated with beautiful art from its era. The decorations consisted of lots of golds, reds, flowers, crown molding and chandeliers giving the sense of being in a 1960’s. The room was quite large with two large windows. We requested a double bed but instead got two twin beds pushed together, which we did not even notice until we returned home and looked through the photos. There was also a chaise. We didn’t spend much time in the room. We freshened up, placed our valuables in the safe and left to stroll around at our leisure. At that point, we had gone over 30 hours without sleep but figured it’d be best for us to continue than take a quick nap. We needed to make sure we adapted to Europe’s time zone.
We strolled the Venetian streets and famous bridges, visited some shops and stopped for our much deserved coffee at Caffe Hausbrant. We ordered a cappuccino and I have to say, it was one of the best cappuccino’s I’ve ever had – so rich and foamy but yet smooth.
We continued our self tour until our welcome dinner time around 9:00 p.m. at the Sivoli Ristorante in Hotel Principe. I don’t recall what the dinner consisted of – most likely because it wasn’t much to brag about. Our welcome dinner continued until about 10:00 p.m. We then made our way back to the hotel and finally went to sleep in a bed!
The next day, we were awakened by the 7:00 a.m. wake-up call. We had a good night’s rest and felt refreshed and energized. After showering went downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant for a well-deserved breakfast. The hotel had a full breakfast buffet which was very good. After breakfast we met with our charming tour guide, Simoné, in the lobby and at 9:00 a.m. departed to our first destination.
Our first stop was the Murano Glass Factory where we attended a glass blowing demonstration. Afterwards were invited to tour the store. While allowed to snap pictures at the glass blowing process we were not allowed to snap pictures in the store. I guess I missed the part where they mentioned it because I was caught snapping pictures at their beautiful glass chandeliers. In less than a minute there were three men dressed in black suits surrounding me. I was told that photography was not allowed in their store. I apologized and placed my camera in my bag, but that was not enough to send them away. As I walked through the store I could feel them behind me. If I turned right there they were; if I turned left, there they were. After purchasing a few goodies we headed back to meet with our tour group. The men watched my every move and even followed me back to the vaporetto. I felt like a convict and was a bit embarrassed. I guess they didn’t trust that I would not take any more photos, oh well.
Our next stop was Piazza San Marcos (St. Mark’s Square). We had a guided tour of the beautiful Basilica San Marcos (St. Mark’s Basilica). We also visited Doge’s Palace, Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and had some leisure time to shop and explore at our whim. We had lunch at Rossopomodoro Cucina e Pizzeria Napoletana and that food was good. We began with an appetizer of prosciutto and mozzarella cheese, followed by pasta Bolognesa and some type of ravioli which was delicious. We accompanied it with red wine and finished the meal with a delicious tiramisu a la Nutella. I give it two thumbs up. If you’re ever in Venice, Italy; I highly recommend you visit this restaurant.
Of course, we could not leave Venice without the traditional gondola ride through Venice’s winding canals accompanied by music because you haven’t been to Venice if you do not take a gondola ride. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful trip to Venice, Italy.
Interesting Fact about The Alison Lapper Pregnant Inflatable
During our visit, Venice was celebrating the Venice Biennale which is the world’s largest non-commercial art exhibition. Art works from 88 countries had been installed across the lagoon city. One of them was a 35ft-tall artwork created by Marc Quinn which depicts Alison Lapper, a disabled artist who was born with no arms, when she was eight months pregnant. Titled Alison Lapper Pregnant, it had been placed in a piazza near a church on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the Venetian lagoon.