Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A unique way to experience Venice

C had been meant to accompany me on my last trip to Egypt, and when it got canceled, he found himself with several unnecessary days off.  We talked about seeing if he could cancel them, but dear friends of ours had plans to come stay at our place during those dates, and we were worried about our place getting crowded, so we decided to see if we could find a last-minute trip to take. And that's how we found ourselves packing our bags for Venice!
I've wanted to go ever since my early days in Bretagne.  Not long after arriving in France, my bank (which offered all kinds of special deals for young folks), sent out an ad for a 3 day, 2 night trip to Venice for 189€ for Valentine's Day weekend.  My younger self found this to be an impossibly romantic idea, and I worked hard to convince Fab that it was a good idea.  Unfortunately, reason won out - Fab was working a minimum wage job and I was an unemployed student - so we didn't end up going. But it's been in the back of my head every since, and luckily I was not let down all these years later.

We arrived Friday evening, and then got a fairly good start on Saturday to begin exploring the city.  We spent the morning roaming the back streets, found a small spot for lunch, and then headed over to the marina for our gondola lesson! 

I'd been waffling back and forth about doing a gondola ride - it just seems like one of those things you have to do in Venice.  But the insane cost - 90€ for a 30 minute ride - just seemed like highway robbery. So I did some research online to see what the other options were:  doing a shared ride, taking a water taxi, etc.  And then I came across a small article about Row Venice.  They are a non-profit association run by female gondoliers, and they give 90 minute lessons for the same price as the 30 minute gondola ride.

And it was amazing!  We had so much fun learning how to steer the boats, and it is definitely a lot harder than it looks. It was also a good chance to ask any questions we had about life in Venice, the city's history, etc. I'd definitely recommend checking them out if you are planning a trip there.
Sunday, we visited the Doge's Palace and did their "Secret Itineraries" tour, which provided great insight into the building and many of the rooms that are completely closed off to regular visitors (book in advance online).  After that, we headed over to Burano island, where I was blown away by all the gorgeous colors.

That evening, we had dinner at a place near our Airbnb.  It was a small restaurant that we had walked by many times and it always appeared to be full, so we figured that was a good sign.  I started to have some doubts though after we ordered and they slapped down plastic silverware on our table, and then things went downhill even further when I noticed them dumping frozen dinners onto plates and then microwaving them.  Can you imagine? Microwaved pasta in Italy?!   We had a good laugh over it all though, and then bought a bottle of wine and some strawberries to share at 'home'.

Monday morning, we had also pre-booked fast pass entrance tickets for St Marc's Basilica. I had heard the lights were only on for an hour a day, so I had booked for that time period, but it still seemed pretty dark inside, so who knows.  I was also a bit perturbed by how you had to pay to see nearly anything of interest inside the church, so between that and the extremely rude staff, I left feeling kind of 'meh' about it.

And then it was time to head home.  But it was a lovely trip - relaxing and interesting all at the same time.  If you go, I definitely recommend just booking in lots of time to wander around the side streets - it's sort of like Paris in that way, where you can easily spend an afternoon just roaming the city. And it's surprisingly small and walkeable - our Airbnb was in the north of the city, and we were still within a 15 minute walk of all the major sites.  The only time we took public transport was to and from the airport and Burano.  It was a bit more spendy than I was expecting to eat out, but there are other cheaper options too (takeaway pizza slices and sandwiches, etc).



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