Saturday, April 21, 2007

Queen of the Adriatic

We flew into Milan and took the three hour train to Venice. Here we met our good friends, Wendy and Eric for a week in Italy. We spent three days in Venice. We stayed at the Hotel Al Piave, which I definitely recommend. The breakfast is very light but nice and the location superb. Infact, while sitting in the small lobby-type area, who comes walking in, but the travel guru himself, Rick Steves. A good indication, I believe, on my choice of hotel.
After arriving at the train station we purchase our Vaporetto (waterbus tickets). Venice is beautiful and the water mesmerizing and the buildings dream like but I, and only speaking for myself, would get tired of the restricting water. For our three shorts days it was a novelty but if I had to live there I would surely tire of it. And it is just as you can imagine it or have seen in the pictures. Old buildings with window boxes overflowing with flowers, narrow streets, stucco chipping away revealing brick underneath, large shutters, beautiful large doors. I remember seeing houses in Utah now trying to achieve this same effect. It just isn’t even close. What a perfect week to visit Italy, lower to mid 70’s our entire trip with bright sunshine.
Our first day was spent visiting the Church at San Marco square, feeding the pigeons, visiting the Rialto Bridge. The Church at San Marco is massive and covered with gold mosaics made with the tiniest of tiles. The floor is also covered with small tiles which I don’t recall in any other church we have visited. The kids and the adults had a great time feeding the pigeons as they flew up on our arms and even occasionally someone’s head. We headed over to the Realto Bridge that is lined with shops. Our friends, the Reynolds, are getting their first introduction to Europe, walking and lots of it. They had no idea, I’m sure, that there wouldn’t be much relaxation on this vacation.

Sunday we awoke to visit a couple of churches, Santa Maria de Miracoli and S. Giovanni e Paolo. We were able to see Mass in one and a group in traditional dress singing outside the other. Our guest overslept so we went back to get them and headed out to the beach. The Lido is a mainland barrier between Venice and the sea. The public beaches aren’t maintained very well. You would need to go to one of the private resorts to find a really good spot but the public beach was good enough for wading, a bit too chilly for swimming. We walked around the island for a while and took the 20 minute waterbus ride back to San Marco. After dinner Cameron and I decided to walk around. And walk we did. The streets are so confusing. The majority of our walk was trying to figure out how to get back to the hotel.

Monday morning we headed over to the Doge’s palace. This is the seat of government that ruled for 1000 years. It is a pink and white marble structure with apartments, assembly rooms, and the bridge of Sighs that leads to the prisons. We all enjoyed this tour. We then headed over to a Franciscan church, ate a good and cheap lunch at Pizzaria Alle Oche. It is the only restaurant I can recommend. We didn’t have really good food in Venice. We went over to the Ca’ Rezzonico. A home of affluent Venetians. A life of indulgence and enormous rooms. After a small break we headed out for our last dinner in Venice and the obligatory gondola ride. The rides are expensive, about 80 euro for 35 minutes and they get more expensive from there. But it was nice and the kids loved it.
Venice was nice. I didn’t realize how quiet it was until we went to Florence the following day and then I really appreciated the lack of motorized vehicles. Venice was quiet and charming but I must go against the tide and say it wasn’t one of my favorite destinations in Europe.

Pictures should be posted tomorrow

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Lesser Town, Old Town, New Town, Jewish Quarter, Prague Castle. These are the places Jay and I spent our weekend. "You must go to Prague" was the directive given to us by many and it is true. The whole weekend I felt like I was walking around a movie set. The vastness of the architecture, the colors of the paint, the roof lines, the cobblestone streets and sidewalks, and the trams all lent itself to being somewhere else than the real world. I am sure this is contained to the small city of Prague and the rest of the county is probably quite different but isn’t that the case for most major cities in a country. They don’t truly reflect the whole country. New York City, Los Angeles is what most foreigners think America is like. Yikes, let’s not tell them about Knob Noster, Missouri and Vernal, Utah.

I will let the photos tell the story but the weather was great and again so easy to get around, communicate (I am so glad that English is a universal language, well in larger European cities at least), and no strange foods to contend with.