Sunday, June 25, 2017

New favorite city??

I'm kind of glad that I'm behind on writing about Venice... because it means I get to relive it!

Venice is made up of about 100 islands connected by about 400 bridges. There are canals instead of roads, and boats instead of cars.

This is a canal near our AirBnb. 

Small canal in Venice

Oh yeah... and everything there is beautiful, colorful, and unlike any city I've ever seen!

First of all, let's talk about St. Mark's Square. That's where we started out our day. It's surrounded on three sides by these arched buildings. Most of the buildings hold luxury shops and restaurants. St. Mark's Basilica is on the fourth side. 

St. Mark's Square in Venice

St. Mark's Square in Venice

St. Mark's Basilica in Venice
St. Mark's Square in Venice
I'm so happy that there weren't many pigeons :)
St. Mark's Square in Venice
View from above

I'm thankful I have a smart sister, because she thought to pre-buy our tickets to the basilica. That meant we got to skip the hundreds of people in line and go right on in. I wasn't expecting what was inside...

Mosaics in St. Mark's Basilica

Mosaics in St. Mark's Basilica

Mosaics in St. Mark's Basilica

Gold mosaics cover the whole huge interior. I had so many flashbacks to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul! They are both in the Byzantine style. I overheard a tour guide say that it took 8 centuries to finish these mosaics.

After the basilica, we went off in search of a gondola ride. We wanted to make sure our boat went through the tiny little canals and not the open water, so we set off into the maze of central Venice. It was a great place to wander.

Canal in Venice

Marissa Houdek Rubino in Venice

Venice canal

Leaning church and bridge in Venice

Eventually we found a gondola and all 6 of us climbed in. It was pretty surreal to actually be in a gondola in Venice!! 

Brothers-in-law on gondola ride in Venice

Gondola ride in Venice

I guess it makes sense because it's a small boat... but it was a little surprising how unsteady it felt at times! We weren't expecting to feel like we might fall out. It was still fun though, in case you were wondering.

From Jenna's last trip to Venice, she remembered a delicious take-out pasta place (Dal Moro's). It must have great reviews online, because it was packed with tourists. 

The funniest thing was the salty owner of a sit-down restaurant down the street. As hordes of tourists passed his restaurant to get take-out, he yelled things like "You'll regret it! You should eat with dignity!!" (accompanied by Italian hand gestures, of course). 

It turned out to be worth it. It was very fresh and served in cute Chinese takeout boxes. We took it back to the apartment and ate with "dignity" there. 

We kept right on going after lunch. Well, after a short nap for the rest of the family while me and David went to go buy more milk. Read the story of the milk here. It was a big part of the trip, believe it or not.

Our next activity was riding to the top of the bell tower next to St. Mark's. Once again, it was super satisfying to skip the line (grazie, Jenna!). I'm not a big fan of heights, but I didn't feel too much like I was going to die thanks to the top being all enclosed.

Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Campanile

There were some stunning views. We thought it was strange that you couldn't see the canals from up high- it almost looks like a normal city from above. Well, a normal European city with cathedrals and old buildings.

View of Venice from bell tower

View of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice from bell tower

View of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice from bell tower

View of Venice from bell tower

View of Venice from bell tower

The Doge's Palace is right next door. This was where the doge, (the ruler of Venice) used to live back when Venice was independent. Of course, it looked like this...

Exterior of Doge's Palace in Venice

Courtyard of Doge's Palace in Venice

Doge's Palace in Venice ceiling

Doge's Palace in Venice ceiling

Doge's Palace in Venice

This mural by Tintoretto was one of my favorite parts. 

Doge's Palace in Venice- Tintoretto painting

As part of the palace tour, you can walk on the famous Bridge of Sighs.

Bridge of Sighs in Venice

View from the bridge
I don't think I've mentioned it before, but this marathon day in Venice was important for another reason as well.... it was David's 25th birthday! We sacrificed having an Italian meal to let David have an American burger at the Hard Rock Café.

We decided to do some shopping and window shopping after dinner. Venice has some unique shopping. Instead of typical souvenirs, you can buy glass and masks! It sounds pretty random when you put it like that haha. Glassmaking has been an industry in this area for centuries. The mask thing comes from the traditional costume in Venice for Carnival (Mardi Gras). 

There are glass sculptures, figurines, vases, chandeliers, and jewelry. I got some sparkly earrings. My parents got a glass version of Buttercup and Jenna found a panda. These people get me. 

Shopping in a Venetian glass shop

The last event of the evening was a Vivaldi concert. David, mom, and Cabren opted to go and me, Jenna, and dad opted to sit it out. I'm still a little scarred from the 3 hour Bach concert in London a few months ago. I'm not ready to risk another concert quite yet ;)

Before heading out the next morning, David and I were the only ones with enough energy to run out and track down the famous Rialto Bridge. I think it was worth it!

Rialto Bridge in Venice

On the drive back to France we stopped for lunch in Verona, of Romeo and Juliet fame. Of course, we had to stop to see the Juliet balcony. It was kind of a tourist trap. It was a challenge to take the obligatory picture without someone coming onto the balcony for their own photo op. 

I'm too cynical to believe that real Capulets actually lived here, but that's the claim. 

We didn't go inside, but Verona has a nice Roman arena.

Roman arena in Verona

Here's my last shot of Italy. Arrivederci for now.

After a few more hours of driving, we had one last family dinner in France. What a trip!! Switzerland, Cannes, Monaco, Florence, and Venice! Venice was my favorite part- it totally blew me away.

It will be hard to ever top this family vacation. Thanks for coming, family! It was an amazing week.

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