Our first international trip was 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. Out of curiosity I googled, “vacations on lay-a-way.” Jackpot! There it was – a travel agency that allowed a deposit and a 10-month payment plan for the vacation of your dream. I was ecstatic! I immediately researched the agency, read the reviews and began to explore the website. I was ready to book the trip of my life. I 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 international trip.
It was a long tedious trip which departed 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 (Iberia), though decent, had the most uncomfortable seats ever. I didn’t think of choosing or upgrading so we were stuck with what was given to us. They were the last seats right before the bathrooms at the very back of the plane. There was no overhead compartment for those seats and leg room was very limited. The only thing that kept me sane throughout the trip was the Puerto Rican baseball team who were traveling to Spain. They were not disruptive at all but made us laugh so much. They walked back and forth the aisles. 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 Amadeus Hotel but were not able to check in until 2:00 p.m. However, they were nice enough to keep our luggage behind the counter so we could explore around the vicinity. We stopped at Ristorante Roma on the corner of Per San Marco and Cannaregio for lunch. We had our first pizza in Italy. I would not recommend this location though. The pizza was stale and tasted like a frozen pizza, the service was bad and it was too expensive for what we received. 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 hotel.
The 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 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 didn’t even notice until we looked at the photos upon arriving home. There was also a chaise in the room. 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 got accustomed to Europe’s time.
We strolled the Venetian streets and famous bridges 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 pm. We then made our way back to our hotel, showered and finally went to sleep in a bed! We had never traveled so far and were not sure what jet lag was until this trip. That night I experienced chills and dizziness. I don’t know if it was jet lag related or because we slept with the windows wide open in 50-degree weather or if it was all the wine we had! All I knew was that I was extremely tired, so I took Tylenol and slept well afterwards. My husband experienced the same as well.
The next day, we were awakened by the 7:00 a.m. wake-up call. We had a good night’s rest so woke up refreshed and energized. We showered and 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 were to meet with our guide, Simone, in the lobby and at 9:00 a.m. depart to our first destination.
Our first stop was the Murano Glass Factory where we attended a glass blowing demonstration. Afterwards we were invited to tour their store. While they allowed us 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 complete black suits surrounding me. They told me that photography was not allowed in their store. I apologized and put my camera away but that was not enough to send them away. As I walked through their store I could feel them behind me. If I turned right they were there, if I turned left, they were there. We purchased a few goodies and headed back to meet with our tour group. They watched my every move even following me back to the vaporetto. I felt like a convict and so embarrassed but didn’t allow it to ruin my vacation.
Our next stop was St. Mark’s Square where we had a guided tour of the beautiful St. Mark’s Basilica. We also visited Doge’s Palace, Porta della Carta, Rialto bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and had some leisure time to shop and explore at our whim.
For lunch, we decided to explore on our own instead of the tour guide’s recommendation. We had lunch at Rossopomodoro Cucina e Pizzeria Napoletana. Our lunch consisted of pasta bolognesa which was delicious. We accompanied it with red wine and finished the meal with a delicious tiramisu a la Nutella. Afterwards we had coffee at a small quaint cafe by the gran canal.
Of course, we could not leave Venice without the traditional gondola ride through Venice’s winding canals accompanied by music. We shared a gondola with two couples that were in the same tour with us. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful trip to Venice, Italy.
To be continued. . .