February 4, 2012

European Honeymoon Cruise, Part 4: Venice

{Read part one here.}
{Read part two here.}
{Read part three here.}

Our final Italian port of call was to none other than the dreamy city of Venice!!

Our cruise ship was docking there overnight, so we had the chance to spend one and a half days in Venice altogether.

We stepped off our ship onto the cobblestone streets of Venice and felt as though we had been transported into a dream world. I knew that Venice was going to be incredibly beautiful, but I didn't expect it to be so breathtaking. It's very hard to even find words to describe just how beautiful it was.

I hope you can get just a teensy glimpse of the beauty and loveliness of Venice by the following photos, though pictures can't begin to capture the ambiance and the magic...

Matt was very patient with me while I snapped so many photos to try to capture Venice on camera...

We had such a marvelous, unforgettable time strolling the streets of Venice during the day. It kept us on our toes as well, since Venice is an absolute maze of tiny streets, canals, and bridges. We definitely wouldn't have been able to navigate the city without a clear map!

Our one night in Venice...well, it was an unforgettable night, let me just start with that. It was so unforgettable for two reasons: 1. We took a fabulous gondola ride through Venice 2. Said gondola ride was accompanied by an encounter with Obnoxious American Tourists.

We had booked an excursion with our cruise company for a gondola ride in Venice. It included a taxi boat ride to and from the city center where we'd board our gondolas, which allowed for me to dress up in heels and not have to worry about doing lots of walking and getting my heels stuck between cobblestones.

We were ecstatic--we were about to have one of our "dream experiences"! We had put on nice clothes; after all, who wants to go on a dreamy gondola ride in Venice in shorts, a tee shirt, and flip flops?

We arrived to the city center after a very choppy taxi boat ride and then followed our guide to the gondola-loading point. Matt and I seemed to be one of the only young couples in this group, but that wasn't such a huge surprise since it seemed that at least 60% or so aboard our cruise ship were over the age of fifty.

The process of loading guests onto the gondolas began. Matt and I were surprised and a bit dismayed to see that two couples were being loaded onto each gondola. That wasn't at all what we had expected. There was a double seat at the back of the gondola where one couple could sit together, and then two seats along each side where a couple would sit facing one another {not really prime for viewing enjoyment--as lovely as it is to stare into one another's eyes, the whole purpose of this excursion was to enjoy the view of Venice at night}.

When it was time for Matt and I to get onto a gondola, we were loaded onto one with a couple already seated on the double seat at the back. It was a heavy-set American couple, probably in their sixties. They quickly introduced themselves in a friendly, thick {albeit loud} Southern accent and proceeded to chat us up. The wife, {let's call her Mary} was dressed in capris, a flower-printed tee shirt, and sandals. The husband {let's call him John} was wearing cargo shorts, a tee shirt, and tennis shoes.

As our gondolier pushed off to follow the others down the canals, that seemed like the most appropriate and polite time for Matt and I to turn in our seats and face our bodies frontward. This not only allowed for us to best take in the Venice sights, but it provided a way for us to avoid obligatory conversation with the other couple. Don't get me wrong, they were very friendly--it just seemed very apparent that if we got into chatting with them during any part of the gondola ride, we'd likely get stuck in conversation for the whole gondola ride.

As we got under way, we heard Mary turn around and ask the gondolier if he spoke English. {And let me reiterate that especially with Mary, if she said something, she said it L.O.U.D.} The gondolier replied, "a little" in a very thick Italian accent.

Then Mary said, "Oh of course you do. Everyone speaks English nowadays."

We knew at that moment that we were in for a ride to remember.

Mary gabbed to John throughout most of the ride. John said very little.

At one point, our gondola was gliding down a particularly narrow canal. Mary had been quiet for a bit too long, and I gathered that she was thinking something over.

Finally: "They really weren't thinking about the size of cars when then designed these streets, now were they?" she mused. "You couldn't even fit two cars down this street."

A few moments later: "Now, did they build the city first and then flood it, or the other way around?"

"I'm really not sure, honey," John replied.

Matt and I were shooting each other tiny looks out of the corners of our eyes, trying to hide smirks.

When our gondola entered into the largest canal in Venice, we were able to float side by side with other gondolas from our excursion group. This was excellent because the gondola next to us contained an extra passenger--a local guide who likes to give historical commentary on gondola rides. We could hear him well {we were literally floating side by side} and since John and Mary were interested in the commentary as well, they were abnormally quiet.

But then, Mary became annoyed with our gondolier. He was chatting quietly with the gondolier next to him, and although they really were talking at a reasonable level, they were apparently interfering with her ability to concentrate.

"Hey--Fellas! Hey! Fellas! FELLAS!" she was yelling at them.

The two gondoliers finally realized her yells were directed at them and they looked down at her.

"I'm trying to LISTEN and I can't hear anything with all your yackin'!" Mary scowled.

It was clear by the looks on both of their faces that they didn't comprehend a single word Mary said. They went back to talking quietly. Mary gave a very impatient, over-dramatic sigh. {But thankfully she didn't say anything more!}

Floating near to the other gondolas allowed us one other advantage. One of the gondolas had two extra passengers: an accordionist and a singer with a very robust, stereotypical, belting Italian voice. It sounded beautiful, and it really was the ultimate addition to our gondola ride. We were probably able to enjoy this musical accompaniment for the last fifteen minutes of our hour-long gondola ride.

Even though Matt and I didn't have a gondola all to ourselves, or we didn't get to sit side by side, we actually really loved our whole gondola experience. John and Mary provided a dose of humor to the whole event; they certainly didn't "ruin" it in any way for us.

A nighttime gondola ride in Venice with Matt was truly one of the most romantic, magical experiences of my life. We had thought Venice was infinitely beautiful during the day, but nothing can compare to her beauty at night. The city comes to life and yet seems so serene, all aglow with the soft lights of street lamps and windows.

Yes, a gondola ride in Venice is ridiculously expensive, but I promise you, friends, this is one experience you absolutely cannot miss if you have the opportunity to visit Venice. The lovely, dreamy city of Venice tops my list of "most magical European cities" beyond a shadow of a doubt. But a nighttime gondola ride in Venice? That rates as one of my favorite memories of my whole life! That's just how incredibly magical it was.

After the gondola ride, we had about forty-five minutes of free time to enjoy the city before our taxi boat would take us back to the the cruise ship. Matt and I walked slowly, hand and hand, taking it all in. There were pleasures to be had for all the senses. Those moments couldn't have been any more perfect, save for the fact that we knew sooner or later, the evening would come to an end.

Enjoying the Venice at night:

On the taxi boat, about to return to the ship:

Indiana Jones really sums it up when he says, "Ahhhhh.....Venice!"

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