Jamie – 17 October 2011
We finished up our five days in Venice today. Bec and I were in Venice ten years ago (to the day) for our honeymoon and this visit served up constant lovely reminders of that wonderful time. It truly is one of the great cities to visit.
Being with children we did everything differently this time around.
We DIDN’T visit St Mark’s Basilica, or climb the Campanile, or visit the Doges Palace, or dine at Harry’s Bar or buy a cappuccino for ten euro in St Mark’s Square. We did all those things ten years ago and our children can do them when they come back some day – which I’m certain they will.
We DID go to St Mark’s Square everyday and feed the pigeons until they were too flat to fly (and found out that it was illegal on our last day. Sorry Ms Nasty Policewoman). Bec had found a small supermarket which sold 2 litre buckets of bread crumbs for 90 cents a pop, and promptly bought four. Our children consequently made several hundred winged friends many of whom would happily perch of Mylo’s hand, Sari’s shoulder or Foster’s head (often all at the same time). This of course also drew in other children and was enormous fun.
We DID visit the Giardini Pubblici on three of our five days. Who would have known that on a crammed island like Venice there would be an enormous beautiful park (created by Napoleon Bonaparte no less) with a marvelous children’s playground? My old friend Patrik Valsinger, that’s who – he put me onto it a day before we arrived and my children will be forever grateful.
We DID go to a Chinese restaurant on three of our five nights because that is what the children really really wanted, after having dined on pizza and pasta for the last three weeks. It was actually great food – “Tian Jin”, a few blocks north of the Rialto Bridge if you are ever in Venice and feel similarly minded. The other two nights we splashed out on some excellent local fare and the children produced some of their best behavior (which was lucky because one of the nights was our 10th wedding anniversary!).
We DID go on a gondola ride – something Bec and I oddly did not do on our honeymoon. I seem to recall our first night’s dinner at Harry’s Bar unexpectedly consumed my entire honeymoon fun-stuff budget and we dropped it, but looking back on it now that was a silly decision. This time around we picked a friendly looking gondolier and suggested to him a price which we understood was good value – and he was very happy to oblige. Either our research was off the mark or, more likely I think, he was just a very nice fellow. He was wonderfully entertaining and seemed to know exactly what would interest the children, even pointing out the house which collapsed into the canal in Casino Royale, one of Foster and Mylo’s favourite James Bond films. That really got their attention.
We DID go to Murano and marvelled at the art of glass blowing and glass art manufacturing. It answered a whole lot of questions that the children had never thought to ask. It also came with a great boat ride past the fascinating San Michele Cemetary Island which sits high above the water – because they can’t bury people on the main island can they – think about it!
We DID race to the canal which ran alongside our hotel every time we came or went, to see if the tide was in or out. The children were fascinated with the concept of Venice sinking into the sea and took each high tide to be a sign that this beautiful city’s end was near. Six hours later it was again saved, much to their amazement. I started trying to explain tides, the influence of the moon, the way the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea interact – and then I stopped. They will come to understand all that later on, and for the time being why ruin their fun and excitement.
We DID walk everywhere (except when we were on a vaporetto) and we did eat lots of gelato every day. But that has been the story of our time in Italy. Shoe leather and flavoured ice confectionary have been consumed in every beautiful city and town we have visited – Genova, Pisa, Belforte, Radicondoli, Siena, San Gimignano, Voltare, Rome, Florence, Verona and now Venice. We have loved our entire time in Italy and shall miss it greatly.
We drove just over five hours today from Venice, over the majestic Alps, and into Fussen, Germany – the land of castles, amongst other things. The temperature dropped markedly (the nights here are usually below zero this time of the year). Half a day in the car and we are in a new climate, experiencing a new language, seeing a new landscape and immersed in a new culture. This for me is what Europe is all about. Western Europe is actually incredibly small and lends itself so well to exploring by car.
We are off to Neuschwanstein Castle tomorrow.