Tuesday, March 24, 2009


We spent New Year's Day getting lost in Venice. Italy was what I was most looking forward on the trip because I had always dreamed of visiting Italy. An important thing to note, if you are traveling during the holiday period a lot of shops and attractions may be closed during the holidays, especially on specific holidays such as Christmas Day or New Year's Day. Luckily, Venice had a lot of things still open and while some of the higher end shops were closed and some attractions were closed, there was still so much to do and see and so many places to get lost.

You can't actually drive to Venice, instead you have to take a water taxi across from the mainland to Venice. This is a very choppy and bumpy ride, so again if you get motion sickness, have something available. The one downside to our day in Venice was that it was rainy and yucky, but hey, we were in Venice and that made us super happy so the weather really could not get us down. We started our day off by walking along the harbor and entering Piazza San Marco and seeing the incredible St. Mark's Basilica and its beautiful bell tower.
After exploring Piazza San Marco, we headed further into the city to go on a Gondola Ride. When you are in Venice, a gondola ride is something that you have to do. Venice is famous for its canals and its signing gondoliers, and there is not better way to explore the city than in a gondola. It is also incredibly romantic, so if you are on a honeymoon or on vacation with your significant other, its something great to experience together. We loaded into our gondolas in groups of six and my gondola decided we were going to spice things up and purchase a bottle of sparkling wine for our ride. This is another thing I highly recommend to make your gondola experience all it can be. For 6 euros you can purchase a bottle and enjoy it on your ride. I will be honest, gondola rides can be a little scary, especially when the weather isn't the greatest and the water is slightly choppy. Also, they are not the easiest little vessels to get in and out of, so be aware of that when entering and exiting the gondola. I was amazed at the skills that the gondoliers have to maneuver through the small canals without crashing into a building or tipping us over.

After our amazing gondola rides we headed with our tour manager over to a glass blowing demonstration. One of the many things that Venice is famous for is venetian glass. Most of us went to the demonstration because we were freezing and knew that there would be a fire in the room where we were watching the demonstration, so we would be warm for at least a little while. The glass demonstration did not take up a lot of our time and was actually a really neat thing to experience. We watched a skilled glass maker create a glass horse in front of us from scratch. We then were walked through the showroom and saw all the amazing creations that have been made in Venice out of glass. If you have a some extra time in Venice, I would also recommend going to a glass demonstration as it will very much so impress you.

We then headed out to explore the city on our own. Venice is an incredibly confusing city to walk around. Maps will do you no good, so please, do not even bother with them. It is also way more fun and exciting to get lost in Venice and it is amazing what you can discover in the city when you allow yourself to get lost. The good thing is, the city was kind enough to put up large yellow signs that will point you in the direction of main attractions and areas such as Piazza San Marco, so as along as you know how to get home from one of the large areas or arrange to meet your group in a large area, you will be fine if you get lost. A group of us decided to wander around the city and see what we could find. We of course went into a few touristy shops and then just walked around and took the city in. After doing that for a while, we made the decision to find somewhere to grab a slice of real Italian pizza and we found a small little restaurant where we ate delicious food. We then walked around some more and decided to go to a cafe and experience another thing that Italy is famous for, espresso. It was great to spend some time just sitting, talking, and getting to know the other people we were with and this is what we did while we sipped our espressos and hot chocolates.

After our exploring and getting lost in Venice, we met back up with the rest of our group and most everyone headed to the optional excursion for the evening which was a traditional Venetian meal. We were taken to the backroom of an authentic Italian restaurant where we were serenaded and entertained by an accordian player. We were served a several course meal that started with meats and antipastos and then were served platter after platter of different types of pasta. We were also provided with unlimited bottles of red, white, and sparkling wine to enhance our meal. This was a great way to sample some of the local delicacies and be emerged in the local culture. We all had a great time and yet again, there was dancing and singing. After dinner we headed back to the hotel where several of us spent the evening hanging out and getting to know one another more.

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