I'm so excited - I found this free Microsoft Photo Story program that helps you create a slide show of your photos so I did one of our Venice photos (and then went back and did one for Florence too). It's very cool. It'll also allow you to do a voice-over which would be great if I could figure out how to do it. Until then you'll just have to read the text and view the video. So here goes (video's at the end).
On Tuesday April 7th we took the train to Venice. I love the train! It took about 2 1/2 hours and we went to the dining car for a snack of prosciutto and mozzarella and wine (of course). It was like being in a movie. Our host, Diana, met us at the station and took us to our hotel, about a five minute walk from the station. The Hotel Principe looked very promising when we walked into the lobby. And it was right on the Grand Canal so it had some beautiful views. Unfortunately not from our tacky little room which faced a courtyard. None of the hotels was what it looked like on its internet site. They were all supposed to be four star. The rating system must be different in Europe. But enough of that. Diana gave us some info about Venice (and talked and talked and talked and talked) and then, when she finally shut up, we took off to walk around. We walked through the Jewish ghetto area to the Rialto Bridge to another square to the Calatrava bridge. Had dinner at an outdoor cafe on the Grand Canal - salad and lasagna. The pasta tastes different in Italy. Noticeably different, remarkably fresh and delicious. Every four feet is a photo-op in Venice. It's just beautiful, so picturesque. A little shabby but that just adds to the charm. The gondolas are amazing. Really garish - black lacquered with gold trim and throne-like seats, some with oriental rugs...quite something. On Wednesday we had a tour - took a water taxi to San Marco Square and had a tour of the Doges Palace, walked across the Bridge of Sighs, past the jail cells. Saw a glass-blowing demonstration and then got a really big pitch to buy some hugely expensive (and mostly gaudy) Murano glass. We resisted. After the tour we had lunch in the San Marco area at a little trattoria on one of the narrow winding streets. We sat outside, of course. We had Sarda in Saor which is a Venice specialty - big sardines unlike any I've ever seen here, lightly sauteed with onions in olive oil. Delicious. We also had spaghetti with black ink cuddle fish that was amazing, and of course the obligatory wine. What an unusual and yummy lunch. We met up with friends Sam and Karen (from NYC) at their hotel which was between the Rialto Bridge and San Marco Square. It was the Splendid Venice Hotel and it was splendid, indeed. Gorgeous. Exquisite. Unlike the dump we were staying at. Okay, okay, it wasn't a dump per se, but I pretty much really hated it after seeing Sam and Karen's. We had a drink (or two) with them as we got caught up on our lives, and then went our own way with plans to have dinner with them the next day. Bill and I had dinner that night at San Geremia Square, near the hotel. We had octupus with celery (yummy) and gnocchi in tomato sauce (fabulous). And wine (did you doubt that?). Such delicious food. I don't think you could get a bad meal in Italy. Not even if you tried. On Thursday we slept til 8:00 which felt really good and then we took the vaporetto over to the Accademia and walked across the wooden bridge and wandered through the streets. Had a glass of wine at the Piazza San Marguerita and made our way back to the hotel. Had a pizza near the hotel and then changed clothes and made our way back to Sam and Karen's hotel. Guess what we did first? Had a cocktail. Hah! Then we took a gondola ride and Sam brought champagne to toast my BIG birthday, and it was lovely. Stopped for another drink (drinking, drinking, drinking) at a little bar on the way to the restaurant. Sam and Karen had made reservations at DaFiore, a lovely restaurant whose chef they had met at a cooking demonstration at Macy's in New York City. The food was delicious. I'm pretty sure it was. After all the cocktails and then several bottles of wine with dinner I'm not even sure what we ate. But we had a great time and it was a fitting last meal in Italy. It was such a treat to meet up with Sam and Karen in Venice, and just a lucky coincidence that we were there at the same time. The next day was Friday, our departure day. We were flying from Venice to Munich to Boston to Chicago, but our first flight was canceled due to some electrical problem and we ended up flying to Frankfurt and staying overnight there (compliments of Lufthansa Airlines). Ironically, that hotel was the nicest one of the whole trip. On Saturday morning we had a 10:30a.m. flight direct to Chicago, so that was a bonus. All in all it was a fabulous, lovely trip and my favorite birthday of all time.