Venice is a city I’ve always wanted to visit. It’s always been on my travel bucket list, unfortunately it is one of the few places Chris had no interest in seeing. So, I decided for my birthday I would visit Venice – even if that meant I had to do it by myself. So I put it out there on Facebook that I was planning on going and did anyone want to join me – and luckily for me – a great friend called Susannah lived near(ish) and offered to let me stay at her house and said she would be happy to come with me into the city. It had been a while since I had seen Susannah, we met at church and she moved away a few years ago. I decided to take her up on her offer and planned the trip.
Because it is super cheap to fly on the low budget airlines I decided to use them to get to Venice. Unfortunately, with those airlines it means flying at strange times – really early or really late. My flight was early in the morning so I stayed at a hotel the night before so that I didn’t have to travel for an hour and half the next morning (or middle of the night for me). I’ll put this out there – I was pretty nervous. I hadn’t seen Susannah for a while and I worried if we’d have anything to talk about or if things would be awkward – but I needn’t have worried. As soon as she saw me and hugged me it was like no time had passed and honestly, I don’t think we stopped talking during waking hours for most of the trip.
The day I arrived was my birthday but I didn’t tell anyone and Susannah didn’t know. We went back to her charming Italian home and she made some salad for the Halloween party of some friends of hers. When we arrived at her friends house I was instantly in love with the area and the scenery.
We spent the day there just relaxing and chatting the women were very friendly and great hosts. Its always interesting to me to see how people adapt and live in different parts of the world. It is amazing to step into a home in Italy and feel like, despite the decor and architecture, you’re stepping into a home like back in Utah. It was a lovely afternoon.
Once we got back to Susannah’s house we decided to order authentic pizza for dinner and go for gelato for dessert. Still keeping my birthday under wraps. I did well until, for some reason, we got into a conversation with the kids about birthstones. They were all surprised when I admitted it was my birthday. Instead of cake we had yummy Gelato – perfect! I have to say the pizza was some of the best I’d ever had (I was in Italy after all). I was a bit surprised at some of the toppings – we had a pizza with baked potato pieces (yummy) on it. Here are some of the options (pay attention to the Chris option):
At first I thought that the Coppa Spaghetti was actually spaghetti noodles topped with gelato. Come to find out it is just spaghetti shaped gelato. I was super impressed when the kids all ordered their treat in Italian. I wasn’t brave enough to try it out myself, so luckily little “M” did it for me. We went home and settled into sleep ready for a day full of Venice the next day.
We woke up early the next morning to catch the train into the city centre. It would be a short train ride (about an hour – hour and a half) and we’d be dropped off right in Venice. Luckily for me, again, Susannah knew how to get the tickets and get us there safe and sound.
We stepped off the train and we were there – we were actually in Venice. When I travel I often have moments where I think to myself, “I cant believe I am actually standing right here. I’ve seen in on TV and books, but I am actually here!” I felt this stronger here than anywhere I’ve ever visited.
The view right out of the train station…. overwhelming.
The view over the Grand Canal – GUYS I WAS STANDING ON THE GRAND CANAL –
We got to Venice early and it was just me and Susannah. We had a concert to get to at 8:00 that night so we had the whole day to explore. Susannah was pretty excited to get to explore without children (I think all Mothers would be). At first we thought we’d be struggling through crowds the whole day. It was blindingly sunny and pleasantly warm so there were loads of people around. We decided to just walk wherever the mood took us. When we came to a crossroads we’d choose left or right (usually the less crowded) and got lost in Venice and, to be corny but completely honest, it seemed magical. There were streets and alley’s that we went down that literally were deserted. For as busy as it was when we first got there walking around, away from the tourist areas, you feel like you might be the only people there.
Surprisingly, to us, there were a lot of wide open spaces. It was so strange – you’d be walking through a labyrinth of alleyways and all of the sudden you’d walk straight into a wide open square. Complete with trees, churches, shops, and children playing football (and STILL not too crowded!).
The best part of exploring was finding hidden places and charms.
I love that little cat in the window!
Sitting on some steps leading to the canal. Not another person in sight for at least 15 minutes.
There are just too many favourite pictures here is an album with all the pictures I love:
We decided it was time to take a break and have some lunch. We found a place with some really yummy food. Restaurants are great in Italy because after they give you your food they just let you sit there as long as you want and don’t disturb you. We spent more time talking and enjoying lunch and then decided to head back out and explore some more.
After a while of more walking and shopping and eating pastries and chocolate we decided that the trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to St. Mark’s Basilica and St. Marks Square. In these pictures you can see how busy it was and how many people there really were.
We decided that this was a great place to sit on the steps and people watch. They are very strict about sitting on the steps and made us move (along with a lot of others). We ended up sitting on the risers that they use when the tide is high and the square is flooded. At one point (before we were told to move) we were sitting on the steps and this Asian man was taking me and Susannah’s picture. I think he was trying to be discreet but it wasn’t working – we both noticed. I think he was just surprised to see two curly red-headed women (this isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened to me). It was starting to get colder so we went off in search of dinner and ended up at a pizza place having yummy pizza while waiting for our concert to start.
When I decided to go to Venice I knew I couldn’t go there and NOT see an opera – its Venice after all and I love opera! I found a concert that was a taster opera program featuring performers in authentic period costumes and a mixture of well known opera songs and instrumental pieces. It did not disappoint! It was performed in a old concert hall and included some amazing singing, moving music, and temperamental singers (the audience never knew when to clap so when the usher directed us to clap in the wrong spot, after the song, the temperamental tenor stormed out and slammed the door). It was long enough to enjoy but not so long that it got boring. They were animated and entertaining and I would suggest anyone visiting Venice GO SEE THIS! Even if you don’t like opera or classical music I’m pretty sure anyone would enjoy it!
We were planning on getting the last train of the night back to Susannah’s house. So we thought we’d take a boat taxi to the station. I am sure when those gondoliers saw two American women walking up to them they thought they would be making some easy money – they could say whatever price they wanted and we’d do it – WRONG! After being quoted around 80 euro to get to the train station (the travel books I read said about 20) we decided to walk…. quickly. We walked from one side of Venice to the other in time to get the train. It wasn’t without its problems. There were dodgy people hanging around in the alleys, rogue dogs, and we had to get out the phone to have the sat nav guide us out of the maze but we did it safely and with a few minutes to spare.
Susannah and I were shattered once we got on the train (hoping it was the right one since we both didn’t know for sure). As we were sitting there a young, dark, Italian man sat across from Susannah. I will spare you (and her – for embarrassments sake) the details but the conversation ended abruptly with a flash of a wedding ring and awkward silence until it was his stop. It kept us laughing for the rest of the train ride home.
The next day was Sunday so I went to church with Susannah and her family. I got to see more of the countryside. The chapel was unlike anything I’d seen. The members were gracious and kind. Visiting that ward gave me a deeper understanding of what an opportunity I have to attend my ward here in England. I got to spend the last 2 hours in nursery and enjoyed every minute.
Once we got home from church we all settled in and ate Halloween candy and watched the movie Life in Beautiful. It was a emotional and thought-provoking movie that I would recommend to anyone. We had a yummy pancake dinner and then Susannah dropped me off at the airport and I had an uneventful fight (LATE NIGHT) and drive home. It was sad to say goodbye to Susannah and her family but luckily I get to see them soon and hopefully we can have some more adventures!
This trip was short and sweet but quite amazing. Being around a women with such a strong testimony of the gospel, who is positive and optimistic was food for my spirit. That short trip changed my life and made me realize things and make choices that will echo for a long time to come. Some of the things I learned and felt have lead me to some changes in my life that were a long time coming but just needed that reassurance.
So at the end of the post I’d say: VISIT VENICE! Surround yourself with good friends and appreciate your beautiful life – no matter where you are living it.