In all honesty, the food was one of the highlights of our time in Europe. And hovering right up there toward the top of the deliciousness rankings were the croissants that we were served in the morning at our hotel in Venice. Honestly. They were amazing. And they were served still warm.
The hot chocolate was yummy too, and there was something special about having it all served on this heavy silver tray.
Here is a view of the outside of our hotel. I am saying hello from our room's window...
There is Megan saying hello from their room's arched window...
The palazzo on the right is our hotel - you can see us in our respective windows if you look very closely.
Tommy took this picture of Megan and I hanging out by their window while she finished up her breakfast. Have you ever seen a more perfect place to eat breakfast in your life??
Next we took the elevator up the St. Mark's Campanile (tower) for views over Venice. Here is a picture Megan took from the vaporetto of the Doge's palace with the Campanile to the left.
And views from the tower...
Back down in the square Mark couldn't resist a picture on a lion before leaving St. Mark's square...
Since the previous day we only did 1/2 of the St. Mark's/Rialto loop (in our guidebook), this day we did the other half (but backwards). Along the way we found this mask shop that drew us in. Megan and I were smitten and bought masks for some of our kiddos.
I bought Noah and Lincoln different colors of the mask in the middle of the photo below. The store clerk was nice enough to explain to me that the character of that mask is Zanni.
And, most shops don't want you taking pictures of things unless you're buying...but since we were buying masks I snapped a few pictures of some of their Venetian glass too. So pretty.
And of course we enjoyed getting "lost" in some side canals...
While exploring little side canals we grabbed a quick bite from a stand...I got this calzone style sandwhich:
And Mark got a hot dog wrap. Yup.
A video clip while we ate our lunch...
I was actually quite pleased with the pictures I got while we relaxed and ate lunch...
While exploring Venice we did see some police officers chasing down some guys selling knock-off handbags. We also saw some police officers who didn't look too busy...like this guy with a phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
And we made our way to the Rialto Bridge. Of the currently standing 4 bridges which cross the grand canal, Rialto is the oldest (completed in 1591). The stone bridge is covered and flanked with merchants.
We hadn't stopped for too long when I turned around and found Mark asleep like this...
Tom and Megan.
Ok, Tom...if you ever read this: You were right!
For the rest of you, here's the back-story. While strolling the Rialto area a gondolier asked us if we would like a ride. We told him that we were planning to take a ride at sunset. He replied that we wouldn't be able to do that since all the gondolas would be shutting down at 4:30 for a race that would be taking place on the grand canal! We were wary of his story, but taking a gondola ride was such a bucket list item for our trip that it wasn't worth not being totally sure. Megan and I wanted to go down to the tourist information booth at St. Mark's square to verify his story. If he was right, and we missed out on our gondola ride that night we would have to leave the next morning without the experience. Tommy assured us that it wasn't true (I think he even found someone and asked them), but it was just too big a deal to take chances for Megan and I. Plus, we were wanting to ask questions about standardized pricing for gondolas, routes, etc...and after all that walking a vaporetto ride sounded pretty good to me anyway. Here's a picture of the Accademia Bridge from our vaporetto as we passed it. I became quite fond of that bridge (right by our hotel).
And as an extra perk for taking the trip back down to St. Mark's square we got to see this lovely bride and groom sitting on the dock! That was worth the trip downstream for me right there! Beautiful.
Anyway, we verified things with the TI and sure enough, no race. We wanted to go back and find that gondolier to say shame on him, but why waste our precious time doing that? Instead we handed Tom the reigns and let him get us lead us around more backstreets of Venice.
Another candy shop.
Look at this picturesque residential street. Just so quaint and lovely.
We rounded one corner and Megan and I just gasped at the cuteness of this salmon colored building, with the little bridge in front, reflecting with its flower boxes in the canal.
And so it warranted a few photos...
Flowerboxes, laundry hanging, a nun walking down the street. Love.
We were starving from walking all day and came upon Campo San Polo (which was charming). We saw this little restaurant in a cove off of the square and decided to give it a shot! We were not disappointed. The place was called Trattoria Al Campanile. The owners didn't speak English, but they were warm and hospitable, and the food was delicious! This was my pizza...
And Mark ordered the spaghetti bolognese...
Afterward, Tommy and Megan saw a yummy looking shop and indulged in some chocolates.
And then we saw one more spot for another mini impromptu photo shoot. Here I am taking some pictures of Tom and Megan (which I don't have copies of, but I think they turned out really cute)!...
And here are the pictures that Megan took of us! I love them. They so perfectly captured our day together in Venice. I love you, Mark!
Another vaporetto ride, another beautiful ornate palazzo that needed its picture taken.
Salute (Roman Catholic church built in the 1600's).
Tommy and Mark being patient while more pictures of the gondolas were taken...
Mark took a quick video clip spin from where he stood in the previous photo...
And after watching and photographing all those gondolas it was finally our turn to ride one. It is expensive, but for me it was worth every penny. It was the perfect, romantic way to experience our last evening in Venice.
All four of us on our gondola!
Mark and I enjoying our ride along the canals.
Our gondola heading under the Bridge of Sighs.
The water got a bit more choppy and I loved how it popped up the ends of the parked gondolas.
We had been all around St. Mark's square the last couple of days, but somehow it looked even more beautiful as we viewed it from our gondola and the sun began to set.
Our gondolier. He was...interesting. The gondolier that we approached and booked our ride with was more...romantic for lack of a better description. Once we had things booked he called this guy over and he took us. We were a bit confused, and decided that these more smooth talking gondoliers must be gondola pimps of a sort. Anyway, I'm not sure that I want someone to translate whatever our gondolier was saying in this video clip, but it's the only one that I have of him...
We were switching seats so Tommy and Megan had a chance to sit in the "love seat", but once Megan and I swapped we had to wait a second for Tommy and Mark to switch while the water was choppy. I struck me funny to see Mark and Megan sitting together in the iconically romantic gondola so I snapped a quick picture.
I will try to add details about this place when I can verify them, but our gondolier told us that it is an absolutely obscene amount of money per night to stay at this palazzo...and there was a connection to Napoleon?
After our gondola ride was done we walked back to St. Mark's square where the water was starting to ease up through the cracks in some areas. The lights were glowing and the music was floating out into the night air from the dueling orchestras. We danced for a minute, watched the guys shooting those cheap glowing things way up into the air (and yes, bought some for our kids), and just soaked in the almost tangible romance of Venice. Here's one last shot of Megan and Tommy in the square before we headed back to our hotel.
Mark knew how important it was to me to get some night shots in Venice, so after Tommy and Megan headed to bed he hung out with me for a while on the Accademia Bridge outside our hotel and watched me mess around with my camera settings and remote until I got the images I was looking for. It was so much fun! Thanks so much, Mark, for helping take an already awesome trip and make it something extra special for me by letting me indulge in these things that are so fun for me. And, as a bonus, I love how the pictures turned out!
Venice is beautiful. Venice at night is breathtaking.