We set out early Friday afternoon for a romantic Valentine's weekend in Venice, Italy.
A little history about Venice:
It is built on an archipelago of 118 islets, supported by billions of wooden stakes driven into the mud and linked by 400 bridges. It is the only city in the world, which is built entirely on water. Refugees fleeing from barbarians first settled the lagoon in the 5th century. A cool thing about Venice is that there are no motor cars. The streets and alleys are simply not wide enough. Anyone arriving by car must park in one of the car parks on the northern periphery of the city. To get around Venice you have to either walk or ride the waterbus or a gondola. No matter what you choose chances are very high that you will get lost. We absolutely loved the fact that there were no cars, no bicycles, no roller blades, nothing but foot power on the pathways and slow boats in the canals. Venice was the1st to have paved roads in 1600s. We just couldn't help falling in love with this little city and its history.
A little history about Carnivale:
The 18th century was the great age of masked balls and carnivals, but all this came to an abrupt halt when the republic fell and Napoleon had all the masks burnt. It was revived in the 1970's and lasts for the 10 days prior to Lent. During this time masks are donned, fantasies and passions acted out and social divisions discarded. The entire city becomes a stage set for exotic costumes, pageants and concerts. Shrove Tuesday ends it all with a huge masked ball in the Piazza and a firework display. We were there the weekend before Shrove Tuesday. a cool web site with more info about Carnivale 1999.... http://www.carnivalofvenice.com/uk/nuovo/welcome.html
It was just a 2-hour flight and we were in the land of romance, enchantment and loads of excitement. We arrived at the airport in London, and we asked for an emergency row exit. You know, Alan's kinda tall, and you get extra leg room in the emergency rows. So we get on the plane, and we got WORKED! No extra leg room! The window seat was in the middle and our seats didn't recline. It was a combo emergency exit row and the seats in the row behind us were the ones we were aiming for. Next Time! Friday consisted of getting there and getting situated in our apartment. Once we arrived at the airport we had to hop on a bus to get to the city. With a little milling around and going back and forth we finally found the bus stop, but had to wait about 15 minutes. We opted to wait just inside the airport because it was freezing outside.
The bus arrived and we hopped on with another 50 people or so. We noticed people punching tickets in a machine and realized we hadnt purchased a ticket. With some frantic asking around we found out we had to buy them in the store, inside the terminal. Alan quickly hopped off, with a few others that did the same, and bought our tickets. The doors of the bus closed but no Alan. It was ready to take off and here I was on the bus with our luggage, no ticket and no Alan. I then stood up and noticed him pinned in the corner up by the front door of the bus. All that worry and stress over the bus ticket, and nobody even asked us to show our tickets. Oh well, it was only L1500 (Lira) each -- around about a buck.
It was fun chatting with the other tourists on the bus, people from all over the world going to Venice to celebrate carnival. As we approached the city, we passed a bus on the other side of the road and noticed quite a few people dressed in full costumes. The ride was about a half-hour and once we arrived in the city we were to call our leasing agent.
We always find the greatest apartment deals on the Internet, always cheaper and more spacious than a Hotel. Our Venetian apartment was either 400 years old or built in 400, we arent quite sure because the leasing agent didnt speaka English very well, even though Venice was built tin the 400s it was probably the former. It had 3 bedrooms, a living area, kitchen, entry, a cute bathroom with a bidet, and a view of the canal named Fondementa del Tolentini. We were up on the second floor so we had a great view, after we opened our wooden shutters. The floors of the entire apartment were marble and burr chilly cold on the tootsies. The chandeliers in the bedrooms were hand blown glass works of art and the furnishings were very rustic and old. No TV, no clocks and no radios, just good old-fashioned fun entertaining ourselves.
Warning to tall visitors from Alan: Watch your head! Our first night, I was walking into the bedroom, and crack; bonked my head. Heidi's laughing on the bed asking me if I hit my head (I know she heard the BONK!). I then show her where on the door frame my head hits, and it's around my forehead. Oh well, it only happened once, so I suppose I should be grateful.
The first night we finally settled in and the leasing agent left around 8.30 and we were starving. We went for a little walk along side our canal and happened upon a cute little trattoria (one of a million in Venice) and had some great Italian for dinner. So our first meal in Venice, and what do we have? First off, you know Heidi is going to have something complex (gorgonzola gnocchi -yummy). At least compared to Alan. So guess what Alan had? Give up? PIZZA. Hey, when in Rome, right? Well, close anyway. It was gooda pizza pie! With the moon in the sky its a big pizza pie thats Amore .doo dooo dooo dooo doo dooo. After dinner we called it an early night and just relaxed and read, (Heidi read up on the city and Alan read a book he found in the apartment).
Saturday morning and time to check out the festivities. It was a beautiful crisp clear day providing a building didnt shade us. We went walking through all of the little alleys and over too many bridges to count. We found so many places with yummy food bread and wine (Great place for Tracy). The sun was out, but it was freezing. We both had so many layers of clothes on it was awkward to move. Every where you look people are in a festive mood wearing fantastic costumes, hats and masks. After no time at all we decided to join in the fun and buy a couple of hats. (Alan's head and ears were in the super chilly numb category) and Heidi just wanted to look silly like the rest of the city. Alan's hat was like a felt Viking hat with long golden braids down to his shoulders. Heidi's hat was a black and red jester style hat.
Another ongoing event was being doused by confetti from strangers or shot with a can of silly string. Again we wanted to join the fun so we purchased a bag or two of confetti ourselves and completely covered anyone and everyone in our path. This place was full of the happiest people on earth with lively spirits and surrounded by the most beautiful buildings one could imagine. I'm sure it had to have something to do with the wine we all discovered. Vin Brulee: a small cup of warm mulled fruit wine with cinnamon and spices. Not only did it keep your hands warm, but it warmed the belly too. We found this to be a vital ingredient to endure the cold.
In the afternoon we went back to the apartment and exchanged Valentine's gifts and shared a bottle of Dom Peringnon. Too much FUN! After our afternoon champagne we went out for some dinner and then headed off to Saint Marcs Square for the evening's concert. We decided to take the Waterbus, so we could get there faster and not be out in the cold lost. Oh BURR! Okay so if it is freezing outside, is it the smartest thing to hop on an open air boat that creates wind and water splashing? Well, we did it and would have been better off walking, but we arrived in the Square I just 30 minutes. There were so many people and the music was great. First stop was the Vin Brulee booth to help us warm up. Everyone was dancing outside and we joined in, (still wearing our lovely hats, in fact we didnt remove them outdoors all weekend). What a kick! We made it home very late that night and had no trouble sleeping at all.
More on the subject of wine from Alan: Now everyone knows that I'm not a big drinker (Mike O.: You keep your thoughts to yourself!). I'm not really into wine, but we discovered Vin Brulee. Now this was great stuff. It was hot cheap red wine (I personally saw the cardboard box) with mulling spices in it. From the first sip, you can feel it warming your insides. If you have sore muscles, drink up, because you're soon getting down to the music. I'm not much of a dancer either, but when I had a few cups of the Magic Vino, I was boogeying! I have witnesses too!
We were up fairly early and it was snowing out. Heidi decided to go to a local espresso and indulge in a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino. YUMMY! Everything is this town has been spectacular. About 10am we headed out to see some more of the city cites. Unfortunately because of the festivities many of the main tourist attractions were either closed or so full of tourists it was not inviting. We will have to go back to see the museums and palaces another time. We just soaked up the atmosphere and joined in the fun. Then about 2pm we had to go pack our bags and head for the airport. Home to London once again. Venice we will miss you! Volare, oooh oooh. Cantare, oooh ooh ooh ohh!
So much to do and not enough time, it could not have been a more perfect weekend. We will definitely be back for some more fun and romance in the future.