Crazy about Gondolas

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June 26th 2011
Published: July 26th 2011
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Our first view of the Grand CanalOur first view of the Grand CanalOur first view of the Grand Canal

I don't think you would ever get tired of it
I don't care what anyone says about gondolas being a Venice cliche, expensive, or that you should just ride the Traghetti instead: There is nothing like your first sighting of a gondola on the Grand Canal in the late afternoon.

Ignoring all advice from guide books to the contrary, we decided to drive into Venice and park at Garage San Marco. Silvia sussed it all out for us on her computer and we decided it was worth the risk! It was hard to say good-bye to Silvia and the children after their fantastic hospitality, but we look forward to catching up with the whole family when they return to Melbourne.

As it happened, parking was easy as pie, not especially expensive, and we were able to WALK to our hotel! Perfect. Well, there WAS a small set of stairs over a bridge to negotiate, but we condensed things into one suitcase for our short stay. That worked well for all of us, except Frank I suppose. (He didn't complain though).

We were hooked on Venice straight away. Our first sighting of the Grand Canal was wonderful, and though it was really hot, the breeze off the water cooled
Isabel was in love with the 4-poster bedIsabel was in love with the 4-poster bedIsabel was in love with the 4-poster bed

and the mirror, and the bathroom, and the wardrobe etc., etc., etc.
everything down beautifully. Choosing somewhere to stay in Venice can be hard, and the hotel issue was part of the reason we were only going to stay 24 hours, but we were blown away by how beautiful the Hotel Grand Canal was. It is on a small, quiet square in Santa Croce, facing the Grand Canal, and looks across to the Chiesa degli Scalzi and Ponte dei Scalzi - one of only three bridges across the Grand Canal. In the heat, hustle and bustle of Venice in the afternoon, it was a cool, calm oasis! We had decided on Santa Croce as our destination because it's a little quieter than other areas, with slightly (!) more room to move, but still within an easy 10 minute walk of the Rialto Bridge. The children were so excited and awed by the very Venetian luxury - including a gilt "Magic Mirror" in their sleeping area which became a television when the manager switched it on!

Thanks to our i-pad troubles, the photography tour I'd booked for myself in Venice didn't eventuate, so I decided to splurge on a family guide for the evening. With only 24 hours in Venice there was no time to waste consulting maps and guide books every five minutes, and I felt the evening would be the best time to see lots of things once the day tourists had departed. It was a great decision, and in the end we split a 6 hour arrangement into two blocks - one for the evening, and one so that we could visit the Rialto area and San Marco in the morning. Davide met us at the hotel and immediately got us organised with 24 hour vaporetto passes - amazing how easy it is with someone who speaks fluent Italian! Interestingly, we set off in the opposite direction I had expected - heading out of Venice, but we skirted around Santa Croce and were rewarded with stunning views of Dorsoduro in the early evening light. We got our first view of Piazza San Marco from across the river at the old customs house (Punta della Dogana), which has a fantastic golden weathervane sitting atop it. We saw places I don't think I would have found alone - the last gondola repair shop in Venice, old wells and hidden gardens, to name a few.

Isabel was glued to Davide as
The family, Osteria ai SconteThe family, Osteria ai SconteThe family, Osteria ai Sconte

Apparently, we're "delightful"!
he explained all about what used to happen to the wells in Venice when the city flooded, and various other jewels of information. We loved the Accademia bridge and the area surrounding it, and then after three hours said good-bye to Davide for the evening. We had planned to have dinner at a gorgeous little restaurant in a hidden square which even he didn't know about! We had to ring for directions and they said just to ask for Campo San Lio (a nearby square), and follow our noses! Hugo was asleep on Frank's back when we arrived, but he soon perked up and had really benefited from his catnap.

We ate a wonderful meal, which ended in the company of a French-Canadian couple who struck up a conversation sure to melt any parent's heart as we began our dessert: "We can't help saying what a delightful family you are - and what well-behaved children you have". (!) Apparently they had been listening to our conversation over dinner as the tables were so close together. (Lucky there hadn't been any bottom jokes or melt-downs, but I think they would be impossible in Venice - the city is so elegant
The Vaporetto ride home, VeniceThe Vaporetto ride home, VeniceThe Vaporetto ride home, Venice

The lights, the romance, the sleeping children
that it puts everyone on their best behaviour). We exchanged stories and heard all about Quebec as we ate, and were able to ask some questions as the couple had just travelled from Paris - which will be the last stop on our trip.

It was a short stroll to the vaporetto to go home, and we saw another view of Venice - with lights - as the boat chugged it's way slowly down the Grand Canal to a stop right outside our hotel.

Additional photos below
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The Famous Venetian masksThe Famous Venetian masks
The Famous Venetian masks

We saw them from the moment we entered Venice, but didn't bring one home!

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