You know how sometimes a plan fails miserably, and other times things just seem to somehow fall into place against all odds?
We got the latter scenario a few weeks ago when Dave and I, after much anticipation and planning and preparation, got to travel to Italy and Switzerland with our married kids.
We climbed to breathtaking vistas in the Dolomites:
(In the Italian Alps…somewhere I have dreamed of for a long time.)
We swam in ice-cold glorious lakes:
We walked through countless enchanting little towns:
Every one of them with all the windows spilling out with flowers:
And also every one of them had a beautiful church nestled right in the middle:
We had to stop every now and again to take them in:
We were awed by incredibly green valleys:
I kept these folks RUNNING, I tell you, we packed in those six precious days like nobody’s business.
But we still found time to do things like sit on this green hill (below) and watch the sky change like a giant iMax theater in front of us and talk through the world for hours and hours one of the days:
We hiked a cliff looming over the gorgeous valley where my sister-in-law grew up with my brother as our guide (they live in Switzerland):
Spent an evening with them at “The Hut” in the Swiss Alps:
And made it our job to find the best chocolate in all the land:
(The answer is that you just probably shouldn’t pass up any of it.)
And we had the best driver maneuvering us through all kinds of tiny, incredibly windy roads:
One of those roads even had a waterfall going right over the top of it.
And we happened to beat the weather (the forecast called for rain every single day we were going to be there and you really cannot see those mountains when it’s all cloudy and rainy…we know from past experience!)
But we really, really lucked out, and I was grateful every single day.
And I have SO much to record from all those adventures.
But let’s start at the beginning, after all that stressful travel planning but before we arrived in VENICE (our first stop).
We were all coming from different directions, and of course, when that happens you send a selfie to let the others know you’re coming for them:)
These pictures were after we were dished out some bad news at the airport here in the desert:
The flight was going to be delayed (one of the flight attendants wasn’t going to make it and they were scrambling to find another one).
We had to make a quick decision whether we should still try to stick with our original plan to meet up with our kids in NYC (with an extremely thin chance of making that connection to Venice), OR try to go through Detroit and Amsterdam to see if we could make it to Venice that way.
Dave was pretty set on not taking a chance of two more flights being delayed and we stuck with our original plan. And I was so thankful he made that decision (especially since I stink at decisions) because it WAS a miracle and we all made it, all three couples, with big smiles and huge hugs and even time to grab a sandwich before the long flight to Venice:
We made the long flight, got situated in our van (that would kind of be our “home” for that whole trip…we did a LOT of driving!)
And headed to VENICE!
One Day in Venice
I was in complete awe of this city.
How does this even work? Canals as the only roads?
The most picturesque little alleyways spanning like spiderwebs through the city.
The canals lined with weathered brick buildings toped with red roofs.
It definitely lived up to the hype in my opinion.
Why only one day? You might ask?
Well, the reason is that we only had a week and we had a LOT of ground to cover.
From the reviews we read we figured we could hit the main points and get a good overview. Would we have taken more time if we could? You bet. I would have loved to stay overnight and gone to some of the art museums and definitely tour the main attractions, but we had to weigh pros and cons with our time and this is what we chose.
I feel like we got a pretty great overview of the city.
We started by driving our car from the airport over the bridge to the large carpark on the outskirts of the city, and then we trudged through the heat (it was so hot!) through those tiny alleyways filled with so much character…
…to all the stops I had researched:
But first, a stop for gelato:
Because we were in Italy.
We walked up and down bridge after bridge:
Through all the tiniest alleyways:
In complete awe.
You guys, seriously, I was so fascinated by this place.
We all were.
I mean look at this little entrance to this home. Just a few steps up from the canal:
And when you’re out and about shopping or making your way through little alleyways like this:
(complete with flower boxes, of course), and you want to catch your water taxi or gondola, just go wait in one of these little spots:
The top things to see in Venice:
Ponte dell’ Accedemia
…with it’s iconic view of the Grand Canal.
We walked through the city and my heart was getting more and more excited the further we got, we finally got to the Accedemia Bridge and then BAM!
I was seriously looking around at people wondering how in the world they were all calm, not going hog-wild over this stuff. Ha!
Not sure how to even capture a place like that.
Next we walked through more picturesque stuff:
…and arrived at
St. Mark’s Square
Piazza San Marco
St. Mark’s Basilica
It is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice.
LOOK at that gorgeous place.
And back further so you can actually see San Marco Campanile (the bell tower):
Now, if we had more time, we would have figured out a way to get up in that thing, because I know it promises to have a knock-your-socks-off view of the city. But since we didn’t have time, we just basked in the glory of that beautiful square for a little bit.
There is so much history…back to the year 1063 (yeah, it’s OLD), carrying on the traditions of Constantinople, with incredible architecture, and if you want to know more, definitely watch this:
See down below on the right?
That is Doge’s palace (Doge=duke), and it was the ruling center and residence of Venice’s duke for years.
It was the most powerful piece of Europe for a long time and was built to show Venice’s power.
It looks like this inside:
Wow, next time I’m going in.
Way more history and info. here:
(I love Rick Steves.)
I tried to figure out if we had time for a gondola ride.
Dave took this picture because I think he thought it was amusing I happened to fit right in with the gondolier’s outfits:
Just look at those beautiful boats below!
We ended up not having time and decided to take a water taxi back to our car instead, which was a good choice considering the heat, but that’s coming in a minute. For now, let’s go to our next stop:
That sucker is the oldest bridge in Venice, it was the only way to cross the canal for 300 years.
We crossed that thing and checked out the cool views:
This is how these kids felt about that by now:
Ha, not really, they were really right up there in the hype with me about all this, but I love that picture.
We moseyed on around that area for a little while, picked up some Italian pizza from a little cafe, checked out the bridge from the other side:
And then boarded our water taxi:
This was probably one of my favorite things.
Rialto Bridge behind us up there above.
Loved seeing the whole city from the water.
Again, so fascinated with how this city was built.
Did you know it is built up from a few islands all connected…they drove huge wooden poles deep into the clay beneath the ground which were surrounded by mud which was “petrified” over time? They built wooden platforms on top of the poles, and then constructed their buildings. Pretty crazy to think about. Google it for more information because it’s pretty cool.
I loved passing by this little fire station on the left below (boats ready to get to action if needed), a police boat raced past us with its siren on, our wake caressing so many weathered Italian buildings that I’m sure all have their own stories to tell.
And then we were done, ready to bid goodbye to Venice and head up to the Dolomites.
More on that coming soon!