"If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you've imagined. Venice is - Venice is better.&q
If you read the article about my family in OK magazine or you subscribe to Sarah’s honeymumster blog you will be aware that the pregnancy for our son Phoenix, was a tough time for us.
I had already booked some time off work for around Christmas and I wanted to do something really nice for Sarah, something that we could enjoy together. I knew I wanted to take her away somewhere for a couple of nights. The big decision was whether to take young Phoenix or not. After thinking long and hard about it, I decided that given that we were only going for a few days, the time of year and his tender age it would be best to go on our own it. I also thought it would also be a nice little romantic, breather for us.
A make up artist at work had brought my attention to the amazing website Voyageprive.com. For those who don’t know what this is (you must have been hiding away with me somewhere) - It's a luxury travel website that offers holidays and breaks with big discounts, some of those discounts are up to 70% off.
I really like this site, it is easy to navigate and there's a lot of choice but not so much that it becomes a chore to go through. It's really easy to find the type of holiday you are looking for. The hotels/resorts area are for, 4 and 5 star hotels. Flights are included but they can also be excluded. You can book your trip in a few simple steps. I love the fact there is always at least a one level upgrade on the room, so you’re always guaranteed a little more luxury. There are usually quite a few flights to choose from too, so fitting it into your schedule is a breeze.
It does for all the world seem, too good to be true but it really isn't. I have recommended this website to many people and all have loved the results and now I'm passing it on to you!
After looking on 'voyageprive' I decided on Venice for mine and Sarah's romantic weekend. It's a place I have always wanted to visit (there are many on the list to be fair). I booked it in about 5 minutes flat and we were all set to go.
Here I must give a #nonsponsored honourable mention to Easyjet.com - who our flights were with. We have flown with them to various places, numerous times and everything is always so (pardon the pun) easy! The service is always very good and very friendly and for nervous flyers, like myself these little things are extremely important.
The first really exciting part of our journey happened on the flight. The pilot gave us a heads up that we were approaching The Alps.
I've never been lucky enough to see them before, other than on TV or Film and boy was it mind blowingly impressive and beautiful.
The range of the Alps seemed to go on, in every direction for what looked like an eternity.
I'm a bit of a 'history nerd' and so I thought of Hannibal's incredible, crossing of The Alps with his army to invade Rome. I've read a lot about him and watched numerous programmes, so I knew that the crossing was an incredible feat. However, seeing the mountains from the air left me dumbfounded at how he even conceived to march his whole army, elephants and all, across those imposing peaks. I have no idea how he managed it. Just awesome!
The flight was short and sweet, straight into Marco Polo airport.
I like to plan ahead of a trip (the nerd strikes again) so I had already looked up how we should best get to our Hotel as the airport is on mainland but Venice is in the middle of the water.
There are a few options; land taxi takes you over a bridge as far as it can but then there's a fair old walk in to Venice itself or you can take a water bus or a private water taxi right in to the heart of the atmospheric city.
Having read several reviews on my old favourite, TripAdvisor - a private water taxi, sounded like a great way to get to our hotel. It is, of course the most expensive option but as a number of reviews said, "if you do this you can forgo a Gondola ride".
The water taxis are lovely little boats and the water taxi rank is a short and well signposted walk from the main terminal of the airport.
We chose to sit and stand at the back of our taxi and take in the ethereal views. It was an incredible experience, you leave the airport behind and enter a kind of hazey magic, as the magical city starts to appear out of the mist. It is so atmospheric. I really wanted the ride to last a while longer, so I could really savour it. I really felt like I was sailing in to a fantasy land and into history.
It's very exciting as you approach the city and begin to sail down the, what I can only describe as, 'river roads.' I have to say that I have yet to see any photos that do this enchanting place justice. It was so beautiful, peaceful and kind of surreal. As we wound down the water ways, I almost felt it quite difficult to process all the wonderful sights.
It was very romantic and we couldn’t stop smiling, enjoying every second of the journey. It probably took about 40 minutes in total to get to the hotel but it flew by.
Exhilarated, we arrived at the hotel entrance the Palace Bonvecchiati, where the doorman was waiting for us. It was so cool to step off a boat straight into the hotel. I cannot recommend this way to travel in highly enough. It's well worth budgeting the $90 Euro into your holiday budget.
The hotel was perfectly located about 2-3 minutes walk from the famous Saint Marks square and when we checked in we were told our upgrade had been upgraded, happy days!
Once settled we headed straight for the famous, St Marks square. It was a breath taking site, with the stunning Basilica at one end with St Marks Campanile Tower. The Basilica is particularly beautiful, and the square is enclosed on three sides by a picturesque arcade of shops and cafes. In December, when we were there, it was quiet, not empty just very pleasant. The weather was quite moderate so we decieded to take in the view by sitting outside, in the square for a lovely Italian coffee. It is the most expensive coffee I’ve ever bought $14 Euros! Sarah had a hot chocolate the bill for that made it over $20 Euro for two drinks. I really didn't mind though as I felt I was also paying for the view, which is excellent and the atmosphere which was so peaceful. We sat and took in our surroundings, just chatting and people watching for about an hour. A lovely experience so I think it was a hot drink which was actually value for money.
It was then time to explore this most romantic of places. We had no plan as such, we just followed our noses. We walked and walked for hours, down little alleys, in to and through many squares and over countless bridges. Venice has so many wonderful sights and as we walked the hours flew by.
I’m a bit of a gaming nerd and Assassins creed is one of my favourites, I really felt like I was in one of the games, it was all I could do to not try and scale the buildings Ezio style as we wandered around.
I loved The Rialto Bridge once considered one of the wonders of the world. For some time it was the only bridge that spanned the grand canal. It really is quite beautiful. There are shops all the way along the bridge and a number of excellent bars and restaurants in the small district around it. We crossed over it and walked a little further off San Marco and in to San Polo, where we found a delightful tiny cafe for a coffee and a little bite to eat. There are so many places like this, spots to have a respite. Unlike the 20 Euros for two drinks in St Mark's Square, these places are really quite cheap for a coffee and treat.
Venice is not as expensive as I was lead to believe, I think like anywhere, it depends where you go. If you want to burn through money you can find places to do that. If you are looking for value and quality though, you won’t find you have to look too far to find it here.
In the evening Venice is just as beautiful. St Marks square was magical at night, it is lit delicately in the moon's glow. The Christmas lights were up too so the walkways through the arcade looked magical.
We decided to just walk and take in the evening air, leaving to chance where we ended up for our evening meal. As we walked around under the street lights and Christmas decorations, illuminating the winding alleyways and bridges we noticed that some of the cafes from the day were now bars with people stood outside as well as inside, chatting and enjoying themselves. Venice has a lovely, friendly atmosphere everywhere at all times.
I’ve been to Paris and I thoroughly enjoyed it but I found Venice to be even more romantic, it's a great place to spend a few days with a loved one.
For a place that can be busy, the peaceful qualities of Venice are striking. I found that I was so relaxed and the lack of roads and traffic makes it the most serene place I've ever known.
We had both our evening meals at same place we loved it so much, Birraria La Corte on San Polo, its on a picturesque little square that also had an ice skating rink open for the winter season. The restaurant was quite large had a really pleasant vibrant atmosphere. All the food coming out of the kitchen looked delicious. It was hard trying to decide what to have! I had a terrific pizza on the first night and some gorgeous lamb the second evening. There's a nice little bar area in the restaurant to have a drink too, it was perfect.
Venice does have a lot of restaurants and plenty of places for a snack, especially along the canal. The only thing I hated there was that the staff of some of the eateries, stood outside trying to get you to come in, this is a pet hate of mine. It instantly puts me off. Some of these places looked great, with tables under heaters right on the water front. They are probably worth a try but I’m too suspicious of any place that has to coerce me in.
I always refer to TripAdvisor and my advice to you is to do the same as it always gives you a good general idea of a place you are thinking of dining in or what landmarks are really worth a look.
I think 3 days 2 nights is the perfect amount of time to spend in Venice, its quite small and this is ample time to take it all in and see the sights. I will definitely return to this most romantic and magical of places.
The last thing we did to bookend our lovely stay in Venice was to order a water taxi from the hotel back to the airport. It was so easy to step out of the hotel and relax. It also gives you one last fabulous experience as you leave Venice.
So we bid Venice a fond farewell as it faded into the mist knowing we would definitely return and feeling refreshed and even more in love if that's possible. We were all ready for our first Christmas with Phoenix.
"A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him"
- Arthur Symons