Below is the continuation of my Europe trip blog. If you don’t start at the beginning, they don’t make much sense! Thanks for reading! :)


It seemed like it took forever to get to Venice. But we finally arrived sometime around 3pm. When you first get there it’s not at all what you would expect, because the mainland before you cross the bridge to the island is completely industrial and unattractive. It’s not until you’re across the bridge and on the main island that it starts looking like the breathtaking city it is.

After we crossed the bridge we walked a short distance to a water taxi dock, where we separated into groups of about 10 on the taxi boats that would take us though the grand canal to St. Mark’s Square.


Ally and I shared a water taxi with Rob & Chanel, our Aussie friends, Steve & Lynn, our American friends, Val & Pam, our Canadian friends, and Jelle. That water taxi ride was one of my favorite things we did on the entire tour. We had a lot of fun talking and joking around and taking in the magic of the grand canal of Venice… every building, every bridge, every pole sticking out of the water with it’s colorful swirly painted design… the gondolas gliding past you, the salty wind whipping through your hair… I never wanted it to stop. Boating is one of my favorite activities as it is… and Venice is heaven for boaters.

Blue Doors

After our arrival at the dock we walked to the Doches Palace which is at the entrance to St. Mark’s Square. I said to Ally when we got there how it felt like were at Epcot… since the replica buildings in Epcot’s Italy are the Doches Palace and St. Mark’s Campanile (if you don’t know what Epcot is, it’s a theme park in Orlando where there are different “countries” situated around a lake that have replicas of famous landmarks, authentic food and even people from those countries working there) I always thought when walking through Epcot how ironic it would be seeing the REAL landmarks since I had seen such authentic replicas growing up thanks to the magic of Disney. Thankfully the feeling wore off quickly as even the best replicas can’t give off the wonder you feel standing in the shadow of the real gems of the old world.

Doches Palace

On a side-note, St. Mark’s Square is often flooded, but I was delighted to discover when we got there that it was totally dry. The water level was actually very low in the city the days we were there, and the square was bustling with people and pigeons.

St. Mark's Square, Venice

St. Mark's Basilica

At this point we were given some free time, so Ally and I started wandering around the Square and got lost wandering through the maze of shops that surround it. We eventually found our way back toward the Square and past the Gondola docks and Hard Rock Venice before meeting back up with Jelle and the gang for our Gondola ride.

Gondola Cove

Another one of my favorite activities on the tour, the gondola ride was everything it was cracked up to be. We got to share one with our Singaporean friends, and all of the rest of our tour peeps were either in front of us or behind us on other gondolas, as we snaked through the crazy smaller canals with a singer/accordion player in the gondola in front of us performing famous Italian love songs. Once we got out into the grand canal, the singer posed for my camera and I got one of my favorite pictures from our trip:


The Streets of Venice

He then proceeded to sing Volare, which everyone sang along with and thoroughly enjoyed. I was lucky enough to grab a video of it, which I’ll post later =)

After our amazing gondola ride, we headed back to the water taxis to be taken to our hotel on Lido Island, the outer barrier island of Venice. The water taxi ride was quite enjoyable and the views of the lagoon are wonderful… and I must say, if not for the vintage buildings on the shore, the lagoon was quite similar to the Intercoastal Waterway where I grew up in Clearwater. There were a few moments I felt like I was back home in Florida, cruising through the islands and channel markers.

Venetian Lagoon

When we arrived at Lido, trusty Francesco was waiting with our bus to bring us to the hotels. We first dropped off the Spotlight crew at their more expensive hotel, then drove to our hotel which we were dreading would be bad… but it ended up being my favorite on the tour. The Ca Del Moro Hotel was built in little buildings of about 20 rooms each, and the rooms were extremely modern and new with great furniture and a nice beach like atmosphere. The hotel had a pool and tennis courts and a nice restaurant which we ate at both nights. The only draw back was the “beach” –which I’ll get to later.

After freshening up a bit we all walked together to the restaurant, which we knew must be OK because Jelle was joining us. The place was extremely modern, like the rest of the hotel, which is sort of strange in Venice. It was expected in Switzerland but not Italy. The floors were a shiny white tile and all the furniture was white with colorful napkins and modern paintings on the walls. Our waiter didn’t speak english very well but was very nice. He was wearing a black graphic t-shirt and jeans and had a cast on one arm… I don’t know why I remember him so vividly, but maybe it was because he was our waiter both nights there.

Our first dish was a pasta, of course, and the main course was chicken something and vegetables. Pretty tasty but I wasn’t amazed. It wouldn’t be until Rome that I had Italian food worthy of the reputation. The food quality always made for extremely entertaining conversation with our tour friends. I won’t say who but a few people always got slightly drunk– we always got at least the first glass of wine included, which didn’t help. Conversations got quite entertaining by the end of meals. Favorite topics were our respective countries, culture, and of course, accents. It was good fun hearing the Aussies try and speak with an American accent and apparently hearing us speak with an Aussie accent was amusing as well. I told Craig that whenever he said he was “knackered” (which means tired in Aussie speak) with his thick accent it sounded like nekkid… which is of course slang for naked here in the states. Accents are a funny thing.

Some of the slang we learned on the tour and in our discussion at dinner in Venice are “Good on ya, mate!” which means good for you, Knackered, pronounced “neck-id” which means tired. Pissed means drunk… and when an Aussie says “it’s your shout” they aren’t telling you you’re cool, they’re telling you you’re paying for the next round of drinks. Oh and forget McDonald’s. It’s Mackers. “Heaps” is what they say in place of “lots” and most importantly, if you want to sound Australian, NEVER pronounce the “er” at the end of anything. The “er” sound becomes “ah”.

After dinner we all started back toward our hotel when we decided we should go to the beach instead. After all it was supposedly just a short walk. So we walked over to Jelle and Francesco’s table and Rob asked Jelle the quickest route to the beach… he gave us the directions and we were off!

A few mozzie bites and funny conversations later we found the “beach”… a ton of boulders and rocks and a nice retention wall that abutted the Adriatic sea. Everyone else was just like “ah, whatever, oh well…” but since Craig had a bit more to drink I think his ability to let it go had diminished and he decided when we walked back he would give Jelle a piece of his mind about this so called beach and the lack of any such thing.

We made our way back through the dark roads and sidewalks onto the hotel property where we found Jelle and Francesco still sitting by the pool bar. Craig storms up to Jelle and says “that’s not a beach mate! you said there was a beach! That was a heap of rocks!” Jelle says “ah I never said it was a nice beach, I just said it was a beach… you just climb over the rocks, ya?” then Chanel chimed in and said “climb over the rocks? are you crazy? You’d drown!” this conversation about whether or not you could actually call it a beach or not came to a close with the conclusion that if you walk down the shore a ways, you do eventually come to a real beach… on a side note, is there anything funnier than watching drunk people fight? No, I think not…

After having a few more laughs by the pool and being bitten alive by the mozzies we all went back to our rooms. Ally went back out to the lobby to get online (they only have internet for a fee in hotel lobbies throughout most of Europe) and I took a shower and then joined Ally in the lobby a bit later. She only had 20 minutes left of internet, so she gave it to me to use while she went back to the room.

After 20 minutes of facebooking and flickring and checking my email I packed up and went back to the room, knocked lightly… and there was no answer. So I knocked a little louder. No answer. I couldn’t knock any louder because I didn’t want to wake any of our tour peeps up… in any other hotel circumstance I would have said screw it and wouldn’t have cared about waking up the people in adjoining rooms, but since I knew these people and would have to face them the rest of the trip haven woken them up in the middle of the night, I feared knocking any louder. Starting to panic I ran around the other side of the room to the back porch outside (we were on the ground level thankfully) and since there was no door in the fence around the porch (stupid security thing I suppose) I had to jump a 5ft fence with a 3ft high bush around it in a skirt and flip-flops… knocked on the sliding glass door… no answer. Then I ran back to the lobby… closed. Dude locked it up right after I left. Went back the main room door and knocked for about 5 more minutes… at this point trying to decide the least embarrassing place for me to sleep that night… would it look like I passed out of drunkeness if I was found sleeping right outside my door? Should I find a place to sleep outside, hidden, and hope I woke up in time in the morning to get cleaned up?

Finally, Ally opens the door. I do not have a happy look on my face. She says “What? Why do you look like you wanna kill me?” I tell her what happened. Moral of the story… always, always get your own room key. Never share one. The other person might fall asleep and lock you out when the front desk is closed and render you homeless for the night. OK so this was a pretty rare sequence of events that caused this (what kind of hotel doesn’t have 24hr desk service?) but still.

The next morning we headed out bright and early on the water taxis to the main island for a glass blowing workshop. I have to admit I wasn’t all that excited about it, but I wasn’t excited about the perfumery either and that ended up being awesome. We had to walk through all kinds of crazy streets and across bridges over tiny canals to get to the place which was really fun. When you walk in you pass by this crazy huge green glass horse and a huge gift shop with all kinds of glass souvenirs. When you start the tour they take you up a staircase to a tiny little demonstration room where you sit around this huge furnace. In walked the most macho bad-ass looking italian man I had seen thus far, and I’m thinking he’s like the glass blowers body guard or something. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a scarier looking man. But then scary italian man picks up a long pole, puts it in the furnace and starts blowing a beautiful vase out of a glowing orange blob of glass at the end of the pole and in about 1 minute flat the finished piece is done. A perfect little vase with handles. That he then threw back in the fire. The guy narrating the whole thing said something like there are only a few master glass blowers in the world and it takes 20 years to perfect the craft, and that scary italian dude was one of the best and what he makes in these demonstrations is just for fun which is why he destroys them at the end.

Glass Blower

Then they herded us into the gift shop, just like rides at theme parks do. Only thing is at least rides at theme parks have gifts that are under $100. Not this place. They were trying to sell us a €2,000 glass tea set and etched glass tray… no thanks. The cheapest stuff we found Ally ended up buying… €15 Christmas ornaments… I guess on sale since it wasn’t Christmas.

After the glass blowing workshop we had some free time before our excursion through the lagoon to Burano. Ally and I walked around St. Mark’s Square a bit, crossed over one of the biggest bridges over the main canal, got some fresh strawberries in a cup and ate them while sitting on the bridge… then wandered back over to St. Mark’s Square and sat down and listened to a band playing lovely classical music at a cafe. We were tipped off by Jelle not to actually sit in the chairs in these cafe’s as they will charge you a €20 fee just for sitting down, claiming you’re paying for the entertainment. So we sat on the ground against the steps, which led to me falling asleep for a bit. It was quite nice falling asleep to the lovely music of Venice.

Grand Canal of Venice

Early Morning Venice

Our free time was running out so we made our way back to the water taxi dock, making sure to cross 4 bridges on the way as Jelle instructed. We got back with plenty of time to spare so we wandered a bit further to where we were told was a less touristy, more locals only part of Venice. We found a very peaceful square that felt far removed from the hustle and bustle of St. Mark’s Square. Just a couple locals wandering around, sitting on the benches and retrieving water out of the fountain in the center.

After relaxing in the square we found Jelle sitting at a little cafe by our water taxi and we joined him and a few of our Aussie friends, namely “uncle” Gary, and Jelle and I started talking about my camera, which he liked a lot. Many people do. He asked if I would show him how to use it later and if he could buy it off me, then took a few pictures with it. You’d think he’d see a lot of nice cameras being a tour director but I guess I have a pretty special one =)

At last it was time for us to head over to Burano for lunch. The small fisherman’s island of Burano is famous for it’s multicolored buildings. While all of Venice has multicolored buildings, none are quite as vibrant and unique as the ones you find on Burano. Not only is every house an extremely bright and unique color, but Jelle explained that each color actually represents the family. So if two houses are the same color, that means they are from the same family. Paint suppliers must make a killing on his island because I didn’t see a single house that didn’t have an extremely fresh and new coat of colorful paint.

Burano, Italy

The place we ate at in Burano was a seafood place (it was after all a fisherman’s island) but Ally and I don’t eat fish which posed a bit of a challenge. We had a lot of pasta and some chicken instead, which isn’t exactly my favorite, but hey, that’s the awesome part of traveling. You gotta eat what the locals eat and if you don’t like it – well, it’s still a great experience!

After wandering across the entire island (it wasn’t very big) and it’s canals, we dodged into a cool church to avoid the heat and relaxed and prayed a bit inside of it. Even on this tiny little island the church could have been called a mini-cathedral it was so ornate and beautiful.

After a while we moved outside and sat under the shade of a building talking to John and Susan, two more of our Aussie friends. They were continuing on to Malta after our tour, where John is originally from, and so we talked about Malta a lot and how Count of Monte Cristo was filmed there (one of Ally and I’s favorite movies) Susan was a lot of fun to talk to because she had an excellent Aussie sense of humor.

After our Burano cruise we boated back to St. Mark’s Square again to pick up anyone who hadn’t gone to Burano, and we passed a huge sailboat/yacht again that we had passed by earlier and wondered the price of. Jelle had actually asked around between the boat captains and they found out it was owned by a wealthy American businessman and the estimated cost was around €100 million which is about $150 million. For a boat.

The Maltese Falcon

I ended up googling the sailboat when I got home (I liked it a lot) and as it turns out, it’s the second largest sailing yacht in the world, and the most modern. It’s called the Maltese Falcon and it was built/owned by Tom Perkins (HP). The entire boat, including the sails, are operated by computer, and the sail system is a futuristic, breakthrough square rig.

After docking back at St. Mark’s Square we ended up picking up another Trafalgar tour group and another tour guide for our trip back to Lido Island, which was interesting. It’s funny seeing people who are technically on the same tour as you but who you haven’t been traveling with… you think wow.. those people are who I could have been traveling with instead of my group! And you start judging whether or not they look better or nicer than your group. We decided of course that our group was the best =) On our taxi ride Jelle snapped this picture of Ally and I in the Venetian Lagoon:

Ally & I

When we arrived at Lido Island we had a little bit of relaxation time before dinner, so many people went swimming but Ally and I decided to stay in the room and relax for an hour… I think the ONLY time on the trip we chose to do so! After we changed and wandered out to the restaurant… down past the tennis courts and playground… and found a seat at a table by a flatscreen TV that had the Italy vs. Brazil football game on, which was apparently a huge and important game (that Italy lost). We were joined by Chanel and Rob for the meal, and later Craig and Francesco joined our table to watch the game.

During lunch at Burano Jelle had asked me to bring my photo gear and laptop to dinner so we could talk photography after, so I finished up and joined Jelle at his table. He offered to buy my camera many times and wanted to know about Lightroom and my editing process since he travels so much and wants to take better pictures of all the amazing sights he sees. I am extremely jealous of his job I must say.

After our conversation Ally and I walked back to the lobby to get on the internet again (yes, we are addicted) and we were joined by Nikki, our Singaporean friend who was on the tour with her parents. Her mom was possibly the sweetest woman I’ve ever met in my entire life and at the end of the tour told Ally and I we needed to visit them in Singapore, an offer I would LOVE to take them up on one day. Nikki I think is 17 but very mature for her age, and we had a really fun conversation with her about Singapore and the differences in culture to America. One thing I found funny is she was shocked we can get our driver’s permit at 15 in America. It’s like 20 something in Singapore.

When we first got there we noticed a dude sitting on the corner of one of the super modern white sofas in the lobby of our hotel, on a mac, typing away. After a few minutes of talking with Nikki, he started chiming in on our conversation and before long we were talking up a storm with him. His name was John and he was actually from Manchester, England but was in Venice for something school related. I told him if I had to guess where he was from by his accent I’d say Scotland to which he started making fun of Scottish accents trying to prove how he didn’t sound Scottish at all. We had a really fun conversation ranging from everything to the cars he drives (American cars) to politics (which we surprisingly agreed on). Nikki and Ally and I all agreed later that he had an amazing accent. Way thicker than the accents we heard in London.

The next day Ally and I had to wake up super early for our ferry ride back to the main island, because this time we had to take the ferry that could hold the bus… and the locals lined up very early for this ferry, so we had to make sure we didn’t get bumped to the next one which wasn’t for another few hours. Since tours are booked extremely tight this would royally screw us over since we’d be stuck on an island for hours with nowhere to go, so Jelle was super careful we were all on time to the bus that morning. We had been OK waking up for the early calls up until this day… but we must have been so tired from the late night in the lobby talking to Nikki and John that we missed the wake-up call this morning. Thankfully our alarms did end up waking us up, but only with about 10 minutes to spare to get to the bus. Since we missed the bag call, Jelle actually came and knocked on our door which about gave me a heart attack, and even though we were already awake, Jelle made fun of us later saying he woke us up. That morning all I had for breakfast was one lousy croissant, and I dressed so hastily that I forgot how hot Rome was going to be and dressed in black jeans and a black t-shirt. Brilliant.

Well we ended up making it in plenty of time for the ferry, and since there was a waiting line for the bus we all just got off of it and walked around the dock for a bit before boarding. We caught up with Chanel and Rob with all they did the day before (they didn’t join us in Burano) and we had more funny conversations about accents… this time I did an Aussie accent for them and said G’day mate! They said it wasn’t bad!

The Gang

Aboard the ferry we stood in the front with the morning breeze of Venice blowing through our hair, the last time we would ride through the lagoon and the grand canal… at least for a long time anyway.