Venice is such a beautiful maze of a city (and I’m not exaggerating the word “maze”). Honestly, two nights there was not enough time for me to explore the city although, considering how lost we all constantly were, perhaps we did see the entire town and we just didn’t realize it!

Before arriving, we hopped onto our bus in Munich which, by the way, looked like this

Not too shabby, eh?

and we were headed to Venice!

It was the tour’s practice that we stop every two hours and typically stopped for a potty break (which meant a chance for us to buy some local chocolates), followed by lunch at an Autogrill (which meant an opportunity for us to buy some local chocolates). Our running theme was chocolate, and it never let up because we were walking so much that we were able to burn off the “few” calories!

We made a couple of surprise stops in Austria, and I was able to take some photos of one of our stops along the Tirol. A short hike up from our stop gave me the opportunity to take pictures of this gorgeous area.

Europa Bridge Austria

Europa Bridge

Brenner Pass Austria

Brenner Pass

On to Venice!!!

I couldn’t believe that I had arrived in Venice. Of course, getting there proved to take a bit of an effort (as all good things do). We had been advised to buy a smaller bag in Munich to throw a few days’ worth of clothing into rather than trying to maneuver our larger bag through the often narrow streets of Venice.

My first view of Venice water! (Corny, I know.)

You know a city is fabulous when they create a monorail that looks like the spine of a fish.

Venice monorail Venice Italy

Venice monorail

We hopped onto a Vaporetto (a small ferry) for a very scenic boat tour through the Grand Canal.

Grand Canal boat Venice Italy

Venice canal Venice Italy

This man was obviously super happy to be seeing even MORE tourists arriving at his beautiful city!

Seriously gorgeous

Grand Canal gondolas Venice Italy

Venice canal Venice Italy

Canal bridges Venice Italy

First view of Rialto Bridge

Grand Canal Rialto Bridge Venice Italy

Grand Canal gondolas Venice Italy

Salviati house Venice Italy

Look at the beautiful mural and detailing on this house.

When we finally made it to our stop, Cary, our tour escort, took us on our first walking maze….er, tour….through St. Mark’s Square (or more appropriately and henceforth, Piazza San Marco…my favorite way of saying it!) to find our way to our hotel. Little did we know that this would prove to be the one and only time we would find our hotel without getting lost.

Because of my experience with being given the worst hotel room in our hotel in Lauterbrunnen (the one sans a shower), I was always a little apprehensive about my next hotel room. There were rooms in two sections of our hotel…the main hotel and the “annex.” I have to say that I didn’t have a good feeling about possibly being placed in the annex! As luck would have it, that was where my room was! I was escorted through a private locked door up a steep, narrow flight of stairs and when the hotel employee opened the door to my room, this was what I saw.

Hotel al Piave Venice Italy

Hotel al Piave

LOVE. I felt like Gretel! All I needed was Hansel. Or maybe not, considering that Hansel was her brother.

And, as in Paris, I began my love affair with Venice.

Because it was quite a journey from Munich to Venice, the sun had already set after we had settled into our rooms and went on a walking tour of Venice. I was delighted to be asked by two couples, Sue and Bob, and  Julie and Steve, to join them for a gondola ride and dinner. YAY!  We somehow maneuvered our way back to Piazza San Marco and saw Sandro, our bus driver. He introduced us to another tour director who was kind enough to walk us over to the best gondolier in Venice. We were going on a nighttime gondola ride! For those who have never visited Venice, a gondola costs 100 euros (plus or minus $136) and doesn’t include singing or music. Consider it a must-do gift to yourself no matter the cost!

Joining in on another gondola were Julie, Jolene, and Denise. Unfortunately for Jolene, however, the gondola she was attempting to get on was rocking quite a bit. She lost her balance and fell….HARD….on the stone steps leading down to the gondola. Our hearts broke for her. I was only happy knowing that she hadn’t fallen into the water instead. Jolene was a complete trooper, however….she never complained about the pain she was in and we all knew that she had to have been in TREMENDOUS pain. Fortunately, she had brought some pain pills with her because she had had recent knee surgery in case her knee acted up. Considering what a crybaby I was because I didn’t have a shower in my room, I would have complained to everyone and anyone if I had been the one to fall….don’t think that I wouldn’t have! Jolene handled herself graciously. A big hug to her.

Jolene Julie Denise Venice Italy

Sisters Jolene and Julie, and their friend Denise

While we were waiting to board the gondola, Julie (of Julie and Steve) decided that she would sing because we weren’t paying extra for a singer. I think she tried out a few songs, such as “Oh Solo Mio” or something similar and it was very cute. Steve, on the other hand, attempted to stop her from singing, so she switched to humming, and when that didn’t work she then tried to whistle. It was super funny and just made me love her even more for her delightful childlike outlook on life. Steve is a lucky man to have such a great gal in his life.

The gondola ride was amazing. I’m surprised I didn’t cry! It has become one of those moments that will never leave my mind and most certainly will always be in my heart. I chose not to ride the canal boats through the Netherlands and Belgium because the canal boats seemed very touristy. The gondolas were different. So romantic, even if I was alone. And magical. I was deliriously happy and thankful for that moment. It must be different recalling this memory….I’m getting choked up looking at these images.

Venice canal gondola night Venice Italy

We were a little rocky due to being on the water, so most of my photos were blurry. For my photog friends, please know that these were photographed, obviously without flash, at ISO 6400. Have I told you recently how much I adore my camera?!? It was incredibly dark going through the side canals. We could see little but, again, the views were magical. Along our way down the canals, our gondolier indicated Mozart’s home. MOZART?!? My mind was ready to explode.

We were then taken by gondola out onto the Grand Canal at night. It was a pleasantly warm evening with a gentle breeze as we glided along. I can still recall the smell of the water and the sounds of the canal as we were slowly drifting very low in the water down the Grand Canal in our canal boat at night. What a moment!!!

Grand Canal at night Venice Italy

Grand Canal at night

On the Grand Canal

Please don’t pinch me…I don’t want to find out that this was all a dream.

Tucked away for the night

I. Am. On. A. Gondola. On. The. Grand. Canal.

Rialto Bridge at night Venice Italy

All lit up

Do all good things have to end?

Can the gondola ride be topped? I was about to find out.

The five of us were then off to find our restaurant for dinner. Bob and Steve were on a quest to find the perfect hidden gem of a restaurant, preferably one tucked away and out of the sight of many tourists. Uh, I think that would be us.

Bob finally found the perfect restaurant but, unfortunately, it was on the other side of a canal, but we could see a bridge to cross over. Down one street, up another…we couldn’t find that bridge! Bob was so desperate to find that restaurant that he quickly took off down a short flight of stairs….that was leading directly to the water! It looked so much as if he wasn’t going to stop and was going to walk into the water that Sue shouted, “Bob, stop!” I was laughing so hard that I had to turn my back on what I was seeing because I almost peed my pants…and because I was wearing khaki pants, that would have totally sucked!!!

We all finally gave up and just found a “good enough” restaurant, that turned out to be quite good. I was sitting directly across from Bob and next to Julie. After a debate with our server who had brought us an unasked-for appetizer and his subsequent refusal to take it back until Bob literally hand-carried it to a nearby empty table (we had already ordered three other appetizers, so we weren’t trying to be cheapskates), we had a lovely dinner. Bob had ordered squid with a black ink sauce, which was delicious, by the way. Sue and I ordered the Branzino fish dish….delicioso!

Branzino Venice Italy

Branzino

After we finished dinner, Sue, who was seated next to Bob, noticed that Bob’s lips, gums, and teeth were black from the squid ink sauce and started laughing and commented out loud about it. I became hysterical with laughter, crying, actually, mainly because Bob thought it was funny as well but then tried to laugh with his mouth closed. (I’m one of those unfortunate souls that finds it funny when I see people trip and fall…although I certainly didn’t laugh when Jolene fell.) Fortunately for me and everyone around, I had gone to the bathroom before sitting down to dinner or the result would have been disastrous for me! Funny, funny moment. Later that night while we were still at the restaurant, Sue noticed that the ink stains were gone from Bob’s mouth and commented on it. Bob’s comment was, “I’m sorry to disappoint you!” They are SUCH a great couple…obviously so devoted to each other. Great conversation and a lot of laughter with two beautiful couples to share the evening. I was indeed blessed.

Storefront windows.

Costume Venice Italy

When there’s nothing in your closet

Pinocchio marionette Venice Italy

This little Pinocchio marionette is beautifully crafted.

Marionettes Venice Italy

Mardi Gras masks Venice Italy

Mardi Gras masks Venice Italy

One of the best nights ever.

After our many failed attempts to find our way back to our hotel, I pulled out my now-beloved Google map app, and it quickly directed us back to our hotel. It’s amazing how quickly I became everybody’s best friend once I had a tool to get us back to our rooms! ;)

I settled into my sweet little hotel room, and I could hardly wait for what the morning would bring.

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