A ride that was magical! Gondola in Venice … <3

Gondolas in Venice

Gondolas in Venice

120 euros for a ride! It seemed a bit steep when we went enquiring for a Gondola ride in Venice. In truth there were two rates – 80 euros for a short route of the Grand Canal and 120 for a long one. The longer one is completed in about 40 mins and we wanted to go for it as we didn’t know if we were ever coming back to Venice in our lives. Since, it was still winters and the peak tourist season had not started we got a deal for longer route for 80 euros. Sweet!

One Gondola allows maximum 6 people so the cost gets divided if you are in a group. Alternatively, you can tie up with fellow tourists and spread the expense.

Parked Gondolas, St. Mark's square, Venice

Parked Gondolas, St. Mark’s square, Venice

I didn’t realize how special a Gondola ride can be until I got into one and settled on the comfortable sofa seat. It might not seem so in the pictures but a gondola is quite spacious. It was a great day – cold and sunny. The gondolier hopped in with a flourish and started filling us with trivia while starting to row. As we moved away from the docking bay, he started to hum and whistle some lovely local songs with the water splashes from his oar adding to the harmony.

Bridge of Sighs, Grand Canal, Venice

Bridge of Sighs, Grand Canal, Venice

Once we entered the canal, it became quieter and the voices started to echo. There were all kinds of nooks and crannies, shadows and sunlight patterns to take in. We passed by houses of important people and floated by under the bridges. Once in a while we would turn a corner and see the buildings change. Our gondolier also informed that since it was the low season, the canal has less traffic making for a more enjoyable ride.

One of the many bridges at Grand Canal, Venice. See the patterns the sunrays makes on the bridge underside

One of the many bridges at Grand Canal, Venice. See the patterns the sunrays makes on the bridge underside

We took in all the sights, sounds and smells and it all made up for an extremely relaxing and magical experience. Yes magical and charming … like in the movies 😀

P.S: I don’t often use such terms to describe an experience so this means something

See some of our footage below 🙂

Euro Trip Itinerary #4 – 2 Days in Enthralling Rome

From Venice, we boarded a late evening high speed train (tren italia) to Rome and arrived there at around 12 am. Again, we had booked the hotel quite close to the train station and took a taxi to get there. Our stay was at this hotel called Villa San Lorenzo Maria. It turned out to be a really nice place giving you the old world feeling. I kind of felt like I’m staying with my wealthy friend, Lorenzo instead of a hotel 😛

Next morning after a good breakfast at the hotel, we headed straight for the Colosseum, Roman Forum and the Palantine Hill all of which are in the same area. It helped that we had booked in advance online as there was long queue for the tickets. We had in fact purchased a combined ticket for all the three sites. It just makes sense to cover the three on the same day. There are some restaurants nearby, so you can take a break between visiting the sites if it gets too tiring or if it’s close to lunch time.

A look inside the Colosseum

A look inside the Colosseum

The Colosseum is just enthralling! Its huge and it’s so old (construction began in 70 AD), it’s hard to imagine how it survived all this while. For 10,000 people to build the structure in 10 years is quite remarkable for those times I’d say.

Views of the Roman Forum from Palantine Hill

Views of the Roman Forum from Palantine Hill

I got the same feeling at the Forum. It’s even older and development of the area began sometime around 7th century BC. Construction of such massive well planned structures was just incredible. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most important archaeological sites in the world! And then of course the Palantine Hill where Romulus, the first king of Rome supposedly founded the city in 753 BC. I thought it was just amazing to stand there and imagine that we actually have an idea of what happened at this site thousands of years ago and that it is still is here for people to come and revisit history.

The 2nd half of the first day and some part of the 2nd day, we took a tour on the hop-on-hop-off bus and visited other places such as the Trevi Fountain and Spanish steps etc. Also, quite enjoyed the beautiful buildings, facades, palazzos and all the city sites along the way.

We got off at Vatican City and headed straight for the Vatican museums. It helped a little that we had pre-booked tickets but even then, the place was very crowded. We somehow made our way to the Sistine Chapel as well but there were just too many people that day. But there is no doubt that the artwork inside is just excellent – the murals, frescos, paintings and sculptures by some of the most renowned artists, most notably Michelangelo are considered masterpieces and I think you can’t even put a value to them.

Intricate work at Vatican Museums

Intricate work at Vatican Museums

We made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica next. The entry inside is free and that meant a long wait in the queue (for security check). We started at the end of the queue but 10 mins or so later, there was a long trail behind us. It wasn’t as bad as we had imagined though. We must have waited for about 45 mins and then we were inside the Basilica. The wait was worth it for the structure is magnificent. It’s not only enormous but also really beautiful – extremely ornamental and decorative from within.

So beautiful inside St. Peter's Bascilica

So beautiful inside St. Peter’s Bascilica

At the end of our trip and exhausted from all the touring around that day, we dropped the idea of climbing to the top. I do wanted to so and observe St. Mark’s square from up there but we just couldn’t push ourselves that day. We came back out, bought some postcards and stamps and I sent one back home to India as well ❤

Already late evening by now it was nearing the end of our day and the conclusion of our maiden euro trip. We celebrated the moment with some delicious Italian gelato and then made our way to the hotel to pick up our bags and head to the airport.

I’d say this was a really really great trip! We all know that we can’t experience everything a place has to offer in just one visit but we were very happy with what we did cover. And it just means that we will be back!

So long Europe. You were awesome! 😀

The map for Rome to help you plan. Also pinned is one amazing local tratorria. We had the best vegetarian lasagna here and the hosts are the friendliest.

Euro Trip Itinerary #3 – 1.5 days in Charming Venezia

Gondola ride in Venice

Gondola ride in Venice

From Paris, we took a morning Jetstar flight to Venice and arrived there by afternoon.

Day 1 – From the airport, we took a shuttle bus to the only bus stop they have there I think. From there, like everybody else, we dragged our luggage to the hotel we had booked – an unassuming little place called – Hotel Caprera.

The neighborhood had several stalls, stores, cafes and restaurants and even the railway station was a short walk away. We must have just spent about 15-20 mins in the room and then dashed out to have some authentic Italian pizza for lunch … we just couldn’t wait! We went to this nice restaurant and chose to sit outside by the water with the sunshine coming through. The cold and the sun, the food and the lovely surroundings made it all really special.

Later, we explored the market all around. The stores had some interesting souvenirs, food ingredients, sandwiches, yummy cream rolls to offer, Italian leather shoes and bags and all sorts of knick-knacks. Sometime after, we purchased 48-hour water taxi tickets and just got on one and enjoyed the lovely views along the way.

One of the views from the water taxi in Venice

One of the views from the water taxi in Venice

Then had dinner at this restaurant – I don’t really recall the name. By this time we had realized that food is quite pricey in Venice. In fact, most of them offer very mediocre taste and you can’t really tell which place is good if you haven’t done your research before. There goes our ‘budget travel’ down the drain.

Day 2 – we took our time getting ready and having breakfast and then set out for St. Mark’s Square by water taxi. We took one of the bigger boats, which runs at a leisurely pace and got to enjoy all the sights along the way. At St. Mark’s Square, we went to the group of Gondoliers for a Gondola ride. The usual rate is 80 Euros for a small round of the Grand Canal and 120 Euros for a longer round. In the peak tourist season, I’m assuming it will be hard to negotiate but because March is a low season we got a better deal for the ride. It was a 40 min ride and it was just great! If you are in Venice, you have to do this! I’ll be sharing my experience of the ride in a separate post later.

Bridge of sighs

Bridge of sighs

Later, we went for lunch to this restaurant called Al Chianti. This time we had done our research and the food was comparatively better here. I can even say, we enjoyed the meal here. We then roamed around, window shopped at the stores; several were selling venetian/murano glass products. I thought the stores selling leather bags were pretty good value – I picked up one handbag and one wallet. I’m not sure how genuine they are but they are quite well made and I was happy with the price.

Hot cappuccino by the bay

Hot cappuccino by the bay

We saw many popular landmarks in the area – the bridge of sighs, rialto bride, palazzo ducale, clock tower and more. Then took the water taxi back to our stop – tired with all the walking and standing around, we chose a cute little café and again chose to sit outdoors by the water over a cup of hot cappuccino (it was quite cold in Venice while we were there).It was just nice to sit there with your coffee. Later, as we were walking over one of the many bridges we couldn’t help stopping and admiring the scene as if it were a beautiful painting – the buildings, the water, the bridges and boats of all kinds, people going about their business and tourists strolling around, having a wonderful time. It was especially beautiful as the sun descended over the place making it all the more charming.

View from a bridge as the sun sets in Venice

View from a bridge as the sun sets in Venice

Finally, it was time to bid goodbye to Venezia as we boarded our late evening train to Rome.

Here’s a map to help you get an idea of the places we visited:

P.S: taking a moment here to reflect; for the people who lost their lives on Germanwings Flight 9525. May they rest in peace.

The alps in view as we flew from Paris to Venice

The alps in view as we flew from Paris to Venice