Friday, August 30, 2019

Venice: Last Breakfast with Whiny Wesley

It is not a kind nickname, but Whiny Wesley comes by it honestly.

We had enough time to meander to breakfast and do some window shopping this morning before we had to hop on a plane home, and Wes was in top form. But he has a hard time keeping it up when he's laughing.  Here, Piper and Papa do their best WW imitation.  
(Funnily, Piper's Wesley face looks a lot like her normal what-are-you-doing-I-disapprove face.)
Then Wesley had to do an impression of them doing an impression.
Then Piper did some good Big Sister stuff and taught Wes how to make a star with the Cat's Cradle string Kyla usually carries around her neck.

And Piper wants you to see her made-in-Italy dress.  I love it!  Really, Dwayne can build his columns, but I want to do all my future clothes shopping in Italy.  Please.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Venice: Our Last Supper

After our rowing lesson, we meandered slowly to our restaurant of choice, Taverna Al Remer. The "mer" part marks its specialty, seafood, but we loved it at least as much for it's hole-the-wall, old brick and stone and candle lit alcove atmosphere.
Arriving at 6pm was at least two hours too early, but we were already headed for a 12 hour day, and we were hungry.  This was exactly the sort of place Dwayne and I wanted our last dinner on the Continent. 
 And we stepped out to this lovely view.  Yep, a perfect evening after a lovely day. 
 Wesley was a wee bit tired and Kyla is an awesome big sister.
Getting his new shirt gave him renewed energy.  I think he's kinda cute.
It has been eleven consecutive evenings out in beautiful places that we may never make it back to--because there are so many wonderous places to go in the world.  But I have many, many fond memories of this adventure together.  I love traveling with my family!

Row Venice

One of the best reasons to have a travel agent is that their job is to know things that I didn't even know I didn't know.  For instance, everyone has to take a gondola while in Venice.  As you can see from this stock photo pulled from a Bing image search,
it's picturesque, in and out of the boat (Wes loves his souvenir striped polo shirt!), and it's the only way to see a lot of Venice. Notice the lack of sidewalks here? It's about $90USD for a 30 minute ride before 7pm and much more after.  One family we talked to on our family tour earlier said they had done it the prior evening, and that it was charming...if one ignored the hucking a loogie by the gondolier who also spent the row talking on his cell phone. 
But I absolutely would have done it if our travel agent hadn't already arranged an adventure for us.  We used Row Venice,
 ….a non-profit organization of passionate women and expert vogatrici, Venetian by birth and by choice. We are dedicated to the preservation of the traditional Venetian cultura acquea and at its center, the voga alla veneta, the Venetian style of rowing: standing up, facing forward, native to Venice and made iconic by the gondoliers. Many of us are also athletes and regatanti devoted to this Venetian sport that’s as old as the city itself.
Come row like a Venetian with us. Get off the beaten path and onto the Venetian waterways in our beautiful bateline and try it yourself!
What a great family adventure!  Piper would NOT take a turn at the oar, but it wasn't within the spirit of the adventure to fight that battle.  We each got a chance to sit back and enjoy the canals, and we also to hit the open waters.  The water is so interesting, because while it is our adored Adriatic Sea, it is also where the mountain rivers merge into the lagoon.  This makes a confluence of fresh and salt water (and great fishing!), but so much silt that there was no part of the canals or open water that we could see more than a few inches deep. 
A gondola is a boat that is actually slightly curved, like a banana floating on the water.  It's not obvious when you look at them, but it's how they can be rowed straight with one rower on one side.  This boat, the bateline, is symmetrical and requires a front and back rower.  Both Dwayne and I got to do the back position of steering and yes, feel free to think it was easy and I was steer us effortlessly in the direction we were supposed to be going.  (Dwayne did great, of course.)
I would do this again--I hope Piper will join in next time!

Venice: Aw, sweet doors, arches, lions...and, what the heck, devils

Oh, sweet, sweet Europe.  Venice, when what's-his-name conquered, went from the city of the Guy Standing on the Crocodile (on the right) to the city of the Winged Lion (left, above, and below).  

But Venice has many things it's known for. The 400 bridges connecting 118 islands is home to Venetian glass (though to preserve the city, long ago, the furnaces were all banished to a nearby island that is still home to all the glass blowing), carnival masks (once upon a time, worn by the population for 6 months of the year!), …. 

...amazing doors and archways....
...and grotesque faces on walls, posts, and everywhere there isn't a lion's head. The faces keet the Devil out, though we were still able to get in, so you decide if it worked.
Shouldn't every city square look something like this?!?! 

Gelato (Suzo's is the acknowledged best shop) can create it's own popular monuments.  

Hey, a winged monument--of an animal that actually flies!

Venice: THe Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World

Our tour guide gave us a few minutes to explore this very special bookshop.  In the center of the stores narrow aisles is a gondola full of books; hardcovers, paperbacks, children's books and travel books are stacked all over the store, spilling out of every nook and corner.  

But the piece de resistance was the "bookcase" in the back of the shop. 

We had a terrific view from on top of those books! 

Piper was too busy petting the bookstore cat to enjoy the other sights. 😺

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Venice: This many winged lions can't be wrong

We arrived in Venice in the late afternoon, and even after seeing the wonders of Croatia, I was still impressed by Venice. [In retrospect, Dwayne would have given up Venice if he had to choose just 4 cities.  I would have given up Hvar, or you know, that eternity that Wes was lost.]
Our amazing travel agent got us a hotel within sight of the end-of-the-line bus stop.  No cars are allowed in Venice, so all wheels stop in one spot and the boats begin.  But it meant that we just had to drag our luggage a little past a parking lot and not across any of the 400 hundred bridges of Venice, not did we have to rely on water taxis to get us to our beds. 

Which meant we dropped off our bags and it was go, go, go! time, at least by my watch. 

On the first open square we crossed, we had not-traditional Viennese waltzing.  Okay, it wasn't Italian in the least, but the Eastern exoticness matched the awe I already had for Venice.
It was after 5pm and we hadn't fed the kids lunch yet, so we decided to do family pizza night for our first night in Italy.  The pizza was good, the wine better, the company and service delightful. We got an entire game of cribbage in after that meal.  Even when we ventured out again and realized that off any beaten path, the pizza was half the price we had paid, we were still satisfied with the experience. 
 Yep, that's our Piper!
Hey, look another building that stirs Dwayne to lust.  Really, it would save us so much money if he would just take up with women instead of architecture.  
  So happy to be in Venice, even if it signals the final leg of our journey.  More to love about Venice soon.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Dubrovnik: The Best of Times

A clay model of this old, walled city.

Dubrovnik is the third of four UNESCO World Heritage cite on our itinerary (Tower of London, Split, and then upcoming Venice), and the one I was most looking forward to. The 13th century walls were built to walk easily upon, and it was another carless city of medieval wonders and alleyway charm.

And upon arrival, this is what our kids thought of it.

Luckily, after a little stop at 
….it got better.
We did a self-guided tour, and got to show our kids inside of some of the amazing churches with their gold and silver alters, icons, and relics. We have not hid our skepticism from the kids and we may have all guffawed a bit at the gorgeous canister holding Jesus's diaper.  St. Blaise's has the Incorruptible body of St. Silvan, I promise, right under the wax figure of him that shows him looking Incorruptible.  (Spend a little time researching "incorruptible saints" and in no time, you'll rabbit trail to stigmata and other mysteries that are fun to google along with "skeptic".)

Did we enjoy the architecture?  Well, look for this on Wesley's bedroom door in the near future...
 ...and something like this in our backyard.  You can start placing your bets on whether can Dwayne have the trifecta: columns, arches, and wife.
Yep, just a little bit of that fortress wall.  Dwayne and I have a deal: if he gets balustrades, I get a turret.

And it abuts right up to the bluest part of Adriatic Sea.  Location, location, location--it's what kept Dubrovnik unconquered for 7 centuries or so.
We didn't do much for souvenirs, but we bought each of the kids a bracelet on their choice on the Stradun (main walking street in Old Town).  
From top to bottom, Piper, Wes, and Kyla
We eventually left the city in the gate opposite we came in to head to the most crowded beach yet. But, as I like to say, you can pee for free in the sea.  So totally worth it.  We lost no kids, cooled down, and then were ready to see a little more of Dubrovnik before bringing the kids back to the hotel. 

The kids chose to have cheeseburgers at the place just down from the hotel and Dwayne and I got ready for an evening out while the kids chillaxed in their room.  We let the hotel know they had permission to go down to the restaurant for hot cocoa later that evening and to charge it to our rooms.  I like that our kids thrive on being "independent together".  Ahem, I just wished I had reminded them to wear clothes when they went down.  Sheesh.

And then Dwayne and I began our favorite evening of all.  

I was looking forward to promenading on the wall in the cooler temperature and without the extra cost of children.  But when we arrived at the gates at 7:20, we found they closed at 7.  I was Disappointed, but recovered to suggest finding the gondola that goes from the east city wall up to the top of the hill.  Turns out, it was perfect timing.
We hit the sunset over the islands beautifully as the city began to light up.

My only dinner requirement was for a rooftop terrace. I got it,and all my heart's desires, at the Panorama Restaurant at the top of the gondola. Not only did it allow us to avoid standing in the long line to head back down, but we had the most pleasant dinner--three times as good as anything else at only twice the cost, so a bargain!  This is what the terrace lookes like in daylight--a total grab-pic from Bing images.

And the view only got lovelier.  Dubrovnik, I'm not done with you yet!  I can't wait to return some day.